The Magical Waters of Luminous Lagoon Jamaica


Visiting the Luminous Lagoon was a last minute decision.

I was relaxing by the pool at the Riu Palace Tropical Bay in Negril, posting some photos on our social media accounts. I was snapping a lot of pictures on Snapchat (user name is “justinlaurenxo” for anyone who’d like to be friends on there!) when I started chatting to a friend. “Are you going to Luminous Lagoon?” she wrote.

I had heard about the Luminous Lagoon, but wondered if it was worth the effort. Was it merely a tourist trap? Was it worth the drive? We were in Negril, and the attraction was in Falmouth, nearly two hours away. At this point in our holiday, it was Thursday…and our last night in town was Saturday.

“No, I wasn’t planning to go…should I?”

“Yes, yes, you have to go!” my Snapchat friend exclaimed. “It was the highlight of my trip. I would go all the way back to Jamaica just to go to the Luminous Lagoon again.”

With such a ringing endorsement, I looked into booking a tour there. We compared prices between the tour desk at the hotel and booking it online ourselves. It was quite a bit cheaper to book it ourselves. Thankfully, we were permitted to book 48 hours in advance online, which gave us just enough time to reserve a Saturday night tour. Saturday was our final night in Jamaica. As it turned out, it was a memorable farewell to a vibrant and remarkable country, where I had only skimmed the surface of what it had to offer.

Booking the Tour

I was able to book the Luminous Lagoon night cruise with ease at Viator using my smartphone. I did this from my lounger chair by the pool. There were multiple pick-up and drop-off cities listed, which slightly varied by price. The tour included pick-up and drop-off from your hotel, and tickets to the Luminous Lagoon. I paid using my credit card from my phone, and received an email notification that the tour was booked within moments. It was a very simple process.

Luminous Lagoon

…Or should I say, “Glistening Waters”. The tour is often referred to as Luminous Lagoon. The site itself, Glistening Waters, has a hotel, a restaurant, and the boat tours at night. From Negril, our drive was 1 hour and 45 minutes each way. The tour lasted about 45 minutes. It was a really lengthy trip there and back, but it was definitely worth it. I liken this to waiting in a huge line-up at a theme park to go on a ride. The roller coaster you end up riding is thrilling and exciting, making the wait totally worth it.

So, what is Luminous Lagoon anyway? It’s really something you must see in person to fully appreciate, but I’ll try my best to describe it. In the lagoon, there are millions of microscopic organisms that emit a phosphorescent light when they are disturbed. This is a natural phenomenon called bioluminescence. The marshland is brackish, meaning that it is a combination of salt and fresh water (from the Martha Brae River and the Caribbean Sea). These microorganisms thrive in brackish waters. Furthermore, they glow the brightest in shallow water. Luminous Lagoon has a depth of three to eight feet, so the microorganisms glimmer vibrantly.

Luminous Lagoon was an incredibly ethereal experience. There are only a handful of places in the world where you can experience this anomaly. The mangrove lagoon at Glistening Waters is thought to be one of the most brilliant and bright.

Luminous Lagoon JamaicaShannon and I, along with a small group of tourists on the boat, descended into the black waters. It was dark all around, save for the city lights off in the distance and the twinkling stars above. Once our bodies were submerged in the shallow waters, we were instructed to move our arms and legs back and forth to disturb the microorganisms. I waved my arms back and forth just beneath the surface of the water. A radiant turquoise-blue glow glimmered and followed my motions. I gently kicked my legs, and the eerie blue glow emerged. Shannon and I were both in complete awe. When we stopped moving, the waters became still and black once again.

Luminous Lagoon Jamaica

The lagoon itself was very shallow and we could touch the bottom with our feet. The mud was so soft and even a bit slimy. I didn’t care for how the mud felt, so I kept treading water. At one point, I felt a small sting on my leg, as though I had been poked with a small pin. It almost felt like a little bite, though it didn’t hurt very much and it left no trace on my skin. Perhaps the microorganisms were feeling a little agitated?

When I lifted my arms out of the water, a stream of sparkles dripped back down into the water. My skin was twinkling and sparkling like the stars above. This was equally as fascinating as the eerie blue-green glow. I raised my arm into the air and watched this natural glitter fall back into the lagoon. When we finished swimming and got back into the boat, we had inadvertently brought some of the microorganisms back with us. As we dried off, our bathing suits sparkled as some of the microscopic creatures remained in the fabric.

Luminous Lagoon Jamaica

Luminous Lagoon Jamaica

This was such a cool experience! Even though we drove three and a half hours in one evening, it was definitely worth it. If you’re staying in Montego Bay, this attraction is even closer and there’s really no excuse to miss it.

An Interesting Tale

Our taxi driver, Sydney, was also very friendly and talkative. On the ride back, we were chatting about the various people from all over the world that he meets as a taxi driver. Sydney told us his most memorable tourist story, and I’m going to narrate it to you.

Sydney was the driver for a tour to the Blue Mountains, though the pick-up spot was in Negril. Blue Mountains are completely on the opposite side of the island, meaning that the trip would easily take four hours in one direction. The pick-up time was very early in the morning at 4:00am. Sydney reached the hotel a few minutes early. A Russian man approached him and motioned that he would need a little more time. Sydney waited. At 4:00am, the Russian man reemerged with his wife, except he didn’t go straight to the taxi. Instead, he sat at a small table in the lobby with a laptop computer. The Russian man waved at Sydney, motioning for him to approach the table.

On the computer, the Russian man played a YouTube video. The video was entirely in Russian. It showed a man in the Blue Mountains at the coffee plantation. The man stood by two trees at the entrance. He took a US $100 bill and a hand-written note, and placed them inside a glass bottle. The man in the video hid the bottle up in one of the trees. Though the Russian man did not speak very much English, it became apparent to Sydney that the couple wanted to go to the Blue Mountains to find that bottle in the tree.

The YouTube video was over two years old.

When they arrived at Blue Mountains, the couple did the full coffee tour as originally planned. At the end, it was time to search for that bottle. The Russian man found the exact two trees from the video and climbed the tree where the bottle had been hidden. He searched and searched, but there was no bottle.

Sydney chuckled to himself. As it turned out, the two trees were mango trees. One of the trees was fruit-bearing, and the other was not. If the man from the YouTube video had placed the bottle in the tree that did not bear fruit, it likely still would have been up there. As the bottle was placed in a fruit-bearing tree, it would have easily been found when the mangoes were harvested. It’s likely that a random Jamaican discovered it while picking fruit. He wouldn’t have known what the note said in Russian, but he would have an extra $100 in his pocket!

Sadly, the Russian man only really cared about the note. After all, the tour itself cost way more than $100. He wanted to find the note and bring it back to his village in Russia to show everyone in town. The famous note from the YouTube video would have been the biggest prize, way more valuable to him than the money.

Well, at least the couple got to taste some delicious coffee.

Luminous Lagoon Jamaica - Bioluminescent waters that glow bright blue!

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16 Responses

  1. Wendy
    | Reply

    It is one of my bucket list items to immerse myself in bioluminescent water … hope I get to do it soon!

  2. Linda Bibb
    | Reply

    Great story by the taxi driver, Lauren. I’ll bet he could write a book with some of the stories he could share. Jamaica has a lot of really cool things to do, but swimming in bioluminescent water sounds like the most wonderful experience of all. I haven’t been to the island yet but when I do go, I definitely want to do that!

  3. Arnie
    | Reply

    That looks truly magical. I had never heard of this, now long to visit. Thanks!

  4. Lauren,
    I didn’t know about the Luminous Lagoon, but it looks fantastic and something I’d totally be into. You make me want to fly down to Jamaica right now and check it out! Gorgeous pics, and I am glad you had a good time on your trip. Happy New Year!

  5. Imageblokebr
    | Reply

    Great post. I had no idea about it.

  6. I’ve not heard of the Luminous Lagoon until now – its so pretty and well, luminous! What a lovely place to visit. I love your taxi driver’s story about the Russian man too :-)

  7. Gemma
    | Reply

    What a funny story, taxi drivers must be full of them! I had never heard of glistening lagoons but they are right up my street, I don’t mind the time of a journey if the destination it worth it – all part of the experience!

  8. Jennifer McMillen
    | Reply

    I am sure this is the type of trip that is “you have to see it yourself”. Maybe at one point we will go. My kids would really love this… but I think this will be in “for my husband and I only” file. Looks amazing!

  9. Jessica
    | Reply

    Good choice indeed. What a lovely experiece in the lagoon and interesting talk with Sydney. :)

  10. Mike
    | Reply

    Wow, very cool lagoon…we came across the bio-luminescent ocean life a few times in our journey, and it blew our mind every single time. Glad you guys decided to book it!

    And that russian story was a good one. He would have been a champ if he came home with that, i am surprised he found the exact tree!

  11. Joe Ankenbauer
    | Reply

    If there was one place that I would want to have a do over, it would be Jamaica! While I had a blast when I visited, I was a little inebriated the entire time(Ok, a lot inebriated). Pinned this bad boy for future travels! Thanks for the awesome post!

  12. Ha! I’m not sure which story I like more – the lagoon or the Russians! But I do know I want to find that lagoon. I had no idea it was there, so thanks for putting it on our To Do list. Hope you guys had/have a great New Year!

  13. Elizabeth
    | Reply

    In Australia and New Zealand there are caves that have the same glow- from worms. Very cool if you get a chance to see them.

  14. Rachel
    | Reply

    Yes this is definitely one of the great wonders of Jamaica. Glad to see that fun was had by all. Thanks for sharing, great read.

  15. David
    | Reply

    Looks like a cool adventure, did you get a surf board into the water? Although the Caribbean island of Jamaica is best known for its calm seas, laid back atmosphere, white sand beaches and all inclusive jamaica resorts, the island of Jamaica is becoming known as one of the premier surfing location in the Caribbean.

  16. Caleb
    | Reply

    That’s awesome you got to experience that! The Luminous Lagoon is one of the best places to see bioluminesence in the world; I’m jealous!

    I know it’s been some time since your trip, but if you’re looking for a neat souvenir for yourself then check out BioPop. They make something called a DinoPet, which is basically a glass habitat filled with those glowing micro-organisms (dinoflagellates).

    Not only are they fantastic self-charging lights, but they’re a great conversation piece to keep in your home as well.

    Keep us updated on your future travels!


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