Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium is the most famous aquarium in the United States. This is for good reason as it is a beautiful museum that does amazing work rescuing and protecting the local sea otter population. We loved everything about this museum but the price. Still, we would go again, and we felt a little better that this non-profit is helping nature. At the time of our visit, it cost our family of five a bit over $200 for a day pass. Parking is also an issue in this part of Monterey, and you will pay for it if you can find it.

There are beautiful fish all throughout the museum.


The Monterey Bay Aquarium is amazing. There are two floors and a large outdoor area. The first floor has several different kinds of exhibits. We really enjoyed the kelp forest, which is a three-story tank with fish and sharks swimming among the native kelp. There were a lot of other small tanks with all kinds of sea creatures. The octopus was particularly active when we visited. There are a few exhibits upstairs, too, including the sea otters and a rotating exhibit. It was called Into the Deep when we visited.

There is a lot to see in the key forest.
The octopus was amazing.
We loved discovering all the different kinds of fish.
We liked the open air bird exhibit.
There were lots of birds and beautiful views, too.
This large tank had sharks and turtles.
There were a ton of jellyfish.
Our boys loved the wave crashing over them.

Interactive Exhibits

This aquarium is very interactive. There are touch tanks staffed by volunteers that show you how to safely touch both animals and sea plants. Another large section has dials and cranks that little ones can manipulate to make cutout versions of the animals move. This helps children see the behaviors of the animals in a fun way. Our boys really liked this section set aside specifically for kids. We were impressed with how many different interactive areas there were for the kids to enjoy.

Our boys loved all the hands-on exhibits.
There were large magnifying glasses to look closer.
We like the touch pools
The kid area was a lot of fun.
There were fun exhibits for the kids to learn about animals.
We really loved this two-finger touch table.

Sea Otters

The main draw for the Monterey Bay Aquarium is the sea otters. There is a large tank that is always busy, both inside and out. The otters are constantly in motion, swimming right next to the glass, or playing with a toy in their enclosure. There are feeding times and a movie about sea otter rescue as well. We spent a lot of time looking at the otters.

The sea otters are adorable.


Out the back of Monterey Bay Aquarium is a large amphitheater that is open to the ocean. We stood on the deck for a while and searched the ocean for wild sea otters. We saw many kinds of birds, and eventually, some otters as well. In the Spring when we visited they did the back stroke with their fluffy babies on their tummy. They gently groom the pups as they float along. We were glad we had binoculars to see them from the deck.

There are a lot of open space on the back of the aquarium.
We saw lots of birds and sea otters.
The sea otters were a lot of fun to watch.

Family Tips

These are our family tips for visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium:

  • Arrive early. We arrived slightly before opening time and we were able to find street parking not that far from the aquarium that saved us a lot of money.
  • Food: You cannot take food into the aquarium, but you can leave and re-enter. So we spent a few hours, left to eat lunch in our car, and then went back into the aquarium. There is also a cafe with lots of options if you don’t want to leave.
  • Wear comfy shoes and bring strollers. You will be walking a lot and little legs will get tired.
  • If you are in the area, we recommend the 17 mile drive and Point Lobos State Nature Reserve.

Leave a Reply

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. James

    I too enjoyed the family friendly Monterey aquarium. But as the author notes, it is a bit costly. In addition to the admission cost, we paid $20 to park and another $20 (actually $19.98) for the worst fish and chips lunch ever. I suggest finding lunch somewhere along Cannery Row.

  2. Pat

    Glad you enjoyed your visit we went last Sunday and felt the quality had declined. Yes the large female and male octopuses were on display and they had a touching pool which was the size of a small table with limited touches. The large aquarium was missing many of the colorful fish and my favorite the sunfish Other displays were disappointing and had visuals instead of the actual creatures. I am sure they will rise to their former amazing self but for now I would limit visits unless you are a season pass holder. As for food, they `ow have a food restaurant with very tasty dishes, though a little pricey.

  3. Jonathan Nielsen

    Love the Monterey Bay Aquarium but it’s been a while since I’ve been there (2003). Went there many times as a kid in the 80s and 90s.