Top Aquariums in the West

Get a look at underwater life at aquariums in California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington, and Nevada.

couple looking at large tank at aquarium
Aquariums captivate visitors of every age.
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Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco

A moving walkway takes you through 300 feet of clear tunnel surrounded by the Bay's inhabitants, like the leopard shark, whose numbers have been depleted by pollution.

Aquarium of the Pacific, Long Beach, California

Get close to the Pacific's denizens, from giant Pacific octopus in icy waters to thick-lipped humphead wrasses puttering around a Palauan rock island.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps, San Diego

Interact with displays inspired by research at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Oddities includes examples of the most unique sea creatures from all the depths.

children pointing at fish in an aquarium tank, picture

Kids watch sea creatures swim in a giant tank at the The Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, CA.

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Maui Ocean Center, Maalaea, Hawaii

From Turtle Lagoon's green sea turtles to a gregarious spotted eagle ray flaunting its four-foot wingspan, Hawaii's endemic fish all exude the aloha spirit.

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California

This famous institution is a showcase for sharks, sea turtles, otters, kelp forests, tide pools, and even sea-inspired art.

Outside of the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the bay, picture

Don't miss the outdoor deck and views at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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Oregon Coast Aquarium, Newport, Oregon

Watch an improvised ballet by a jellyfish ensemble, see a sea otter get frisky, or walk through a tunnel where sharks and skates swim all around you.

Seattle Aquarium, Washington

A frolicking sea otter has celebrity status with visitors, but the sturgeon, mighty chinook salmon, and ugly-faced wolf eels also put on a great show in an underwater dome. 

Shark Reef, Las Vegas

Set in a sunken ancient temple worthy of Indiana Jones, this aquarium abounds with dangerous creatures—from a water monitor known to unearth corpses to a highly venomous stonefish.

This article was first published in March 2002 and last updated in January 2023.