Aquarium San Francisco: tickets, prices, tours, etc.

The San Francisco Aquarium is a true emblem of the city. It houses more than 20,000 species. You will be amazed by the great variety of its marine fauna, and you will be able to learn about all the species native to the region.

Nicolas Reffray

Nicolas Reffray

10 min read

Aquarium San Francisco: tickets, prices, tours, etc.

Aquarium of the Bay | ©Clotee Pridgen Allochuku

The San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay is located at Pier 39, between the ferry that leads to the island where the former Alcatraz prison is located and Fisherman's Wharf. Opened in 1996, this beautiful aquarium is one of the main attractions of the city of San Francisco, and beyond being home to so many marine creatures, it also works hard to conserve the oceans and their specific fauna.

Walking through its incredible glass tunnels you can be part of a unique experience: you will be surrounded by amazing creatures, from giant octopuses and sharks, to starfish and disturbing manta rays.

The best option

San Francisco Aquarium of the Bay Tickets

Get your tickets to the Aquarium of the Bay

The perfect option to secure your tickets to the iconic SF Aquarium without wasting time in long lines. With your general admission ticket, tour the main areas of the aquarium and see its fascinating marine life.

Through the link I have left above you can purchase your tickets for the San Francisco Aquarium in a practical and easy way. You will be able to enjoy 2 hours in one of the most famous places in the city, and one of the most interesting.

You will find that prices start at 29 Euros. You also have free cancellation, so your reservation is risk free.

Recommended if... you don't want to waste time waiting in long lines.

How much do tickets for the San Francisco Aquarium cost?

San Francisco Aquarium| ©Clotee Pridgen Allochuku
San Francisco Aquarium| ©Clotee Pridgen Allochuku

Tickets to the Aquarium for adults start at 29 euros, and for children between 4 and 12 years of age, prices start at 19 euros.

While the prices are not expensive, considering that this is a truly amazing place, the aquarium offers some options to save a few dollars.

By purchasing the Family of 4 Bundle pack for families of 4 (two adults and two children between the ages of 4 and 12), you can save up to 12 euros on your tickets.

You can also inquire about discounts for larger groups of more than 10 people.

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Do you offer guided tours of the San Francisco Aquarium and is it worth it?

Inside the Aquarium| ©John Loo
Inside the Aquarium| ©John Loo

No, guided tours of the San Francisco Aquarium are not offered. It is really worth mentioning that they are not necessary at all, since the staff is perfectly trained and informs visitors about the different attractions, as well as anything else they want to know about the marine species found there, as well as the aquatic life in the bay.

It is very important to highlight that in the tours you will also find several QR codes that you can scan with your cell phone or tablet, in order to listen to the information about the different points of the aquarium.

Given the popularity of the place, all this information is available in several languages, including: Spanish, English, French, Italian, German, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin.

Book tickets for the San Francisco Aquarium

How to get San Francisco Aquarium tickets at the box office

How to purchase Aquarium tickets| ©Clotee Pridgen Allochuku
How to purchase Aquarium tickets| ©Clotee Pridgen Allochuku

From the opening of the ticket office you will be able to buy your tickets directly, being able to choose between several different means of payment.

This, of course, has an important disadvantage, since depending on the number of visitors you may have to expose yourself to long lines and tedious waits.

Therefore, my recommendation so that you do not waste time in vain, is to purchase your tickets for the San Francisco Aquarium online.

Another option is to purchase one of the many tourist passes where the entrance fee is included.

Means of payment accepted at the San Francisco Aquarium ticket office

  • Cash
  • Debit or credit cards (Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover)
  • AliPay
  • WeChat

Important: At the Aquarium's on-site store you will find an ATM to withdraw cash, in case you need it.

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Are tickets to the San Francisco Aquarium included in any of the city's sightseeing passes?

San Francisco CityPass| ©CityPass
San Francisco CityPass| ©CityPass

Yes, of course they are included in some of the San Francisco sightseeing passes, keep in mind that the Aquarium is one of the city' s most popular attractions.

On the CityPASS San Francisco, the Aquarium is one of the two attractions of choice. This pass includes access to four attractions. Two of them are fixed (to the California Academy of Sciences and a boat ride on San Francisco Bay).

With the other two attractions you can choose from the following options: San Francisco Zoo & Gardens, The Walt Disney Family Museum, the Exploratorium, or finally the San Francisco Aquarium.

The other tourist pass that includes among its activities the Aquarium of the Bay, is the Go City San Francisco, with which, in addition, you will get full access to about 25 activities to do throughout the city.

Buy your San Francisco City Pass

How to get to the San Francisco Aquarium

The Powell & Mason Street cable car in San Francisco| ©Dion Hinchcliffe
The Powell & Mason Street cable car in San Francisco| ©Dion Hinchcliffe

The Aquarium of the Bay is located at Pier 39, at The Embarcadero and Beach Street. Being a very easily accessible area, you can get there using public transportation, which is very inexpensive and reliable.

With the F line of the streetcar and the Powell-Mason line of the Cable Car you can get there without problems.

As for ticket prices, traveling by streetcar will cost you about 2.5 U$S for adults and 1.25 U$S for children between 5 and 18 years old (or adults over 65 years old). Please note that children under 5 years of age do not pay anything on the streetcars.

If you opt for the streetcar, remember that if you have the Muni Pass or the City Pass you do not pay a ticket. Nor do you pay if within 90 minutes prior to boarding the streetcar you have made any other trip on any other means of transport of the Muni Network.

You should also know that if you buy your ticket directly on board the streetcar, you will have to pay with exact change.

If, on the other hand, you use the emblematic Cable Car, the price per adult is approximately 7 U$S, and for those over 65 years old, from 9pm to 7am the price is 3 U$S.

With the City Pass and Muni Pass you will have unlimited rides on this means of transportation, and if you get the Go San Francisco Card you have one trip per day totally free.

If you choose to go by car, unfortunately the San Francisco Aquarium does not have its own parking lot, however at Pier 39 you will find a public parking lot that is open 24 hours a day, every day.

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Is it advisable to go to the San Francisco Aquarium with children?

Aquarium with kids| ©Kathleen Franklin
Aquarium with kids| ©Kathleen Franklin

Of course it is! The Aquarium of the Bay is a very fun and educational place, which is why it is one of the best things to do with kids in San Francisco.

I can assure you that with this place the little ones will be amazed, thanks to the huge amount of aquatic animals they will meet. Besides, here they will have the chance to see them up close. The underwater vision tunnel will leave them with their mouths open when they see a group of sharks swimming above their heads.

Keep in mind that inside the aquarium all the staff is always willing to help, and at all times they will be teaching the children about the wonderful animals they are meeting.

There is a purely educational area, known as the Bay lab, where children will even have the chance to touch some of these animals. Can you imagine feeling with your own hands the back of a manta ray, fluffy anemones, starfish or even the fin of a shark? It's a sublime experience.

In addition, there are plenty of fun shows and events throughout the day that will delight these little tourists. .

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What are the main sections of the San Francisco Aquarium?

Aquarium of the Bay| ©Smart Destinations
Aquarium of the Bay| ©Smart Destinations

The Aquarium of the Bay is subdivided into different sections, according to the activity or attraction it offers. These are as follows:

Discover the Bay section

Here, a gallery immerses you in the ecosystem of the San Francisco Bay and you can see seven different habitats with their animals and the way the underwater creatures shape their homes.

At this point the beauties of the bay are on display, the most colorful animals will amaze you with their majesty. Some of these species are the bright orange Garibaldi, the green Moray Eels and the colorful Rockfish.

Under the Bay Section

This is the most important and classic attraction of the aquarium. It is a tunnel approximately 100 meters long, completely glazed, where you can feel like you are walking under the waters of the mythical bay, while appreciating all the richness of San Francisco's marine fauna.

The sensation of walking, as the name suggests, under the bay is truly unique. San Francisco Bay itself is shallow, but is home to a wide variety of aquatic species.

Go With The Flow Section

In this part of the aquarium you will see that the ambient lighting recreates a perfect setting for observing the mesmerizing jellyfish. The huge tanks in this section are home to several different species of jellyfish, of the more than 200 that exist worldwide.

Jellyfish are very peculiar animals, since, among other things, they have no organs, and their movements are carried out thanks to electrical impulses and ocean currents.

Touch the bay section

This is the part of the aquarium where you can interact more closely with the animals. Here you will have the chance to touch some of the most amazing marine species, from manta rays and leopard sharks to starfish, among many others.

In addition to the touch pools, "Touch the Bay" includes the Bay Lab. This section shows how the lives of certain terrestrial species in the bay, such as chinchillas, turtles and frogs, are affected by climate change.

The message of this section is really very important at an educational level and serves to raise awareness among visitors to the aquarium, especially the younger ones.

Discover all about river otters

This section is composed of a gallery, where you will be able to meet the most curious and adorable river otters. Here you will find out about the main differences between river otters and sea otters, as well as learn about the fundamental role that this animal species plays in the river systems of the hydrographic basins.

The presence of these small animals is a very useful indicator that the waterway is healthy.

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Here's what you can't miss at the San Francisco Aquarium

At the Aquarium| ©Allie_Caulfield
At the Aquarium| ©Allie_Caulfield

The San Francisco Aquarium has three main attractions, which you should not miss.

  • One of them is Go With The Flow. This section is dedicated to marine animals, invertebrates, octopuses, sea sponges and jellyfish.
  • Another must is Under the Bay. Here you will find the famous underwater viewing tunnel, where you can have sharks swimming above you.
  • Finally, the area known as Discover the Bay. This area is home to some of the most typical fish of the west coast of the United States, such as the incredible Garibaldi.

How much time do you need to visit the San Francisco Aquarium?

Aquarium entrance| ©Allie_Caulfield
Aquarium entrance| ©Allie_Caulfield

Visiting the aquarium with children will take you an average of two hours, since children tend to spend much more time than adults contemplating the animals and exhibits, plus it is common for them to want to attend all the shows offered, even down to the feeding sessions.

If you only stop to see the main attractions and take a quick tour around the aquarium, an hour may be more than enough time. Although I must tell you that it is best, as far as possible, to visit it with time, it is worth it.

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San Francisco Aquarium opening hours

Aquarium of the Bay| ©FHKE
Aquarium of the Bay| ©FHKE

The San Francisco Aquarium is open absolutely every day from 11am to 6pm. Thanks to its extended opening hours, it will be very easy to include it in your itinerary when organizing your stay in San Francisco.

However, my advice is to enjoy it first thing in the morning, as soon as it opens its doors.

This will save you from waiting in long lines, since after noon the influx of visitors begins to increase, especially in the summer months, on weekends and during school vacations. In addition, you will see that the animals themselves are more active and predisposed in the morning.

Please note that on holidays, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, the hours may vary, so it is best that before planning your visit check the official website of the San Francisco Aquarium.

Tips for visiting the San Francisco Aquarium

Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco| ©greychr
Aquarium of the Bay, San Francisco| ©greychr

Here are some practical tips for you to keep in mind when visiting the beautiful San Francisco Aquarium.

Online tickets

My most important tip is to try to buy your San Francisco Aquarium tickets online to avoid wasting time waiting in long lines.


Wear comfortable clothes and shoes, so you can walk around the place without discomfort. Do not miss the opportunity to take a moment to walk around Pier 39, where the Aquarium is located, since the views are privileged.

Sea lions

In addition, the pier is home to a huge colony of sea lions, ideal for meeting them and taking pictures.

Enjoy Pier 39

The pier is also home to one of the most important shopping malls in San Francisco.

Other visits

If you have time, a great idea is to combine the visit to the aquarium with a tour of other tourist attractions in the city that are nearby.

A few meters from the aquarium is the world famous Madame Tussauds Wax Museum.

Also within walking distance you will find the curious interactive museum of arcade games of the twentieth century, the Musée Mécanique.

Without leaving the bay, a few meters from the aquarium you can meet the ship SS Jeremiah O`Brien and the Submarine USS Pampanito, besides being able, of course, to tour the Fisherman's Wharf.

Reserve tickets for the San Francisco Aquarium