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Where To Go Near Cancun To See The Ocean Light Up At Night From This Natural Phenomenon

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If you are heading to Cancun or the Mexican Caribbean and looking for an experience that is unique and different from what you might expect in this area, then you may be interested in bioluminescence.

bioluminescence taking place on the beach

Seeing bioluminescence can sometimes be a happy coincidence. Imagine hanging out at the beach, walking by the shore, and then you suddenly come across this rare, mystical sight of glowing blue water.

It’s an incredibly mesmerizing phenomenon to witness, and you will see living organisms from the ocean producing and emitting light in the dark of night right in front of your very eyes.

It may seem like magic, but you can plan to visit a few days in advance to see this beautiful sight.

@tropicalrussian Replying to @danyelbailey24 this was the most impressive bioluminescence ive ever seen, video by @dani.gusev #biolumenesence #mexico #holbox #holboxmexico #foryou #foryoupage ♬ Black Water Lilies – AURORA

Top tip: Make sure you plan to visit during the new moon phase, the opposite of the full moon, as it increases the chances of witnessing the bioluminescence.

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ocean lighting up at night

Tours will generally be canceled and will not visit the bioluminescence when it’s a full moon – mostly due to the fact the sky will be too bright from the moon emitting too much light, so you’ll stand less of a chance of seeing the glowing sea creatures.

It is a risk that you might not also get to see them, but the guides tend to know the area and moon cycle very well and will be well-informed enough to make sure you have to best opportunity to see them.

Also, remember to be respectful of the environment and follow the guidance of your tour operator to avoid any harm to the ecosystem.

Bioluminescent bay in the sand

If you are visiting the Yucatán Peninsula anytime soon, then here’s where you might find it:

Isla Holbox

First and foremost, this area goes without saying; it is generally one of the locations in the Mexican Caribbean that’s notorious for spotting bioluminescence.

Holbox (Isla Holbox) is a tiny island at the northern tip of the Yucatán peninsula. It has no roads, just sandy paths with golf carts.

Caribbean beach in Cancun with palm trees and blue water

It’s accessible via ferry from Chiquila, or if you are already visiting the pink flamingos in Rio Largatos, you can take a boat tour across to the island to visit the bioluminescence.

Here, there are designated areas in which thousands of travelers get to witness this phenomenon every year. It’s truly a spectacle, and Holbox is one of the best places to see it.

You can experience it either by kayak or by tour. If you haven’t managed to book online, then you can wait until you arrive to see whether tours will be going ahead or not.

There are many tour booths dotted around the main town, to find out more information, compare prices and make your decision from there.

sian kaan reserve

Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve

Located south of Tulum on the southern tip of Riviera Maya, you can find the nature reserve of Sian Ka’an, home to some of the greatest biodiversity in the world. It includes beaches, dunes, cenotes, coral reefs, and tropical rainforests, including home to over 100 species of animals and marine life.

Despite there being a lack of information or tours available online, due to this destination’s prime location in the heart of tranquility and being a host for so many different species of sea life, there will be an opportunity to spot the bioluminescence here.

All be it, not a guaranteed sight, but this is the kind of area where nature desires to be left to do its own thing. However, it has been said that many people have seen some incredible bioluminescence in this area.


If you don’t have time to head up to Holbox or down to Sian Ka’an, the snorkeller and diver lovers can also enjoy the phenomenon in Cancun – despite the area not being known for its bioluminescence – you can hop on a moonlight bioluminescence snorkeling tour.

It’s around 90 minutes and visits 3 reefs and a bioluminescence spot, where you’ll see aquatic animals come alive under the moonlight.

snorkel in the ocean

Be mindful, bioluminescence comes in all forms and colors and is also never guaranteed, so go in with an open mind, but most of all, enjoy this incredible phenomenon that mother nature has given us.

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