Under the sea at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Monterey Bay Aquarium Jellyfish

If the idea of scuba diving or snorkeling sets your heart racing a little too quickly, the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California is the next best thing.

Have you ever seen an ocean of fish interacting? Actually ‘keeping mostly separate’ is probably a better way to describe it.

Have you seen sardines and bottom dwellers circling the ocean floor in packs, only to look up at the strata of fish above them?

Free guide to Monterey

It’s mesmerising and a really rare experience, unless you’re willing to strap on all that diving gear.

The live ocean feeding session was probably my favourite part of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and it’s great for kids and adults alike.


They’re like the puppies of the ocean in energy and looks. Well, they do have that shaggy brown fur look about them at the very least.

Our first stop inside the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the Sea Otter feeding.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Sea Otters

We watched them twirl through the water, waddle up the rocks so carers could check their ears and paws, and play with their food.

Did I mention that they are notoriously difficult to photograph? The little blighters are there one minute and gone the next. This was the best we could do.


How different could Monterey Bay Aquarium be than the others you’ve been to? The answer is hugely different.

They run “live feedings” every day, where visitors get to stand (or sit) in front of two-storeys of aquarium and watch the fish feed as they might in the wild.

Sting Ray at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

With a few changes to make it a little safer for the ones that would usually fall prey to bigger fish.

First the bigger fish are fed till they’re full, and then food for the smaller fish is dropped in. Apparently humans aren’t the only ones who’re lazy when they’re full.

The bigger fish don’t bat an eyelid as the smaller ones come closer to the surface for their feed. They’re already full and can’t be bothered going in for the chase for just another morsel.


I could easily have wandered the jellyfish area for the day. I’m easily distracted (and some would say amused) by pretty colours and patterns.

White jellyfish at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

The displays are interactive and shows how a brilliantly-coloured jellyfish is stunning when lights are on it, but as soon as those lights go out it disappears in the water completely.

No wonder they’re so great at stinging unsuspecting swimmers.

Also, I couldn’t help but turn these guys into paratroopers. Be honest, you wouldn’t be able to resist either.

Paratrooper jellyfish


The coral exhibits not only offer a riot of colour and so many different textures but they’re great for playing “find the sea creature”.

Coral at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

I turned out to not be the best at this game. I get distracted by all the pretty colours to be able to spot the camouflaged grab or the slug peeking out of a crevice in the coral.

It’s one thing to be able to look at the coral but it’s another to be able to feel the textures. This is where the Monterey Bay Aquarium excels.

Monterey Bay Aquarium crabs

There are numerous open pools where kids and adults can feel sea urchin, sting rays, different types of seaweed and other bits and pieces found in the ocean.

It was also the first aquarium to create its own kelp farm – something that others said couldn’t be done.


The Monterey Bay Aquarium is on Cannery Row, Monterey and is open from 10am – 5pm daily. Although hours may vary, so please check the website before planning your day.

Cost: Adults, $49.95, children aged 3-12, $29.95, students and seniors, $39.95.

Monterey Bay Aquarium | Monterey | California | California Road Trip | Aquarium | Sea Otters | Jellyfish | Aussie | Expat | Aussie Expat in US | expat life

47 thoughts on “Under the sea at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

  1. This does seem quite interesting indeed. I generally love aquariums especially seeing the feeding bit πŸ™‚ … You did a great job taking some pics and I totally agree it is difficult to photograph in an aquarium.

    1. You should see the outtakes Aarti! There are lots and lots of blurry photos. But I had such a great time at the aquarium, and if you concentrate hard enough, you can get some great photos.

  2. We have a road trip in California planned and I was debating on wether or not we should do the Monterey Bay aquarium. I think I will! It looks so beautiful

    1. I’m so glad Jenn! At first I kind of thought one aquarium is the same as another. But then a friend sent me a video about Monterey Bay Aquarium and I knew I had to visit!
      I hope you love it as much as we did.

    1. I’m glad that my childishness made someone laugh πŸ˜‰ … You know what to get your boyfriend for his birthday! Instant present!

  3. You know I debated about going to the Aquarium the day we were in Monterey but we did whale watching instead, which I did really enjoy. I do want to go back for the aquarium

    1. That is a tough decision. Unfortunately, whale watching wasn’t really in the budget for us. But that ended up being more than OK because I had a great time at the aquarium.

  4. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is such a cool place to visit. When I was little we used to go a lot when we lived in California. So many memories!
    The jellyfish are always my favorite. I could watch them all day long! Your post makes me want to visit again, soon!

  5. How cute are those paratroopers? Lovely photos – seems like underwater photography. I haven’t been to such an aquarium yet and would love to visit.

  6. I’m not one to want to scuba dive nor do I like swimming or zoos. BUT I LOVE aquariums. Watching jellyfish is absolutely mesmerizing and I could stare all day. Those otters looks adorable, too! Have you been to the Atlanta aquarium? It’s also fantastic.

  7. Oh wow! Who needs to go snorkeling or scuba diving when they can just visit this amazing aquarium! And I loved your little drawings on the jelly fish! That made me LOL! #CityTripping

  8. “Loled” at the paratroopers. I didn’t know they feed the fish the way you explained it, how it’s the bigger fish first, and then the smaller fish. It makes sense, but my dog can be full, and she would still try to eat the food from the smaller dogs if she could. Oh, I’m also like you, I get super distracted with the jellyfish and coral exhibits, it’s the colors!

  9. Seems like a very cool place to visit! I’ve never been to Monterey before, but I’ve been to other parts of California. I’ve heard a lot about Monterey’s aquarium, and now I understand why it’s so popular!

  10. Jelly fish are so beautiful!! All the colors and energy they put out is amazing. Sea otters…so cute!! I’ve swam with stingrays before and I remember them feeling really velvety, which I didn’t expect. Clearly, I love sea creatures!

  11. For a second, I had to pause at the paratroopers picture. I was like “what are those creatures.” Then, I realized what was going on. I have been to Monterey but not to the aquarium. I know a good amount of time is needed to fully appreciate the place. When I visited, I didn’t have the time to do it proper justice. But, hope to visit in the future since this area is one of the most beautiful in California.

  12. Wow – your photographs of this amazing experience are wonderful. I really love the colours in the photo of the jelly fish – the blues and oranges together are heavenly. Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  13. I absolutely love otters, and still remember marvelling at them in the Monterrey Aquarium! It’s a wonderful place – only rivalled by the brilliant Ripleys Aquarium in Toronto, I think. Both brilliant! #citytripping

  14. Oh I do love a good aquarium and this one looks fab! How cute are those sea otters and I for one, appreciated your paratrooping jellyfish! I wouldn’t be able to resist adding some embellishments either! Looks like a really fun visit!

  15. The colors and interactive displays are amazing. Your photos took me back to many years ago when I visited Monterey Aquarium. The jellyfish were my favorite. A must visit indeed!!

  16. I have been twice in California and once in Moneterrey, but I had such a little time there that I wasn’t able to visit the aquarium. It will be on our itinerary for the next time πŸ™‚

  17. I find aquariums such calming, mesmerising places to visit. It’s such an extraordinary thing to see all these sea creatures up close and this aquarium looks particularly good. We saw sea otters at the aquarium in Lisbon – they really are adorable! Thanks for sharing on #FarawayFiles

  18. I’m extremely ambivalent about aquariums – on the one hand, they play such an important role in public education and, at times, conservation. On the other hand, I can’t help feeling sorry for these marine creatures who were never meant to live their days out in a big tank. But this aquarium seems very well-run and the kelp farm is really cool! I think I’d visit this if I’m ever in California again πŸ™‚

  19. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is an awesome place to visit for all travelers. I have been there and love to keep going back to visit and I am a scuba diver. I like the education it provides for those that do not have the ability to scuba dive or snorkel and see the beauty underwater. All the living organisms are amazing. I feel the story that is told here is to save our ocean. 😊 #TheWeeklyPostcard

  20. I’ve been to many aquariums around the world, but not magical Monterey Bay. It’s an icon of underwater wildlife. But DANG, $50 per ticket. That is an expensive day out! I had no idea. Thanks for sharing your jellyfish paratroopers with #FarawayFiles, Erin

  21. The Aquarium has been a favorite stop in the Monterey area for ages, and something we’ve shared across generations of our family. (It helps that we had family nearby for many years.) Through the years, those otters have been our favorites though. πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing on #TheWeeklyPostcard!

  22. We went to Monterey before children and gave the Aquarium a miss. It is something that we regretted since and now your pictures convince me that we need to visit! I love seeing the sea otters basking, it must be amazing to see them swim. Thank you for linking up to #CulturedKids

    1. I guess that if you don’t know what sets this aquarium apart from others you’re tempted to think that it’ll be just like the ones you’ve visited before and it’s easy to give it up in favour of something else. There’s always next time when you end up on this side of the pond again πŸ˜‰

  23. We always love aquariums, kids are transfixed and the adults aren’t far off it too. The jellyfish always mesmerise me. Great wet weather option too. The Monterey Aquarium does sound particularly good. #culturedkids

    1. I think that the jellyfish were almost my favourite part. I did really enjoy watching them feeding the huge aquarium of fish as well.

  24. Oh I love sea otters! I think I would be able to watch them all day. Love all the beautiful photos on this post – I must visit our local aquarium soon. #culturedkids

    1. Thanks Jenny! I’m slowly learning to take better photos. The Sea Otters seemed to be everyone’s favourite. It was so packed!

  25. I do love aquariums. I find them so relaxing, and the children generally seem to be a lot calmer when they’re there! Your stick men made me smile. I wonder what the jeppyfish would make of them if they knew! Thanks for linking up with #CulturedKids

    1. I haven’t been to an aquarium in years, I don’t think I even remember the last time I went. So it was really nice to get to this one in Monterey. I’m glad that the stick parachuters made you smile, I can be a little strange at times πŸ˜‰

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