The Monterey Bay Aquarium has been a visitor favorite in Monterey since it first opened in 1984 with a mission to inspire conservation of the oceans. It brought the unique undersea world of the Monterey Bay indoors for the first time, giving everyone a view that once required scuba diving gear to explore. Today, it's still a crowd-pleasing favorite, constantly evolving. New exhibits open every few years, new programs get added and older ones close.
Scenes from the Aquarium
Enjoy some of our best shots in this Monterey Bay Aquarium Photo Tour
Monterey Bay Aquarium Exhibits
- Giant Pacific Octopus: This creature is so amazing that it has an exhibit all to itself.
- Jellies Experience: Float along through the largest permanent collection of jellyfish species in the United States.
- Kelp Forest: Look through the world's largest window to get a diver's eye view of a kelp forest and its inhabitants. Divers feed the fish in this exhibit twice daily.
- Monterey Bay Habitats: Sharks, sturgeon and 200-pound giant sea bass are only a few of the swimmers in this exhibit that highlights five different habitats beneath the bay.
- Open Sea: Creatures found in the temperate Eastern Pacific swim in more than a million gallons of sea water, giving a glimpse of life in the open ocean. Once a day on selected days of the week, you can watch the fish getting fed.
- Rocky Shore: Features creatures that live in the border between land and sea: anemones, hermit crabs, monkeyface eels and more. You'll find the Touch Pools here, along with a fun walk-through tunnel where you can let a wave crash over you without getting wet.
- Sandy Shore: This is the world of mud flats and marshes and you can enjoy bat rays and other creatures in the touch pools.
- Sea Otters: See the otters above and below the water at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Feeding time is a special treat for Monterey Bay Aquarium visitors as well as the otters.
- Splash Zone: Decorated in colors as bright as the coral reefs on display, this area includes a large kids' play area and is home to the penguins, who are fed twice daily. Touch pools are in this area, too.
- Special Exhibits Every few years, the aquarium mounts a large special exhibit that runs for several years. The current exhibit in 2013 is Mission to the Deep, which highlights the amazing deep-ocean world explored by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.
Tips for Visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Many visitors worry about long lines and crowding here. The good news is that the Monterey Bay Aquarium is very roomy inside, and even on the most crowded days, you can still get to see everything. These tips will help you enjoy your visit to the fullest.
- Order Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets online and pick them up at the Will Call window. You won't have to stand in line at the ticket office.
- If you visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium during summer or on a school holiday, lines are longest in the middle of the day. Arrive early to minimize the delay.
- If you live in northern California, consider a Monterey Bay Aquarium membership. For a family of four, it pays for itself in less than two Monterey Bay Aquarium visits and members enter through a special side entrance. You'll also get an excellent monthly newsletter, members-only nights, early admissions and opportunities to enjoy special Monterey Bay Aquarium activities.
- Their behind the scenes tour is a great way to learn more about what it takes to run this place. Reserve in advance (extra fee in addition to admission).
- As soon as you get inside, check the feeding schedules and the times for the films shown in the auditorium and schedule the rest of your exploration around them.
- If you're visiting with children, arrive around opening time and head for the Touch Pools early before the animals have to take a rest, then tour for 1.5 to 2 hours, break for lunch and start again.
- Each of the stores inside the aquarium has a theme, so if you see something you like, either make note of its location or buy it on the spot.
- Wheelchairs and assistive listening devices are available for free and all exhibits are wheelchair accessible.
Monterey Bay Aquarium Review
It doesn't matter where you read about the aquarium, it seems like almost everyone loves it. The things they mention most often are the kelp forest, the otters and the awesome bay views from the deck. The biggest complaints are about crowds, parking. Our tips above can help with those issues.
Some folks think a few things are in need of maintenance and other think it's too expensive. And oddly, we've seen more than one review where people complain because it's "just a gigantic aquarium with fish." They were obviously expecting something else, but we can't quite figure out what.
We rate the Monterey Bay Aquarium 4 out of 5. First, there's the irony that more than 35,000 strange and colorful ocean creatures live inside a former cannery. Where sardines once went into cans, more than a thousand employees and volunteers now tenderly care for the marine life so visitors can see them and learn more about the ocean and its riches. And they do a brilliant job of that.
POLL: What do you think of the Monterey Bay Aquarium as a tourist destination?
Monterey Bay Aquarium Details
- Hours: Open every day except December 25
- Reservations: Not required, but buying tickets in advance will help you stay out of line
- Cost: Admission charged Check current prices
- Location: Cannery Row, driving directions below
- How Long: The average visit is 3 hours, but if you're short on time see our one-hour guide
- Best Time to Visit: Any time, but the Monterey Bay Aquarium is less crowded on weekdays when the kids are in school
- See it Now: Photo tour
Getting to the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
(831) 648-4888 (information)
(831) 648-4800 (main number)
Monterey Bay Aquarium Website
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is located at the west end of Cannery Row. To get there from California Highway 1, exit at Munras Avenue. Follow the brown signs toward Cannery Row and the aquarium. You will find a paid parking lot just uphill from the aquarium on David Avenue.
During summer months and major holiday periods when the area is very busy, look for signs directing you to parking in downtown for the free WAVE visitor shuttle to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.