The original SeaWorld, San Diego, California’s outpost of the aquatically inspired theme park has lots to sea and do for animal lovers and thrill-seekers alike. However, with so much on offer, it can be tricky to know what activities you should try to experience during your visit. Fortunately, we’re here to kelp you out! Read on for our o-fish-al deep dive into the best things to do during a trip to SeaWorld San Diego (and plenty of sand-sational, ocean-related puns).
Things to Do in San Diego SeaWorld That You Shrimp-ly Shouldn’t Miss
If you’re planning a visit to SeaWorld San Diego, then you’re probably wondering water you going to do while you’re there. Well, you’re in luck because there are some truly fin-tastic activities available that are shore to appeal to guests of all ages and interests, no matter if you’re an adrenaline junkie looking for your next rush or you’re traveling with an aspiring marine biologist. Let’s get started!
Check Out an Oceanful of Marine Animal Exhibits
If there’s one thing that SeaWorld San Diego is known for, it is the incredible sea creatures that call the park home. After all, whether it’s the location in Orlando or the one right here on the West Coast, you can’t think about SeaWorld without marine animals like orcas, dolphins, beluga whales and sea turtles also springing to mind. Luckily for all the animal lovers out there, you’ll find no shortage of opportunities to see some of the many creatures that live under the sea.
Some animal attractions even play host to special presentations like trainer talks and feeding sessions, which are completely complimentary for guests. So, be sure to take a look at the SeaWorld San Diego app or website for the day’s schedule. Animal exhibits are located throughout the theme park, including (but not limited to):
- Wild Arctic – Beluga whales, harbor seals and walruses
- Penguin Encounter – Home to almost 400 penguins, including Magellanic, king, Adélie, chinstrap, gentoo, macaroni and emperor (Fun fact: The only place you can see emperor penguins in North America is SeaWorld San Diego.)
- Sea Lion Point – California sea lions and harbor seals
- Turtle Reef – Loggerhead, Hawksbill and Green sea turtles, as well as tropical fish
- Shark Encounter – Whitetip reef, blacktip, bonnethead and sand tiger sharks
- Dolphin Overlook and Dolphin Point – Bottlenose dolphins and pilot whales
- Otter Outlook – California sea otters
- (Coming 2024!) Jewels of the Sea: The Jellyfish Experience
- Bat Ray Shallows
- Orca Underwater Viewing
Get Sands-On with Sea Life
Hoping for a little animal interaction without getting too close? There are a few different spots around SeaWorld San Diego where you can actually get your hands wet and touch—gently, of course—some of the sea creatures. (Hand-washing stations are available for after the experience.) Free for all guests, animal attractions like Explorer’s Reef are a fun opportunity for kids to test the waters, both literally and figuratively, before splurging on one of the park’s added-cost up-close encounters or interaction opportunities. They include:
- Explorer’s Reef – Located just within the entrance of the park, this interactive exhibit allows guests to touch (with two fingers) critters like bamboo sharks, horseshoe crabs, cleaner fish (they tickle!) and more.
- Bat Ray Shallows – Find out what bat rays feel like at this hands-on touch pool. (Don’t worry—these rays don’t have a stinger.) For those traveling with younger children, stand at the edge near a rocky area to bring the rays closer to you.
- Tide Pool – Pick up a sea star or touch a sea urchin at this interactive area styled after a shallow ocean ecosystem. Just be sure to follow the rules and respect the animals by not flipping the starfish over or drying them out.
Toss Some Fish to Seals, Sea Lions and Bat Rays
Everyone’s gotta eat, and that includes the many marine animals at SeaWorld San Diego. So, why not help their caretakers out and have a memorable experience at the same time by throwing them a fish or two? Both Sea Lion Point and Bat Ray Shallows have feeding stations with trays of fish available for purchase.
The seals and sea lions are particularly hilarious when trying to convince onlookers to lob a snack their way, flapping their flippers and making loud noises to attract attention. For a real comedy show, stop by in the morning before the feeding frenzy to experience the antics at their peak. Does it cost extra money? Yes. Are the fish stinky? You bet! However, we think the relatively low price and fishy fingers are worth it for the memories you’ll make.
Sea a Show Like Orca Encounter, Dolphin Adventures or Sea Lion & Otter Spotlight
The best way to appreciate these otter-ly amazing animals is by seeing them in action. So, be sure to check out one of the edu-taining live shows at SeaWorld San Diego. Here, you’ll learn about the animals’ impressive behaviors, charming personalities, everyday care and more. Just be careful where you sit, or else you might end up drenched. (Pro tip: Steer clear of the Splash Zone if you don’t want to get soaked.)
Shows take place multiple times a day. So, check out the day’s schedule on the SeaWorld San Diego app or website to find a showtime to slot into your day. Live performances include:
- Orca Encounter – Be awed by the power, gracefulness and intelligence of these majestic ocean predators during this fascinating show that highlights their play styles, communication skills and hunting techniques.
- Dolphin Adventures – Learn about SeaWorld San Diego’s pod of dolphins and pilot whales, marvel at their athleticism and admire their relationships with their trainers as they play and leap through the air during this high-flying show.
- Sea Lion & Otter Spotlight – Be charmed by the comedians of the sea and learn about their unique talents and characteristics, as well as what you can do to help protect them, during this lighthearted yet educational presentation starring California sea lions and Asian small-clawed otters.
Go Behind the Sea-nes with an Up-Close Creature Encounter
Do you or another wildlife enthusiast in your family wish that you could get up close and personal with bottlenose dolphins, penguins or beluga whales? Then you’ll dolphin-itely want to upgrade your day at SeaWorld San Diego with one of their special animal encounters. Offered at an additional cost and capped at only a small number of guests per day, these exclusive interactions will shell-evate your experience to the next level. While some tours give you an inside look at their care, others even take things a step further by allowing you to actually put on a wetsuit and get in the water with them.
Due to their popularity and limited capacity, advanced reservations are highly encouraged. Prices vary significantly, depending on the creature featured and the level of interaction (For example, the up-close dolphin encounter costs less than the in-water dolphin interaction, while seeing a flamingo close up costs less than a walrus.). Upgraded animal experiences, with starting prices, at SeaWorld San Diego include:
- Beluga Whale
- Up-Close Encounter – $42
- In-Water Interaction – $219
- Bottlenose Dolphin
- Up-Close Encounter – $34.50
- In-Water Interaction – $159
- Flamingo Up-Close Encounter – $12
- Killer Whale Up-Close Encounter – $34.50
- Up-Close Encounter & Emperor Chick Viewing – $94
- Ultimate On-Ice Experience & Emperor Chick Viewing – $199
- Sea Lion Up-Close Encounter – $24.50
- Sea Otter Up-Close Encounter – $34.50
- Sloth Up-Close Encounter – $44.50
- Turtle Up-Close Encounter – $44.00
- Walrus Up-Close Encounter – $44.50
Go with the Flow on a Roller Coaster
At SeaWorld San Diego, roller coasters are as much the stars of the show as the aquatic animals that live there. So, don’t miss the opportunity to get your heart pounding and pulse racing on one of the park’s many thrill rides. SeaWorld San Diego roller coasters run the gamut from the family-friendly Manta to adrenaline-rush-inducing monsters that boast superlatives like the longest, tallest or fastest roller coaster of its kind in the Golden State. Check out our rides guide for all the thrilling details.
- Arctic Rescue – Fastest and longest straddle coaster on the West Coast, with three launches and ride vehicles inspired by snowmobiles
- Electric Eel – An electrifying steel coaster with a high speed of 62 miles per hour, a 150-foot drop and both backward and forward launches
- Emperor – A new penguin-inspired roller coaster at SeaWorld that is not just the only floorless dive coaster in California but also the state’s tallest (153 ft), fastest (63 mph) and longest dive coaster (2,411 ft)
- Manta – An immersive, multi-launch family coaster inspired by the swooping movements of the manta ray with a 54-foot dive plunge
Make Waves on a Water Ride
Roller coasters aren’t the only exciting rides at SeaWorld San Diego. The park is also home to some pretty thrilling—and chilling—water rides, too. Although there aren’t any water slides in the park, guests can cool off during their visit with a trip down SeaWorld San Diego’s whitewater raft ride or flume-style dive coaster (and by “dive coaster,” we mean that you dive right down a waterfall into a river below). And not to fear! If you do happen to get too wet during the splashdown, full-sized body dryers are available at the ride exits. Aquatic thrill rides in the park include:
- Journey to Atlantis – Part log flume, part dark ride and part roller coaster, this iconic water ride inspired by the legendary lost city is a must for any SeaWorld visit
- Shipwreck Rapids – A whitewater-style raft ride with ships run ashore, choppy waters and plenty of twists, turns and water jets that are shore to leave you soaking wet
Dive Into Kid-Friendly Fun at Rescue Jr.
Families with young children will dolphin-itely want to stop by Rescue Jr., a new kid zone at SeaWorld San Diego. Once home to Sesame Street Bay of Play, this family-friendly land pays tribute to SeaWorld’s conservation and animal rescue efforts. (Don’t worry—Elmo, Cookie Monster and Big Bird didn’t go too far. You can now see your favorite Sesame Street friends at Sesame Place San Diego, which is around a 30-minute drive from the park.)
Rides throughout the area—like Rescue Rafter, Rescue Riders and Riptide Rescue—take inspiration from their animal-saving missions, including the many twists and turns that happen along the way. You can even meet Animal Conservation Ambassadors (AKA the creatures that have been saved by the SeaWorld rescue team) during daily educational presentations. Kids will also love the chance to see the real rescue vehicles, like a dinghy boat and pickup truck, used during their missions.
Climb Aboard the SkyTower or Bayside Skyride for a Bird’s-Eye View of the Park
Explore SeaWorld San Diego from up above with a ride on the iconic SkyTower or Bayside Skyride. Unlike the thrill rides on our list or those at Rescue Junior, which can be enjoyed for free with your park admission, separate tickets are required to go on each of these aerial attractions. That said, the prices for each are low, at only $6 per person per ride, and worth it for the beautiful, sweeping views of San Diego, Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Enjoy a Krill-er Meal with Killer Whales
Although there are plenty of other dining options at SeaWorld San Diego, why not have a meal to remember? Rather than settling for basic burgers or a slice of pizza at one of the other restaurants around the park, make a reservation to Dine with Orcas instead. Starting at $27.99 per person, this fin-tastically fun dining experience is a whale of a time, with an all-you-can-eat buffet of tasty things to eat and both close-up views of and fascinating insights about the killer whales during an exclusive show.
Seas the Day and Treat Yourself to the Ultimate VIP Tour
If you’re a family of animal lovers looking for a splash of luxury during your day, then the Ultimate VIP Tour is for you. Priced at $499 and up per person, this exclusive experience definitely doesn’t come cheap. That said, the steep price of admission does come with a whole bunch of perks, like a private tour guide, front-of-the-line access to all the attractions, reserved seating for the shows, special animal encounters, lunch at Dine with Orcas and more. So, if you are shell-ebrating something special and have room in your travel budget, this is an excellent addition to your visit.
Are you heading to SeaWorld San Diego soon? What attractions and activities are on your to-do list? Let us know in the comments below! Then, follow the link to learn how you can save on tickets for your next SeaWorld vacation.