One of the top aquariums in the United States, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is not just home to hundreds of marine animals—the nonprofit organization is also known for its dedication to ocean conservation. With its Pacific Coast location on Monterey Bay, this California aquarium enjoys a prime spot to highlight marine environments and educate the public about protecting wildlife. Visitors will find some 200 exhibits and galleries featuring more than 600 species of marine mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and invertebrates.
Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must-visit for families with kids and wildlife lovers on any trip to Monterey. Book tickets in advance to save time when you arrive, or book a guided day trip from San Francisco for round-trip transportation from the city. Tours in the area typically also visit Pebble Beach and Carmel-by-the-Sea or make the 17-Mile Drive. Admission tickets provide access to shows and exhibit areas such as the Kelp Forest, Life on the Bay, and the Open Sea, while allowing visitors to see sea otters and giant Pacific octopuses.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Most travelers spend between two and three hours here.
- An on-site café, restaurant, and coffee bar each offers food and drinks.
- The aquarium is accessible, with complimentary wheelchairs available on a first-come, first-served basis.
- Lockers are available to rent to store belongings.
- Free on-site WiFi is available.
How to Get There
The aquarium is located about 115 miles (185 kilometers) south of San Francisco (about two hours by road) and 43 miles (69 kilometers) from Santa Cruz, with parking available at the Cannery Row Parking Garage. If you’re already in Monterey, biking to the aquarium along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail is a great way to arrive, as is the free MST Trolley. The museum sits along Cannery Row, Monterey’s historic waterfront street made famous by author John Steinbeck’s novel of the same name.
When to Get There
The aquarium is open daily from 10am to 5pm. Summer and the winter holidays are the most popular times of year to go to the aquarium—try visiting on weekdays to avoid the crowds. Fall and winter generally see fewer visitors.
To dive deeper into the underwater world of the aquarium, tours and activities are available, most for an additional fee. These include kids’ scuba diving experiences and sleepovers, guided behind-the-scenes tours, and sea otter conservation tours.