No California coastal itinerary is complete without a visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium! Considered one of the world’s great aquariums and a global leader in ocean research and conservation, this is the place that inspired the setting for Pixar’s Finding Dory and the BBC’s “Big Blue Live” – and was featured in HBO’s “Big Little Lies”. The Aquarium’s 322,000 square feet showcase Pacific Ocean habitats with acclaimed marine exhibits such as the three-story living Kelp Forest, million-gallon Open Sea exhibit, and a two-story home for its cutest inhabitants, charismatic sea otters that are the unofficial mascot of the central coast. Dramatic ocean-front decks offer views of passing whales, dolphins, sea lions and sea otters. Visitors who want to dive deeper can choose among a host of behind-the-scenes tours, family sleepovers among the aquarium’s exhibits, and a summer scuba program for kids ages 8 to 13. The aquarium also offers ocean-view dining in both a casual cafe and a full-service restaurant. Both emphasize regional and sustainably delicious cuisine that showcase a commitment to Seafood Watch standards for ocean-friendly seafood selections. Discover the wonders of Monterey Bay and how protecting our living ocean benefits us all.