Bioluminescence in Costa Rica

bioluminescence costa rica

Bioluminescence in Costa Rica is caused by a type of plankton that emits light when agitated. The light is produced through a chemical reaction that happens when the plankton is stimulated by movement or disturbance.

 You can see Costa Rica bioluminescent waters at different destinations but only on the Pacific coast. One of the must popular zones to spot bioluminescence is at Paquera Bay, but it can also be seen at the Nicoya Peninsula in Guanacaste, and the Golfo Dulce Bay, departing from Puerto Jimenez.

The best way to experience bioluminescence is by going on a boat or Kayak tour in the bay at night, stay with us because I’m giving you a list with official tour operators that offer this type of bioluminescent tours in Santa Teresa, Punta Cuchillos and the Golfo Dulce Bay.

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F.A.Qs about Bioluminescence in Costa Rica

In general, the months with the highest probability of observing bioluminescence in Costa Rica are November to April, which are the dry season months.

This is because the water is generally clearer during this time, which makes it easier to see the bioluminescent plankton.

However, the specific best time to see bioluminescence can vary depending on the location.

For example, some bays and lagoons may have more active bioluminescent plankton during certain months due to local weather patterns and water conditions.

There are several types of marine bioluminescence that can be found in Costa Rica.

One type of marine bioluminescence that can be found  is dinoflagellate bioluminescence.

Dinoflagellates are a type of plankton that emit light when agitated.

This type of bioluminescence can be observed in bays and lagoons along the Pacific and Caribbean coasts of Costa Rica.

Another type of marine bioluminescence that can be found in Costa Rica is jellyfish bioluminescence.

Jellyfish are marine animals that are known for their ability to emit light.

This light is produced by specialized cells called photocytes, which contain light-emitting pigments called luciferins.

Some species of jellyfish found in Costa Rica are bioluminescent, including the moon jellyfish (Aurelia aurita).

Other types of marine bioluminescence that can be found in Costa Rica include the one produced by certain species of fish, such as the lanternfish, and bioluminescence produced by certain species of squid.

There are several ways to observe bioluminescence, depending on the type of bioluminescent organism and the location where it can be found.

Here are a few tips for observing bioluminescence:

  • Plan your trip at the right time: Different types of bioluminescent organisms are active at different times of the year or day.
    For example, some species of bioluminescent plankton are more active during the warmer months, while others are more active during the cooler months.
    Similarly, some species of bioluminescent insects, such as fireflies, are active only at night.
  • Choose the right location: Some types of bioluminescent organisms are found in specific locations, such as bays, lagoons, or mangrove forests.
    To see bioluminescence, it is important to visit these locations during the right time of year or day.
  • Use the right equipment: Depending on the type of bioluminescent organism you want to observe, you may need different types of equipment.
    For example, if you want to observe bioluminescent plankton, you may need a boat or kayak to access the water.
    If you want to observe bioluminescent insects, you may need a flashlight or headlamp to see them in the dark.
  • Be respectful: When observing bioluminescent organisms, it is important to remember that they are living creatures and should be treated with respect.
    Avoid disturbing or harming the organisms, and follow any guidelines or rules set by the location you are visiting.
  • Be patient: Observing bioluminescence can sometimes require patience, as it may take some time for the organisms to become active or for the light to become visible.
    Be prepared to wait and watch for a while to see the bioluminescence.

To capture bioluminescence in a photograph, it’s important to start by setting the aperture to the widest setting possible, such as F/1.8 or lower to allow as much light as possible to reach the sensor.

Next, try to keep the ISO as low as possible while still properly exposing for the blue light, this may be around ISO 3200-12,000, depending on the capabilities of your camera.

The shutter speed will need to be adjusted based on the desired effect:

  1. For a long exposure, a shutter speed of at least 10 seconds may be used to create a smooth, artistic image.
  2. To capture individual bioluminescent creatures, a faster shutter speed, such as 1/60, may be used.


To ensure stability, it’s helpful to use a tripod or remote control.

Bioluminescence Tours in Costa Rica

Bioluminescence Costa Rica

Bioluminescent Kayacking Tours

A great way to see bioluminescence in Costa Rica is to go kayaking in a bioluminescent bay. This allows you to get up close and personal with the bioluminescent plankton and experience it firsthand.

Bioluminescence Boat Tour

One of the best ways to see bioluminescence is to go on a boat tour. Many tour operators offer boat tours of bioluminescent bays, where you can see the bioluminescent plankton as you travel through the water.