1901 Spinnaker Dr
Ventura, CA 93001-4354
Phone: (877) 444-6777
Explore these wild and beautiful islands on guided tours or on your own.
With over 150 different kinds of plants and animals—some found nowhere else in the world—it’s easy to understand why the Channel Islands have earned the nickname the “American Galapagos.” This remote and rugged archipelago of eight islands, five of them preserved as national parkland, may be only 25 miles off the Central California coast, but they’re a world away when it comes to pristine wilderness. Visitation is carefully controlled, meaning that you can truly experience the windswept beauty and wildness of Channel Islands National Park, crowd-free. Beginning in December, the islands become an unbeatable vantage point to see migrating gray whales, which travel from their feeding grounds in Alaska to breeding grounds in Mexico and then back. Northern elephant seals breed on the islands in December and January. The park also attracts thousands of California sea lions and harbor seals.
Start your visit with a stop at the Channel Islands National Park Visitor Center in Ventura. Next door at Island Packers , choose from various boat tours that head to Anacapa, Channel, and Santa Cruz islands. (Boat trips also depart from the city of Santa Barbara.) On the islands, join guided trips, or strike out on your own (bring plenty of water, and be prepared for changeable conditions—you are in the middle of the ocean, after all). Top spots include iconic Arch Rock, a dramatic land bridge on Anacapa Island. Feeling adventurous? Join a kayak tour to paddle into Santa Cruz Island’s spectacular Painted Cave, one of the world’s largest and deepest sea caves, with walls emblazoned with multicolor lichen. Also consider snorkeling, whale-watching, hiking, and—if you’re feeling really bold—primitive camping (reservations required http://www.recreation.gov).