If you’ve been to the nearby Aquarium of the Pacific, this place is a refreshing change. What it lacks in size and newness it more than makes up for in its price and much smaller crowds.
What’s even better is that it’s located within Cabrillo Beach Coastal Park, which offers plenty of places to explore outside, like Point Fermin State Marine Park, kelp beds, a coastal native plant garden and a salt marsh.
WHY IT’S GREAT FOR NATURE LOVERS
The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is packed full of creatures that call the Southern California coastal waters home. The grounds are made up of an Exhibit Hall, Exploration Center, Aquatic Nursery and a Marine Research Library. There is a hands-on tidepool touch tank, numerous traditional viewing tanks, museum collections and other interpretive displays.
What I found most interesting is that each of the displays shows how the animals and plants featured are adapted to protect themselves, obtain food and reproduce. You have a unique opportunity to see how creatures adapt to survive along the rocky shores, sand and mud, and in the open ocean.
OUR NOTES FROM THE FIELD
Our visit started at the Aquarium’s most popular attraction, the Tidepool Touch Tank, which contains rocky shore marine life such as sea stars, anemones and sea urchins. A touch tank expert was on hand to answer any questions and enforce the rules (proper touching technique and such).
The kids loved this spot, but I hated it and here’s why: The tank is only open for 20-minute intervals and gets very crowded with pushy kids and pushier parents trying to capture the perfect picture. So if you choose to go, bring along your patience!
After our touch tank exploration, we wondered through the Aquarium’s Exhibit Hall. One of the nice perks of this place is that it’s small and allows for easy strolling without worry of losing sight of your little one or missing a great attraction.
Some of our favorite creatures included the octopus, seahorses,
This gynormous starfish
and these cool, predatory snails.
It’s worth noting that the information plaques for each of the creatures within the Aquarium’s exhibits aren’t placed where little eyes can see them. Most are high above the accompanying exhibits, making them nearly inaccessible to curious new readers like the big explorer. The result is that we didn’t stick around as long at each tank as we might have if he’d had something to read.
After touring the rest of the Exhibit Hall, we headed to the Exploration Center, which is designed to engage all of the five senses and allow kids to play scientist. The kids loved dressing up in costumes and pretending to be all kinds of sea creatures.
The big explorer also enjoyed playing scientist by looking through the microscopes available for viewing sea life up-close.
Before heading out, we stopped by the Aquatic Nursery. This is the Aquarium’s living laboratory, where student and volunteer scientists conduct experiments.
- Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is open Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m., weekends 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; closed Mondays, Veteran’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas
- The Aquarium operates on a suggested donation of $5 for adults and $1 for kids
- Parking is $1 per hour (maximum of $9 per day)
- One set of restrooms (with changing stations) are available just outside the Aquarium
- There is one vending machine outside the Aquarium, but there is no restaurant or other food concession area
MY TIPS FOR A GREAT VISIT
- Combine your visit with a trip to the tidepools. If you time your visit to coincide with the low tide, you can explore the aquatic life for free just a few minutes’ walk from the Aquarium at Point Fermin State Marine Park.
- Enjoy a picnic at the beach. There are plenty of picnic tables just across the parking lot from the Aquarium. Your view? The beach! Pack a picnic and enjoy it here for added outdoor fun.
The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is located at:
3720 Stephen M. White Drive
San Pedro, CA 90731
Directions to Cabrillo Marine Aquarium