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California is a land full of amazing natural wonders and curious events. I mean, where else can you witness thousands of tiny fish beaching themselves in a mating ritual that only happens at night during a full moon? Or how about when a waterfall appears to flow with molten lava as the sun sets in late February every year.

Scripps Pier, photo by slworking2

But perhaps the most spectacular event of them all happens when the waters along the California coastline glow neon blue. It’s a phenomenon known as bioluminescence and it is caused by tiny organisms in the water that produce a chemical reaction that gives off a neon blue light when agitated.

These light shows typically happen during the spring and early summer months and are most common on California’s southern coastline, such as Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, San Diego, and the beaches on Santa Monica Bay. But they can also be seen north of San Francisco at places like Point Reyes.

Swamis Beach in Encinitas

While it’s difficult to predict when and where these events will happen, the best way to witness one for yourself is to monitor social media by following local news outlets and aquariums such as the Birch Aquarium in La Jolla, Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach and the Monterey Bay Aquarium (check out our complete list of aquariums in California). When an event is happening, try to find a dark section of coastline for the maximum effect.

The spring of 2020 was a particularly good year when this event lasted for nearly six weeks and stretched from the Baja Peninsula all the way to Los Angeles. And it has already happened multiple times in 2023. So stay alert and you may be able to see one for yourself.