Take a See-Through Kayak Tour Over Bioluminescent Lagoons in Florida

·2 min read

There's an out-of-this-world, once-in-a-lifetime experience hiding along Florida's Space Coast.

For those not up on their Florida geography, Florida's Space Coast sits smack in the center along the state's east coast. Its name comes from Cape Canaveral, the launching point for many of NASA's space missions, hence, Space Coast. It's just 45 minutes from Orlando, making it an ideal spot for an add-on to a Disney getaway. However, the area is also an excellent destination in its own right thanks to its many natural wonders, including the presence of bioluminescent algae.

The bioluminescent waters, Visit Florida explains, is "a peculiar natural phenomenon in which tiny, marine organisms called dinoflagellates glow, generating cold white light through an internal chemical reaction like a firefly. The organisms are too small to see, but with some 200,000 to 300,000 in a single liter of water they can cause the water to glow the color of a fluorescent blue-green glow stick."

It's a phenomenon that is rather rare around the world, typically happening with algae blooms, like the one that happened off the coast of Southern California in 2020 resulting in some rather cool glow-in-the-dark dolphins. However, it's a regular occurrence along the Space Coast in the summer months, making it a near-guarantee to experience for yourself. (Pro tip: These little guys are most active about five days after a full moon when the sky is a bit darker, so try to plan a trip based on the lunar cycle.)

Couple in a clear-bottom kayaks in the bioluminescence water
Couple in a clear-bottom kayaks in the bioluminescence water

Courtesy of BK Adventures

To see the magic in action, visitors should head to the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge after dark. However, this requires permits, thus Visit Florida suggests going with a guide.

One option is purchasing a tour via companies like BK Adventure, which offers a sunset tour of the Haulover Canal, where guests can spot birds, manatees, or even dolphins swimming by. Once the sun goes down, guests stop for a picnic before setting off to paddle into the bioluminescent glow.

"It's like a magical light show in the water. Most people walk away saying, 'I don't even know how to describe this," Mike Mahan, owner of A Day Away Kayak Tours in Titusville, another outfitter offering tours, shared with Visit Florida. "When you startle a school of fish it looks like bright blue bottle rockets going off under the water."

The entire BK Adventure tour takes about three hours and costs $75 per person, while A Day Away's bioluminescent tours start at $49.95 per person, which is quite the steal for a bucket list activity. But, to really up the ante, book A Day Away's clear kayak tour, which takes place in the same area with a see-through vessel for $69.95 per person. This way, you don't miss a single glowing creature swimming underneath you.

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