The 4 Best Aquariums in (and Near) Los Angeles

Written by Jude Speegle
Updated: October 14, 2023
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Los Angeles is known as the “City of Angels,” but it is also a city of aquariums. Four different aquariums in and around the Los Angeles area help educate residents and visitors alike.

It’s not just about Hollywood or the iconic beaches here in Los Angeles. It’s also about marine life and sea creatures who live off the famous coast. Visiting these aquariums can change how you see Los Angeles forever.

Learning about California and the marine life which makes its home there doesn’t have to be boring. There are aquariums located in and around Los Angeles, and many focus specifically on areas where they are located, while others go in-depth.

Let’s take a deep dive into the four best aquariums in and around Los Angeles!

Infographic showing the four best aquariums in/near Los Angeles.
These are our picks for the four best aquariums in or near Los Angeles, California.

1. Aquarium of the Pacific

Giant Pacific Octopus

The Giant Pacific Octopus is the main attraction of the Aquarium of the Pacific.

©karen crewe/

Aquarium of the Pacific
Location100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA 90802
Animal to SeeGiant Pacific Octopus 
Known ForMolina Animal Care Center

This aquarium is located in Long Beach, California, off the Rainbow Harbor. It has more than 11,000 animals to explore and learn about, with more than 100 thrilling exhibits. Here are some of the galleries you can adventure in.

  • Coral Reefs- Get to know the coral reefs and what animals thrive within them.
  • Frogs: Dazzling & Disappearing- Around 24 species of frogs are available in this interactive exhibit, where you can learn about the amphibians and what makes them tick.
  • Shark Lagoon- A few sharks are available to caress in a touch tank to help answer that ever-important debate; are sharks rough or smooth. The rest are behind thick glass walls through which you can observe them in their natural habitat.
  • June Keyes Penguin Habitat- Magellanic penguins are housed in this habitat where you can watch them both above and below as they go about their penguin lives.
  • Sea Otter Habitat- Like with the penguin exhibit, you can see how sea otters interact on the rocky shore and below in the water as they play.
  • Northern Pacific Gallery- This gallery focuses on the Bering sea and the animals that make their home within that environment.
  • Tropical Pacific Gallery- there are 16 different exhibits within this gallery full of fish and environments found within the tropical sector of the Pacific.
  • Lorikeet Forest- Get up close and personal with colorful lorikeets and see where they land, be it your hand or your head. These rainbow-patterned birds are friendly natives of Australia.
  • Jellies- Learn about jellyfish and how important they are to the oceanic ecosystems.
  • Southern California/Baja Gallery- California specific, this gallery holds 18 exhibits about the 800 miles that make up California to Oregon’s coastlines.
  • Molina Animal Care Center- This center gives healthcare to animals at risk or injured while letting visitors observe.
  • Southern California Steelhead Story- Get to know why the steelhead fish is vital to California’s ecosystem and learn about their life cycles.
  • Our Water Future- Explore how water affects the world and how important it is for humans, along with figuring out how to retain it for our future.

These are just examples of what to find within the Aquarium of the Pacific.

2. Heal the Bay Aquarium 

Heal the Bay Aquarium has a famous, mischievous two-spotted octopus.

©D.J. Schuessler Jr/

Heal the Bay Aquarium
Location1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Animal to SeeTwo-Spotted Octopus
Known For2009 Octopus Incident

Formerly known as the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium, the Heal the Bay Aquarium is focused on teaching visitors about the local marine life around the Santa Monica pier.

This aquarium is well-known for a surprising incident in 2009. A resident of the aquarium, the two-spotted octopus, caused untold damage. The octopus managed to cause two-hundred gallons of water to flood from a pipe valve. The aquarium became a little famous due to that event.

The main focus of the Heal the Bay Aquarium was to provide marine education, advocate for the health and safety of the ocean, and be a community center of science to educate residents and beyond.

3. Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium features indoor and outdoor exhibit spaces, an auditorium, and wet laboratories.

©Steve Cukrov/

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium
Location3720 Stephen M White Dr, San Pedro, CA 90731
Animal to SeeSharks
Known ForArchitecture

The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium is a beautiful aquarium to stop by when in Los Angeles. Its rich history began in 1935 when it was first opened. Since then, it has continued to expand and perform its outreach to the locals and all visitors.

The exhibits of this aquarium include:

  • Susanne Lawrenz-Miller Exhibit Hall
  • Exploration Center
  • Aquatic Nursery
  • Virginia Reid Moore Marine Research Library

This is definitely an aquarium worth the visit.

4. Roundhouse Aquarium

baby hammerhead shark school

The small Roundhouse Aquarium has baby sharks to visit.


Roundhouse Aquarium
LocationManhattan Beach Pier, Manhattan Beach, CA 90266
Animal to SeeBaby Sharks
Known ForSmall Size

This is a small-sized aquarium that isn’t much bigger than a room in your house. But there is a surprising number of sea creatures in a small space.

The Roundhouse Aquarium is located within a Mediterranean-style octagon-shaped building at the end of the Manhattan Beach Pier. It’s a lovely stop to see stingrays swimming and maybe touch their backs. There is also a shark tank and a lobster tank, so there is more to be seen than expected.

No matter where you go in Los Angeles, there’s magic around every corner!

Summary Of The 4 Best Aquariums In (And Near) Los Angeles

1Aquarium of the Pacific100 Aquarium Way, Long Beach, CA
2Heal the Bay Aquarium 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA
3Cabrillo Marine Aquarium3720 Stephen M White Dr, San Pedro, CA
4Roundhouse AquariumManhattan Beach Pier, Manhattan Beach, CA

Are There Other Great Aquariums Near Los Angeles?

One of the highest-rated aquariums in the US is in Monterey Bay, but that one is 5.5 hours from Los Angeles. Just 2.5 hours away is another fabulous aquarium in La Jolla, California (a suburb of San Diego). This aquarium is the Birch Aquarium at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California-San Diego (UCSD).

Providing spectacular ocean views because of its location on a bluff overlooking the Pacific, Birch Aquarium features more than 60 habitats. You will find 3,000 animals from 380 species in this 64,157 square foot aquarium. Another attraction is the outdoor tide pools where visitors can touch local creatures, including juvenile sharks. There is also a two-story Giant Kelp Forest.

Among the amazing creatures housed at the Birch Aquarium are a rescued Loggerhead Sea Turtle, a Giant Pacific Octopus, Garibaldi and Moray Eels, sharks, and coral reefs. . The Seadragons and Seahorses exhibit features one of the largest seadragon habitats in the world. There is also a new Moon Jelly experience in the Hall of Fishes. It is well worth the trip south – down the famous Pacific Highway with its sensational views of the ocean – to go from Los Angeles to the Birch Aquarium in San Diego.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Steve Cukrov/

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About the Author

Jude is a writer both by trade and by heart. They have been writing since a very young age and have eight years of professional writing experience. Passionate about animals, Jude has three birds and three cats.

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