General Admission


General Admission
Headlands & Beyond: A Hands-on Exploration

The Ocean Institute invites you to explore the ocean’s underwater world and California’s fascinating maritime history through fun, interactive programs and family activities that indulge your ocean curiosity.

Weekday Offerings


On weekdays, our campus bustles with eager students on educational field trips, but we invite you to join us on a guided tour of the Maddie James Seaside Learning Center. While you wait for the next tour, explore our Headlands and Beyond exhibit area that includes:

  • Local sea creatures in the Rocky Reef tank
  • Interactive Globe
  • ROV touchscreen
  • Pop-up experiments
  • Children’s playscape

Each weekday, we focus on a different part of California’s unique ecosystem and history. Join us for:

  • Mollusk Monday: Did you know that scientists developed a surgical glue based on sea slug slime? Learn more about amazing invertebrates every monday. 
  • Tidepool Tuesday: Dive into ecosystems! Discover what crawls in tidepools, swims in kelp forests, and glows in the deep sea. 
  • Whale Wednesday: Swim inside on Wednesdays to learn more about marine mammals! Find out how dolphins hear and why whales sing. 
  • Thank-the-oceans Thursday: What can you do to help out oceans? Join us on Thursdays to find out!
  • Fin-tastic Friday: Did you know that sharks can sense electric fields? Learn more about sharks’ super abilities every friday. 

Facilities Open: Headlands & Beyond exhibit area with tours to the Maddie James Seaside Learning Center. 

For groups of 10 or more: Please call ahead to arrange your visit. We offer private tours of our labs and ships but only if arranged in advance. Please contact our reservations department at (949) 496-2274 or email us at 

Weekend Offerings

Saturday & Sunday

On weekends, we open the campus and welcome you to explore our site-wide, immersive journey into the mysteries of the Pacific Ocean. Come and learn all about Moon Jellies, encounter live animals in our Discovery Pool touch-tank, join in animal feedings, and even conduct squid dissections if you’re adventurous!

Facilities open: Headlands & Beyond exhibit, tidepool playscape, Maddie James Seaside Learning Center and  all labs inside the Ocean Education Center, the Brig Pilgrim.* 

*Tours of the Brig Pilgrim are offered on Sundays during regular admission hours. 

Groups of 10 more receive special pricing of $5.00 per child and $7.50 per adult when you book in advance. Call us at (949) 496-2274 to reserve your tickets. 


Science of Scent
Holiday Candle Making Workshop

Discover the science of scent in this hands-on candle making workshop!


Anniversary Days
40 Cent Admission

Celebrate 40 years of ocean education during our upcoming Anniversary Days, Monday-Friday December 18-January 5. Enjoy hands-on activities, dissections, and Tall Ships tours just steps away from the ocean all for just 40 cents per child with paid adult admission. Activities and events will vary throughout the week so you can visit again and again.


Tidepool Hikes
Explore the world between tides!

Join the Ocean Institute for a tidepool hike led by one of our expert naturalists.


Tall Ship Tours
with the Hawaiian Chieftain

Board and explore three unique historic tall ships this holiday season! Tour the visiting vessel, Hawaiian Chieftain, along with the Ocean Institute’s ships, Pilgrim and Spirit of Dana Point during regular public admission hours. Learn the history of the ships, Dana Point’s maritime history, and more. 


Tall Ship Tours
with the Lady Washington

Tour the visiting vessel, Lady Washington, a replica square-rigged brig, during her stay at the Ocean Institute. Learn the history American trading in the Pan-Pacific following the American Revolution. Named after Martha Washington, the Lady Washington was a pioneer in American trading.  


Public Closed Dates

Due to special events happening at the Ocean Institute, we will be closed the following days to the public.