Monterey Bay Aquarium
Located on the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean on Cannery Row in Monterey, California on the site of a former sardine cannery, Monterey Bay Aquarium focuses on the marine life which thrives in Monterey Bay.
Monterey Bay Aquarium is definitely worth a visit, with 300,000 marine plants and animals on display and many educational activities to participate in.
The aquarium opened in 1984 on the site of the Hovden Cannery which was the largest cannery in Monterey—built by Knut Hovden in 1916.
Equipment from the Hovden Cannery is on display on the first floor at the aquarium near the main entrance. The Outer Bay Wing was added in 1996 nearly doubling exhibit space.
Several elevated exterior decks provide panoramic ocean views and a great vantage point for watching wetsuit clad snorkelers explore the Great Tide Pool Exhibit, but the real action is inside.
The first museum to exhibit a living kelp forest, Monterey Bay Aquarium pumps two thousand gallons of water per minute, day and night, through over 100 tanks. The kelp forest exhibit holds about a third of a million gallons of sea water and is a favorite of visitors anytime, but especially during feeding times when a diver enters the tank while a speaker provides information and takes questions from the crowd.
Visitors can also watch mealtime in the Outer Bay and visit Penguin and Sea Otter exhibits. The Sea Otter tank is one of the only exhibit tanks where you can see both below and above the water which is a great advantage as the otters feed and interact with staff.
The Outer Bay exhibit includes a one-million-gallon tank and the largest community of open-ocean animals in any aquarium. Here you will see hammerhead sharks, sea turtles, giant bluefin tuna, dolphinfish—also known as mahi mahi and which grow to over six feet long—stingrays and the most prolific fish in the Outer Bay exhibit, the giant ocean sunfish or Mola Mola. Don’t worry, the acrylic window is 13 inches thick to hold all that water pressure.
The largest permanent collection of jellyfish species in the United States is also housed in the Outer Bay wing. Dramatic lighting enhances the experience of watching these animals that range in size from microscopic to larger than a beach umbrella, many with long tentacles.
Plan to spend a minimum of 2–4 hours if you visit Monterey Bay Aquarium. There is a restaurant, the Portola Cafe, on the premise so you can easily spend a full day with all there is to see. It wouldn’t be hard to spend almost as much time on the Monterey Bay Aquarium website with all its information about the various creatures and conservation and research programs at the aquarium.
Monterey’s top attraction is very popular and a line forms before opening most weekends and many weekdays all year so come early. Near the aquarium, there are murals tracking Monterey’s history.
Aquarium of the Pacific, much further south on the California coast—beyond LA—in Long Beach, is also worth a visit for aquarium lovers.