We select the best dates of the month based on the moon’s phase to ensure the darkest nights. If dates are not listed the moon will simply be too bright to view and enjoy the bioluminescence.
Our Bioluminescence Kayak Tour is often imitated but never recreated. Leading the way we created the San Juan Island Bioluminescence Kayak Tour decade ago. When you read about bioluminescence paddling on San Juan Island, you are reading about Discovery Sea Kayaks. We have the most experience on the water at night, setting the standard for quality and safety. Join the Bioluminescence Kayak Tour on San Juan Island and experience the natural lights from the depths of the ocean.
The San Juan Islands of Washington State have significant tidal exchanges that create swift currents and ocean upwellings. These upwellings yield highly nutrient-rich bodies of water, creating an environment with a wide diversity of microorganisms. Some of these microorganisms are bioluminescent, creating their own light.
Bioluminescence is the emission of light by a living organism. In the San Juan Islands this organism is a marine dinoflagellate (a flagellated protist), called Noctiluca. When disturbed, noctiluca emits a sparkling green burst of light. When many bioluminescent organisms congregate in bays, the collective effect can be very dramatic.
We launch just before sunset to take advantage of the last bit of daylight and enjoy the rich colors as the sun drops below the horizon. As twilight fades to darkness, green sparkles become noticeable throughout the water. Traveling close together we will pass through areas where the disturbance of paddles and kayaks create long streaks of bright green on the surface of the water. Floating in shallow flats, darting fish create a light show beneath the kayaks.
Preview the experience of Discovery’s Bioluminescence Kayak Tour:
Book in advance, we operate only one tour each evening during certain times of the year and only around new and small moon phases.
Bring a headlamp.
Please find lodging as you will be staying the night on the island due to our late return time.
Eat dinner prior to the tour. Please do not consume alcohol before the kayak tour.
Discovery is a full-service kayak outfitter. If you cannot find dates for the Bioluminescence Kayak Tour, See our San Juan Kayak Tour Index Page for other options.
Click photos to view our Bioluminescence San Juan Kayaking Tours gallery.
Bioluminescence San Juan Kayaking Tours Testimonial
I usually try to kayak, if I can, on my trips. I've done the 'regular' kayaking tours around San Juan and Orcas Island before and really enjoyed them, but I wanted something different this time. It was magical. Not only do you see the small one-cell creatures light up as you kayak but the night sky creates its own magic. At some points it felt like the Milky Way was lighting our way. I loved this trip and the guides were laid back but very much competent and trustworthy. If you can do this while in San Juan, do it. There is limited availability and it's only offered certain times of each month. Go with Discovery as they are the first (and best) company to do this tour years ago, so they really know what they are doing.
TripAdvisor - Seattle, Wa
Route & Itinerary
Each departure time will be slightly different as it will be based on sunset and moon rise. You should eat dinner prior to check-in as our arrival back to town will be past open hours for in-town establishments. Please reference our online reservation calendar for departure times and real-time availability.
Kids on Bioluminescence Kayak Tours
Children must be at least 12 years of age to join this tour. With our experience kids younger than 12 usually fall asleep well before we begin to see the bioluminescence and often become unhappy about being in the boats. If you would like to reserve a Bioluminescence Kayak Tour with kids less than 12 years of age, please contact us for information about setting up a custom kayak tour.
Wildlife & Weather
The focus of the Bioluminescence Kayak Tour is one of the area’s tiniest visible organisms, noctiluca. Before these sparkling creatures are visible we may also encounter a variety of other wildlife:
Porpoise: Harbor and Dalls porpoise are encountered year round.
Harbor Seals, California Sea Lions, and Stellar Sea Lions: Fairly Common in these areas.
River Otters: More elusive but seen any time of year. Most sightings are early morning or late afternoon.
Bald Eagles: San Juan host a healthy population of Bald Eagles with many nesting sites.
Great Blue Herons: Commonly encountered along the shorelines.
Every evening is unique and we can encounter other species of birds and marine life not listed above.
Evening and Night Time: Summer weather on San Juan Island can shift drastically from daytime to nighttime. While early evening temperatures may stay in the 60’s F, once the sun sets temperatures can drop quickly into the low 50’s F. While evenings are typically calm, we do occasionally experience breezy conditions.
More Tour Related Info
San Juan Island
Sea Kayaking Tours of the San Juan Islands
The San Juan Islands are a small chain of islands in the Salish Sea. The area is a world renowned kayak tour destination in Washington State.
Take a sneak peak at what your next adventure could look like! Watch our video to find out more about what sets us a step above the rest when it comes to providing quality sea kayak tours in the San Juan Islands.
DISCOVERY SEA KAYAKS IS COMMITTED TO KEEPING STAFF AND GUESTS HEALTHY AND SAFE. Following current restrictions and precautions put in place by Washington State, the CDC, and the Federal Government, we have suspended all tours…
Bioluminescence is the emittance of light by a living organism. Here in the San Juan Islands, one such organism makes a grand impression during the summer months. With longer warmer days, Noctiluca blooms en masse in…