Exploring San Diego


Tips on enjoying San Diego's bioluminescence waves safely

Posted at 2:00 PM, May 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-04 17:03:24-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — With the red tide along San Diego's shore, locals have been flocking to the coast nightly to catch a glimpse of bioluminescent waves.

The waves are created when phytoplankton, called "dinoflagellates," crash in the tide, reacting and causing bioluminescence when jostled.

Currently Lingulodinium polyedra is along San Diego's coastline, also known as L .poly. The bioluminescent species is a dinoflagellate causing the red bands seen in the water.


But as California's stay-at-home order continues and after the county issued health orders for the public, many have been crowding areas to catch the phenomenon.

Observe public health orders

While you're walking along the coast, be sure to observe the county's public health orders to wear a facial covering within six feet of people not of your household, and practice social distancing.

At the beach, visitors are allowed to walk, run, and jog, but not stand still or lay out. Respect others who may simply be there for a walk and not to photograph.

Don't spend a lot of time in one spot

With 70 miles of coastline throughout the county, you don't need to crowd one spot to enjoy bioluminescent waves. Consider walking along an area less popular, than heading to the same destination as everyone else.

To get a good photo of the neon blue tide, you'll likely have to use a long exposure time. But being in one spot for a long time is still avoidable. Use a high ISO on your camera and an exposure time around 10 seconds and experiment with that, as you pick spots along the coast to snap a photo.

It may be difficult for photographers looking for the perfect shot, but it will help others stay safe at San Diego's open beach areas.

Know where you're going

Scout out the location you're heading to ahead of time before getting there. Some areas could be dangerous, especially if walking at night or when other people are on the same path.

That also means to avoid areas that are dangerous along bluffs along the county's shore.

San Diego police have asked residents not to crowd Sunset Cliffs — on foot or by vehicle — and to practice safe social distancing and facial covering even when officers aren't nearby.