Tucked away in San Diego’s South Bay, the Living Coast Discovery Center (formerly the Chula Vista Nature Center) provides an up close view of the flora and fauna found in the San Diego Bay along with nature trails to the bay itself.
Since I had never been before, I decided the time had come to explore the Discovery Center. My wife and I packed up the diaper bag, put the little one into his car seat and drove south to to learn all about San Diego Bay.
Getting to the Discovery Center
Cars are not allowed to drive up to the Living Coast Discovery Center because it sits in the middle of a nature preserve. In the parking lot right off the freeway, we unloaded the car and walked on over to the free shuttle stop. The shuttle makes regular loops from the Center to the parking lot and to the Bayfront/E Street Trolley Station. If you take the trolley, you need to request the shuttle at the Visitor Center.
From Bay to Land
Before we even made it into the Center, a few endangered Eastern Pacific Green Sea Turtles greeted us at the outdoor Turtle Lagoon. Luckily, we visited during the early afternoon and caught the daily 1:30 PM feeding.
Once inside, we had to say hello to Nemos and Dorys swimming in the tank right next to the entrance. (Is this a requirement of aquariums these days?)
Just past Nemo are tanks full of fish found in the bay including the hypnotic black jellies. As we moved down the hallway, we saw creatures native to the marsh areas and land crawlers including slithery snakes and a turtle that can snap a piece of wood in half with his beak.
Make sure to look up at the seagulls soaring below the rafters before you head outside.
Rays, Sharks, Eagles and More
After exiting through the rear door of the Center, we made a left toward the Shark and Ray Experience. If you are up for it, step up to the touch pool and feel the soft velvety skin of a ray (make sure to wash your hands afterward).
We passed on the touching the rays since we had an infant and walked down the ramp to a peek into the 21,000 gallon pool that houses four types of local sharks: leopard sharks, grey smoothhound sharks, horn sharks, and swell sharks. We lucked out again and caught the 2:00 PM weekend feeding. Weekday feedings are offered at 11:00 AM.
Opposite the Shark and Ray Experience are the aviaries full of local birds including shorebirds, eagles, hawks, owls, osprey, and even the Turkey Vulture. Feedings are daily at 2:30 PM. We quickly made our way through the aviary area since we really wanted to hike the bay trail and didn’t know how much time the little one would give us.
Trails to the Bay
We ended our visit to the Living Coast Discovery Center with an easy hike down to San Diego Bay. The trailhead starts across the street and slightly to the south of the main entrance. Along the trail we read the information panels that chronicled the area’s gunpowder history and transformation into an ecological reserve.
About halfway through the trek, the trail splits into three sections all leading to different parts of the bay. We took the trailhead on the far right. We sat on the bench at the end of the trail and enjoyed the amazing view of Downtown San Diego and the Coronado Bay Bridge.
Thirty some odd minutes later, we started to get chilly (it was January and next to the water) and decided to head back to the car. The shuttle picked us up in front of the Center and swiftly returned us to the parking lot so we could head home.
I really look forward to taking the little one back to the Living Coast Discovery Center when he is bigger so he can run from exhibit to exhibit learning something new about San Diego Bay’s wildlife.
Living Coast Discover Center Info
Where: 1000 Gunpowder Point Dr, Chula Vista, CA 91910
Hours: Daily: 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Cost: $9-$14 (2014 prices)
> Find out more about the Living Coast Discovery Center