Family Activities, Museums & Aquariums

Santa Cruz Exploration Center Review

The Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary (MBNMS) has two visitor centers, one in San Simeon and one in Santa Cruz. This is my real life Santa Cruz Exploration Center Review.

The center features state-of-the art exhibits and interactive displays highlighting the sanctuary’s underwater environment.

The MBNMS is a federally protected marine area offshore of California’s central coast. The sanctuary shoreline length is 276 miles and 6,094 square statute miles of ocean. The sanctuary contains extensive kelp forests and one of North America’s largest underwater canyons and closest-to-shore deep ocean environments. The MBNMS mission is To understand and protect the coastal ecosystem and cultural resources of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.


Santa Cruz Exploration Center

35 Pacific AveSanta Cruz, CA 95060

(831) 421-9993

Center Info –

Hours & Directions –

Parking Info –

Our Experience

The Santa Cruz visitor was modern and had lots of interactive exhibits. And, when we visited the center, it was practically empty so we had the place all to ourselves.

The center has helpful docents (guides) to answer questions and to help navigate the museum and it’s exhibits.

The kids favorite exhibit was a remote control submarine. Below is my son operating it. He constantly asks us if he can go back to the museum to play with the submarine.

They also show educational films, but I didn’t get a picture. Depending on your kids, you can get through the museum in an hour or two. What’s nice is that the center is located across the street from the Santa Cruz Wharf (not to be confused with the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk). The wharf has dining, shopping, boating and fishing.

Tip – We parked our car on the wharf (small fee), then walked to the center. After we finished at the center, we walked around on the wharf and grabbed some food. And, kids saw seals, so they got a kick from that!

My Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed my Santa Cruz Exploration Center Review. If you’re looking for a cheap and fun educational activity for the kids while you’re in Santa Cruz, then I would definitely recommend visiting the Santa Cruz Exploration Center.

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