A little-known treasure just south of downtown San Diego, Living Coast Discovery Center is home to sharks, rays, sea turtles, rescued birds and other coastal critters and native plants. Round up your bunch of curious little creatures and head over to Living Coast Discovery Center where close-up, interactive exhibits make learning fun and exciting.

Living Coast Discovery Center Entrance

This zoo and aquarium is situated on the Sweetwater Marsh National Wildlife Refuge. The expansive 316-acre property offers visitors a look at unique and endangered animals, and walking trails – where you might even spot local bird species! Upon your arrival, check out Turtle Lagoon, where your kiddos will be greeted by endangered Eastern Pacific green sea turtles. The sea turtles are fed everyday at 2 p.m. This is an exciting experience for kiddos big and small. The viewing area is large and offers a perfect photo op.

Living Coast Discovery Center Kids Interact with Starfish

Sharks and Rays, Oh My!
Next, enter the intriguing world of sharks and rays where visitors are welcome to touch the smooth backs of friendly rays as they glide through the interactive pool. Your crew of critters will get a kick out of watching staff feed sharks and rays in their 21,000-gallon habitat. Feedings and presentations are open to the public and free with your paid admission. Just make sure to check the daily schedule and get there early to get a good spot.

Living Coast Discovery Center Owl

Fun Overhead and On the Ground
After the feeding frenzy, make your way down to Shorebird Aviary, Raptor Row and Eagle Mesa. Owls, roadrunners and eagles are just a few of the birds at Living Coast Discover Center. Don’t miss the majestic Golden and Bald Eagles. But shhhhhh! Little ones should always remember to use their bird-friendly voices as many of these feathered buddies will only make an appearance when it’s quiet.

Living Coast Discovery Center Trails

Later, explore several walking trails which cover about a mile and a half of ground. The trails start from the Discovery Center out to the shore of San Diego Bay. Little explorers will be impressed as parents point out the view of the Coronado Bay Bridge, the old gunpowder factory and railroad tracks. If you’re lucky, you might see shorebirds, rabbits, lizards, a soaring harrier and even an osprey.

Living Coast Discovery Center Bald Eagle and Kids Playing

Know Before You Go
Parking is free and plenty. After parking your car, take the Living Coast Discovery Center shuttle into the park. Shuttles arrive every 15 minutes. Due to the proximity to the coastline, the hiking trails tend to get a bit chilly, so make sure to bring a light jacket.

Hours: Daily, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Price: $14/Adults (18-64); $9 Kids (4-17); $9/Seniors (65+) and Students (with ID); Free/Kids (0-3)

1000 Gunpowder Point Dr.
Chula Vista, Ca 91910
Online: thelivingcoast.org

—Elizabeth Silva (photos too)