Summer 2023 Bioluminescence in Puget Sound: Best Dates

What does it take to see bioluminescence? If you’re looking for displays of glowing waves crashing into the beach, it’s probably best to head for the coast. But if you’re interested in watching sparks fly through the water as you paddle, or your entire bow wake light up, or explosions of glowing shadows as fish swim under your kayak, the Puget Sound provides plenty of opportunity. If you are new to this adventure, be sure to read tips & tricks we shared in 2020. We’ve found that the biggest factor is less about where to kayak and more about when to go. This is a naturally-occurring phenomenon that doesn’t come with a map or a schedule, so even with our best advice, we can only wish you Happy Hunting!

Summer 2023 Bioluminescence

If you’re a local paddler, we’ve pulled together the days and times you’re likely to be able to see summer 2023 bioluminescence in the Pacific Northwest. Note that the times listed below are based on sun and moon timing for our home base of Tacoma, Washington. Your local timing will vary – more info in the article linked above. We also only listed nights that have at least an hour of total darkness – that’s when we’ve always seen the most impressive displays. For ease of planning, we’ve listed each night with two dates – times listed are for the night between. In several instances, you’ll notice that total darkness actually begins the morning of the second date.

If your schedule doesn’t allow for night paddling during one of these times, don’t despair. We’ve seen the sparks of bioluminescence in lots of different circumstances. We’ve seen it in different seasons. We’ve seen it during nautical twilight. We’ve seen it in areas with a lot of light pollution – when paddling past the Port of Tacoma, bioluminescence was visible on the shadow side of our kayaks (though not the side lit by industrial port lighting). Bioluminescence is generally less vibrant during colder weather or when there’s a lot of light pollution, which is why we put this guide together every year. But “less vibrant” doesn’t mean you won’t be able to experience the phenomenon.

June 2023

We publish dates for the summer season, when your chances of catching the bioluminescence is highest.

June 21/22 12:10am – 2:12am
June 22/23 12:26am – 2:12am
June 23/24 12:44am – 2:13am
June 24/25 12:59am – 2:14am
June 25/26 1:14am – 2:15am

July 2023

Early July has a lot of moonlight, but later in the month you’ll have some good opportunities.

July 10/11 11:49pm – 1:03am
July 11/12 11:47pm – 1:24am
July 12/13 11:45pm – 1:50am
July 13/14 11:43pm – 2:23am
July 14/15 11:41pm – 2:50am
July 15/16 11:39pm – 2:52am
July 16/17 11:37pm – 2:55am
July 17/18 11:34pm – 2:57am
July 18/19 11:32pm – 2:59am
July 19/20 11:30pm – 3:02am
July 20/21 11:27pm – 3:04am
July 21/22 11:25pm – 3:07am
July 22/23 11:23pm – 3:09am
July 23/24 11:34pm – 3:12am
July 24/25 11:49pm – 3:14am
July 25/26 12:07am – 3:17am
July 26/27 12:29am – 3:19am
July 27/28 12:58am – 3:21am
July 28/29 1:38am – 3:24am

August 2023

In our experience, the most impressive displays have always been in the heat of summer. If you can paddle an August night, that’s likely to provide a good show.

August 8/9 10:41pm – 11:53pm
August 9/10 10:38pm – 12:23am
August 10/11 10:35pm – 1:02am
August 11/12 10:33pm – 1:50am
August 12/13 10:30pm – 2:48am
August 13/14 10:28pm – 3:52am
August 14/15 10:25pm – 4:03am
August 15/16 10:23pm – 4:05am
August 16/17 10:20pm – 4:07am
August 17/18 10:18pm – 4:09am
August 18/19 10:15pm – 4:11am
August 19/20 10:13pm – 4:13am
August 20/21 10:10pm – 4:15am
August 21/22 10:12pm – 4:18am
August 22/23 10:31pm – 4:20am
August 23/24 10:57pm – 4:22am
August 24/25 11:30pm – 4:24am
August 25/26 12:16am – 4:26am
August 26/27 1:19am – 4:27am
August 27/28 2:37am – 4:29am

September 2023

If we are still experiencing warm, sunny days in September, that can still provide a great opportunity to see bioluminescence at night. September also brings even earlier sunsets, so as soon as moonrise shifts later (toward the end of the summer), you’ll see some opportunities that might not even interfere with bedtime too much.

September 6/7 9:38pm – 10:59pm
September 7/8 9:25pm – 11:45pm
September 8/9 9:23pm – 12:40am
September 9/10 9:21pm – 1:43am
September 10/11 9:18pm – 2:50am
September 11/12 9:16pm – 3:58am
September 12/13 9:13pm – 4:58am
September 13/14 9:11pm – 5:00am
September 14/15 9:09pm – 5:01am
September 15/16 9:06pm – 5:03am
September 16/17 9:04pm – 5:04am
September 17/18 9:02pm – 5:06am
September 18/19 8:59pm – 5:08am
September 19/20 8:59pm – 5:09am
September 20/21 9:29pm – 5:11am
September 21/22 10:09pm – 5:12am

We hope you have a great time – drop a comment to let us know how it went. We’d love to hear all about your summer 2023 bioluminescence paddling trips!


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