The Monterey Bay Aquarium is one of the best aquariums in the world. Yuntiha and I heard about it a few years ago and wanted to go BUT we never found the right opportunity to go because it was either going to be an 8+ hour drive north or a flight to San Francisco and an additional 2 hour drive south.
We finally had the opportunity to go when we decided to go on a family weekend trip somewhere. I seized the opportunity to plan a last minute trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We rented a car and drove all the way up the California Coast Highway 1 (check out my blog posts about the drive: Morro Bay, Highway Lookouts, McWay Falls Big Sur) to Monterey Bay.
On our only full day in Monterey Bay, we headed to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and arrived just before they opened.
Tip 1: Buy your tickets at your hotel in Monterey and get discounted prices and tickets for 2 days for the price of 1 day.
Tip 2: Make sure to buy your ticket ahead of time online or at your hotel. That way you don’t need to get in the long line to buy tickets before entering. We saved about 25% and got a second day admission.
We were inside the main lobby area before they opened, but we had to wait until 10am to enter the exhibits. That gave us some time to take pictures and study the map. We picked out the few exhibits we were post excited to see and made our way inside.
There was so much to see and I took so many pictures that I decided to split up my Monterey Bay Aquarium blog post in parts according to exhibits.
The aquarium is actually not as big as I though it would be. I guess I have Sea World in my mind. There are no whales swimming at the Monterey Bay Aquarium but you will see quite a few hanging from the ceilings. Look at these giant whales!
The Killer While was the first to greet us at the front entrance lobby area. And from the bridge the spans across the lobby area you can get several different angels of what a Killer Whale looks like. It’s just not as shiny and wet looking.
These dolphins actually led us to one of our next exhibits.
But we also sort of had the opportunity to see a real whale in the ocean. As mentioned in my previous post there are lots of whale watching tours from Monterey but on a good day you can see the whales from the shore (-ish)
The Monterey Bay Aquarium provides free binoculars from all of their balconies and viewing areas. And through these things you can see the real marine life. My Dad also came prepared with a his own binoculars as well though.
But by the time we really did any whale watching later that afternoon, we decided to stay inside and do some whale watching in the air conditioned building (thanks to Dad for bringing his own binoculars).
Although we had binoculars, we did not have a camera that had a good enough zoom! I zoom in as much as I could with my camera and managed to get little bits of the whales spout and I think it was the tail in the top picture!
I was later told by a Monterey Bay Aquarium staff member that we were watching these Gray Whales. These whales had been out there for hours! And as you can see in the pictures, it was not too hard to spot thanks to all of the boats somewhat surrounding the whale(s).
The morning was gray and gloomy but once the overcast dissipated, the clear blue skies turned the water into a beautiful blue.
So one good thing about the morning is that it was too hot or sunny. We actually enjoyed hanging out outside. Check out my selfie skills using my DSLR camera.
There were also quite a few kayaking tours throughout the day where you will see plenty of real wild sea life.
And if you’re not too keen on being out in the open waters, I saw people diving into this cove area that is part the Monterey Bay Aquarium with a staff member and exploring in this protected area.
There are a few shows available at the aquarium. One out in the open with people re-enacting the history of Monterey Bay. The story of Monterey Bay went from diving for abalone to catching sardines to canning sardines and then the demise of the sardine industry in the area.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is actually at the site of an old sardine cannery company; Hovden Cannery. There is a small exhibit that exhibits the story and an overview of what the sardine cannery industry was once like.
Hovden Cannery was only one of many canneries that line what is now known as Cannery Row. And like The Old Fishermans Wharf, it is another major tourist destination with lots of shopping and restaurants.
There are also regular shows that play in the theatre throughout the day. It was a perfect fun and somewhat interactive live presentation about different topics. We managed to get in line (yes there is a long line for each show) for 2 shows; “Luna: A Sea Otter’s Story” and “Project White Shark”. The latter show was the one I remembered to snap a few pictures of.
For those who got in line early and snagged a seat early, there is a quiz on the screen giving you lots of fun facts about sharks. For example the question in my picture above is:
About how many teeth does a great white shark have?
A. 80 to 100
B. 230 to 250
C. 450 to 500
D. The dentist hasn’t gotten back to us
Tip 3: Go early especially if you want to take pictures of fish. There are lots of kids and once their fingers touch the glass, it will be hard to get good pictures. Look at all of these strollers! That shows how many kids are at the aquarium!
I was quite happy to have had the opportunity to go to the aquarium early in the day.
Tip 4: We found free parking about 0.5 miles away on Ocean View Blvd. and 2nd Street. But please be conscious of parking near private homes.