How to SUP the Luminous Lagoon in Jamaica
When I travel anywhere near water, I’m always looking for a stand up paddle boarding (SUP) adventure and my trip to Jamaica was no different. I was in Jamaica teaching yoga at a resort and they had SUP boards at the beach, but there were boundaries and time limit restrictions. After owning a paddle board, it’s very difficult to abide by rules again! The best part of owning is the freedom it provides. It didn’t stop me from using the resort paddle boards, but I was seeking more.
I googled SUP Jamaica near Ocho Rios and found one comment on a YouTube video that led me to contact Kimberley at Jamaica Way Watersports. I asked Kimberley about paddling the Luminous Lagoon and the Martha Brae River, which empties into the lagoon. We decided on an all day paddle starting in the lagoon, continuing upstream on the river and back for dinner at a local restaurant. After dark, a guide would take us out on the Luminous Lagoon. Why after dark? The Luminous Lagoon is made up of microorganisms called dinoflagellates that light up at night in response to any disturbance to the water! There are only four of these in the world and Jamaica has the brightest, so of course I had to experience this on a paddle board!
The ride from the resort near Ocho Rios to the Luminous Lagoon was about 45 minutes and upon arrival, the paddle boards were waiting on the dock - and to my pleasant surprise, they were nice boards. It was cloudy and a little windy, but calm enough for a paddle around the lagoon and even into the mangroves that border the lagoon. The wind started to pick up after about an hour and the sky was looking gray, so unfortunately, the river didn’t seem doable and we made it back to shore minutes before it started downpouring! Buzzo’s Sports Bar & Grill was just starting to open, so after a few Red Stripes and some jerk chicken, it was time to head back out on the lagoon for the big show. It’s worth mentioning that the sunset was absolutely gorgeous over the lagoon. If I did it again, I would have arrived around 5:00pm, paddle the lagoon for the sunset and then back out for the light show!
The lagoon requires a quide for any kayaking or paddle boarding after dark because you need to stay out of the path of the tourist boats. Most tourists take a boat out on the lagoon and swim in the water - paddle boarding the lagoon is very unique. As we began to paddle, you could immediately see the water light up with every paddle stroke - it was amazing! I tried taking pictures and videos, but my camera was just not cooperating. However, I took advantage of this to really enjoy the moment. In addition to the paddles streaking through the water, you could see fish darting in every direction! They looked like little lasers in the water. Of course, we also took some time to swim and if you cupped your hands with water, you could see all the dinoflagellates sparkling in your hand - it was magical!
After about an hour, it was time to paddle back to shore and the resort. This was one of the most unique paddle boarding adventures I’ve every experienced and very magical. The entire day felt like a genuine Jamaican experience from paddling into the mangroves, hanging out at Buzzo’s, and watching fish dart like lightning bolts beneath my paddle board. I would highly recommend this experience to anyone looking for an SUP adventure in Jamaica!