Bioluminiscence on Holbox Island - Riviera Maya Blog

Bioluminiscence on Holbox Island

At the northern end of the state of Quintana Roo, in the municipality of Lázaro Cárdenas, 10 kilometers off the northeast coast of the Yucatan peninsula, is the secluded Holbox Island; a magical place just 42 kilometers long, separated by a low lagoon and home to exotic creatures like flamingos and pelicans.

The word Holbox means “black hole” in Mayan, but it is completely the opposite, and if you keep reading you’ll find out why…

Birds Holbox

This little piece of heaven is the perfect place to relax, as the population of its virgin beaches is less than two thousand inhabitants, dedicated to tourism and fishing. Its hotels, cabins and rustic-style murals will enchant you … and you’ll be fascinated by the natural phenomenon of bioluminescence that illuminates the island every night.

Mural Holbox

What is bioluminescence?

If you have ever seen a firefly shine, then you have already witnessed this phenomenon. The ability to produce light is due to the fact that there are no places or corners to hide in the sea, and as the depth increases, the sunlight diminishes until it disappears. This is why thousands of organisms are luminous, because the light represents their protection.

Many living beings emit light, but when thousands of plankton glow in the crystal-clear waters of Holbox and illuminate the whole island with a hypnotic blue, it is a simply beautiful sight.


Who glows?

Of the known groups of luminous organisms, over four fifths live in the sea, including:

  • Ostracods or marine fireflies
  • Plankton, pelagic organisms suspended in sea water or freshwater
  • Dinoflagellates, named for the undulating movement of their two flagella
  • Fish, squid, jellyfish and luminescent shrimp
  • Various types of worms, bacteria and sea cucumbers


How to get there?

There are small planes available to fly you to Holbox from the the airports in Cancun, Playa del Carmen and Cozumel. You can also drive from Cancun or the Riviera Maya to the town of Chiquilá, a town in the municipality of Lázaro Cárdenas in Quintana Roo, and catch a boat to the island.

The high season for enjoying this phenomenon is from July to January. Bioluminescence can also be observed from the beaches of Campeche, Oaxaca and Nayarit. As you can see, the natural riches of Mexico never cease to amaze, so come and visit this paradise on earth. It’s an unforgettable experience, guaranteed!  

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