You Can Paddle Through Glowing Waters on a Bioluminescence Kayak Tour in Florida

Get an up-close view of the Space Coast's glowing lagoons and rivers.

Fully see-through kayaks allow visitors to enjoy the mesmerizing views from every angle.
Fully see-through kayaks from Get Up and Go Kayaking allow visitors to enjoy the mesmerizing views from every angle. Photo: Courtesy of Get Up and Go Kayaking

Kayaking at night might seem counterintuitive, but on Florida’s Space Coast, it’s a must-do activity for any nature lover. That's because this wetland-rich region is one of the few places where you can witness aquatic bioluminescence.

The phenomenon, which occurs most consistently during the summer, turns the area's rivers and lagoons into a glowing paradise. The event is due to a chemical reaction that causes comb jellies (translucent sea creatures) and dinoflagellates (bioluminescent plankton) to emit blue light any time the water is disturbed. Paddling, or even touching the water with one’s hand, reveals waves of glowing lights, making for a fascinating display. As a result, bio-kayaking tours in the Indian River Lagoon have become popular among travelers. 

The Indian River Lagoon is a bioluminescent bay on Florida's Atlantic Coast that hosts more glowing plankton than almost anywhere else in the world. During bioluminescence tours, travelers can also spot dolphins and manatees as they weave through mangroves and create trails of blue light.

Manatees and stingrays swim at a leisurely pace, leading to spectacular views of the phenomenon in slow motion, while speeding schools of mullet create quick flashes, appearing like hundreds of green bottle rockets going off underwater.

The best time of year to see the phenomenon is from May through November, with the brightest displays arriving after 9 p.m.

Visitors should check the lunar calendar before selecting a tour date, as the nights are darkest within five days of a new moon.

Night tours let you kayak over illuminated waters.
BK Adventure provides bioluminescent rafting tours. . Courtesy of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism and BK Adventure

Most excursions range from an hour to an hour and a half, with several outfitters hosting guided tours by kayak and stand-up paddleboard.

Some tour operators like Get Up and Go Kayaking offer see-through kayaks so travelers can get an up-close view of the spectacle during the entire ride.

Night tours let you kayak over illuminated waters.
Courtesy of Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism and BK Adventure.

Local outfitter BK Adventure also offers a range of bioluminescence tours, with a choice of clear kayaks, rafts, and stand-up paddleboards. Their three-hour Sunset Kayaking with Bioluminescence excursion allows you to watch dolphins and have a beach picnic, and then paddle through the glowing waters after darkness falls.

When going on a bioluminescent tour, bring natural insect repellent, a change of clothes, and a waterproof bag for your camera or phone. If you're taking photos, turn off your flash for the best results. And don't forget to put down your device and enjoy the moment.

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