Monterey Bay Aquarium

Bigfin Reef Squid

There are about 200 exhibits at Monterey Bay Aquarium.


Designed to delight and educate visitors, the exhibits attract visitors of all ages. Here are a few photos from last month.

Purple-striped Jelly

Black Sea Nettles


I shared the Sea Jelly Exhibit in a previous post, and enjoyed hearing from readers about their underwater and aquarium experiences.

Sea Otter

The sea jellies were a popular exhibit, and so were the sea otters.


Sea Otter viewers


They have five otters: Abby, Ivy, Kit, Rosa, Selka. Each one arrived as a rescue animal, cannot survive in the wild. They have their own two-storied tank, and can be seen submerged, or frolicking above water.


Sea otters were heavily hunted for their fur in earlier centuries and remain an endangered species today. They have the densest fur of any animal.


You can see here how the outer layer of thick fur repels water, keeping the inner fur layer dry.

Sea Otter


The Tentacles Exhibit had numerous tanks, artfully lit and emulating underwater scenes. Squid and cuttlefishes could be found here, along with octopuses, nautiluses and other tentacled creatures.

Kisslip Cuttlefish


Visitors walk through dark rooms lit by tanks of colorful sea urchins, anemones, shrimp, crabs, clams and seahorses.



There are daily feedings, auditorium programs, behind-the-scene tours, and numerous videos offered throughout the facility. Some exhibits are interactive, visitors are invited to touch the creatures; while other exhibits are simply for observing. Free live cams entertain visitors from afar.


The largest exhibit, the Open Sea, features a giant tank with sea turtles, rays, giant tuna, all kinds of fish, and sardine swarms.

Sardine swarm in center


Many of the sea creatures are residents of California’s coast, but there are additional animals from other parts of the world as well.


African Penguins


Kelp is an algae seaweed that lives in cold, nutrient-dense waters and is prevalent along the west coast of North America. In California’s Monterey Bay area, where kelp is protected, large kelp canopies flourish, providing food and shelter to hundreds of species of birds and mammals.


The Monterey Bay Aquarium, in recognizing and promoting the ecological importance of kelp forests, features a permanent Kelp Forest Exhibit. Their 28-foot (8.5 m) exhibit hosts swaying fronds of kelp and millions of fish.

Leopard Shark in kelp forest


Kelp Forest

About 20 minutes south of the Monterey Bay Aquarium off Highway 1 is a splendid array of many of these same sea creatures in their natural habitats. The Monterey Bay sea canyon is deeper than the Grand Canyon.


A visit to Point Lobos State Natural Reserve yields protected tide pools, kelp forests, and marine mammals. Whenever I am in the Monterey area, I never miss a visit to Point Lobos. I’ll share this wonderland with you another time.

Point Lobos, California

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a non-profit organization, and their research and advocacy is ongoing.


In today’s times when our planet’s seas are showing signs of deep distress, spending time and money exploring and supporting the health of the oceans is not only beneficial to future generations, but it is also great fun.

Written by Jet Eliot.

Photos by Athena Alexander.

Harbor Seal, Pt. Lobos


78 thoughts on “Monterey Bay Aquarium

  1. Hubby and I once attended a formal dinner at the Monterey aquarium. It was quite beautiful with tables set in a darkened room with the large aquarium providing a constant show. Thank you for the glimpse inside a world we do not get to see very often.

    • I liked hearing about your dinner at MBA, Maggie. I saw photos of different events, including sleepovers, on their website. I can imagine it was fascinating. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  2. What a fabulous aquarium! Loved Athena’s photographs, and I think sea otters are as cute as can be. Whenever we’re on the water with students, the animal they enjoy seeing the most is a sea otter – more than whales, eagles and bears!
    Looking forward to reading about the wild side of Monterey Bay – thanks, Jet!

    • Oh you are so right, pc, sea otters are wildly popular with humans, their cute-factor tops the charts. We stood in line and were able to enter right when the Aquarium opened, went directly to the sea otter exhibit because we knew it would get crowded very quickly. We stayed there quite a while, because they just kept doing cute things. My many thanks to you, as always.

    • I’m glad you’ve heard of the canyon off Monterey Bay, and the Aquarium, too, John. Both are remarkable places, and a pleasure to share. I’m glad I could bring the waters of the California coast to Las Vegas today, thanks so much for visiting.

      • Thanks Jet! I love geology, the geology under the ocean surface is every bit as amazing as that around Las Vegas! That canyon comes incredibly close to the coastline.

    • I am delighted you enjoyed the photos and the narrative here today, Eliza, and so appreciate your feedback. There are so many places in the world where the sea is suffering, so I feel fortunate to have the sparkling waters of the Monterey Bay to admire and share. My warmest thanks.

  3. Thank you so much, Jet for the tour of this special aquarium. They do remarkable work to preserve these beautiful creatures. I really admire these people who designate their time and effort.

    • Yes, I admire these folks too. We’d be in sad shape without the efforts and dedication of our ocean scientists. Thanks very much for your visit and comment today, Amy…always appreciated.

  4. Lovely! I just read that up to 80% of life on earth is in the sea, so it’s good to learn about some of it here! Thank you, Jet and Athena!

  5. Wonderful, Jet. I just love all of these. I wish the aquarium were closer to Pasadena so I could get there easily. Baltimore has a wonderful aquarium, which I saw years ago, with a great shark exhibit. I love seeing the jelllyfish with that marvelous blue behind them and otters are always winners.


    • Yes, I think you would really enjoy the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Janet. Perhaps sometime if you’re headed north, you’ll have a chance to visit it. It’s a busy place, so if that’s an issue for you (it is for me) it is much more enjoyable if you get there and stand in line before they open at 10. In the meantime, I’m delighted to share the photos with you. Always a joy to hear from you, thank you.

  6. Pingback: Monterey Bay Aquarium — Jet Eliot |

    • I’m glad you have visited the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Irene. It had been about ten years since our previous visit. They do a good job of keeping the exhibits current and state-of-the-art. You’ll have a good time with your camera. Many thanks.

    • Athena had many great photos of the kelp forest, as you can imagine with all those fish and the light streaming through. It was hard to choose just one, but I thought this one was especially cool with the leopard shark in full view. I’m really glad you mentioned your fondness for this photo, and the windows one, too, Alastair. As always, a pleasure to hear from you.

    • I figured you would’ve been there, Jan, as a Californian who gets around. Fantastic exhibits, as you know. The penguin exhibit is fun, and you’re right, the sea otters are high on the cute meter. Many thanks.

  7. Of all the exhibits you showed us, I’d most like to see the kelp. I’ve seen it on shore, but think it would be fabulous to see its underwater life. Of course, it all would be worthwhile; there’s something about an aquarium that mesmerizes.

    During the events surrounding the Deepwater Horizon explosion,I followed the real-time video feeds from the underwater ROVs (remotely operated vehicles) that did the repairs. It was fascinating to watch the repairs being made, but it was just as interesting to see the creatures who would show up in the ROVS’ lights. Jelly-like creatures, fish, odd creatures that didn’t seem to fit any category would just casually swim by, while the watchers tried to figure out what they were. At least you had guides and labeled exhibits!

    • Enjoyed your comment, Linda, as always. The kelp forest was astounding, I’m glad it piqued your interest. The great thing about this exhibit is that you can see how long the kelp is, and how important the forest is for the safety and survival of the wildlife. Monterey Bay has some gorgeous kelp forests, but of course you only see them if you’re in them, not from above. I’ve snorkeled in waters that had kelp, and it’s frightening to get too close because they are so dense they can hamper your mobility. I also enjoyed hearing about your viewing of the ROVs as they repaired the oil rig disaster in the Gulf. What a tragic event that was. Interesting that you saw the underwater creatures that appeared in the ROV lights, how curious that must’ve been. Thanks so much, Linda.

  8. Aquariums are fun places, I enjoy them very much, by the way, we have a terrific Aquarium in Atlanta, among the best in the world, you might have visited already. Thank you for the great post.,, and remember, don’t swim with the sharks, only the dolphins! 🙂

    • I’m happy to hear about the Atlanta Aquarium, HJ, as I have never been to Atlanta (except for the airport) and can imagine they would have a wonderful one. Your warning to just swim with dolphins gave me a smile, my friend, thank you so much.

  9. Jellies are pretty to look at in an aquarium but not so much to dive with. On the other hand seahorse are good in both the aquarium and when diving:)

    • I agree with you on both counts, Bill. 🙂 The seahorse exhibit at the MBA was wonderful. The seahorses were only a few inches big, and they bobbed around in a curious way. My warmest thanks.

  10. We brought my daughter there when she was about 18 months old. When we got to that huge window in the open sea exhibit (which was brand new then), she just stood staring and awestruck and couldn’t be coaxed away.

    • Your experiences with your 18-month-old daughter at the MBA is a wonderful example of how it really is for people of all ages. Thanks for your visit and comment, T, much appreciated.

    • Yes, I agree, Craig, there’s something about aquariums…that other world, that is so alien and quietly encased in front of us. I’m glad I could bring the Monterey Bay Aquarium to you. Thank you, as always, for your visit.

  11. Jet I really appreciate that you have included the research and advocacy that the aquarium organization is doing. I think still in many people’s minds places where animals reside outside of their normal environment is thought to be cruel. As I believe i wrote in a comment on your other post, Monteray stands out to us still decades later.

    • Thank you, Sue. Yes, the work the Monterey Bay Aquarium and their research teams have made great strides in bringing awareness to the dire needs of the planet’s oceans. I’m happy you agree, and really appreciate your comment. Many smiles heading your way, my friend.

    • Yes, you’re right, Frank — the Monterey Bay Aquarium was used as inspiration for the film, Finding Dory. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and I appreciated your comment, as always.

  12. That is an amazing kelp forest and overall magnificent aquarium. So great to read about the good work they are doing and how environmentally conscious they are. I love sea otters and was pleased to read that the ones there are rescued ones and not captured ones. I always get sad at places that have dolphin shows as it just seems so unnatural to make animals do tricks and performances for human entertainment.

    Magnificent photos and thanks for sharing your visit with us.


    • It was a delight to share the wonders of the Monterey Bay Aquarium with you, Peta, and I really appreciate your visit and comment. It’s a beautiful, magical place, I am sure you would like it there.

  13. That’s an excellent aquarium, all around. I’m not sure if you’ve heard, but there’s a sea urchin population explosion that’s playing holy hell on the kelp forests. They eat the holdfasts that anchor the kelp. It sounds very serious. A couple years ago it was sea star wasting disease. Things are out of whack.

    Have you seen the Oregon Coast Aquarium? It’s not bad either.

    • Thanks for your visit, Dave. Yes, I have read about the sea urchin troubles. Water temperatures are getting too warm, as well as other problems, and you’re right, throwing the ocean waters out of whack. Abalone, as well as the kelp, have suffered out here on the northern Calif. coast. Some groups have tried physically removing large numbers of sea urchins with hopes of giving the kelp spores a chance to lodge and grow. In answer to your question, I have not see the Oregon Coast Aquarium, and appreciate hearing about it. Many thanks.

  14. Great post….We took our kids there when they were young….they loved it! Ok, I think my wife and I need another visit as I just realized that visit with our girls was 25 years ago…my how time does fly!!

    • Funny how a quarter century can just fly by, isn’t it, Kirt? I’m glad you enjoyed the Monterey Bay Aquarium post, and when you return to visit it again, you’ll see once again how marvelous it is.

  15. Such a great variety to look at, Jet. Re sea otters, recently stayed in a small cottage right on the shoreline in Scotland. We had sea otters playing around right in front of us most days – fantastic privilege to watch them interacting so close to us.

    • Really loved hearing about your sea otters on the Scotland shoreline, RH. It is a “fantastic privilege,” and I like those words and attitude. And otterly great fun, too. Wonderful to hear from you, I’m glad you have found a place to be that isn’t a disaster zone.

  16. I love watching otters, they are so entertaining. And seahorses are mesmerizing and so adorable. So many wonderful creatures to view at this aquarium. I missed your Sea Nettles post while on my blog break, Jet, heading there now! 🙂

  17. I love aquariums….and here you show some of my favourite aqua creatures….The Otter…Penguin…and seahorse. (by the way where I teach in Portugal on the Algarve…more sea horses are found there than anywhere else) I also love the sea jellies….so graceful and beautiful.
    Hope you are well…have been thinking about you a great deal. Janet 🙂

    • So wonderful to hear from you, Janet. I loved hearing that there are an abundance of sea horses on the Algarve coast. And I’m happy I could share the magic of the Monterey Bay Aquarium with you. Thanks so much for your visits and warm thoughts. Sending big smiles your way….

  18. What a beautiful aquarium. Loved Athena’s capture of the Harbor Seal. It looks like yours are a bit lighter than the ones we see around here which tend to be more of a darker gray, Either way, I think they’re so cute. 😀

    • Yes, I have noticed variations in the harbor seals colors, too, Gunta. Sometimes they’re darker, but the gray ones do tend to be more prevalent in this area. Glad you enjoyed the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Thanks so much.

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