Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is definitely one of the top sights on the Pacific Coast Highway, right up there with Hearst Castle and Big Sur as places you must see. 

Shark at the Monterey Bay AquariumShark at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

All Photos (c) Donna Dailey

Well, it’s hard not to see Big Sur, you drive right through it, but to get the most out of a visit to the aquarium you should plan to spend a night in Monterey, Pebble Beach, Pacific Grove, or in neighboring Carmel. If you stay in Carmel and do the 17-Mile Drive, it will bring you very close to the aquarium in Monterey.

Entrance to the Monterey Bay AquariumEntrance to the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Exhibits at the Aquarium

When we visited, the Jellies Experience was the latest special exhibit to open. This is devoted to the fascinating and rather strange world of the jellyfish. We had no idea there were so many different kinds of really beautiful jellyfish, and the Jellies Experience is an imaginative display that shows these sometimes surreal worlds. With some fun Sixties Psychedelia too, it’s an exceptional exhibition, and you can read more about it on our page about The Jellies Experience jellyfish exhibition.

Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay AquariumJellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay AquariumJellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay AquariumJellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

How Long to Spend at the Monterey Bay Aquarium?

There’s a lot to see at the aquarium, and there are events and activities, including feeding times for penguins, otters, sharks, turtles, and other creatures, that are always popular to watch (so get to these early to get a good spot.)

There are talks throughout the day too, and these usually include the opportunity to get up close with some of the sea creatures, animals and birds, and these too are always entertaining and especially delightful for children.

Bird at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

So, it’s hard to say how long you might want to spend there. We would suggest you allow a minimum of two hours, to even get around everything. Allow half a day or more if you want to try to catch fun things like the otter feeding and training program, and the musical shows too.

As for your own feeding program, there’s a casual self-service café (11am-4pm) if you want a quick meal, and a restaurant (11am-2pm) where you can enjoy a fabulous view of Monterey Bay.

The View from the Monterey Bay AquariumThe View from the Monterey Bay Aquarium

We are always drawn to the displays on the seahorses and the sea dragons, which we love so much. We never miss feeding time with the otters, where the staff also show you how they train and inter-act with the animals.

Seadragon at the Monterey Bay AquariumSeadragon at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Kelp Forest is a really mesmerising display, and is one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world. Watching leopard sharks and other creatures glide quietly by, while shoals of sardines swirl around creating impressive natural patterns in the water, is a beautiful way to appreciate the underwater world.

Turtle at the Monterey Bay AquariumA Turtle at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Otter Enjoying a Snack at the Monterey Bay AquariumAn Otter Enjoying a Snack at Feeding Time

The aquarium has many other exhibits too. The Pacific octopuses are a big draw, the Splash Zone offers children (and adults) hands-on experiences with some of the creatures, and it is always funny and surprising to see penguins and other birds swimming so agilely under the water. More than anything, though, the aquarium teaches us to love and respect the creatures we share the planet with

Best Guide to Carmel and Monterey


Practical Information

The aquarium is at the west end of Cannery Row, and the entrance is at the junction of Cannery Row and David Avenue. If you’re staying in the old part of Monterey, nearer to Fisherman’s Wharf, it’s only a 20/25-minute walk to the aquarium. In the summer there’s also a free visitor trolley linking all the main Monterey sights. You can also park bicycles for free, just across the street from the main entrance.

A Seahorse at the Monterey Bay AquariumA Seahorse at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The aquarium is only a short drive from Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and Carmel, and there are several parking garages nearby. Free street parking is hard to find, so our advice is not even to try. Check the aquarium’s website (see link below), which has very thorough information on all of this.

Jellyfish at the Monterey Bay AquariumJellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey Bay AquariumMonterey Bay Aquarium

Contact Details
Monterey Bay Aquarium
886 Cannery Row
Monterey, CA 93940
Tel: (831) 648-4800

For other things to do in Monterey,
visit our Monterey page

Shark at the Monterey Bay AquariumShark at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Other Monterey pages

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