Channel Islands National Park might be one of the most under appreciated national parks of them all. Granted, there are still several national parks I have yet to visit, but Channel Islands has definitely been put on my ‘visit again’ bucket list.
We had no expectations of this park and were open minded and excited to see something new. This national park is truly amazing and unique. So much natural beauty, landscapes, and pleasant surprises; like seeing a whale surrounded by a pod of dolphins and seagulls all in their natural habitat!
The Channel Islands are comprised of a total of 8 islands of which only 4 are included and designated as the national park. These four islands include San Miguel Island, Santa Rosa Island, Santa Cruz Island, and Anacapa Island. You must call ahead and plan your visit and tour either by boat or airplane concessioners that will take you to the islands. The national park visitor center is located nearby the Ventura Harbor where the boat excursions depart from. Ventura Harbor is also a visiting stop for the Hikiananalia California Voyage; a 2800 mile voyage from Hawaii to California using traditional old school non-instrument navigation.
Ventura Harbor Channel Islands National Park
The several activities you can do on the islands include the following:
Hike, explore tidepools, beaches, & rugged canyons
This is one of the top scuba diving sites in the world as well.
Santa Cruz is the island we chose to explore and go hiking. We also planned the extra tour of Painted Cave. We called about a week prior to our visit and made our reservation and purchase on the catamaran boat operated by Island Packers, Inc. There is an additional fee for Painted Cave; and it was well worth it! Learn more about prices and trip info here: islandpackers.com
For this type of adventure, you need to plan and be prepared in advance for your day trip, which is the tour that we chose. We were informed to bring the following since there are no concessions, water, or supplies on the island.
Packed lunch and snacks
Enough water for entire day
Dress in layers, weather can be unpredictable
Bring needed supplements to minimize motion sickness if needed.
Bring hat, sunglasses, sunscreen
Do not feed any animals
We arrived early at the Ventura marina and checked in around 8:10 a.m., it’s recommended that you arrive early so you are not delaying the departure of the boat. The scheduled time to board the boat is about 9:15 a.m.
There were approximately 85-100 people on this excursion. The weather was windy and the seas were very rough due to the hurricane to the south of the area (near Mexico). The staff member who checked us in asked us if we were okay with rough waters and if we have issues with motion sickness. We told her, “guess we will find out.”
We departed on time and began the morning with a fun and exciting bumpy boat ride. It was about 30 minutes later, when several folks started to feel motion sickness, but the crew members were fantastic and continuously walked around the boat to check on people and helped anyone who needed it.
I admit, I was getting close to that sick feeling, but I turned on my mental power and made it to the island.
The boat ride is about one and half hour long, and the passengers who did not purchase the additional tour were dropped off at Prisoners Harbor and those of us remained on the boat and continued onto Painted Cave. This ride was approximately an additional 30 minutes one way. All I can say is,.. this was well worth it!
Painted Cave is a magnificent site that is one of largest and deepest sea caves in the world! You will see multi colors of remnants of algae formed on rocks and is absolutely beautiful as it reflects off the blue-green waters.
This was such an incredible experience to gently float into the cave and hear the quiet, serene environment with the breathtaking surroundings.
We spent about 20-30 minutes pondering within the cave, of which if the weather and waves are too strong, they do not go into the cave,. But on this day we were lucky enough to have been able to go deeper in the cave and capture some incredible photos.
We continued on and returned to Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz Island and disembarked the boat and began our hiking journey.
We began hiking the trail of Del Norte and found a picnic table setting at a perfect viewing point and spot for enjoying our lunch.
We hiked about 2 hours before we had to start heading back to the boat dock for boarding.
On the return boat ride, it was a much smoother more enjoyable ride the on the way to the island. And we got lucky again with an added bonus on this experience as we encountered a hump back whale and a swarm of dolphins and seagulls on a feeding frenzy. Photos by: My husband.
This was the most incredible thing to see! This made our trip to the Channel Islands one of the most amazing experiences we’ve had. Exploring around the island was spectacular as we captured some of the features and beauty that make up Santa Cruz Island.
Channel Islands National Park exceeded our expectations no doubt! The thrill of traveling over water to unfamiliar land and exploring the unknown is exhilarating! The wildlife on the island migrated over on vegetation. These include mice and fox. Precautions are mentioned about avoiding all contact with any of the animals on the island. Learn more about his beautiful park at nps.gov/chis
Here is more information to plan your next trip to Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park Directions
1901 Spinnaker Drive
Ventura, CA 93001
Island Packers, Inc.
1691 Spinnaker Drive, Suite 105 B
Ventura, CA 93001
Enjoy more spectacular adventure with me!