These 4 aquariums make a big splash with family travelers

Aquariums offer a chance to observe colorful sea creatures - large and small - and learn how to help keep our oceans healthy. Here are four for your family to consider:

Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, Calif.

Visit this remarkable aquarium, housed in a converted cannery, to learn about the secret lives of sea horses and the rare ocean sunfish as well as stingrays, jellyfish, penguins and sea otters. The aquarium is one of the few places with both bluefin and yellowfin tuna. You’ll also see one of the few living kelp forests on exhibit, where divers hand-feed sharks and other fish. Ask about the organization’s Sea Watch program, which helps consumers and businesses make informed choices for healthy oceans.

Contact: 1-831-648-4888;

Maui Ocean Center

For a truly up-close experience, scuba-certified kids 15 and older can dive with sharks and stingrays in the 750,000-gallon Open Ocean exhibit. The hands-on center is considered the largest tropical reef aquarium in the Western Hemisphere. Visit the hatch-and-release presentation to observe green sea turtles in various stages. Several exhibits offer information about Hawaii’s living reef and showcase marine creatures, including sea horses and moray eels. Learn about humpback whales and team up with a naturalist at the tide pool to gather extra information.

Contact: 1-808-270-7000;

National Aquarium, Baltimore, Md.

The chance to visit with bottlenose dolphins and observe training, feeding and playtime with trainers gets high ratings from visitors to this creative aquarium, a centerpiece of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. The aquarium aims to inspire conservation and educate visitors about sustainability and the fragile and complex undersea world. Learn about jellyfish, observe sharks in an open tank and see more than 500 exotic species in an Atlantic Coral Reef Exhibit. Coming soon: Black Tip Reef, a coral-filled exhibit replicating Indo-Pacific reefs.

Contact: 1-410-576-3800;

Sea World, San Diego

If your family is craving a theme park, consider Sea World your solution. You’ll deliver wet and wild roller coasters like the recently launched Manta and other tummy-turning adventures. The younger crowd will enjoy Sesame Street’s Bay of Play. Sea World also offers a chance to see and learn about polar bears, penguins, dolphins, beluga and killer whales and the importance of preserving their habitats.

Contact: 1-800-257-4268;