Oops! It appears that you have disabled your Javascript. In order for you to see this page as it is meant to appear, we ask that you please re-enable your Javascript!

Sometimes it feels like fantasy. Jumping into the sea at night, in the dark, searching something that ‘I’ve been told’ but quite difficult to capture in photographs.

Fantasy becomes reality when I go into the water with my snorkel, with no visibility, and I take a dip. Already underwater, I move my arms gently, and suddenly I discover that hundreds of lights begin to light up the path.

With each stroke, thousands of ‘fireflies’ are stimulated to shine in the sea, just like it was a sky full of stars.

The best day tours in Costa Rica here.

I’m not overstating. I experienced it at Quesera beach in Curu Wildlife Refuge, when I paid for the bioluminescence tour and they took me by boat to get to know this natural phenomenon. Probably it has always existed, but until now it became a real attraction for tourists.

Unfortunately, capturing the images is almost impossible. Lights activate and disappear with movement, making it really difficult to focus with a camera, even a professional one.

That’s why I ask you not to let yourself be carried away by the exaggerated photographs that show the beach as if it was full of ‘white lava’, or something crazy like that. Most of these photos are unreal (too much photoshop) or were taken in Mexico, where the phenomenon is shown in a different way.

I tried to find a photograph that was as truthful as possible and reflected the true beauty of luminescence. The one I placed at the top of this article is very similar to reality. According to what I’ve been told, full moon can make the intensity of brightness greater, and even brighter underwater.

This image shows how you can see the phenomenon of bioluminescence on a good day. Sometimes the light is less intense and only observed under water. Photo: agozar.com.mx

I arrived to Quesera randomly. They had told me about an incredible unspoiled beach, surrounded by huge palm trees.

No one had told me that sea water is so crystal clear that from the boat itself you can see the bottom of the sea.

Quesera is surrounded by two mangroves, which helps the existence of a lot plankton around it. Plankton is a micro-organism that lives in the water and generates a chemical reaction that produces light.

Plankton is activated by movement, so at night it lights up and causes this extraordinary natural experience.

Just like me, luminescence tour started at Quesera randomly. Don Luis, one of the owners of Curu Refuge, was called by a friend who asked him for a ‘night kayak’ tour, for a client from the US that requested it.

Bioluminescence is known as night kayak among English-speaking foreigners. The day when Don Luis guided the tourist, he realized that this phenomenon could be an additional attraction to offer.

This refuge is part of Nicoya Peninsula, where many of the beaches around have plankton. Also in other destinations such as Cuajiniquil and Rajada, luminescence can also be seen during different times of the year.

I have to admit that I paid for the tour and got doubtful on the boat. The boat departs at 5:30 p.m. and the journey takes around 10 minutes to get to Quesera.

Sunset at Quesera beach. Photo: www.goplaya.cr

After chilling on the beach, you have to get back on the boat. It moves a few meters from the coast to anchor in the middle of the sea.

It’s almost 7 p.m. and you have to prepare yourself with the life jacket and jump into the water. The boat is crowded and many of us are having a hard time to have the courage to jump.

The water is cristal clear in Quesera beach. Photo: www.goplaya.cr

I rather not to think about it too much. I put on my snorkeling gear and dip in. For almost 15 minutes I saw an image that I can only save in my mind: Thousands of small lights in front of me.

Even after leaving the water, I was meditating about so many experiences that are pending to be discovered in this diverse country and full of stories to be told.

There are as many stories as there are fireflies in the water.


José Pablo Alfaro

José Pablo Alfaro

Journalist and nature lover. He likes boat trips, walking through trails and living natural experiences.