Marine World first opened in 1968, as a small zoo in Redwood City, California. In the mid-1970s, it merged with a failing land-animal park called Africa USA and became Marine World Africa USA.
In late 1985, the increase in value of the park’s property became too great a tax burden. Following an intensive search for a new site led by Michael B. Demetrios, construction began on a new and larger park in Vallejo, California, about 55 miles north of Redwood City. The new Marine World opened to visitors in 1986 and remained under control of the non-profit Marine World Foundation, using Garfield the cartoon cat as a mascot at various points.