The Monterey Aquarium – The wonders of the ocean up close

People looking at jellyfish in a tank.

The Monterey Aquarium

The Monterey Aquarium sits on the edge of the ocean and enables visitors to have a close-up look at sea life that is not available anywhere else. Not even scuba diving allows such an intimate look at the wondrous variety of life that inhabits the oceans.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium viewed from offshore

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, which is devoted to the conservation of and education about the world’s oceans, began life many years ago as a sardine cannery.

The Hovden Cannery was actually the last surviving processing plant along Cannery Row when it closed in the 1970’s.

What you see in the photo above is pretty much what the fishermen would have seen as they returned from the bay with their holds loaded with sardines or squid. They would dock and unload their catch and the long job of processing those tons of fish would begin for the workers.

Monterey Bay Aquarium entrance

A section of the aquarium is devoted to the history of the Hovden Cannery and Cannery Row. I always enjoy looking at the nicely preserved machinery and the photos of the plant when it was in operation.

The Hovden boilers at the aquarium

If you have ever pressure canned in your kitchen, you will enjoy looking at these huge canners and boilers.

But that’s not really why you are visiting the aquarium, is it?

I’ll give you a short tour of what you might see here through some selected photos.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Quick Facts:

Address: 886 Cannery Row, Monterey, CA 93940

Phone: (831) 648-4800

Hours: Vary seasonally; open every day except Christmas. Check out their calendar page for hours on the day of your visit here (opens in a new tab or window)

Admission: $21.95 children 3-12; $34.95 adults with discounts available for students and seniors 65+. See my page here for more information on Monterey Bay Aquarium ticket discounts. If you plan on visiting more than once in a given year, an aquarium membership could be the best deal for you. See the aquarium’s site for details.

Opened: October 24, 1984 (Celebrating their 30th year!)

Size of facility: over 322,000 square feet

Accessibility: All exhibits and facilities are accessible. Wheelchairs available as are assisted listening devices and most exhibits are captioned.

Numbers: More than 35,000 animals and plants representing 550 species. Popular exhibits include great white sharks, bluefin tuna, ocean sunfish, sea otters, penguins, rays, shore birds and of course, jellyfish.

Monterey Bay Aquarium sardine exhibit

One of the nice things about the aquarium is that it can appeal to most any person. If you have no interest whatsoever in the facts and figures about any of the thousands of plants or animals exhibited, you still can experience a delightful sensory treat.

The photo above may give you a sense of this – this exhibit of sardines is approximately 40 feet in diameter and standing in the middle of this room allows you to easily imagine yourself beneath the ocean watching this school of bait fish.

One of the many jellyfish exhibits

Or look at this room full of jellyfish. The jellies have been one of the most popular exhibits ever at the Monterey Aquarium. Just watching these creatures swim around is actually quite relaxing. No need to take notes.

A fluorescent coral glows green

Unknown fish creature

You may be tempted to look at the interpretive boards when encountering a strange creature face to face.

A coral exhibit at the aquarium

Intricately marked seahorse

Shark in the kelp forest exhibit

Gray whale skeleton

If you plan on visiting the Monterey Aquarium, let that be your ONE activity for the day. It’s a big place with many interesting exhibits whose surface I haven’t even scratched.

I would recommend the the in-house restaurant and cafe as well. I think most of us have a bias against eating establishments at attractions. Unfortunately, that bias has justification at many places. However, it isn’t true here at the Aquarium. The meals we have eaten here have always been first-rate and not terribly expensive.

Kelp forest exhibit

Large jellyfish


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