National marine sanctuary offices and visitor centers closed to the public; waters remain open

NOAA's national marine sanctuary offices and visitor centers are currently closed to the public, and in accordance with Executive Order 13991 - Protecting the Federal Workforce and Requiring Mask Wearing, all individuals in NOAA-managed areas are required to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance on mask-wearing and maintaining social distances. Sanctuary waters remain open for responsible use in accordance with CDC guidance, U.S. Coast Guard requirements, and local regulations. More information on the response from NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries can be found on

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The Sanctuary Exploration Center And Offices Are Now Closed To The Public.

This is a precautionary measure to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). We are following local and departmental guidance, and will continue to monitor the situation. We thank you for your understanding. (11/2/2020)

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About the Sanctuary Exploration Center

Twenty years after its designation as one of the nation's largest marine sanctuaries, a new state-of-the art visitor center opened July 23rd, 2012. This Center highlights the spectacular Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. Overlooking the ocean, the Sanctuary Exploration Center is located in the heart of the Santa Cruz's famed beach area just steps away from the city's Municipal Wharf. The center features engaging interactive and multi-media exhibits to help visitors explore the sanctuary's remarkable marine environment, as well as their personal role in protecting this special underwater treasure.


open ocean mini theater
Open ocean mini theater


sanctuary exploration center building



For visitors to connect to and explore the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary


  • To educate visitors about the sanctuary's unique and fascinating coastal and marine environment
  • To foster a more personal connection with the sanctuary and the ocean's relevance in people's daily lives
  • To encourage stewardship of the sanctuary and a better understanding of how to responsibly enjoy and protect the ocean

Major Partners

NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) collaborated with the City of Santa Cruz and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to build the 12,000 sq. ft., $15.9 million Sanctuary Exploration Center. ONMS provided design and construction funds, the city offered the ocean-view property and helped manage the construction activities, and the foundation conducted a capital campaign to support exhibit construction.

Meet Our Staff

Meet Our Partners

Download a Fact Sheet

(586K PDF)


location map iconLocation, Location, Location!

Learn more about the center's spectacular ocean-side location in Santa Cruz's famed beach area, right in the midst of many popular visitor and recreational attractions.

green building drawingA Green Building

The Exploration Center is a model for sustainable, environmentally sensitive design, construction and operation, meeting the U.S. Green Building Council's GOLD standards for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

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