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A Boat Trip into La Parguera Biobay

La Parguera in Lares, Puerto Rico

There are three bioluminescent bays (bio bays) in Puerto Rico — Mosquito Bay in Vieques, Laguna Grande in the north-east in Fajardo, and La Parguera in the south-west in Lajas. The biobay experience is pretty neat to see — the water glows when the microorganisms in it are agitated.

It is said that the Vieques biobay is the brightest (with the most dynoflagellates per gallon). The Fajardo biobay is the second brightest . Finally, there’s the biobay at La Parguera with the least number of dynoflagellates. But what does that mean in comparison to the other biobays?

Some Background Info

We first visited La Parguera biobay about 18 years ago. We were fascinated by it at the time. We had never seen anything like it before. They poured a bucket of water on the deck of the little boat and it sparkled. My fondest memory of that trip was all the stars you could see while out in the biobay. It was so dark as we slowly motored through the water — the sky was littered with stars.

Since our first trip to La Parguera, we have been fortunate to have been to both the Vieques and Fajardo biobays a number of times — so we have high expectations for what a biobay should look like. The biobays in Vieques and Fajardo actually glow, giving off a greenish/white neon-like light when the water is disturbed.

We recently revisited La Parguera to see what it looks like today. The question that we wanted to answer was How does La Parguera stack-up to the other biobays?

A Trip into the Biobay

It seems now there are a few ways of going out into the biobay. One uses small motorboats which hold about 6-8 people, medium size boats that can hold about 30 people, and another way uses a LARGE boat that can accommodate many people. As soon as you get to the La Parguera area, you will get confronted by all the biobay vendors asking if you want a trip. You can’t avoid them. Or you can plan ahead and make reservations on a kayak trip or a snorkel/biobay trip. But without prior reservations, your choice is between small open boat or large boat, and the going rate seems to be the same no matter which type of boat you choose.

La Parguera in Lares, Puerto Rico

The night we went (during low season), the large boat was the only boat going out. The company, Fondo de Cristal III, has one large boat that has 4 glass-bottom viewing areas. The boat has 2 levels and I bet it could hold about 150 people. The upstairs was open air (for star gazing) while the bottom level had the glass-bottom viewing. The crew had music going during the boat ride. It was a fast boat — about a 15-minute ride from the dock to the biobay. I sat next to a viewing windows and you could see some glow (like shooting stars) as the boat moved through the water.

Once we got into the bay, the captain gave a really short, bilingual explanation of the biobay and what we were going to see — something along the lines of "the water will glow when the dynoflagellate organisms are agitated".

A crew member scooped up a bucket of water that you could put your hands into and swirl it around to see some sparkles. Then they sent some crew members into the water to agitate the dynoflagellates. They went under the boat and moved their arms and legs under the glass-bottom viewing areas. It was less than spectacular — instead of the neon light glow we see in the other bays, this looked more like a grey/white mist. We were in the bay for about 10 minutes total before heading back to the dock.

So, "Is It Worth It?"

The answer is "it depends".

If you want to see a biobay for the biobay experience, then no, it is not really worth it, especially on the large boat. I would not make a special trip to the area just to see the biobay. La Parguera is not the best example of a biobay.

But, having said that, I would still suggest you go if you are in the area. Why?

  • it is inexpensive
  • it is a nice boat ride and we had a beautiful breezy night
  • if you ride upstairs you can still see loads of stars
  • if you have ever been to the south-west region, you will know there is not much night-life to be had. So this was an enjoyable hour, spent on the water, with music and people to talk with. We had a good dinner at a nice restaurant right in the La Parguera dock area (Aguazul), then went on the boat. It was a nice evening.
  • But seriously, you will have a better biobay experience if you go on a smaller boat. If at all possible, I would pay a little more and go on a boat that can go deeper in to the bay.

Some Things To Consider

On our trip (mid-week in low season), there were only 12 other people on the huge boat. So we had no problem all seeing in the viewing windows. But I can’t imagine the zoo it would be with 150 people on the boat trying to look into the 4 windows in the floor!.

Expect to wait — the boat will not be "on-time" by any stretch of the imagination. When we got there, the sign at the ticket office said the next trip was at 7pm. A little while later (but still before 7pm), when we bought our tickets, the sign said the trip was at 8pm. The time printed on our tickets said the trip was at 8:30pm. We recalled a similar experience from our first visit 18 years ago — you bought your ticket and then waited until they felt they had "enough" people to go out. The boat will go out — at some point that night — just be prepared to be patient. Perhaps take the time to go have another Piña Colada — that will make the time pass a little more smoothly.

Maybe the smaller boat captains are more imformative about the experience, but on our trip, there was very little information given. It would have been better if they gave a better explanation of the biobay, or even something about the stars, as they do in Fajardo and Vieques.

I hear this biobay can be decently bright, it all depends on recent weather events and tides. So who knows, you may luck out and be there on a night that it is really pretty bright.

I wish they were more into conserving this biobay. For years, it has been common knowledge that pollution has/is hurting this bay. All the boats that go out are gas/diesel motor boats. The development around the bay causes run-off that goes into the bay. It also adds ambient light (light pollution) which further diminishes the appreciable glow in the water.

The smaller boats may allow a short swim in the bay (though I believe DRNA prohibits swimming in the biobays). If you want to jump in, ask the boat captains if they allow it.

The biobay in both Fajardo and Vieques are spectacular — if you have a chance to visit either of them, do it. Just check the biobay/moon calendar to for best nights to go.

The Details

The cost for the trip into the biobay for the large Fondo Cristal boat or the smaller 6 pack boats is about $9-12 per person.

If you're happy, let them know it — Don't forget to tip your your bartender, tour guide or trip operator if you enjoyed yourself. Gratuities are appreciated and typically aren't included in the price they charge you.

Trips start at 7:30pm or so. Reservations are not required.

The phone number for Fondo de Cristal (used to be called Cancel Boats) is 787-899-5891

Their facebook page. They also have Small motor boats are a little more expensive. There are also other companies that have smaller boats — Johnny’s Boats (they let you swim in the water if you want). 787 717-0777 or Torres Boats. There is also Aleli Tours that has a 6 person boat.

Driving directions: Take Road 304 to the end. At that tee, go to the left and there is a parking lot. The ticket office is right there as you enter the La Parguera pier area.

We are in the process of updating the maps we use on our web site. While we're working on that, you can click on the GPS coordinates below to view the location on Google Maps ... assumes no responsibility regarding your safety when participating in the activities described in this article. Please use common sense! If your mother or that little voice in your head tells you that you are about to do something stupid … then don't do it! Read more about Safety →

Comments & Discussion Leave a Comment »

There are 10 comments on this article. Add to the Discussion »

It has been a number of years since we have been to the Biobay there, and I hope it has improved. I hear its brightness ebbs and flows (like the others). The article is mainly about the experience on the large boat, which wasn't great. Smaller boats would make the trip better. I am glad you liked your trip. I would think all businesses would like to attract new customers, I am happy this captain is so busy he doesn't need to. The company is not listed in our article is because I didn't realize he did a boat trip and he never has reached out to us to add him.

Comment by Gwenn on 21 Nov 2019

This review made it sound like La Parguera is second rate. It's not. A small boat trip with Aleli Tours (which wasn't listed in the review - probably because they're not actively trying to attract new customers...*ahem* since they stay so busy via word of mouth).. is the way to go. Captain Ismael is an incredibly knowledgeable biologist / boat captain and he offers a truly authentic experience. Highly recommend you take a tour with Aleli if you're able. You won't regret it. We go often and it never gets old. The clear skies. The stars. The lack of light pollution. The company. Incredible.

Comment by Maggie Lenox on 18 Nov 2019

@Tyler Thanks for confirming this as my partner and I are travelling down to Puerto Rico from Canada and have been going back and forth about Fajardo and La Parguera Now to decide if we go to Arecibo, check in at our spot in Aguadilla and then head down to La Parguera (Probably looking at booking with the scuba guys too)

Comment by Langley on 05 Jan 2019

We hit the biobay last night on a tour with Paradise (the scuba guys). It was truly a phenomenal experience, one which my wife said was one of the best in her life. The conditions were ideal and 2018 was a surprisingly excellent year for dinoflagellate reproduction! We were able to swim of course, which is really what made the experience (be sure to be as clean and oil free as possible!). While we haven’t tried Mosquito Bay (Vieques) yet, we can compare it to Fajardo, which seems like a joke by comparison (again, 2018/2019 conditions). The light pollution in Parguera is very minimal compared to the giant security spotlight some dumbass condo complex as deployed over Fajardo’s biobay. Couldn’t recommend Parguera more highly. It’s worth a trip from SJ now, not just if you’re passing by the area.

Comment by Tyler Martin on 05 Jan 2019

Just visited the biobay last night... it was absolutely perfect and while I have not been to the other biobays in PR to compare, we were pretty impressed. Our operator, Ismael from Aleli Tours, is a marine biologist and he was very informative. He said there were several factors to having a good biobay experience... rain can wash the flagellates out of the lagoon as well as off-shore winds. Their reproduction cycles can also effect it -- when the single cell organisms are ready to split, they are large and easy to see. Of course, it's better with no moon or if its cloudy. We had it perfect! The flagellates were about to split, the moon was so low it was like no moon (it was waning), we had had no rain for several days and while the day was very windy, it was off the water. When my son jumped in and swam around it looked like he had jumped into a pool of seltzer water with a black light! He glowed like a bubbly ghost as he went through the water. It was beautifully quiet and dark with bright stars (we saw several shooting stars). In the darkness we could hear either a dolphin or a manatee cresting the water to breath with a gentle "ppffshhhh!" We slowly cruised around the bay and the wake looked like we were moving through liquid silver and we could see the trails of fish shooting off from either side of the boat (some fairly big!). If you picked up some water in your hands and let it drip down, it was like stars trailing down your arm. The only downside was when the larger tour boat came in... they were loud (the people and the engine) and to me disruptive. It broke the magic for the 10 or 15 minutes they were there. We waited for them to leave and continued our magical experience! We made a long day of it and started out snorkeling with Aleli in the afternoon. He took us much father out than the other tours and we had the reef to ourselves. While there wasn't a huge amount of diversity, it was still pretty cool. We were out for a bout 2.5 hours, then came back in and walked the town for about 1.5 hours. Night was falling and the revelry was starting with music and bars and coffee kiosks. We had a snack and did some people watching. Then we went out by kayak to the biobay. This is not for the faint of heart -- it's dark and is a bit of a paddle to get there. You are on your own for stretches at a time as Ismael goes ahead and then signals you to follow (we did actually lose him at one point, but we are all seaworthy folks, so it didn't ruffle us too much, but I can see how it might ruffle others). I'm not in particularly good shape and while I made it, I was pretty pooped when I got there. My suggestion would be to have Ismael tow the kayaks to the bay with you in the boat and then get in the kayaks in the bay. You'll have more energy to spend time in the bay and avoid any fear of getting lost in dark water at night. (I'll have to say though, it was pretty cool to be in total darkness with just the stars above you.) If you do decide to go by kayak, be sure to keep an eye on the Aleli or, if you lose him, keep the shore to your left (going out) or right (coming back). You can't get lost. One bonus of the tour and going near Christmas? All the adorable beach houses are decked out in Christmas lights!

Comment by Margo Killoran on 23 Dec 2016

What a joke. Took gina's and johhny's boat. It left over 20 minutes late. Got out there and the big attraction was seeing a crew member jump in the water and stir up some whitish bubbles. Are you serious? I understand nature gives no guarantees but night was moonless and that is the only thing reviews warn against. I believe this guy is an unscrupulous rip off artist who cares nothing about his customers but taking their money so he can buy more gold chains and boats. He could have searched for other spots. But no, he had a second crowd waiting for their turn to see nothing.

Comment by Elaine iandoli on 06 Jul 2016

When going with a tour, swimming is NOT allowed by law in any biobay in PR. They just seem to choose to ignore that law in Parguera.

Comment by Gwenn on 27 Feb 2014

One HUGE factor that the reviewer barely touched upon. Parguera is the only biobay in which you can (and are permitted by law) actually swim. Even though it may not be as bright as other biobays, the experience of seeing the water glow resulting from your own movement is something that is truly special. I concur that using the smaller vendors is a much better way to go. They will even feed you!

Comment by Rob on 27 Feb 2014

I have to disagree with your assessment of the Parguera Biobay, however I can understand why you said it wasnt worth it. The large tourist boats take you to an overused biobay that has declined rapidly in the past years. The glow isnt impressive and it is not comparable to Vieques. However, the best way to do this trip is to take the smaller boats, or my recommendation is the kayak tours. It is more expensive then the large boats. Our tour cost $30 for a kayak and about an hour in the bay to kayak and swim. A small boat takes about 8 people out to a more protected biobay that on a clear night RIVALS Vieques. The larger boats are not allowed in this bay. The small boat drops you off with your kayak and when you are ready to swim, they load the kayaks back on the boat for you. You get an hour, which is plenty of time. There is light pollution which Vieques doesn't have, but on a moonless night it is so worth the extra cost. Highly recommended if you are in the area!!

Comment by Jan C on 22 May 2011

Im from Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, and it seems that you know a bit more about these areas than I do. Thanks for the info, and I loved your blog.

Comment by Nelly on 29 Jan 2011

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