Putting on the Ritz and Bio Bay in San Juan


After leaving Central America, we flew to San Juan and spent a couple of days in Puerto Rico. It was a little strange at first. It was a comforting and appropriate transition in that it was nice to be back in the United States (or territory of) again, but also where Spanish continued to be spoken everywhere. We were lucky enough to stay as couchsurfers with our very cool host in San Juan. His apartment was surrounded by similar high rise condos, and just a few blocks from the beach, museums, restaurants, and stores so we got to do a little exploring.

The day before we left, we were able to get reservations to go on a kayak tour of Fajardo Bay, a bio-luminescent bay in Puerto Rico. A friend had recommended we check it out if we had a chance, and it was worth it. We were instructed to meet our tour guide and fellow kayakers at the Ritz Carlton Hotel at sunset. Jeff and I decided that we might as well make the most of it and went several hours early.

We took a cab and walked straight through the lobby to the pool area. Coming from the type of environments that we have become accustomed to, the Ritz Carlton was like an oasis, a beacon of luxury. Since we were already in our swimming suits (in preparation for the tour), we blended in as best we could. Jeff brazenly grabbed a towel and an ice water infused with orange, and we did our best to walk nonchalantly toward some empty chairs. We set up shop and lay out by the pool for the rest of the afternoon until it was time to leave for our tour.

A bioluminescent bay is exactly what it sounds like—a bay that glows in the dark naturally. This phenomenon occurs due to the microorganisms in the water. With movement or upon being touched, the water lights up, becoming a neon blue-white. This only occurs in two places in the world. I wish we could have taken pictures because it was an unbelievable experience, one that I can not do justice to with my writing. The sight of the water illuminating in the dark was awesome. Fish jumped out of the water, creating shooting comets. With each stroke of our oars a bright fluorescent light would shine for as long as the movement continued simultaneously highlighting both our path and showing us where we had just come from. I scooped up handfuls of water and watched as a tail of electric blue followed and I tossed brilliant blue droplets back into the bay.

I feel justified in blaming our kayaking abilities (or lack thereof) on the fact that we were so in awe of the bioluminescence all around us. We ran into some communication difficulties, leading our kayak in a zigzag, running into trees and the riverbank, and eventually needing to be towed out by one of the guides. Just as we began to get the hang of things and build confidence in our ability to maneuver our kayak, the tour came to an end. By then, our clothes were wet, we smelled like lagoon water, and my arms felt like they were about to fall off. Still, the experience itself was well worth it.

Jeff Lee
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