There are so many activities. It's educational, inexpensive, and most importantly, it's fun!
Starfish, sea urchins, baby sharks - with so much to see and do, the aquarium is a perfect way to spend a summer day. I recently spent some time at the aquarium and the neighboring Coastal Park.
"It's a little hidden gem in Los Angeles," said Jim DePompei of the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium. "We are an aquarium that's right on the coast; we have the beach within 100 yards of the aquarium."
All of the exhibits are family-friendly, including several grand aquariums containing colorful varieties of sea critters, such as monkey fish, garibaldi, lobsters, eels and sea anemones.
The Cabrillo Marine Aquarium also encourages hands-on exploring. The Exploration Center is one of the more recent additions, and kids of all ages get to play, try on fish costumes or create puppets shaped like sharks.
"We have a mud tunnel, we have a crawl under tank, we have a dress up area, we have a microscope set up for people to use," said DePompei.
Spend time with the friendly aquarium docents, who are always on hand to provide tours and answer questions. Making the aquarium visit extra special is access to an under-the-sea petting zoo.
You can get up close and personal with sharks in the tide pool touch tank, and you can stick your hand in to gently pet the starfish.
Just steps away from the aquarium, the famous Point Fermin tidepools share the coast, and it's just waiting to be explored. Guests can see some of the same aquarium creatures in their natural habitat - sea forming pools filled with a medley of marine life.
I saw miniature sea crabs and a softball-sized, maroon-colored sea urchin. I haven't been to the tide pools since a first-grade field trip and I felt like a kid again!
Tim Divers of Altadena made the trip to San Pedro with his two small children, Julia and Dylan.
"I think the tide pools are exciting for kids because they can explore, especially when the tide goes out," said Divers. "I like to see the wildlife...up close."
Low tide is the best time to check out the tide pools, and the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium's website provides a detailed calendar with the dates and times of low versus high tides.
Jessica Moreno, 17, and her friends drove to San Pedro from Rancho Cucamonga, and I asked her if she was nervous about encountering any ocean wildlife.
"I actually like the starfishes, so I'm excited to see them," said Moreno.
As if making friends with sea creatures isn't enough, visitors can lounge on the beach, which is dotted with picnic tables, fire pits and a playground area.
The Cabrillo Coastal Park boasts a launching pad for boats and a wooden deck for fishing. Birdwatchers are treated to a large variety of feathered friends in and around the salt marsh.
Monetary donations are suggested at the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, and there is a fee to park in their lot.
Cabrillo Marine Aquarium:
3720 Stephen M. White Drive
San Pedro, CA 90731