9 Best Aquariums and Marine Centers in So Cal

Do you have a child that loves the ocean? Or maybe someone in your family that wants to become a marine biologist? Nurture their curiosity by exploring some of the best aquariums and marine centers in Southern California.


3/6/20232 min read

#1 Aquarium of the Pacific

  • Southern California's largest aquarium.

  • More than 12,000 species of animals

  • Newest exhibit- Babies!

  • Shark Lagoon- some sharks you can touch, and some you can't!

  • Lorikeet forest- walk through an outdoor aviary to touch and feed the lorikeet birds

  • View veterinary medicine in action at the Molina Animal Care Center

#2 Birch Aquarium

La Jolla/ San Diego

  • View a stunning variety of colorful marine life featured in more than 60 habitats

  • Incredible ocean views

  • Live animal cameras to view online

  • Child centered learning about research and Oceanography

  • Advanced reservations are required

#3 Heal the Bay Aquarium

Santa Monica

  • Located under the Santa Monica Pier Over

  • 100 local species on exhibit

  • Hands-on activities for all ages

  • Daily educational programs

#5 Sea Life Aquarium at Legoland


  • Hands on learning

  • Educational talks

  • This aquarium is smaller and can be seen in a few hours or less.

  • Available as an add on to Legoland ticket, or to purchase by itself

#4 Ocean Institute

Dana Point

  • Open to the public on weekends 11am-3pm

  • Tours available- Tide pool hikes, kayaking, and marine life

  • We got to dissect a squid!

  • Birthday parties available

#6 Pacific Marine Mammal Center

Laguna Beach

  • Free admission

  • Rescues, rehabilitates and releases marine mammals

  • Interactive displays

  • Observe the seals and sea lions "patients"

#7 Roundhouse Aquarium

Manhattan Beach

  • Located at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier

  • Cares for more than 100 species of marine life

  • Features galleries for marine habitat, science, and education

#8 Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

San Pedro

  • Aquatic nursery with baby sea animals

  • Features 35 saltwater and touch tanks

#9 California Science Center

Los Angeles

  • While this technically is a museum, they do have a marine exhibit that is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)

  • Kelp Forest and marine animals located in the Ecosystems exhibit