Tentacles on parade at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Tentacles on display

Visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey County

“Wow that is awesome”, a wide-eyed kid blurts out to his friend who nods in agreement and adds ‘ yeah pretty cool!’ That is the typical consensus all day long at the new Tentacles exhibit which just opened at the Monterey Bay Aquarium – a new exhibit of never seen before collections of squids, octopus and cuttlefish, making up this family of sea life called Cephalopods. These marine sea creatures are marine mollusks related to sea slugs and snails. Because of the short lifespan of these Cephalopods (most living an average 6 months) and the complexities of maintaining this special exhibit, it has been a difficult venture, but something that the world-famous Monterey Bay Aquarium enthusiastically creates.



Tentacles exhibit

Big reef squid at the Tentacles exhibit


Visit the regular and special exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium

This was the exhibit that I saw when I was last here in Monterey, but the neat thing is that there are rotating shows to explore along with all the regular displays and attractions to enjoy around the museum grounds.

You can sign up for a variety of guided tours and even back tours of the operations to get a look at how things really work behind the displays and how it takes a village to make this museum run properly.



Big Fin Reef squid at the Tentacles exhibit

Big Fin Reef squid at the Tentacles exhibit


Gorgeous Tentacles Exhibit

The Tentacles exhibit draws you in completely into its cool, dark and surreal world of fantasy like creatures, starting with the almost glow in the dark Cephalopods called Big Fin Reef Squid. These ghostly white creatures with invisible fins glide in strange sideways gestures unlike movements you would equate to these creatures, their zig-zag motions looks so strange and other-worldly. Close by are the even more colorful sea creatures called Chambered Nautilus with their distinctive round patterned shell that gives it their iconic name – propelling their huge shelled bodies in strange and fantastical rhythmic motions – it is mesmerizing to watch them in their environment.


Nautilus on display



The Tentacles exhibit is filled with wow factor –  showcasing Cephalopods that have never been seen in public and premiering in this show.  One of the most outstanding creatures are the colorful red octopus called Flapjacks found in the deepest and darkest areas of the ocean floor in Monterey Bay. Red lights illuminate the dim curved tank to mimic their dark environments and the flapjacks float around like bizarre strange ghost-like caricatures. Even more reclusive are the little amazing octopus genera called the Flamboyant Octopus getting their name from their colorful rainbow accents as they bump around and float in comical and random bumper car like motions.






Flamboyant cuttlefish at Tentacles

Flamboyant cuttlefish








Giant Octopus at Tentacles

Giant Pacific Octopus are active and hungry



Museum exhibit layout

The entire exhibit is very well laid out with interactive exhibits and child friendly educational tools and signage. This is one of Monterey Bay Aquarium’s most challenging and will soon to be popular exhibits – despite the difficulties of replenishing and maintaining the Cephalopod displays. In any case, you should come down soon to visit all the new and cool octopus, cuttlefish and squids at the show, and don’t be surprised if you are also ‘oohing’ and ‘aaahing’ throughout the entire exhibit.

 Here are some highlights from the other exhibit areas of the aquarium

Monterey bay sealife

Monterey bay sea life – main displays


Visit the permanent exhibits at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

When visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, make sure to explore its captivating permanent exhibits. Here are some highlights to enhance your experience:

  1. Kelp Forest: Immerse yourself in the mesmerizing world of the Kelp Forest exhibit. Marvel at the towering kelp stalks as they sway with the current, while colorful fish, sea otters, and other marine creatures navigate through this vibrant underwater ecosystem.
  2. Open Sea: Step into the Open Sea exhibit, a massive tank teeming with a variety of pelagic species. Observe mesmerizing creatures like sharks, tunas, and sea turtles as they gracefully swim through the open waters, providing a glimpse into the wonders of the ocean’s vastness.
  3. Sea Otters: Don’t miss the adorable and playful sea otters exhibit. Watch these charismatic animals swim, play, and groom themselves, showcasing their remarkable agility and endearing behaviors.
  4. Penguin Colony: Visit the Penguin Colony exhibit and observe the energetic antics of African penguins. Marvel at their unique behaviors and social dynamics as they waddle, swim, and interact with each other in their specially designed habitat.
  5. Rocky Shore: Explore the fascinating Rocky Shore exhibit, where you can observe tide pool inhabitants up close. Discover a diverse array of marine life, from colorful anemones and sea stars to scuttling hermit crabs and elusive octopuses, all thriving in the ever-changing intertidal zone.
  6. Splash Zone: Engage in interactive experiences at the Splash Zone, a hands-on exhibit designed for younger visitors. Explore touch pools, learn about marine life through playful exhibits, and participate in educational activities that foster a deeper understanding of ocean ecosystems.

Throughout your visit, take advantage of informative presentations, feedings, and educational talks that provide valuable insights into the aquarium’s inhabitants and conservation efforts. The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers a truly immersive and educational experience for visitors of all ages, allowing you to appreciate the beauty and importance of marine life and its conservation.



Jellyfish at the Jellies exhibit

Jellyfish on display




See through Jellyfish on display at the Jellies exhibit

Jellyfish on display at the Jellies exhibit


Inside tips to visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium

When planning your visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, here are some inside tips to make the most of your experience:

  1. Arrive Early or Late: The aquarium tends to be busiest during midday, so arriving early in the morning or later in the afternoon can help you avoid the crowds and enjoy a more relaxed atmosphere.
  2. Check the Feeding Schedules: The aquarium offers scheduled feedings for various exhibits throughout the day. Check the feeding schedule beforehand so you can plan your visit accordingly and witness these fascinating feeding sessions, which provide unique insights into the animals’ behavior.
  3. Attend Presentations and Talks: Take advantage of the aquarium’s informative presentations and talks. These educational sessions cover a wide range of topics related to marine life, conservation, and research. Attending these presentations can enhance your understanding and appreciation of the exhibits.
  4. Explore Beyond the Main Exhibits: While the Kelp Forest and Open Sea exhibits are popular, don’t miss the chance to explore the smaller, more intimate exhibits. From the mesmerizing jellyfish displays to the fascinating seahorse habitats, these lesser-known exhibits offer captivating experiences and often have shorter queues.
  5. Utilize the Audio Guide or Mobile App: Consider using the aquarium’s audio guide or mobile app to enhance your self-guided tour. These resources provide detailed information about the exhibits, animal species, and conservation efforts, offering a more immersive and educational experience.
  6. Plan for Breaks and Dining: The aquarium offers several dining options, including cafés and restaurants, where you can take a break and enjoy a meal or snack. Take advantage of these facilities to recharge and refuel during your visit.
  7. Visit on Weekdays or Off-Peak Seasons: If possible, plan your visit for a weekday or during off-peak seasons. This can help you avoid larger crowds and have a more relaxed experience, allowing you to fully appreciate the exhibits without feeling rushed.
  8. Stay Hydrated and Wear Comfortable Clothing: The aquarium can get quite warm, so be sure to stay hydrated by bringing a water bottle or taking advantage of the drinking fountains available throughout the facility. Additionally, wear comfortable clothing and shoes suitable for walking, as you’ll be exploring the exhibits for an extended period.



Jellies exhibit

Jellyfish ballet



More details to visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium

Tickets are $39.95 for adults and $24.95 for children 3-12. Discounts are given for Seniors and Students.

The Aquarium is located on Cannery Row and is open daily. Check the website below for hours and more information.

Most hotels offer two-day passes for the price of one day, just ask with your hotel about this pass.

There are two dining options available at the aquarium – a casual cafeteria style and a fine dining restaurant called Cindy’s Waterfront named after Cindy Pawlcyn, the James Beard Award-winning creator of Mustards Grill in Napa Valley and the culinary partner of the aquarium since 2010.

For updated information on the aquarium, you can visit their website here.

What to see more of Monterey and Carmel?

weekend getaway to Carmel by the Sea

Enjoying a day in Monterey and Pacific Grove

Cruising Monterey bay

Exploring Moss Landing in Monterey

Road trip to Big Sur

Final thoughts

Outside of the new Tentacles exhibit, there are many popular on-going exhibits to discover at the aquarium including: the Jellies exhibit, Open Sea Exhibit, a whole section of plastics, junk and garbage taken from the ocean and turned into art and the permanent sea-life collections. There is so much to see at the aquarium that you can easily spend an entire day enjoying the exhibits, special events and even take a behind the scenes tour of the facilities to see how everything operates from the back-end.

Conclusion visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium,

In conclusion, visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium offers an incredible opportunity to explore the wonders of the ocean and deepen your understanding of marine life and conservation. By following inside tips such as arriving early or late, checking feeding schedules, attending presentations, and exploring beyond the main exhibits, you can enhance your experience and make the most of your visit. Whether you’re captivated by the Kelp Forest, mesmerized by the Open Sea exhibit, or enchanted by the playful sea otters, the aquarium provides a memorable and educational journey into the underwater world. Soak up the knowledge, marvel at the diverse species, and create lasting memories as you immerse yourself in this remarkable destination of marine discovery.

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