The BioBay (Mosquito Bay) on Vieques, Puerto Rico is the brightest bio-luminescent bay in the world and it is so easy to get there and experience this world-class natural attraction!
The glowing in the bay is caused by the dinoflagellate Pyrodinium bahamense, which lights up with the slightest agitation. The water in Mosquito Bay contains as many as 720,000 dinoflagellates per gallon. That huge number means the brighness lasts as long as you agitate the water, which is amazing considering that each dinoflagellate can only light up once every two hours! The light from the bay is an eery electric blue and is bright enough to see by, about as bright as the light of a cell phone screen. When out on the water all the movement in the water will glow, including your boat, your wake, fish swimming under you. If you are lucky you might even see a stingray or shark glowing beneath the surface!
The Biobay is a unique attraction and worth the trip to Vieques to see. There are several options for touring the biobay. My recommendation is to take a kayak tour if possible; being up close to the water and seeing the fish darting around your boat is absolutely magical. Swimming is no longer allowed in the biobay but you can dip your feet or hands (as long as they are free from bug spray with Deet).
What to expect:
When planning a trip to the Vieques Biobay do pay attention to the moon calendar. The bay is best viewed with a new moon and some tours won’t run during the full moon. All the tour companies will transport you to the BioBay, either from Sun Bay or Esperanza area, via bus or van. The road to the Biobay is bumpy but not any more so than most of the beach roads in Vieques. The drivers are very good and there is no reason you should be uncomfortable. Bringing valuables on the tour is not recommended but you should be able to leave a towel, sweatshirt or other small items in the bus before you get on the water. There will likely be mosquitos on the bay but you should avoid applying Deet-based repellant as it is harmful to the organisms in the bay. If you are planning on kayaking and haven’t done so before, make sure to tell the tour leader. They will take the time to give you special attention and show you the basics. Life jackets are provided and required for everyone, regardless of experience. The water is very calm in the bay and should be easy to manage for all levels of kayakers.
If you can manage it try to cover one eye (pirate-style!) to start gaining your night vision as soon as you get off the bus. Once you arrive at the launch point the guides will try to get you quickly out on the water. Shortly after launching you will begin to adjust to the darkness and start to see trails of blue coming off the boat. Then the fun begins! Try slapping your oar across the top of your kayak to see the bursts of fish below. Dribble your hand, splash your oar, have a blast. The guides will likely round up the kayaks and give a full explanation of the bay and its ecosystem (in English). Then you have some time to splash around again before heading back to the launch area. All in all the tour will be 2-2.5 hours in total.
BioBay Tour Companies:
Black Beard Sports Biobay Tour – $65pp, Black Bear Sports offers kayak tours but keeps to a small group size, approx. 10 per trip. This is, in my opinion, a huge benefit. Some of the larger groups can get crazy, with people crowding you, making it hard to just sit back and relax.
Blue Waters Caribbean Adventures – $59pp. A newcomer to the BioBay tour scene this company is off to a great start with 5 star reviews galore. They offer small group tours and have a ‘special route’ which offers participants the most amount of time on the water.
Abe’s BioBay Tour $45pp. A very popular tour, they offer kayak trips but there can be as many as 40 people in a group! They bring lots of guides along though to keep things running smoothly and they offer lots of time to paddle around on your own.
Vieques Adventure Company offers much the same as the above companies except they offer clear-bottomed kayaks. Pretty cool!
Island Adventures $45pp, offers a Biobay trip on an electric pontoon boat and on paddle boats. The electric boat is good for those who may be unable to kayak for some reason or for those who may be elderly or uncomfortable in the water. But if you are able to kayak, do it!, it is a much better way to see the bay. The paddle boats are only available in the high season so call before you get your heart set on a paddle-boat tour.