Public Programs

Public Programs

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium offers many activities and programs for individuals and families to learn about marine science. Our unique location allows participants to wet their hands and get sand between their toes. Guided walks, art classes, voyages and science lectures are available for all ages and interests.

Discover the wonder of California’s Channel Islands with CMA Educators. Join us for one trip or all three! Hailed by scientists as the "California Galapagos,” trips to the coastal Channel Islands offer impressive glimpses into California’s rich human and natural history in addition to the amazing endemic animal and plant species found nowhere else on earth.

For trip and ticket information, please click here.

Cabrillo Marine Aquarium proudly presents the Discovery Lecture Series on Fridays from 7pm to 9pm. Lectures are available online and in-person. Monthly lectures are also offered by Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and the American Cetacean Society featuring fascinating talks on a variety of marine-related topics by noted scientists and authors.

Upcoming lectures: Friday, October 4th and Friday, December 6. More details coming soon.

Check out past lectures on our Youtube channel.

Watch the captivating grunion come up on the beach to spawn! Learn about the interesting mating rituals and biology of this curious fish. The program includes an auditorium program about the unique fish, the aquarium open for exploration, then a guided observation at the beach. Cabrillo Beach closes at midnight. Warm clothing and a flashlight are recommended. During April, May and June (closed season) grunion may be observed but not touched. March, and July are open season, when grunion may only be taken by hand. Grunion hunters, 16 years or older, must have a valid California fishing license. 

Fee: $7 adults and $3 seniors, students and children (Friends members free).
Grab your tickets today! Tickets sell quick!

Go Whale Watching!                   

Go to sea any day of the week in search of migrating Pacific gray whales, as well as humpback and fin whales, a variety of dolphin species, sea lions, pelicans and other marine life. Cabrillo Whalewatch volunteer naturalists accompany you on two-to-three-hour boat trips from various landings.                               
Fee: Varies by landing, contact Cabrillo Whalewatch at CabrilloWhalewatch@gmail.com, 310-548-7770

Daily through mid-April

Baja Adventure (for adults)                 

Join Cabrillo Marine Aquarium for a trip that truly is the journey of a lifetime! During this nine-day ocean voyage, we spend three exciting days anchored in Baja California, Mexico, San Ignacio Lagoon, where friendly gray whales and their curious calves swim within arm’s length of the skiffs. Naturalist-led hikes on remote, offshore islands provide exceptional views of elephant seal rookeries, a multitude of birds, diverse geological formations and a wide range of native vegetation. Thirty participants will eat well and sleep comfortably on the 113-foot Royal Polaris, leaving from San Diego (bus transportation between Cabrillo Marine Aquarium and San Diego is provided). 

After School Programs

To make a reservation for an After School and Summer Program, call 310-548-7562. 

Little Squirts (ages 2-4) 

On four consecutive Wednesday afternoons, join CMA Educators for a series of hands-on after-school marine science adventures. Activities may include observing animal behavior, exploring the wonders of mud at the salt marsh and getting up-close with microscopes. Child must be with parent.

Fee: $30 ($27 Friends members) for the series and includes a program t-shirt. Space is limited, registration is required. Sorry, walk-ins cannot be accommodated. 

Program Date and Time:
Fall dates and reservations coming soon.

SEA Club – Science Education Afternoons (grades K-1; 2-3; 4-6)

On four consecutive Wednesday afternoons, join CMA Educators for a series of hands-on after-school marine science adventures. Activities may include observing animal behavior, examining rocky shore animals at the tidepools, exploring the wonders of mud at the salt marsh and getting up-close with microscopes. 

Fee: $30 ($27 Friends members) for the series and includes a program t-shirt. Space is limited, registration is required. Sorry, walk-ins cannot be accommodated. 

Program Date and Time: 
Fall dates and reservations coming soon.


Summer Programs

To make a reservation for an After School and Summer Program, call 310-548-7562. 
Download our Summer Classes Flyer for 2024.

Tales Between the Tides (ages 3-5) 

You and your Young Explorer will help us discover nature at a child’s “see” level. Using the Aquarium, our Classroom Laboratory and the Coastal Park, we will hear stories, see fascinating creatures, touch live sea animals, and even scamper like crabs! Each day we will make special memories and focus on a different theme. So choose one or both sessions!

Fee: $26 ($24 Friends members) for the two-day session. Space is limited, registration is required. Sorry, walk-ins cannot be accommodated.

Program Date and Time: 
Session 1 – Thursday, June 20 and Friday, June 21 – 10am-12pm
Session 2 – Thursday, August 8 and Friday, August 9 – 10am-12pm

Galloping Snails (entering grades 1-2) 

Watch snails “gallop” and other seashore animal behavior through shoreline exploration and laboratory activities. Make ocean art and other projects as records of your discoveries. 

Fee: $85 ($77 Friends members) for the four-day session and includes a program t-shirt. Space is limited, registration is required. Sorry, walk-ins cannot be accommodated. 

Program Date and Time: 
Session 1 – Tuesday, June 25 through Friday, June 28 – 9am-12pm
Session 2 – Tuesday, July 16 through Friday, July 19 – 9am-12pm

Crab Shells (entering grades 3-4) 

Observe animal behavior as you hold hermit crabs, go crab fishing, feed barnacles and more! Discover the marvelous mud at the salt marsh and explore how humans are connected to the ocean.  Fee: $85 ($77 Friends members) for the four-day session and includes a program t-shirt. Space is limited, registration is required. Sorry, walk-ins cannot be accommodated. 

Program Date and Time: 
Session 1 – Tuesday, July 9 through Friday, July 12 – 9am-12pm
Session 2 – Tuesday, July 30 through Friday, August 2 – 9am-12pm

Ichthyology (entering grades 5-6) 

Students will examine the inner and outer anatomy of a fish. Learn about the biology of fishes, from sharks to eels and to the garibaldi. Discover how ichthyologists use special tools, techniques and careful observation to understand more about fishes. Dissections, fish printing, and fish feeding are all included as part of the discovery! 

Fee: $85 ($77 Friends members) for the four-day session and includes a program t-shirt. Space is limited, registration is required. Sorry, walk-ins cannot be accommodated. 

Program Date and Time: 
Session 1 – Tuesday, July 23 through Friday, July 26 – 9am-12pm
Session 2 – Tuesday, August 13 through Friday, August 16 – 9am-12pm

Beach Cleanup 

Join CMA Educators and volunteers in a beach cleanup, clearing the shore of marine debris. Meet at the steps in front of the John M. Olguin auditorium on the first Saturday of the month. Free and open to all ages; children must be accompanied by an adult. Reservations requested for groups of 15 or more. 

Native Garden Restoration

Join CMA Educators in cleaning up the native garden every second Saturday of the month. Monthly garden maintenance is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and learn about native plants, all while helping out! Meet at the native garden behind the aquarium. Free and open to all ages; children must be accompanied by an adult. Reservations requested for groups of 15 or more. Student service credit available.

Nature Journaling 

Join CMA education staff as we learn how to identify common marine animals. Practice tips and techniques for nature journaling with animals that we find. All materials will be provided, including an upcycled/recycled nature journal that you can keep; you are welcome to bring your own materials if you prefer (such as pencils, colored pencils, watercolor paints and brushes). Meet in the lower courtyard; participants are welcome to join anytime throughout the experience. Free and open to all ages; registration is not required.

Public Fish Dissection 

Join us as we investigate the anatomy of a fish through a dissection demonstration. Get a closer look at the outside and inside of a fish. Free and open to all ages; registration is not required. 

Salt Marsh Open House

Visit Cabrillo Beach’s own wetland habitat, Salinas de San Pedro, and discover the plants and animals that call it home! Using binoculars, magnifying glasses and other tools, CMA Educators and volunteers will help you observe and explore this habitat. Or simply sit back, watch the tide change and listen to the birds and other wildlife. Free and open to all ages; children must be accompanied by an adult. Reservations requested for groups of 15 or more. 

Tidepool Walks

Join CMA Educators on a tidepool walk to the Point Fermin Tidepools. Before the walk, attend a brief informative orientation, then join the naturalist-led hike to see animals in their natural habitat. Outdoor clothing and sneakers advised. 

Free and open to all ages; children must be accompanied by an adult. Reservations required for groups of 15 or more.

Walk Cabrillo 

Pack a snack and join a walk guided by CMA Educators while they interpret the various habitats of the Cabrillo Beach Coastal Park. Starting in the Aquarium courtyard, visit the native garden, salt marsh, beaches and tidepools. Along the walk, examine fossils, native plants, beach wrack and other interesting finds. Free and open to all ages; children must be accompanied by an adult. Reservations requested for groups of 15 or more.