By Donna Polizzi
Monterey is less than one hour south of Santa Cruz and four hours North of Santa Barbara. Keys 2 the Coast highly recommends that everyone visit the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium. It is one of the top things to do in Monterey and it will be a memorable experience for all ages. Unlike stand-alone aquariums that you'd typically find, this magnificent facility literally sits right in the bay, pumping 2,000 gallons of seawater each minute into the aquarium. This remarkable facility sustains sea life so you can see and touch it. Without this fantastic aquarium, you would need scuba gear to have this kind of magical experience.
When you first enter you'll see the magnitude of a life-size replica of a killer whale, dangling from the high vaulted ceilings. The first question is which way do I go? There is so much to see. Do I want to see jellyfish? Check the time and schedule because you might want to watch a Penguin feeding if its approaching 10:30 a.m.?
This year's ever-changing exhibition is Viva Baja Life on the Edge. This new exhibit showcases Baja California and its incredible land and sea animals. Surreal colors of tropical fish like the Bluespotted jawfish, desert tortoises, snakes and seahorses are a sampling of things you will get to see.
I think It's always a good call to stop at the sea otter tank first. The insanely adorable otters play and swim right in front of your eyes with only the glass separating you from their world. If you head to the left side of the aquarium, you will see a cylindrical tank of ever-whirling sardines. Sardines are the iconic fish that gave Cannery Row its history. But that's another story.
Just beyond you will suddenly feel as though you've landed at the bottom of the sea. Low lighting and soothing music add to the drama of staring up at 60-foot kelp beds and scores of fish and the marine life that inhabit them. Moving along to the 'open sea' tank, you will find the amusing mola mola or sun-fish, lazily floating.
Some years, the aquarium has been lucky enough to host a baby Great White Shark, another important resident of the bay.
Exhibits are ever-changing and often include many different native species like jellyfish, stingrays, and sea otters. Touch tanks at the aquarium allow the most incredible experience. Imagine feeling the rough surface of a starfish or the soft skin of a sea cucumber. It will enliven all of your senses. I love to watch the expressions on children's faces when they smell and touch these sea creatures.
They light up!
Throughout the day, you can watch scheduled feeding times for each exhibit and I particularly enjoy seeing the scuba divers feeding the kelp forest tank. When it's your turn to eat, make sure you stop by the renowned cafe and restaurant that spear-heads the 'Seafood Watch' sustainability effort in addition to being delicious.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is unparalleled in its importance to this coastline. Visitors gain enriching knowledge about the wonders and mysteries of the Monterey Bay. You will be delighted and intrigued by the stunning exhibits, the sights and oddities of the sea as well as mesmerized by the floor to ceiling tanks that showcase prodigious kelp forests.
The Aquarium is located at the end of historic Cannery Row.
Plan on 2-3 hours to see all of the exhibits. It can easily be an all-day experience if you fully engage in all of the educational information.
It's a fun place where you can fill up on clam chowder and saltwater taffy. Adult day passes are currently $49.95, children 3-12 are $29.95, students and seniors are $39.95 and children under 3 get in for free!
Monterey is also famous for great seafood restaurants and numerous golf courses. This fantastic area boasts more than twenty courses including world-renowned Pebble Beach and Cypress Point.
The Monterey area does not disappoint. It is breathtakingly beautiful and the weather is mild year round. The deep blue water crashing against the dark jagged rocky shoreline make it of the most spectacular stretches of coastline in the world.
Donna Polizzi is a Travel Expert and Founder of Keys2TheCoast.com, offering honest recommendations on the “Best Places to Wine, Dine, Explore and More!”) Visit Keys2theCoast.Com or Facebook Keys2TheCoast.)