Located at the base of San Francisco’s bustling and touristy Pier 39, Aquarium of the Bay takes you below the surface of San Francisco Bay. With 300 feet of clear acrylic tunnels holding 700,000 gallons of bay water, the view is as unique as the critters themselves. Aquarium of the Bay is home to approximately 20,000 animals, from sea stars to octopuses to native sharks.
There are three main exhibit areas to explore in the aquarium. Discover the Bay focuses on ecosystems. Touch the Bay puts critters like leopard sharks, big skates and juvenile bat rays at your fingertips. But what makes this city-sized aquarium truly unique is the Under the Bay tunnels exhibit. As you walk through the first tunnel you’ll see animals that live near shore including anchovies, sea bass and sea stars. Explore deeper water as you make your way through the second tunnel. Stop and stare as five species of local sharks and skates glides over top of your head. Something, many things actually, are always moving.
Your aquarium ticket has same day return privileges, giving you the flexibility to visit, explore Fisherman’s Wharf and return later. It’s a nice perk, especially if you’re traveling with young kids.
Aquarium of the Bay is open 364 days a year, only closed on December 25. During the summer, hours are 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and during other seasons, it opens at 10 a.m. and closes between 6 and 8 p.m., depending on the day. Public parking is available on-site, or you can also park across from the main entrance at the Pier 39 garage. The Aquarium of the Bay does not validate parking, but many Pier 39 restaurants do. San Francisco’s F Line stops right near the entrance.