Where to See Marine Life in the Bay Area

Great Ways to Encourage Your Little Marine Biologist

If your children are interested in marine biology and ecology, you can go to your local library and borrow books on the topic. And you can also encourage your future marine biologist by taking a family field trip to one of the many Bay Area venues that focus on the ocean.

Here are some of our staff favorites:

East Bay

Crab Cove Visitor Center. With an 800-gallon aquarium system at the visitor’s center, you don’t actually have to get your feet wet to get a glimpse of the critters living in Alameda’s Crab Cove. ebparks.org/parks/vc/crab_cove


Marine Mammal Center. This Sausalito center is a nonprofit veterinary research hospital and educational site that has rescued, rehabilitated, and released more than 20,000 marine mammals since its inception in 1975. The patients mostly consist of seals and sea lions and it has the capacity to treat as many as 200 animals at a time. If you want to know the animals you’ll be seeing, the center updates a log daily on its current patients. marinemammalcenter.org/visiting-us


Fitzgerald Marine Reserve. Located near Half Moon Bay just off Highway 1, the reserve offers docent-led tours; you can also download a self-guided tour from the website. Near the Moss Beach entrance, there are picnic tables and restrooms. Picnicking is restricted to this area due to the sensitivity of the marine life. The park also offers sunset tidepooling on occasion. Be aware that it is illegal to collect or disturb the creatures in tidepools. Do not move rocks, never pick up animals and stay at least 300 feet from any marine mammals in the area. Tides change daily, so check a tide chart before you go (tidesandcurrents.noaa.gov). The tide should be two feet or less for you to view tidepools. Hours for the reserve vary, check website for details. smcgov.org/parks/fitzgerald-marine-reserve

San Francisco

Aquarium of the Bay. Located on San Francisco’s Pier 39, this is home to nearly 20,000 animals. This three-level aquarium boasts two touch tanks, an octopus and two tunnels that take you through a near-shore habitat and a deep-water habitat, among other exhibits. Hours vary. aquariumofthebay.org

Steinhart Aquarium. Located at the California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, it has a shark lagoon, a 25-foot-deep coral reef exhibit and other sea life from California’s coastal waters. After lunch, stop by the swamp area to see snapping turtles and to visit Claude, the aquarium’s famous albino alligator. calacademy.org/exhibits/steinhart-aquarium

South Bay and Coast

Monterey Bay Aquarium. This is a must-see for sea life aficionados. Take a peep into intertidal zones, kelp forests and the open ocean. Download the aquarium’s app before you go for up-to-date information on feeding schedules for the open ocean exhibit, kelp forest, sea otters and penguins, and then pop over to the auditorium for a 15-minute video about the goings on behind the scenes.  montereybayaquarium.org

The Seymour Marine Discovery Center. This Santa Cruz center boasts an aquarium, exhibit halls, touch tanks and a peek inside a working marine laboratory. Family-geared tours and children can make marine-inspired crafts in the crafts room. If the kids need to burn off energy, head outdoors to play among the elephant seal sculptures and to visit Ms. Blue, an 87-foot blue whale skeleton. seymourcenter.ucsc.edu


Hum Along the Highway

I’ve been crisscrossing the great state of California in a car since I can remember. I was the kid in the backseat contorted and cramped...

Best Bay Area Family Beaches

Going to the beach can be a great way to enjoy the outdoors, get exercise and relieve stress. The Bay Area has plenty of family-friendly beaches. If you go, make sure to follow any rules regarding COVID-19, such as wearing a mask and keeping a safe distance from people not in your household. Also, be extra careful on beaches with rough surf.

Best RV Parks Close to Home

With COVID-19 still on everyone's mind, many families are opting to travel in a recreational vehicle (RV). Most RVs have their own bathroom, sleeping area and kitchen, allowing travelers to avoid public restrooms, hotels and restaurants. If you want to play it safe and get away but still stay close to home, the Bay Area has plenty of spots that will feel like vacation.

Outdoor Adventures for Active Families

If you’re looking for an adrenaline rush after being stuck at home this past year, there are some great opportunities in and around the Bay Area this summer. Some of these companies offering thrill-seeking adventures have COVID-19 guidelines posted on their websites to help keep customers safe. Check in advance to make sure venues are open and whether reservations are needed or other restrictions are in place.

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