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Tips For Visiting Monterey Bay Aquarium


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Tabby Mcmurry



Welcome to the magical world of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, a premier family destination that combines education, conservation, and unforgettable experiences. Located in Monterey, California, this world-renowned aquarium offers a captivating and immersive journey into the wonders of marine life.


With its stunning coastal location, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been delighting visitors of all ages for decades. Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a wildlife lover, or a curious learner, this aquarium provides a unique opportunity to explore and appreciate the beauty and diversity of the ocean.


As you step through the doors of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you’ll be greeted by a vibrant and dynamic environment, filled with interactive exhibits, fascinating creatures, and knowledgeable staff eager to share their passion for marine conservation. From playful sea otters to mesmerizing jellyfish, you’ll encounter a wide array of marine animals that will captivate your imagination.


Not only does the Monterey Bay Aquarium offer an entertaining experience for the whole family, but it also plays a crucial role in environmental conservation. By supporting various research and conservation initiatives, the aquarium is committed to preserving the delicate ecosystems of the ocean and promoting sustainable practices.


Whether you’re planning a day trip or looking to spend several days in the area, a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a must for families seeking both entertainment and educational experiences. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide you with essential information and insider tips to make the most out of your visit.


Location and Hours

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is located in Monterey, California, overlooking the stunning Monterey Bay. Its address is 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940.


Situated along the historic Cannery Row, the aquarium is nestled in a vibrant area filled with shops, restaurants, and beautiful coastal scenery. The convenient location makes it easily accessible by car, public transportation, or even by foot if you’re staying nearby.


The aquarium is open daily, with operating hours varying depending on the season. Typically, it opens at 10:00 am and closes at 5:00 pm. However, during certain peak seasons, such as summer and major holidays, the closing time may be extended to accommodate more visitors. It’s always a good idea to check the official website for the most up-to-date information.


Visitors are encouraged to allocate a sufficient amount of time for their visit, as there is so much to see and explore within the aquarium. Most visitors spend around 2-4 hours inside, but you can easily spend the whole day immersed in the exhibits and activities if you desire.


Parking options are available nearby, including both street parking and paid parking lots. It’s recommended to arrive early to secure a good parking spot, especially during peak times.


Additionally, the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a special treat for the early birds. If you arrive before the official opening time, you can join the “Members-only Early Hours” program. This exclusive opportunity allows you to enter the aquarium one hour before normal operating hours, giving you a chance to explore the exhibits with fewer crowds.


Overall, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s convenient location and flexible hours make it an accessible and family-friendly attraction for visitors of all ages.


Ticket Prices and Discounts

Visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers an incredible opportunity to explore the wonders of marine life, but it’s important to plan ahead and familiarize yourself with the ticket prices and available discounts.


The ticket prices for the aquarium vary depending on age and the type of ticket. As of [current year], the general admission ticket prices are as follows:

  • Adults (ages 18-64): [Price]
  • Seniors (ages 65 and over): [Price]
  • Students (ages 13-17 or college students with ID): [Price]
  • Children (ages 3-12): [Price]
  • Children under 3: Free

Purchasing tickets in advance through the official website is highly recommended, as it not only guarantees your entry but also allows you to skip the ticketing line and save time on the day of your visit.


The Monterey Bay Aquarium also offers various discount options to make the experience more affordable for families. Some of the common discounts include:

  • Annual Membership: For frequent visitors or local residents, an annual membership provides unlimited access to the aquarium for a year, along with additional perks and benefits.
  • Student and Military Discounts: Students and military personnel can enjoy reduced ticket prices by presenting a valid ID at the ticket counter.
  • Local Resident Discounts: Residents of Monterey County can take advantage of special discounted rates, often available during specific periods or days of the week.
  • Group Rates: If you’re visiting with a large group, the aquarium offers discounted group rates. It’s best to contact the aquarium’s group sales department in advance to arrange your visit.
  • Online Discounts: Occasionally, the Monterey Bay Aquarium may offer special online discounts or promotional codes. Keep an eye out for these opportunities on their official website or through their social media channels.

It’s worth noting that some discounts and promotions may have specific terms and conditions, so it’s important to review them before purchasing tickets. Additionally, availability of discounts may vary, so it’s advisable to check the official website for the most up-to-date information.


By taking advantage of the available discounts, you can make your visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium more affordable and accessible, while still enjoying an unforgettable experience with your family.


Planning Your Visit

Proper planning is key to ensuring a smooth and enjoyable visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Here are some tips to help you make the most of your experience:

  • Check the official website: Before your visit, make sure to check the aquarium’s official website for the most up-to-date information on hours, special events, and any temporary closures or modifications to exhibits. This will help you plan your visit accordingly.
  • Purchase tickets in advance: To save time and avoid potential disappointment, it is recommended to purchase your tickets online in advance. This will allow you to skip the ticketing line and enter the aquarium directly, especially during busy periods.
  • Plan your arrival time: Arriving early, especially during peak seasons or weekends, will help you beat the crowds and have more time to explore the exhibits. Consider joining the “Members-only Early Hours” program if you’re a member or arriving before the official opening time.
  • Take note of the feeding schedule: The aquarium offers scheduled feedings for various animals, such as penguins, sea otters, and sharks. Check the feeding schedule on the day of your visit to ensure you don’t miss these fascinating presentations.
  • Create an itinerary: With so much to see, it can be helpful to plan your route and prioritize the exhibits that interest you the most. The aquarium provides maps and exhibit guides upon entry, which can assist you in navigating through the different areas.
  • Be mindful of the crowds: The Monterey Bay Aquarium can get busy, especially during weekends and school holidays. If you prefer a quieter experience, consider visiting on weekdays or arriving later in the afternoon when the crowds begin to thin.
  • Pack essentials: Prepare for your visit by bringing essentials such as comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, hats, and reusable water bottles. Additionally, consider bringing a small backpack to carry your belongings and snacks for a quick refuel during your visit.
  • Stay for the day: The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a rich and immersive experience, so allotting enough time is important. Consider staying for the entire day to fully explore the exhibits, attend presentations, and participate in interactive activities.
  • Engage with the staff: The knowledgeable staff members are passionate about marine life and conservation. Don’t hesitate to ask them questions or seek their recommendations for a more enriching experience.

By planning ahead and following these tips, you’ll be well-prepared to embark on a memorable adventure at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Prepare to be amazed by the wonders of the ocean while creating lasting memories with your family.


Exhibits and Animals

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is home to a remarkable collection of exhibits and a diverse range of marine animals. Each exhibit offers a unique perspective on the ocean’s ecosystems, allowing visitors to appreciate the beauty and complexity of marine life. Here are some highlights:

  • The Kelp Forest: Step into a mesmerizing exhibit that recreates the underwater world of giant kelp forests found off the coast of California. Watch as fish, sea otters, and other creatures navigate through the swaying kelp, giving you a glimpse into this vital marine habitat.
  • Open Sea: This exhibit showcases the vastness of the open ocean, featuring pelagic fish, sharks, and sea turtles. Marvel at the graceful movements of the animals as they swim in the expansive tank, creating an immersive and awe-inspiring experience.
  • Splash Zone and Penguins: Get up close and personal with playful sea otters and charismatic penguins in these interactive exhibits. Watch as the otters frolic in the water and the penguins waddle and dive with their signature charm.
  • Jellies: Enter a mesmerizing world of delicate and graceful jellyfish. Admire their ethereal beauty as they float and pulsate in elegantly lit tanks, casting a captivating glow over the exhibit.
  • Rocky Shore: Explore the fascinating habitat where land meets sea, featuring tide pools teeming with anemones, starfish, and other intertidal creatures. Learn about the unique adaptations of these resilient organisms and discover the importance of conservation efforts.
  • Sea Otter and Sea Lion Exhibits: Witness the adorable antics of sea otters as they groom and play, showcasing their dexterity and social behavior. At the sea lion exhibit, observe these charismatic marine mammals swim, bask in the sun, and interact with their trainers.

These are just a few of the many incredible exhibits and animals that await you at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. The facility is designed to provide an immersive and educational experience, allowing visitors to learn about marine conservation and the importance of protecting our oceans.


Throughout the exhibits, you’ll also find knowledgeable staff members who are passionate about marine life and conservation. They are always ready to share fascinating facts, answer questions, and provide insights into the animals’ behaviors.


Make sure to check the aquarium’s website or obtain a map upon entry for the exhibit schedules, feedings, and additional presentations that take place throughout the day. Whether you’re interested in colorful fish, adorable otters, or majestic sharks, there’s something for everyone to enjoy at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.


Behind the Scenes Tours

If you’re looking to enhance your Monterey Bay Aquarium experience and get a glimpse behind the scenes, consider joining one of their special guided tours. These tours offer a unique opportunity to go beyond the public exhibits and learn more about the aquarium’s operations and conservation efforts. Here are a few of the behind the scenes tours available:

  • Backstage Pass Tour: This exclusive tour takes you behind the scenes to explore the inner workings of the aquarium. Led by knowledgeable guides, you’ll get an up-close look at the animal care areas, research facilities, and the dedicated staff working to protect and study marine life.
  • Feeding Frenzy Tour: If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to feed the diverse array of animals at the aquarium, this tour is for you. Join the animal care specialists as they prepare and distribute meals to different species, and learn about the unique dietary needs and feeding behaviors of the marine animals.
  • Sea Otter Encounter: A fan favorite, this tour allows you to meet the adorable sea otters up close and personal. Learn about their natural history, observe their behavior, and even witness a training session led by the dedicated animal experts.
  • Shark Experience: Dive into the world of sharks through this behind the scenes tour. Discover the essential role these magnificent creatures play in marine ecosystems, witness a shark feeding, and gain a deeper understanding of the conservation efforts focused on protecting these vital species.

It’s important to note that the availability and specific details of behind the scenes tours may vary, so it’s recommended to check the aquarium’s website or contact their staff for the most up-to-date information and to make reservations in advance. These tours often have limited availability and may require an additional fee on top of the general admission ticket.


Participating in a behind the scenes tour offers a unique and enriching experience, allowing you to gain a deeper understanding and appreciation for the incredible work conducted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in conservation, research, and animal care.


Whether you choose to explore the inner workings of the aquarium or interact with specific animals, these tours provide a truly immersive and educational experience, making your visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium even more memorable.


Dining Options

Exploring the Monterey Bay Aquarium is sure to work up an appetite, but you won’t have to worry about finding something delicious to eat during your visit. The aquarium offers a variety of dining options to suit every taste and craving. Here are some dining options available within the aquarium:

  • The Cafe: Located on the second floor, The Cafe offers a casual dining experience with a menu featuring a range of options. From fresh salads and sandwiches to hearty hot meals, there’s something for everyone. Enjoy your meal while taking in breathtaking views of the bay from the outdoor seating area.
  • Portola Restaurant: For a more elevated dining experience, make a reservation at Portola Restaurant. This upscale eatery boasts a seasonal menu crafted with locally sourced ingredients. Indulge in a delicious meal while enjoying panoramic views of the Monterey Bay.
  • Coffee Carts and Snack Stands: If you’re in need of a quick pick-me-up or a grab-and-go snack, you’ll find coffee carts and snack stands conveniently located throughout the aquarium. Sip on a freshly brewed cup of coffee, enjoy a sweet treat, or pick up a snack to fuel your exploration.
  • Picnic Area: If you prefer to bring your own food, the aquarium offers a designated picnic area where you can enjoy a meal with your family and friends. This is a great option to save some money and enjoy a leisurely picnic in the beautiful surroundings of the aquarium.

Whether you’re in the mood for a full meal, a quick snack, or a refreshing beverage, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has you covered. Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options are available at select dining locations, ensuring that dietary preferences and restrictions are taken into consideration.


It’s important to keep in mind that outside food and beverages are not allowed inside the aquarium, with the exception of baby formula or food for infants. However, if you need to leave the aquarium and re-enter for a meal, make sure to get your hand stamped at the exit.


With the variety of dining options available, you can refuel and recharge during your visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, making it a true culinary adventure alongside the incredible marine experience.


Gift Shop

The Monterey Bay Aquarium wouldn’t be complete without a visit to its unique and vibrant gift shop. Located near the entrance and exit, the gift shop offers an array of marine-themed souvenirs, educational materials, and sustainable products.


Whether you’re looking for a memento to remember your visit or a special gift for a loved one, the gift shop has something for everyone. Here are some of the items you can expect to find:

  • Marine-themed Apparel: Show off your love for marine life with a wide selection of t-shirts, hoodies, and hats featuring vibrant designs of sea creatures, kelp forests, and the iconic Monterey Bay Aquarium logo.
  • Plush Toys and Collectibles: Bring home a cuddly companion in the form of a plush sea otter, penguin, or shark. The gift shop offers a variety of adorable stuffed animals representing the aquarium’s beloved inhabitants.
  • Books and Educational Materials: Dive deeper into the world of marine life with an assortment of informative books, field guides, and educational materials. Learn about the ocean, its inhabitants, and conservation efforts through engaging and beautifully illustrated publications.
  • Jewelry and Accessories: Find unique pieces of jewelry inspired by the ocean, including necklaces, earrings, and bracelets featuring seashells, pearls, and marine-themed charms. You can also discover accessories such as keychains, tote bags, and notebooks.
  • Sustainable and Eco-friendly Products: The Monterey Bay Aquarium is committed to promoting sustainable living and conservation. You’ll find a range of eco-friendly products, such as reusable water bottles, tote bags, and bamboo utensils, that encourage sustainable habits and reduce single-use plastics.

By making a purchase at the gift shop, you’re not only bringing home a piece of the aquarium but also supporting their conservation efforts. The proceeds from the sales contribute to the aquarium’s various research programs and initiatives focused on marine conservation.


Take your time exploring the gift shop, and don’t forget to check for any special promotions or exclusive items that may be available during your visit. The knowledgeable staff members are always ready to assist you in finding the perfect souvenir or answer any questions you may have.


Whether you’re looking for a tangible reminder of your visit or a unique gift for someone special, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s gift shop offers a delightful and diverse shopping experience for visitors of all ages.



The Monterey Bay Aquarium strives to provide a welcoming and inclusive experience for all visitors, ensuring that everyone can enjoy and explore the wonders of marine life. Here are some accessibility features and services available at the aquarium:

  • Wheelchair Accessibility: The aquarium is designed to be wheelchair accessible, with ramps and elevators providing access to all public areas and exhibits. Wheelchairs are available for rent on a first-come, first-served basis at the Guest Services desk.
  • Accessible Restrooms: Accessible restrooms equipped with proper facilities and ample space are located throughout the aquarium for the convenience of visitors with mobility needs.
  • Assistive Listening Devices: To enhance the audio experience, free assistive listening devices are available at the information desk. These devices amplify the audio during presentations or exhibits for individuals with hearing impairments.
  • Service Animals: Service animals trained to assist individuals with disabilities are welcome at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. However, pets and emotional support animals are not permitted.
  • Visual Accommodations: The aquarium’s exhibits are designed with visual accessibility in mind. Clear signage, large-print materials, and high-contrast labels are utilized to enhance readability for visitors with visual impairments.
  • Special Programs: The aquarium offers special programs for visitors with disabilities, including sensory-sensitive mornings and tailored tours. These programs provide a more accommodating and comfortable experience for individuals with sensory sensitivities or other specific needs.

If you have specific accessibility requirements or questions, it’s advisable to contact the aquarium in advance to discuss any accommodations you may need. The friendly staff members will be happy to assist you and ensure that your visit is as enjoyable as possible.


The Monterey Bay Aquarium is committed to upholding the principles of accessibility and continues to improve its facilities and services to cater to the diverse needs of all visitors. By providing inclusive experiences, the aquarium ensures that everyone can connect with and appreciate the wonders of marine life.


Nearby Attractions

While the Monterey Bay Aquarium is undoubtedly a highlight of any visit to the area, there are plenty of other attractions and activities to explore in the vicinity. Here are some nearby attractions that you may want to consider adding to your itinerary:

  • Cannery Row: Just steps away from the aquarium, Cannery Row is a vibrant waterfront area lined with shops, restaurants, and art galleries. Take a leisurely stroll along this historic street, soak in the seaside atmosphere, and indulge in delicious seafood cuisine.
  • Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail: Experience the beauty of Monterey Bay firsthand by renting a bike or going for a walk along the scenic Coastal Recreation Trail. This 18-mile trail stretches along the coastline, offering breathtaking views of the ocean and opportunities to spot marine wildlife.
  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Exploration Center: Located near Santa Cruz, this interactive center provides visitors with a deeper understanding of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Discover the unique characteristics of the sanctuary, learn about its rich biodiversity, and engage in hands-on educational exhibits.
  • Whale Watching Tours: Embark on a thrilling whale watching adventure to witness the majestic creatures that call the Monterey Bay home. Various tour companies offer guided excursions, providing you with the opportunity to spot whales, dolphins, and other marine life in their natural habitat.
  • Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History: Located a short drive from the aquarium in Pacific Grove, this charming museum highlights the natural history and ecology of the Monterey Peninsula. Explore interactive exhibits, learn about local flora and fauna, and gain insights into the region’s rich history.
  • 17-Mile Drive: Take a scenic drive along the renowned 17-Mile Drive, which winds through the picturesque Pebble Beach area. Enjoy breathtaking coastal views, visit iconic landmarks such as the Lone Cypress tree, and marvel at the stunning landscapes along this world-famous route.

These are just a few of the many attractions and activities available near the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Whether you’re interested in exploring the local history, enjoying outdoor adventures, or immersing yourself in the region’s natural beauty, there is something for everyone to enjoy in the charming coastal town of Monterey and its surrounding areas.


Plan some extra time during your visit to allow for exploration and discover the diverse range of experiences and attractions that make the Monterey Bay area a truly memorable destination.



A visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a captivating and educational experience for the whole family. With its stunning coastal location, diverse exhibits, and commitment to marine conservation, this world-renowned aquarium is a must-visit destination.


From the mesmerizing Kelp Forest exhibit to the playful sea otters and fascinating jellyfish, the Monterey Bay Aquarium showcases the incredible diversity and beauty of marine life. Every exhibit provides an opportunity to learn about the importance of conservation and our role in protecting the ocean ecosystem.


When planning your visit, be sure to check the aquarium’s website for the most up-to-date information on hours, ticket prices, and special events. Consider purchasing your tickets in advance to save time and secure your entry.


While exploring the aquarium, take advantage of the various behind the scenes tours and interactive programs to gain deeper insights into the inner workings of the facility and the myriad of marine species it houses.


When it’s time to refuel, you’ll find dining options to suit every taste at the aquarium, ranging from casual cafes to upscale restaurants. And don’t forget to stop by the gift shop to browse a variety of marine-themed souvenirs and support the aquarium’s conservation efforts.


Surrounded by the stunning natural beauty of the Monterey Bay area, there are also plenty of attractions and activities to enjoy beyond the aquarium. Take a stroll along Cannery Row, explore the coastal trails, or embark on a whale-watching adventure to make the most of your visit.


Whether you are a marine enthusiast, a nature lover, or simply seeking an enriching experience for the whole family, the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers an unforgettable journey into the wonders of the ocean. Plan your visit, immerse yourself in the incredible exhibits, and create memories that will last a lifetime.