The 7 Best Aquariums in California

The Steinhart Aquarium | © Jonathan Lin / Flickr
The Steinhart Aquarium | © Jonathan Lin / Flickr
Photo of Juliet Bennett Rylah
26 December 2017

Oceanographer Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said, “The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” Though we can’t all be underwater explorers, aquariums are a great place to observe and learn about marine life without having to put on a wetsuit. California offers multiple opportunities to come up close with fish, crabs, turtles, sharks, penguins, sea otters, and other creatures. Here are Culture Trip’s seven favorite aquariums, from San Francisco down to Long Beach.

Aquarium of the Pacific

Aquarium, Park
Map View
Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific showcases animals from the Pacific Ocean, housing over some 500 species from the SoCal, Baja, and Tropical Pacific regions. In addition to numerous types of fish, guests will also see seahorses, turtles, sea lions, otters, and penguins. There’s also an area full of colorful Lorikeet birds. Visits can be followed by a stroll in Shoreline Aquatic Park.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

Aquarium
Map View
Birch Aquarium At Scripps La Jolla California SD
© Citizen of the Planet / Alamy Stock Photo
The aquarium is tied to the Scripps Institute for Oceanography at UC San Diego, displaying discoveries made by Scripps scientists that pertain to ocean science and climate. Birch Aquarium, established in the early 1900s, is now home to 380 species with exhibits including the Hall of Fishes, Shark Reef, Tide-Pool Plaza, Coral Reef, There’s Something About Seahorses, and Feeling the Heat: The Climate Challenge.

Monterey Bay Aquarium

Aquarium
Map View
Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium lies a couple of hours south of San Francisco | © Get Your Guide
The Monterey Bay Aquarium showcases marine life found in Monterey Bay, displaying some 550 species. Exhibits include a three-story kelp forest, an aviary, and habitats for penguins and sea otters. They frequently rescue and care for sea otter pups, and in late 2017, they released what may very well be the first video of a baby nautilus hatching.

Santa Monica Pier Aquarium

Aquarium
Map View
The Santa Monica Pier
The Santa Monica Pier | © Tony Hisgett / Flickr
This aquarium is on the smaller side, and only one of many attractions found on the famed Santa Monica Pier. There are about 100 species of animals and plants, including fish, crabs, sea urchins, and seahorses. A bonus here is that admission is free for children 12 and younger, and only $5 per adult.

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro showcases marine life from Southern California, with key areas including an exhibit hall, aquatic nursery, and research library. Guests can also come for the seasonal “grunion run,” which is when the small fish arrive at high tide to fertilize and bury their eggs in the sand. Admission is reasonable: a $5 suggested donation for adults and a $1 donation for children.

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, 3720 Stephen M White Drive, San Pedro, CA, USA, +1 310 548 7562

cabrillo-marine-aquarium

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium | © Tracie Hall / Flickr

Aquarium of the Bay

Aquarium
Map View
Aquarium of the Bay
Aquarium of the Bay | © Michael Himbeault / Flickr
The Aquarium of the Bay features 20,000 animals, including several sharks and river otters. The venue’s Under the Bay exhibit features 300 feet (91 meters) of mesmerizing acrylic tunnels where guests can gawk at the marine life surrounding them.

Cookies Policy

We and our partners use cookies to better understand your needs, improve performance and provide you with personalised content and advertisements. To allow us to provide a better and more tailored experience please click "OK"