Heal the Bay Aquarium
Under the Santa Monica Pier’s boardwalk is a marine research and education center owned and operated by Heal the Bay. Heal the Bay is an environmental nonprofit dedicated to making the coastal waters and watersheds of Greater Los Angeles safe, healthy and clean. With over 100 local species on exhibit, hands-on activities for kids, and daily educational programs, Heal the Bay Aquarium is the perfect place to immerse yourself in marine science without getting your feet wet.
In 2003, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium changed from UCLA’s Ocean Discovery Center to a Heal the Bay operations center. Now called Heal the Bay Aquarium, the facility has transformed into a hub of marine education and advocacy to improve the local oceans. Over 100,000 people visit the marine exhibits and touch tanks each year. A wide array of local species, ongoing educational programs, daily activities, and special events keep the facility lively every day of the year.
Visiting the Aquarium
Heal the Bay Aquarium is located under the Santa Monica Pier. You can find it at beach level directly beneath the Carousel on the east end of the Pier. If you are on the Pier, walk towards the east end (Santa Monica / Ocean Front Walk) and look for stairs that lead down to Ocean Front Walk – there is a set leading from the pier parking deck behind the merry-go-round building, and smaller set under the pier bridge that leads down from Ocean Avenue and Downtown Santa Monica.
You can find the aquarium via GPS at 1600 Ocean Front Walk, Santa Monica, CA 90401. From Lot 1 North, the large surface lot next to the Pier, look for the aquarium’s entrance underneath the pier bridge leading down from Ocean Avenue. If you are coming from south of the Pier (Venice), walk under the Pier to the north side to look for the entrance under the pier bridge.
Admission prices are affordable: Heal the Bay Aquarium charges $7 for adults and children over 12, $5 to California locals with ID, and free admission for kids under 12.
In 1985, environmental activists led by Dorothy Green founded Heal the Bay, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making the Greater Los Angeles (LA) area’s coastal waters and watersheds safe, healthy, and clean.
Over the years, Heal the Bay built a reputation for environmental advocacy in California—particularly in the Greater LA area. With over 15,000 members led by current president and CEO Shelley Luce, the organization works tirelessly to use science education, community action, and political advocacy to fulfill its mission.
Heal the Bay’s three main pillars are: Thriving Oceans, Healthy Watersheds, and Smart Water Management. The organization provides annual report card ratings of water quality at beaches along the Pacific coast. Their 2018-2019 report stated that roughly 94% of California’s 500+ beaches received an A or B during the summer months.
The Heal the Bay Aquarium is critical to the organization’s overall mission. Here, guests are inspired to take action in defense of the natural world. Managed under Heal the Bay, the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium has thrived as home to over 100 species of marine animals and plants that serve as living examples of the importance of Heal the Bay’s work in the Greater LA area—especially the Santa Monica Bay.
At 4,500 square feet, Heal the Bay Aquarium is a small but valuable local gem. A must-see when visiting Santa Monica Pier, the Aquarium is uniquely interactive with hands-on touch tank exhibits displaying starfish, hermit crabs, and sea urchins.
Staff and trained volunteers are available throughout the aquarium to answer your questions about the local marine life, environmental conservation, and more.
Visitors are encouraged to come to the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium for special visits! With a rental request, you can use the Aquarium for private events. For instance, you can host birthday parties filled with fun activities for your child and their friends.
If you are a teacher, you are invited to bring students to an Aquarium field trip and enrich your classroom education. The Aquarium’s hands-on activities and focus on environmental conservation helps kids learn about science and the community.
Mission & Values
For folks that would like to do more than just visit the Aquarium, Heal the Bay offers three ways to get involved:
Volunteers are a huge part of Heal the Bay Aquarium’s daily operations and special events. These individuals prepare and manage private events, help with creative projects and beach cleanups, and support public outreach in the Greater LA area.
There are numerous ways to contribute as a volunteer. If you would like to get involved, don’t hesitate to check out the many volunteering opportunities at Heal the Bay.
The Aquadoption program connects donors with the marine animals. With a donation, you help “foster” one of the creatures—Aquarium staff maintain actual daily care. A yearlong Aquadoption comes with a packet including an adoption certificate, animal photo, factsheet, and full-year membership to Heal the Bay Aquarium.
There are many opportunities for more advanced learning. Teachers can go through professional development to learn more about marine life, oceans, and conservation. Students can also participate in the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium’s long-term programs or attend seasonal camps to broaden their science and community experience.
The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium offers a diverse array of lively events and fun activities. Whether you want to host a birthday party, teach students more about marine biology, or get involved in environmental advocacy, Heal the Bay Aquarium has the opportunities and resources for you. Learn more by visiting healthebay.org.