SeaWorld San Diego- Full Guide to Attractions, Animal Encounters, and Activities

This is an all-encompassing guide to the SeaWorld San Diego park including a sample one day touring plan to ensure that you hit all the most important spots throughout the park. SeaWorld is a great addition to any California vacation and our tips will help you plan a great visit.

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Wild ArcticGirl smiling at whale in a cage

In the Wild Artic, you’ll walk through the exhibit where you will get to see a model arctic rescue helicopter. You will also see these animals in this area:

  • Beluga whales
  • Walruses
  • Harbor seals
  • Polar bears

Sea Lion PointSea Lion looking up

At Sea Lion Point, you will find two enclosures that are home to various mammals.  The enclosures have tall glass all the way around giving a perfect view into the water and rocks that the sea lions call home.

For a fee of around $5.00, you can purchase a tray of fish to feed to the sea lions.  Be aware that very aggressive birds hang out around the exhibit just trying to snatch the fish before the sea lions get them.

Housed in front of the SLL, Sea Lions Live, theater and across from Dolphin Stadium, home to the show Dolphin Days.  It’s a perfect quick stop as you make your way around the area.

Penguin EncounterFamily smiling at penguins in exhibit at SeaWorld

Located next to the Wild Arctic exhibit, the Penguin Encounter houses some of the cutest, furry waddling friends around.

On the outside of the exhibit, warm weather penguins greet you as they walk around and jump into the water in the San Diego weather. Once inside, you’ll notice a definite decrease in the climate as you see the arctic loving penguins. Almost 300 penguins of different species from Emperor to the lesser known Gentoo call this exhibit home.

As you make your way around the corner, you’ll be greeted by puffins and other birds in the second part of the exhibit. Be sure to take a second look at the warm weather penguins as you leave the exhibit.

Dolphin PointTwo people holding a dolphin's face at SeaWorld

At Dolphin Point , you will see dolphins playing and swimming freely.  If you’re really lucky, you’ll get the chance to pet a dolphin as they swim by you and up to you. The ledge allows you to lean over to pet the dolphins and at certain times, you can purchase food to feed them.

There are two large glass viewing areas where you can observe the dolphins swimming playfully underwater. Throughout the day, the trainers will come out into the waters and give training demonstrations. If you’re in the right place near the trainers, they will bring the dolphins right up to you or even let you give the dolphins hand signals.

Shark EncounterPeople smiling under shark encounter

When you walk into this exhibit, you will get to see the mesmerizing sharks swimming slowly in the waters. You will also see a shark nursery along with other species of sharks as you move through the exhibit.

Don’t forget to check out the giant megalodon jaw fossil as you exit the exhibit. Even the tallest adults would fit nicely into its mouth!

Orca Underwater ViewingLittle girl smiling at a orca

Get the closest view to the regal killer whales when you stand in the underwater viewing area.  From wall to wall, you’ll have a perfect time observing the killer whales swim together and come up to the glass to see you.

Although this area can get crowded at times throughout the day, it is the only other place you can see the Orcas other than in their show.

Turtle ReefFamily smiling at sea turtles

Connected on the backside of Shark Encounter is the home of beautiful sea turtles.

Often times, they will come directly up to the glass to come and say hello. You can enter the exhibit through the gift shop at the end of the Shark Encounter or walk around behind Dolphin Stadium to get to the traditional entrance of the exhibit.

This is the next best thing to snorkeling or scuba diving in the crystal-clear waters of Hawaii to catch a glimpse of these gentle animals.

Otter OutlookOtters in the water

Located directly next to Dolphin Point is Otter Outlook where you will find sea otters in an enclosure has all sorts of toys for the otters to play with while they enjoy their day.

Animal ShowsGroup of dolphins

Getting to the animal shows early is a must. The great thing about getting to the shows early is the live entertainment prior to the show starting.  About 10-15 minutes before the show starts you’ll be entertained by a comedy show or audience participation singing or even a pre-show warm up with the animals. You can also take in your snacks, so it serves as a nice break from all the walking you will be doing while enjoying some refreshments and snacks.

If you can, have one or two people wait in line while you switch off and go see other local exhibits while waiting for the show to start.  Also, be aware that there are definitely “splash zones” in almost all of the shows.  The dolphin and orca show’s splash zones are much larger than that of the Clyde and Seamore “Sea Lions Live” show as they don’t splash quite as much.  However, if you’re in a splash zone, you can guarantee you will be soaked. Those whale and dolphin tail slaps are no joke.

Here are the animal shows SeaWorld has to offer:

  • Dolphin Days
    • This new presentation showcases dolphin natural behaviors in the wild. In this approximately 20-minute, high-energy show, you will learn SeaWorld’s conservation efforts in the dolphin community, ways you can help the dolphins in your own community, and witness behaviors that dolphins exhibit in the wild to fend off other animals or even for play
  • Orca Encounter
    • The new Orca Encounter show is stunning. As the trainer starts the show, the gigantic screen begins its show as well showcasing the many types of Orca whales in the wild. The narrator and movie on the screen become the main show with the Orca’s as a backdrop with a colossal emphasis on educating the audience about the natural behaviors and characteristics of this grand animal. Though the show is far slower than the Shamu show of years’ past, it is a gentle change to the outcry SeaWorld heard from the backlash of their Orca habitats and shows.
  • Sea Lions Live
    • Once known as the Clyde and Seamore show, the Sea Lions Live show is light-hearted and funny. When the show begins, you will be introduced to two Sea Lions playing the roles of Clyde and Seamore. They will perform various tasks for fish including “talking,” jumping into the water off a platform, and swimming through an obstacle course all under the guise of popular TV shows.
  • Pets Rule
    • This quirky show takes homeless, rescued pets including pigs, dogs, cats, and various birds through obstacle courses in the “Pet’s Playhouse.”

Animal EncountersPeople in water with whale

One of the great ways to truly understand what the trainers do each and every day at SeaWorld is to get up-close and personal with the animals they work with. Each tour or interaction is an additional cost to the park’s ticket prices. Here are the animal encounters currently offered at SeaWorld:

  • Beluga Interaction Program
    • At just under $200.00 per person, guests ages 10 and up can hop into the freezing cold water to pet, feed, and kiss these friendly mammals. Trainers will take you into the arctic water where you will meet face-to-face with a white beluga whale that is currently listed as “near-threatened” in its natural habitats.
  • Beluga and Walrus Encounter
    • Guests ages 6 and up can participate in this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to go behind the scenes at the “Wild Arctic” exhibit to visit with a Beluga whale and walrus. At around $60.00 per person, you won’t want to skip out on this encounter.
  • Dolphin Interaction Program
    • Trainers will guide you into the waters of the Dolphin Point where you will get to test your abilities at training the dolphins, playing with, and feeding them. At around $215.00 per person, guests ages 10 and up will spend approximately 60 minutes with 20 of those minutes being in the actual water. You’ll dry right off with your souvenir towel included in the cost of the interaction.
  • Dolphin Encounter
    • If you aren’t feeling in the mood to get into the water with dolphins, you can spend some quality time with them on the outside of Dolphin Point where trainers will guide you through caring exercises and communication. This approximately 15-minute encounter will set guests 48” and taller back about $65.00.
  • Killer Whales Up-Close Tour
    • SeaWorld’s animal behaviorists will take you on the behind the scenes 45 minute tour where you will walk and talk about these unforgettable mammals. This tour runs at about $80.00 per person.
  • New Sea Otter Encounter
    • Lasting 20 minutes and costing $70 per person you’ll get to help the SeaWorld trainers feed the animals.
  • New Flamingo Encounter
    • For $45.00, this 20-minute encounter will surround you with flamingos where you can learn about their care and personal stories.
  • New Seal and Sea Lion Encounter
    • For 15 minutes, the SeaWorld trainers will share their time, knowledge, and stories with you. This encounter will set you back $45.00 per person; however, it includes a tray of fish you can use to feed the animals that live at Sea Lion Point.
  • New Family Adventure Tour
    • On this walking tour, you’ll gain plenty of insight and knowledge and even get to touch moon jellyfish that no one else ever sees on exhibit. You’ll pet, feed, and learn about bat rays, interact with bamboo sharks, and witness a dolphin play session. These 105 minute tours are held prior to park opening. Children 3-9 cost $65.00 each while guests 10 and up are $85.00 per person.
  • Penguin Up-Close Tour
    • In 60 minutes, you’ll have the opportunity to go behind-the-scenes with the SeaWorld trainers who work in Penguin Encounter each day. Not only will you have the opportunity to pet a penguin, you’ll also learn how penguins become acclimated to their freezing cold home in the wild, what they like to eat, and the different species of penguins. Guests must be at least six years old to participate in this once-in-a-lifetime experience. Guests 10 and up will pay $50.00 per person for this tour while guests ages 6-9 will pay only $44.00 per person.

Non-Animal Events and AttractionsElectric eel roller coaster

SeaWorld is always adding various non-animal shows, presentations, and spectaculars to take your breath away.  With every changing season or new themed event taking place, you can rest assured that SeaWorld will have plenty for you to view and do.

  • Summer Events:
    • Past summer themed events that took place at SeaWorld San Diego park was Electric Ocean. The Electric Ocean event brought the opening of the new “Electric Eel” coaster, San Diego’s tallest and fastest coaster, two neon shows filled with music and lights, and a dance party with a hip DJ.
  • Fall Events:
    • In the fall, SeaWorld transforms for the Halloween season to their Halloween Spooktacular. Here you’ll find festive Halloween decorations all around the park, a Sesame Street dance party, a ride retheme, and a decked out Día De Los Muertos celebration area.  The best part of the upcoming Halloween Spooktacular is the delicious, free candy your little ones will get as they trick-or-treat throughout the park.
  • Winter Events:
    • In the winter time, you’ll embrace the holiday spirit with SeaWorld’s seasonal Christmas Celebration. The new, live nativity musical, 40-foot Christmas tree, Santa’s village town, and rethemed Christmas animal shows are sure to delight audiences of all ages.
  • Late Winter/Early Spring Events:
    • The new year starts off with a bang as SeaWorld celebrates the Lunar New Year. With fun, new entertainment filled with local performers and deliciously decadent Asian inspired menu entrees, this celebration will bring joy and a sense of peace to all.
  • Spring Events:
    • Lastly, in the springtime, your taste buds will thank you as you embark on the Seven Seas Food Festival. Food, beer, and wine from all over the world line the streets of the park where you can go section to section trying everything your heart desires.  If you’re a foodie, you won’t want to miss this exquisite display of the best dishes the world has to offer.  Additional fees occur as you purchase a sampling lanyard or purchase the various food and beverage at each location.  Don’t miss the musical performances and fire dancers accompanying each respective booth.

One Day SeaWorld Touring PlanFamily staring at penguin and smiling

Having been to SeaWorld many times, I have come up with what I feel is the best way to utilize the day and maximize your time, so you can see all SeaWorld has to offer.

Below is my sample route having gotten to the park right when it opens.  If you want to ensure good seats or front-of-the-line passes on the rides, you can add these features on your ticket for an additional fee ranging from $10.00 to $40.00.

There are multiple packages to choose from to purchase that offer you premier seating and/or unlimited front-of-the-line passes to the rides.

  1. Touch Pools at Explorer’s Reef
    1. located directly inside the entrance to the park filled with various species of reef sharks
  2. Sea Lion Point Exhibit
  3. Dolphin Days Show @ 11:00 am
  4. Sea Lions Live Show @ 12:00 pm
  5. Shark Encounter Exhibit
  6. Turtle Reef Exhibit
  7. Lunch Break
  8. Sting Ray touch pool
    1. Located under the entrance to the ride Manta
  9. Dolphin Point Exhibit
  10. Otter Outlook Exhibit
  11. Orca Encounter Show @ 3:00 pm
  12. Penguin Encounter Exhibit
  13. Wild Artic Exhibit
  14. Pets Rule Show @ 4:30 pm
  15. Time for any exhibit you missed or show you want to see again! Don’t forget to check the special happenings for each season when you’re there.


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About Lindsay Brookshier

Lindsay is a college English instructor and has years of writing experience through various nonprofits, charities, newspapers, and online magazines. As the content director of Mickey Visit, she oversees article content and leads our fantastic team of writers to meet guest vacation needs. You can still find her writing weekly content to help make your Disney Parks trip fantastic here on Mickey Visit and Disney Dose- you can also view her recently featured posts on Disney Parks travel on Visit Anaheim, Nerd Wallet and SFGate. Lindsay comes from a dedicated Disney family and enjoys taking her son to the Disney parks as often as possible.

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