Full disclosure--I worked here as a volunteer for four plus years, and had a good time with the fishes and other creatures. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is on the site of the former Hovden Cannery on Steinbeck's Cannery Row (between Pacific Grove and Monterey) along the shoreline.
Parking for this place is very problematic so I'd recommend spending a few bucks and heading for the city-owned garage a block away, rather than looking for on-street places, which are all metered anyway. Once there be prepared for a hefty admission fee. But the place is one of the few in the world where the water comes directly from the Ocean with limited plankton removal during the day, and no other filtration. There's even a million gallon seawater tank in the Outer Bay exhibit with a massive plexiglass window to watch the fishes head by.
Founded with the generous assistance of David Packard (co-founder of HP), the Aquarium has doubled in size since it opened and is listed as one of the most family friendly places to visit in the US. It was used as a fictional aquarium in Star Trek IV, the Voyage Home (1986), for all you trivia hounds out there. It is first and foremost an educational facility, with an emphasis on the Monterey Bay itself.
The Monterey Marriott offers combination stay and go there packages from time to time. And in an ironic twist, the Aquarium has an excellent restaurant 'perched' above the bay, which offers several excellent seafood entrees. Not from the tanks I am quick to add.
One postscript: When I signed on as a volunteer I needed to fork over twenty dollars for the textbook I needed on Marine Biology, attend lectures for 14 weeks, pass 14 test, complete an actual on-site experience with an Aquarium paid worker posing as a guest, and be evaluated later! Not for the faint of heart--our shift included a retired Admiral and several M.D.s, also retired. We got the full learn it or else treatment!
Worth a visit when in Monterey.
PS I took these on my most recent visit there. The Moon Jelly exhibit is spectacular!
Going in two weeks! Don't know if there will be time for the wonderful Aquarium though. Just.need.to.decompress. There is an area just south of the Aquarium that is protected for seals. It's called something like, okay I can't remember, gosh maybe "Seal or Seal Lion Pupping Area?". When you walk up the little hill street from the Aquarium entrance (looked it up, David Avenue) and turn south onto the Coastal Trail that runs along Ocean View towards Pacific Grove and past the old boatyard where the rocky cliffs began, you will see that the cliffs are fenced off for the "Pupping" preserve. If you look down, you can see the preserve just filled with seals (or sea lions?). It's fascinating to watch, especially the mom's protecting their young from encroaching males or other females.
Yes, the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a wonderful place to visit, and the Monterey Peninsula a fantastic vacation destination. Gorgeous ocean vistas, rocky coastlines absolutely teeming with sea life, great scuba diving, great golf, horseback riding, national and state parks (Big Sur and Point Lobos), Carmel-by-the-Sea, Pacific Grove, Cannery Row, Laguna Seca Speedway, great trails for biking and jogging, fabulous shopping, dining, and lodging. Also many fine art studios and galleries.
I wonder if the Aquarium still has the Bat Ray exhibit?
Here's another picture that shows off the cute face. They look like a cross between a dolphin and a sting ray.
This is very nice, good stuff.
The Portola Grill in nice and provides a good brake, especially if you can get a window or it is warm enough to go outside. The Portola Restaurant is very nice, Lenin and such, but it does close rather early. Like the entry fee, the restaurant is a little pricey.
This is truly a great place.