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Exploring The Nature-Lit Lagoons Of Puerto Rico

BY JASON CANTER

Facebook Ritz Carlton, San Juan Puerto Rico

Photo: Facebook/The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan

I am heading here for a few days ahead for a cruise and my sister tells me about a Bioluminescent Lagoon. What, I wonder, is that? Something about water lighting up? Bioluminscence is, by definition, light produced by a chemical reaction that originates in an organism. A firefly is one example. But when it is algae in water, the results are way more spectacular. I’ll get to that later.

I check out high end hotels for great corporate rates (that’s a little trick whether you work there or not). I find the Ritz Carlton at $180/night. Score! Knowing my wife would be happy, I book it for three nights.

SEE ALSO: A Day of Horseback Riding in El Yunque Rainforest, Puerto Rico

Once we land, it is a 5 minute cab ride from the airport to this beautiful hotel. On the way, we pass a cock fighting arena. Not exactly America I guess.

Facebook The Ritz Carlton San Juan Puerto Rico

Photo: Facebook/The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan

We decide we are not going to leave the hotel very much, and instead, just relax. We mostly sit by the beach and pool by day with blended drinks with little umbrellas .

At night, we want to explore Old San Juan. This is a strikingly beautiful area, very reminiscent of New Orleans architecture, similar to Old Havana with its cobble stone, steel balconies. We end up at Il Convento, a hotel converted from an actual convent – hence the name. They have several restaurants, but we choose the one in the atrium for Tapas. The food is fantastic, and the setting is very romantic with high ceilings and candles everywhere.

San Juan Puerto Rico

The next night we go back to Old San Juan to El Jibarito for an authentic Puerto Rican dinner. This is casual, old school, cheap, and looks family run. Mofongo, rice, beans, pork, and chicken are just some of the delights. Just as we head out, the heavens open. It is tropical, so rain begins. It’s still warm and doesn’t ruin the night, yet we still run to find a cute corner bar to have a few drinks until the rain subsides, then back to the hotel from there.

Now to the main event! We understand the bioluminescence thing is a moonlight kayak tour of a lagoon. There are only 5 of these pools remaining in the world, 3 of which are in Puerto Rico. The other two are in Bahamas and Jamaica. I am in Puerto Rico, so figure I should find one.

San Juan old Puerto Rico

We travel about one hour to get to Fajardo with Yokahu Kayaks. It is a new moon, aka the best time for viewing. We get out at a marina and kit up with life jackets and paddles, get some basic instruction and get into our double kayaks. For those not into kayaking they do run a few tours with electric pontoon boats, but kayaking is the way to go. It is starting to get dark, drizzling a bit, but the night is warm, as is the water. We start paddling through the marina in single file line. I run my hands through the water, no reaction. We make our way over to a mangrove trail/river that leads further inland.

Pretty soon it is pitch black and we are just following a small light of the kayak in front of you and the sounds of voices in the distance. I run my hand through the water, nothing. Then I do it again, and I think I see something. The further we go I start seeing it more and more on each paddle. As I move my arm through the water, it lights up. As I bring a handful of water out and let it drip down my arm, it is like veins of pulsating light running down my arm! This is amazing.

YukahuKayaks.com lagoon kayaks

Photo: Yokahu Kayaks

We finally end up in a huge lagoon. Our guide pulls us around in a semi circle and give us a little more biological history of the phenomenon. It is dinoflagellates that light up and the mangrove growth has something to do with maintaining the phenomena. The lagoons are now protected, so no motor boats, no swimming tourists; we are told it seems to be working as the lagoon effects are getting stronger. He lets us splash around a bit more before our return trip.

This is one of the coolest things in the world, and it should definitely be one of the 7 natural wonders of the world for sure!

Facebook Yokahu Kayak Trips Inc. Puerto Rico kayak San Juan

Photo: Yokahu Kayaks

So if you find yourself in Puerto Rico, Jamaica, or the Bahamas, check out a bioluminescent lagoon, but hurry, these are naturally occurring phenomena and many have already fizzled out, leaving just five in these three countries.

SEE IT FOR YOURSELF!

The Ritz-Carlton, San Juan

6961 Ave of the Governors, Isla Verde, Carolina 00979, Puerto Rico (map, website)

El Convento

100 Calle del Cristo, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico (map, website)

El Jibarito

280 Calle Sol, San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico (map, website)

Yokahu Kayaks

Route 987 Las Croabas, Fajardo 00738, Puerto Rico (map, website)

map jason san juan puerto rico itinerary

Jason Canter contributor profile

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