Bioluminescence, a very little known fact from Costa Rica. Perhaps you have seen Life of Pie movie, where the main character starts to see lights in the water, well bioluminescence is exactly that. The phenomenon is created by living organisms that when you move them they turn on like a bulb.
Best time to see the “ocean lights” is on a dark and cloudy night
I found out about 6 months ago that this was going on in Costa Rica and of course didn’t lose the opportunity to experience it once there. Not many people knew where the place was so it took some time to find out. There is only one place from where you can see them and it is in the North Pacific area of Curú Wildlife Refuge.
Best time to see the “ocean lights” is on a dark and cloudy night (so avoid full moon) , if it rains you are up to a treat because the drops will create a light show below you just like Christmas lights. Talking to our local guide he mentioned that ever since he was a kid there has been always this phenomenon but for some reason no one talked about it until a few months ago.
Where to find them?
Best place is to go to Quesera beach from Curu Wildlife Refuge, to get there you have get to the city of Puntarenas, take the ferry to Paquera town and from there it is a short drive to Curú beach. Quesera beach is just a few minutes away by boat.
The Wildlife Refuge has cabins also in where you can spend the night or continue west towards the beautiful surfing beaches Costa Rica has to offer.
By law, Costa Rica has no private beaches but the place from where you need to get in is private (Curú Refuge). Since this is an activity that you have to do during nighttime it is advised to get a local to take you on board one of their boats since they know the tides, where to see the lights and the way around the sea at night.
Our trip started at 5pm until around 8pm. At 5pm we got a boat ride to another beach from where we spent the daytime swimming, snorkelling, watching rays, lots of fish and also sometimes turtles show up above the surface to take a breath.
While the sunset is gone we had some refreshments and fruits, then off we go to the boat again. While getting to the boat I didn’t notice anything in the water. To be honest I was a bit skeptic about how much you could see them, I wasn’t really prepared to what was coming up next!
The bioluminescence show starts
While on the boat we had still a bit of sunlight but just for fun I touched the water and wow! tons of lights appeared from the water and I started to scream like a kid with a new toy. Unbelievable, even the pictures I took doesn’t make up for the beauty we experienced that day.
This is something that you have to experience yourself, not even me telling you will make you understand how perfect the moment was.
Soon after this we got snorkels on and jump right in, in the darkness of the night, us 5 (my sister, her husband, my brother, my wife and I). Before I jumped in I wanted to take some shots, pretty tough to get something clear since the boat was moving a lot but I managed to get a light angel from my brother:
We spent like 20 minutes in the water just playing around and you can see how fish below you create light paths. Then after swimming we went on the boat again to continue the trip back to Curú beach. But the show didn’t stop there, everything was pitch black and you could only see the lights of the water from the splashes the motor boat made.
When arriving to Curú you can see the lights brought by the waves when breaking on the beach. Truly magical, it was then when I could capture the moment:
Info about tour and the Refuge
All information is available at the Curú Wildlife Refuge website, cost is nothing compared to the amazing experience: 35 dollars per person and the entrance to the refuge 12 dollars. I was in touch with them all the time and made a deposit via PayPal as they suggested.
On a side note if you have time please get since the morning to the refuge, there are really cool trails that you can walk and the nature + animals are amazing with lots of deers running around. They also have crocodiles so it is strongly suggested to not swim or be too close to the river 😉 Definitely a place to come back at least once more.