San Francisco

Monterey Bay Aquarium – tickets, prices, feeding times, tours from SFO

Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the finest aquaria in the USA.

Located on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is home to thousands of marine animals and plants.

A lot of tourists come all the way from cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, etc. to visit this non-profit public aquarium.

In this article, we explain everything you need to know before visiting Monterey Bay Aquarium.

1. How to reach
2. Opening hours
3. Feeding times
4. Best time to visit
5. Tour duration
6. Ticket discounts
7. Entry tickets
8. Tour from SFO
9. Sleepover
10. What to see?
11. Aquarium map
12. Reviews
13. Restaurants
14. Nearby beaches

Where is Monterey Bay Aquarium?

Monterey, California is situated 201 Kms (125 Miles) South of San Francisco and 500 Kms (310 Miles) North of Los Angeles.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is a public aquarium located at the west end of the Cannery Row, in Monterey.

Address:

Monterey Bay Aquarium,
866 Cannery Row,
Monterey, CA 93940.


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How to reach Monterey Bay Aquarium

There are a couple of ways to reach this Public aquarium.

Use Free Trolley

More than 5 million visit Monterey county every year.

If you are one of them and already in Monterey, the best way to reach Monterey Bay Aquarium is by getting onto the Free Trolley.

You can hop abroad the MST trolley for a fast, fun and free ride to the Aquarium.

This free trolley stops in downtown Monterey, Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row and finally at the Aquarium.

The Trolley departs Downtown Parking Garages at Tyler Street and Del Monte Avenue every 10 to 15 minutes.

Or you can get on to them from any of the other stops.

Free Trolley is available every day from 10 am to 7 pm.

More than 5 million visit Monterey county every year.

If you are one of them and already in Monterey, the best way to reach Monterey Bay Aquarium is by getting onto the Free Trolley.

You can hop abroad the MST trolley for a fast, fun and free ride to the Aquarium.

This free trolley stops in downtown Monterey, Fisherman’s Wharf, Cannery Row and finally at the Aquarium.

The Trolley departs Downtown Parking Garages at Tyler Street and Del Monte Avenue every 10 to 15 minutes.

Or you can get on to them from any of the other stops.

Free Trolley is available every day from 10 am to 7 pm.

Use public transport

If you are traveling from San Francisco, Los Angeles or some other city, public transport is the recommended option to get to Monterey Bay Aquarium.

We recommend either of these transport options –

Monterey-Salinas Transit

Greyhound Bus

Monterey Salinas Airbus

Amtrack

Book a tour

If you don’t want to worry about how you will reach Monterey and eventually the aquarium, the best option is to book a coach tour.

We recommend this day tour from San Francisco and this overnight tour from San Francisco to Monterey. You decide!

Monterey Bay Aquarium parking

If you are traveling by car, you can have either of the two parking options near the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Metered Parking

Metered parking closest to Monterey Bay Aquarium are at the following places –

Foam St. Monterey, CA
Ocean View Blvd. Monterey, CA
Wave St. Monterey, CA.

Garages and Lots

The following parking garages are available near the Aquarium –

Cannery Row Lot 7 on 160 Irving St. Monterey, CA
Cannery Row Parking Garage on 601 Foam St. Monterey, CA.Cannery Row Parking Lot 21 on 32 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA.


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Monterey Bay Aquarium hours

The Aquarium is open every day of the year, except the 25th of December.

Monterey Bay Aquarium is open from 10 am to 5 pm on all days of the week.


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Feeding times

Feeding sessions are a lot of fun, especially if you are travelling with children.

This is why most visitors prefer to plan their visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium around the times the animals are fed.

Sea Otter Feeding

When: 10.30 am, 1.30 pm and 3.30 pm
Where: Sea Otter Exhibit
How long: 15 minutes

Penguin Feeding

When: 10.30 am, 3 pm
Where: Splash Zone Exhibit
How long: 15 minutes

Open Sea Feeding

(feeding tuna, sharks, and others)

When: 11 am
Where: Open Sea Exhibit
How long: 15 minutes

Kelp Forest Feeding

(feeding sharks, fishes, and others)

When: 11.30 am, 4 pm
Where: Kelp Forest Exhibit
How long: 15 minutes


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Best time to visit Monterey Bay Aquarium

The best time of the day to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium is at 10 am, as soon as it opens.

This will help you avoid the long lines which start in the middle of the day, especially if you are making a trip in summer or during school holidays.

Visiting the Aquarium early will also get you the opportunity to have hands-on experience in the Touch Pools.

Starting early also helps you include the feeding sessions in your schedule since most of the feeding activities happen before 1 pm.

If your objective is only to avoid the crowd, 3 to 4 pm slot is also an excellent time to visit.

Best day of the week to visit

Summer is the peak season at Monterey Bay Aquarium.

If you have no choice but to visit the aquarium in summer, it is best to plan your visit mid-week.

Not many tourists visit on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Even in the peak summer season, Wednesdays would be the best day to plan your visit.

Weekends are generally busy even in the offseason.

Best season to visit

If you want the Monterey Bay Aquarium to be less crowded, it is best to plan your visit in October or in the winter season when families avoid venturing outside.

We recommend October because the weather is generally pleasant as compared to the later winter months.


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How long does Monterey Bay Aquarium take?

On average, most tourists take around three hours to explore the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

If you are with kids, who prefer spending extra time with the exhibits, you may need one more hour.

It can also take an entire day if you want to enjoy it at a slow pace and explore all the different activities, exhibits and feeding sessions the Aquarium has to offer.


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Monterey Bay Aquarium discounts

Monterey Bay Aquarium offers numerous kinds of discounts.

If you are a group of 12 and more, you qualify for Monterey Bay Aquarium discount tickets.

Or if you belong in the Military, you can buy discounted tickets of Monterey Aquarium from your base.

If you are a AAA member, you qualify for the AAA Monterey Bay Aquarium ticket, which also comes at a discount.

The best offers are however reserved for the residents of Monterey, San Benito, and Santa Cruz counties.

The locals get to visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium for free or at a discount during special events.

If you are a regular tourist, you qualify for the below-given discounts on the tickets –

Kids under the age of 3 get a 100% discount and can walk in for free.

Children 3 to 12 years old get a 40% discount on their aquarium ticket.

Visitors aged 13 to 17 qualify for a 20% discount on their ticket if they can produce their student ID card.

Seniors aged 65 years and above qualify for a 20% discount.


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Monterey Bay Aquarium tickets

The ticket allows you full day access to all the exhibits at the Aquarium, including all the feeding sessions of the day.

Take in the beautiful sights of dolphins, whales, sharks, sea otters and many more from the marvelous oceanfront decks at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

You can cancel this ticket up to 3 days in advance for a full refund.

Ticket Prices

Adult Ticket (18 to 64 years): 49.95 USD
Youth Ticket (13 to 17 years): 39.95 USD
Child Ticket (3 to 12 years):29.95 USD
Senior Ticket (65+ years): 39.95 USD

Children below 3 years can enter for free.

Book Your Ticket


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Monterey tour from San Francisco

Most tourists visiting San Francisco add Monterey Bay Aquarium to their itinerary.

This is because of three reasons –

1. Monterey is only 180 Kms (110 Miles) from San Francisco and can be reached in two hours.

2. The drive to Monterey is on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), which hugs the California coastline and blasts past the overhanging rocks. Many consider this road from SFO to Monterey, the most scenic drive in California. On this highway, you also get to see the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge.

3. Monterey Bay Aquarium is just too good to ignore, especially if you are holidaying in SFO with kids.

These day tours to Monterey are reasonably priced, to encourage tourists to make the trip.

Tour price

Adult ticket (12+ years): 129 USD
Child ticket (5 to 11 years): 73 USD
Infant ticket (0 to 4 years): Free entry

Book The Tour


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Monterey Bay Aquarium sleepover

If you are unable to plan a day time visit, or if you want to experience the Aquarium at night, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Sleepover maybe just the opportunity for you.

As the name suggests, visitors get to spend the night at the Aquarium, indulging in fun activities, bedtime snack, and a bed under the blanket of sea stars.

The next morning, you wake up to an excellent breakfast and can start exploring the beautiful marine creatures of the Aquarium yet again.


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What to see in Monterey Bay Aquarium?

There are many exhibits at this Public Aquarium, which require a special mention here.

1. Kelp Forest Exhibit

Enter the Aquarium and turn left to reach the kelp forest exhibit which recreates the ocean floor with kelp swaying in a two-storey tank.

Fish swarm around you, making you feel as if you were standing on the ocean floor of Monterey Bay.

This must-see exhibit is popular with children.

2. Sea Otters

You can find the Sea Otters Exhibit by turning left when you enter through the middle doors.

It is one of the most loved exhibits of the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

The otters are trained and fed three times a day.

However, the sessions get crowded, so you must land up 10 minutes before the start, to get the right spots.

3. Outer Bay Area

After you have seen the Otter exhibit, you can go to the stairs to reach the Outer Bay area.

The Aquarium has two floors which are not continuous.

So, after going up the stairs, go left and head downstairs to witness the Outer Bay tanks.

The Outer Bay Exhibit takes up an entire wing of the Aquarium including the million-gallon glass exhibit full of tuna, small fish and small sharks.

There are no railings which allow you to go right to the glass, which the kids seem to love.

4. Touch Pool

The Touch Pool is an exciting exhibit where you will get the opportunity to feel some of the marine creatures.

You can see and feel a lot of touch-friendly bat rays.

Visit this exhibit early to have the best experience because the bat rays retreat if they tire out.

You can also see the shallower rocky pool full of sea cucumbers and sea urchins.

5. Sea Nettles

Sea Nettles are colorful, beautiful creatures that look like oversized lamps floating in the ocean.

They will light you up with their fluorescence.

6. Clownfish

You can find the colorful and famous Clownfish in the Splash Zone area.

This exhibit has become very attractive for children after Pixar’s movie ‘Finding Nemo.’

7. Fun Kids Area

When you leave the Outer Bay wing, you will get to the fun kid’s area where you will find flippers and flukes hanging to entertain the children.

After you take some time here, go back towards the Otter Bay area to reach the skywalk which will take you to the other side of the Aquarium building.

8. Anchovy Tank

The Anchovy Tank is located straight ahead after you cross the skywalk.

The Tank is full of anchovies, and this is one of the exhibits where you can witness the creatures very closely.

They blend in well with their background and look fabulous from whichever level and angle you see them.

9. Giant Octopus

The Giant Octopus is one of the entertaining single creature exhibits in the Aquarium.

It looks like liquid flowing in the tank with different colors ranging from orange to dark red depending on its surroundings. 


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Monterey Bay Aquarium map

To experience and explore as well as save your precious time while visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, you must have knowledge of the space and the location of the exhibits.

A map of the Aquarium will help you find the exhibits as well as all the other visitor services like washrooms, restaurants, and so on.

Aquarium’s First Floor

Monterey Bay Aquarium First Floor plan
Some of the popular exhibits to see in the first floor of Monterey Bay Aquarium are Kelp Forest, Touch Pools, Aviary, Octopus, Sea Otters etc. The first floor also has the restaurant, the cafe and the souvenir store. Image: Montereybayaquarium.org

Aquarium’s Second Floor

Monterey Bay Aquarium - Second Floor plan
The Aquarium’s second floor has Penguins corner, Splash Zone, Jelly Fish, The Open Sea Exhibit, Play Area for kids etc. The upper floor also has one more Touch Pool. Image: Montereybayaquarium.org

We recommend you bookmark this page or print out of the map for later use.

Download Map (PDF, 3.3 Mb)


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Monterey Bay Aquarium Reviews

Monterey Bay Aquarium is highly rated on TripAdvisor – 4.5 out of 5.

We have picked two of the most recent Monterey Bay Aquarium reviews to give you an idea of what to expect during your trip.

An aquarium that is worth its admission fee

As a former aquarist for an east coast aquarium, I know an excellent aquarium when I see one. I’ve been fortunate to have experienced the behind the scenes areas which are absolutely pristine. The exhibits are all well done and very well cared for.

A must during your Monterey visit. – Megan Bocean, New England

We LOVED the aquarium!

The Giant Pacific Octopus was the coolest thing ever! We stood mesmerized. Hey, only a few facilities in the world have them, and it was worth the price of admission just to see them up close. We also adored the otters! We had to drag my 13-year-old daughter away from the Otter area, or she would have stayed there all night. The Aquarium is a must for everyone! First class!  278katen, Charlotte, North Carolina


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Monterey Bay Aquarium restaurants

Enjoy snacks or fine dining along with the best on-site views of the Monterey Bay.

Cafe

The Cafe at the Aquarium remains open from 10 am to 4. 30 pm.

It serves casual quick bites ranging from brick oven pizzas and burgers to delicious desserts.

Coffee Bar

Centrally located, offering beautiful views of the Monterey Bay, the Coffee Bar at the Aquarium is a must stop to enjoy refreshing and organic beverages and coffee drinks.

The Coffee Bar is open from 10 am to 5 pm.

The Restaurant

The Restaurant at the Aquarium offers you the opportunity to sit back, relax and enjoy the seasonal cuisine of the area.

The restaurant stays open from 11 am to 3 pm.


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Beaches near Monterey Bay Aquarium

There are five amazing beaches near the Aquarium in Monterey.

Visitors to the Aquarium usually plan a trip to one of these beaches, before or after their rendezvous with the water creatures.

1. McAbee Beach

The McAbee Beach is 300 meters (1000 feet) from Monterey Bay Aquarium and is located in the center of the Cannery Row area.

It is often visited for scuba diving and kayaking in suitable weather conditions.

The beach offers scenic beauty even though it is surrounded by hotels.

2. Hopkins Marine Station Beach

The Hopkins Marine Station Beach is also 300 meters (1000 feet) from Monterey Bay Aquarium.

There are two beaches at the Hopkins Marine Station in Pacific Grove.

The beaches come under the private property of Stanford University.

You can witness a rare sight of a seal colony on the west side of the Campus.

It is a fantastic experience for nature enthusiasts and conservationists alike.

It is a short distance from the Aquarium along the Monterey Peninsula Recreation trail, which continues further to many excellent viewing points in Pacific Grove.

3. San Carlos Beach

San Carlos Beach is 1 Km (0.6 Mile) from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and is located on the west end of the Cannery Row.

The beach, also known as Reeside Beach Access, is famous for scuba diving.

With many benches and picnic tables, its perfect for a family outing.

4. Berwick Park

Berwick Park is also 1 Km (0.6 Miles) from the Monterey Bay Aquarium located in Pacific Grove.

This one-acre grass park has picnic tables, benches, and trails for further exploring the rocky coast.

There are some great spots available below the Berwick section of Shoreline Park for tide pool exploration during low tides.

5. Lovers Point Park Beach

Lovers Point Park Beach is 1.3 Kms (0.8 Miles) from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

It is one of the most popular public beaches in Pacific Grove, probably because it is one of the few safe swimming beaches in the area.

It is a great spot to have a picnic or go on a run or ride the bike.

Popular attractions in San Francisco
# Alcatraz Island
# San Francisco Zoo
# California Academy of Sciences
# SFMoMA
# San Francisco Bus Tours

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