Puerto Rico Bioluminescent Bays ⎮ La Parguera, Lajas

The only bioluminescent bay in Puerto Rico where you can jump in the water and swim

La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay - Lajas, Puerto Rico

Location of Departure of Bioluminescent Bay Tours

Save a Spot - Lajas Bioluminescent Bay Boat Tour

Embarking on a day trip to La Parguera Nature Reserve promises to be one of the most unforgettable day trips in Puerto Rico.  At La Parguera, visitors can immerse themselves in the enchanting glow of nature’s bioluminescence, indulge in snorkeling, and swim in the crystal-clear, shallow open waters surrounding the cays.  Every day ends with the breathtaking beauty of a West Coast sunset before embarking on a bioluminescent boat tour. 

La Parguera Experience

The Bioluminescent Experience

Departure Point for bioluminescent bay boat tours in Lajas, Puerto Rico

We take pride in our guides offering factual and unbiased information, so here is the real bioluminescent experience at La Parguera.

You may find online videos circulating to get views and attention.  Why don’t we have any photos here?  Because it has not been possible to capture and it is really difficult.  Most of the pictures you see online are photoshopped and many depict or were taken at Mosquito Bay in Vieques.   We can tell you from personal experience, for the past years, when we have visited with our family for recreational and investigative purposes for our travel guides, that La Parguera is not blue like the bioluminescent bay in Vieques.  The brightest we’ve ever seen during our visits is light emerald green; most days, you must jump in to see or experience any bioluminescence; you’ll see tiny white stars on your body and in the water when you move.  For visitors who don’t wish to jump in the water and swim, the captain will fill a bucket with water so you can dip your hands in, shake them, and see the dinoflagellates light up like stars running down your hands; if the captain doesn’t do it, feel free to ask.

Explore the Cays of La Parguera Nature Reserve

We encourage you to get to La Parguera by mid-afternoon to enjoy the cays.  Cruise around the nature reserve, or take it all in by swimming and snorkeling. 

Caracoles is a favorite, there’s no land so you’ll be on the water or on the boat the entire time, but the waters are so clear and warm you won’t want to get out of the water anyway.   Families with children will love Caracoles.  The waters are shallow, and it is the perfect spot to learn and do some snorkeling; baby fish love to feed on the roots of the mangrove roots.

Mata La Gata offers picnic tables overlooking the water, and a short boardwalk to admire mangrove trees.  Unlike Caracoles, an enclosed area was created to feel like a swimming pool, also keeping sea grass away.  Mata La Gata is a wonderful place to swim for families with children where they can also snorkel along the roots of the mangroves, where fish love to eat, hide and play.

Take a water taxi or book a private day charter to explore the mangrove cays.  Caracoles and Mata La Gata are the most popular cays.  If you’re staying in San Juan, there are a few tours that include the Caracoles experience with the bioluminescent bay with pick-up so you don’t have to worry about getting a car rental or planning (see below).

The Cultural Experience at La Parguera

For travelers desiring an authentic cultural experience, you’ll visit a local favorite spot for residents across the island, not a touristy spot.  La Parguera is a culinary favorite among locals every weekend, with diverse food offerings from fresh fish caught by local fishermen to traditional Puerto Rican fritters to delicious wings and All-American hamburgers and fries.  On weekends, it goes from quiet and relaxed to vibrant, with live entertainment almost every weekend at the plaza (small square), which becomes a dance floor for locals and visitors who wish to perfect their salsa moves.   If you love Karaoke, join the locals and get ready to have some fun.  Artisan stands showcase crafts, jewelry, and traditional sweet treats that grandmas still make.

A trip to La Parguera is sure to entice you to come back to Puerto Rico to explore more of the laid-back and beautiful west coast.

Need to Know Facts

La Parguera - Lajas, Puerto Rico

Pros of Lajas Bioluminescent Bay

  • Fantastic attractions in Lajas and nearby so you can enjoy a great day trip.
  • You can swim at this bioluminescent bay, making the experience more memorable and magical.
  • Lajas Bio Bay is a more intimate experience with no crowds.
  • Budget Friendly:  Tours cost less if you drive to Lajas.  You can choose from tour operators once in Lajas, costing $20 – $45 per person.  You may also book this local tour to reserve a spot on a smaller group tour with an English-speaking captain.

Cons of La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay

  • Brightness – The truth about La Parguera is that in comparison with Mosquito Bay in Vieques and Laguna Grande in Fajardo, it is considered dim.  If you didn’t read “The Bioluminescent Experience” please scroll back up so you have clear expectations when you visit.
  • Distance from San Juan / Metro Area – You’ll be on the road for about 2.5 hours.  The drive is through the scenic highway that crosses the central mountains; as you descend from the mountains, you’ll enjoy great views of the coastline.  We think you’ll find the drive worth it if you follow one of the suggested itineraries further below.

Tours to La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay

Lajas, Puerto Rico

Booking at La Parguera when you arrive

You may purchase your boat tour once you get to La Parguera.  You’ll see signs for tours, or feel free to ask; friendly locals are happy to help.  Some tour employees walk around the parking lot offering tours, but no worries, they are not bothersome or pushy.  You may go to the dock as well and buy your tickets.

If you’re visiting on a weekend, book your tickets as soon as you see the kiosks open, which typically open a few hours before dark; that way, you can get in line right away.  We recommend Johnny’s Boats (no advertisement).  If you don’t wish to return to your hotel late, get in line for the earlier boats.  You’ll be in line; they let in a specific number, and the rest must wait until the next trip.  Know that you get about 15 minutes on the water and the whole trip is about a half hour.  The tour below gives you more time on the water.

Reserve a bioluminescent bay tour ahead

You will pay more per person, but you will also get more.  This tour offers a nice boat ride at sunset; you will get 30 minutes of swimming at the bioluminescent bay, and the group is small.  Floaties are provided, which is really nice for children to enjoy being in the water more comfortably.

Staying in San Juan?

If you’re staying in San Juan, and don’t wish to rent a car, there are various tours with great itineraries so you can just relax and enjoy your day.  See below for all tours from San Juan.

Tours from Lajas (Local)

Tours from San Juan

La Parguera, Cabo Rojo & Yauco Day Trip Tour

La Parguera, Ponce & Yauco Day Trip Tour

Tours from Ponce

Itinerary Suggestions to La Parguera

Full Day at La Parguera Nature Reserve

Take a water taxi or rent a little boat for the day.  Visit Caracoles, Mata La Gata and Cayo Enrique.  Have dinner at La Parguera and head to the tour at dark.  If you’re at La Parguera on a weekend, stay longer, dance and enjoy the culture. 

Cabo Rojo & La Parguera Day Trip

Los Morrillos Lighthouse, Salt Flats, Natural Bridge and Playa Sucia in nearby Cabo Rojo.  Then head to La Parguera for dinner and bioluminescent bay tour.  This tour offers a great itinerary with transportation from San Juan.

Ponce, Yauco & La Parguera

  • Ponce:  Make a stop in the city of Ponce, go to the historic district, visit Museo Castillo Serralles among others; see this Ponce guide for ideas on places to visit.  Time needed: 2-3 hours
  • Yauco The most colorful hill on the island.  Time needed: 30 – 45 minutes detour if you just drive around.
  • Head to La Parguera for the rest of your day.

There’s a tour that offers this itinerary from San Juan.  See following tour. 

La Parguera, Ponce & Yauco Day Trip Tour

Best Places to Stay Near La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay

Lajas, Puerto Rico

Map - La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay

Lajas, Puerto Rico

A Little History of La Parguera & Efforts to Protect the Bio Bay

Lajas, Puerto Rico

History of Tourism & Health of La Parguera

Decades ago, the bioluminescent bay was much brighter; locals in the area like to refer to it as “Bahia Fosforescente” (Phosphorescent Bay).  Big boats with glass bottoms used to take visitors on tours without any regard for the health of the bioluminescent bay.  Due to poor protection laws, non-enforcement of the laws, poor planning, and illegal homes on the nature reserve, the bay has progressively lost its brightness.  When the bioluminescence went dark, La Parguera lost most of the local visitors across the island.  The break from many visitors helped the bay heal, increasing the dinoflagellates and brightness.

Current Efforts at La Parguera

Local groups are making great efforts through the courts to protect the mangroves, and to remove the illegal houses on the reserve.  Sadly, gas-powered boats are still being used; it is better than how they were, and local tour operators are more conscious and educated.  Since La Parguera gets the fewest visitors, being farther away from San Juan, you won’t see many boats during your tour, further helping to protect it. 

How You can Help

You can help protect the bioluminescent bay with your visit:

  • Although not necessary, if you wish to wear insect repellent, please wear deet-free, all-natural.  Please wear all-natural sunscreen as well.

Puerto Rico Bioluminescent Bays ⎮ La Parguera Bioluminescent Bay