5 Bioluminescent Beaches in Mexico

5 Bioluminescent Beaches in Mexico


You probably remember the fascinating glow-in-the-dark flora and fauna populating the moon Pandora in the science-fiction movie Avatar. The forests came alive with bioluminescence through a planetary neural network. While we can’t take you to Pandora, you can experience a magical light show for yourself. This phenomenon also exists on our planet and there are numerous beaches and lagoons where you can enjoy the magic of bioluminescence!

Mexico has five bioluminescent beaches. The noctiluca scintillans or ‘the sea sparkle’ thrive in Mexico’s warm tropical waters and create unforgettable bright-blue night shows. When detecting a threat nearby (which includes any type of movement), these phytoplankton produce a chemical reaction that sets the night ablaze with an ice-blue light!

Check out these five bioluminescent beaches on your next Mexico beach vacation.


Isla Holbox, Quintana Roo


Isla Holbox is a small island in the state of Quintana Roo, accessible by boat from the town of Chiquilá. Loved for its laid-back lifestyle and calm surf, Holbox Beach is also known for nightly bioluminescence caused by phytoplankton in the water. During dark, warm summer nights, the water lights up bright blue, green and silver. It literally looks like an aquatic firework show, especially when it rains. Swim or stroll along the beach—Holbox is known as the best barefoot beach in Mexico due to its smooth sands.

Be sure to visit from July to January, as the lights are brightest then. For accommodations, check out Las Nubes de Holbox right on the bay for relaxed beach resort living.


Playa de Bucerías, Bahía de Banderas, Nayarit


Quaint Playa de Bucerías sits tucked away from the busy resorts of the Nayarit Riviera, making a perfect spot for enjoying this tranquil natural phenomenon. By day, the beautiful golden sands and gentle surf of Playa de Bucerías are perfect for sunbathing and bodysurfing. At night, the water glows and sparkles bright-neon blue, even glittering on the sand as the waves move onshore. The phytoplankton that live in these waters light up at the slightest movements, like a blue underwater meteor shower! Playa de Bucerías and the adjacent bay are also known as a top diver’s spot—you can experience the lights underwater on the bottom of the bay.

Nearby Bucerías offers shops, cafes, kitesurfing, luxurious hotels, art galleries and fine dining.


Xpicob, Campeche


Deep in the Yucatán Peninsula, you’ll find Xpicob, a beach home to a colony of phytoplankton. Xpicob is about 15 kilometers (nine miles) away from San Francisco de Campeche. At night the lights get so bright that you’ll see fish at the bottom of the sea.

You should hire a guide to view the bioluminescence here. The plankton live further off-shore, but you’ll be surprised to know that the warm Pacific water is only waist-deep there—just be careful with oncoming ocean waves. To reduce churning the sand and reducing visibility,  ride out with a kayak instead of a small motorized boat.

Afterward, check out Hotel Boutique Casa Don Gustavo in Campeche. This restored eighteenth-century mansion has luxurious suites and delicious campechana seafood cocktails. Campeche is full of old colonial buildings, so you’ll have plenty of stunning views.


Laguna de Manialtepec, Oaxaca


The Manialtepec Lagoon is located about 16 kilometers (10 miles) from Puerto Escondido in Oaxaca. Here the bioluminescent lights look like blue stars shining across the beach. Rent a kayak and sail the water at night—it’s fascinating seeing how the darkness lights up in icy blue sparkles when your oar strikes the water. If you dare to swim in this lagoon, you will be surrounded by neon lights. It’s important to ask your tour guide about the best days and times to visit this lagoon, as the lights are brightest during the new moon and may dim depending on the time of the year.

Nearby Puerto Escondido offers comfortable beach resort accommodations and private villas for rent, like family-favorite, Villa Lili. There are also plenty of snorkeling, diving and hiking opportunities in Oaxaca.


Parque Nacional Lagunas de Chacahua, Oaxaca


Nestled in the south of Oaxaca in the Chacahua Lagoons National Park is the beautiful Lagunas de Chacahua. This bay lights up in neon green and blue at night, giving the area an eerie, otherworldly glow.

Rent a motor-less boat to explore the lagoon, take a dip in the water and swim surrounded by beautiful microorganisms. This area is not just home to phytoplankton, but over 130 species of flora and fauna. Nearby Chacahua offers beach-front accommodations for those seeking luxury while exploring Mexico’s mystical corners.


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