Culture Travel 8 Incredible Places Where the Ocean Glows By John Platt Writer John R. Platt is an environmental journalist and editor covering endangered species, climate, pollution and related topics. our editorial process Twitter Twitter John Platt Updated May 01, 2021 These bioluminescent waterways get their remarkable pigment from living organisms. Treehugger / Julie Bang Share Twitter Pinterest Email Culture History Travel Sustainable Fashion Art & Media Holidays Community Beaches are beautiful at any time of day, but the night can bring something extra special. Bioluminescent tides—which shine in the darkness—exist throughout the world. Sometimes these glowing waters seem like tiny twinkling stars suspended in the ocean. Other times they shine with extraordinary brightness. This phosphorescence is often caused by algae suspended in the water that emits a glow whenever it is jostled either by the tide rolling in and out or by the motion of a boat, fish, or even a finger moving through the water. Sometimes the glow is made by bioluminescent organisms like firefly squid and ostracod crustaceans. In a light-polluted world, the beauty of the night can often be obscured by the glare of manmade light, but if you look closely, you might see the quiet glow of bioluminescence. Here are eight places around the world where you can see the waters glow. 1 of 8 The Blue Grotto (Malta) Joe Daniel Price / Getty Images Reachable only by a specially licensed boat, the Blue Grotto of Malta is said to be one of the most spectacular natural sights in the world. These oceanic sea caverns on the south coast are surrounded by tall cliffs that are constantly pounded by waves, producing the phosphorescent glow for which they are known. Blue Grotto is actually just one of six caves, all of which are popular tourist destinations. 2 of 8 Jervis Bay (Australia) RugliG / Getty Images Beyond a white sandy beach and crystal-clear water, Jervis Bay, on the south coast of New South Wales, has bright, beautiful presentations of bioluminescence. The dinoflagellate species Noctiluca scintillans, a widely occurring red tide organism, makes the sea sparkle in Jervis Bay. The most radiant displays typically occur between May and August and are especially concentrated at night after a rainfall. 3 of 8 Mosquito Bay (Puerto Rico) Edgar Torres / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0 One of three bioluminescent bays in Puerto Rico, the algae glow at Mosquito Bay is best observed from the water. Noted for its brilliant illumination, the bay was recognized by Guinness World Records as the brightest bioluminescent bay in 2006. The remarkable blue glow is caused by the dinoflagellate Pyrodinium bahamense. These harmful algae produce saxitoxins that can lead to paralytic shellfish poisoning, which is highly toxic to humans. 4 of 8 Matsu Islands (Taiwan) WanRu Chen / Getty Images The aptly named "blue tears'' of Taiwan’s Matsu Islands are caused by the dinoflagellate red Noctiluca scintillans. These sea sparkles are most visible after dark along the shores of the Matsu Islands. Scientists in China have begun using satellites to track the harmful plankton, which has become more abundant. The scope of the algae bloom in the East China Sea includes coastal and offshore waters, and the algae survive in warmer waters better than previously believed. 5 of 8 San Diego, California Justin Bartels / Getty Images The dinoflagellate algae Lingulodinium polyedrum is responsible for the glow off the coast of San Diego. In the daytime, it causes the water to appear red (red tide), but after sunset, the organisms’ natural defense mechanism results in the water turning blue. The red tide in California is not associated with nutrient runoff and has not been linked to yessotoxin. The bioluminescent glow doesn’t happen every year, and scientists haven’t been able to predict when it will occur. But when it does happen, people flock to the beaches to see and photograph the bright blue tides. 6 of 8 Toyama Bay (Japan) Ma-mi / Getty Images The glow at Toyama Bay occurs for a different reason. It comes not from phytoplankton but from a phosphorescent creature called the firefly squid, or Watasenia scintillans. Every year from March to June, the bay and shoreline become inundated with millions of these three-inch squid, which come up from the depths of the ocean to breed. As they fill the waters and beaches, both fishermen and tourist operations spring into action. 7 of 8 Republic of the Maldives AtanasBozhikovNasko / Getty Images The island paradise of the Maldives radiates just a bit brighter from mid-summer through winter when the ocean and shore glow and sparkle. The bright light is caused by ostracod crustaceans, which are bioluminescent organisms. The warm waters surrounding these islands provide the perfect environment for these luminous organisms that can glow for more than one minute. 8 of 8 Luminous Lagoon (Jamaica) GummyBone / Getty Images This shallow fresh and saltwater lagoon glows nearly year-round in the warm waters of Jamaica. The dinoflagellates feed on the vitamin B12 produced by the mangroves that surround the lagoon, and the abundant microscopic bioluminescent plankton is illuminated by the slightest movement. Boats bring visitors to the middle of the lagoon after dark where they can swim in the radiant blue water.