A Boat Trip into La Parguera Biobay
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.
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 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.
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