The aquarium is spread out over two interconnected buildings, each with two floors. One building contains animals found in the open sea, and the other animals from closer to the ocean’s edge.
The Ocean’s Edge exhibitNear the main entrance is the largest exhibit – the Ocean Tank – where all sorts of animals, from hammerhead sharks to giant prehistoric looking fish seem to swim together in surprising harmony.
Part of the Jellies Experience, these are brightly fluorescent fungi.Pacific Seahorses are native to Monterey bay, but get rather ignored next to the more colourful Sea Dragons. The penguin tank is a very popular attraction. At first glance it was just looking at penguins wandering round on a rocky shore, but getting closer it becomes apparent that they’re sitting above a large clear tank. As the penguins dive in, you can duck down with them and see them underwater. An impressive area is the Monterey Bay Habitats, with an artificial beach and caves simulating the California coastline. Here you can stand under crashing waves, or get close to fish.
The aviary over the beach contains a collection of very tame birds. They happily pose for photos from less than a meter away.There are a number of touch pools here, containing a variety of starfish, crabs, and shellfish. Staff members guide you enthusiastically through touching the animals. All but one of the starfish are surprisingly solid – sorry to that last starfish for giving it quite such a poke…
Monterey Aquarium Visitor Tips
If you text feeding to 56512 you’ll receive text alerts about unscheduled feedings and other unique opportunities. Admittedly I didn’t, so I can’t guarantee you won’t also get subscribed to random fish facts for the next few years.
Street parking in nearby Cannery Row is cheap, but limited to 2 hours. The alternative is the $15/day car parks slightly up the hill from the main entrance. We only took 2 hours to get round, but I’d suggest 3 hours might be better. It’s $34.95 per person entrance fee, but check voucher sites and hotels for discounts as we paid $31 each.
The entrance fee also includes access to lectures in the auditorium. These looked really quite interesting, but we’d spent the morning being wowed by 17-mile drive so had to head south along Big Sur before nightfall. We nearly made it.