Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Islands National Park, which is rich in history and long in ocean miles, provides a one-of-a-kind experience for visitors who enjoy the ocean, the land, and history. Take a ride on the ship and see what you might discover. You’ll probably be surprised by what you find.


24 hours, 7 days a week


$0.00 fees


Ventura, California 93001, United States

Contact Info

(805) 658-5730
(805) 658-5700

Welcome to Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary is made up of five islands that are strewn across the beautiful and diverse marine environment of the Santa Barbara Channel. The islands are named San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara in order of north to south location. The park’s five islands, which are relatively close to the California mainland — and, in two cases (Santa Cruz and Anacapa), only an hour boat ride from Ventura Harbor — are the most beautiful step back in time; a wondrous world where housecat-sized foxes scamper through fields of Seuss-like flowers and moon and sun shine down on, well, nothing.

It is estimated that the Channel Islands are home to over 2,000 plant and animal species, with 150 of those species being found nowhere else on earth, earning them the nickname “The Galapagos of North America.” Many different kinds of wildlife can be found in and around Santa Barbara Channel and the islands. From the largest animal on Earth (did you know that a Blue Whale’s tongue can be the size of an African elephant?) to a variety of whale and dolphin species, to orcas and elephant seals, the channel and the surrounding waters are teeming with life. In short, you never know what you’re going to see on the islands — or even on the boat ride out to them.

It is also possible to visit the Channel Islands, which are the site of the oldest known human remains in North America, and to see coastal southern California as it used to be. Until the last Ice Age ended 11,000 years ago, archaeologists believed that dwarf woolly mammoths thrived on the island, according to the findings of their research. The islands are also notable for having been settled by maritime Paleo Indian peoples at least 13,000 years ago, according to archaeological evidence. Many archaeological sites on the islands serve as invaluable historical archives for those who wish to learn more about their past. About 148 historic village sites have been discovered by archaeologists, including 11 on Santa Cruz Island, eight on Santa Rosa Island, and two on San Miguel Island, according to the National Park Service.

Channel Islands National Park

Channel Islands National Park Experiences

Interpretive Programs

Tidepool Conversations

Throughout the year, on weekends and holidays, rangers provide free tidepool talks at the marine life exhibit in the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center in Ventura at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. at the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center.

Lecture Series titled “From Shore to Sea”

The “From Shore to Sea” lecture series, sponsored by Channel Islands National Park, takes place six times a year (March, April, May, September, October, and November). Channel Islands National Park Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center hosts the programmes on the second Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. The programmes are free to the public. There is no charge for the programmes, which are open to the public. For more information, please see the “From Shore to Sea” Lecture Series website.

Virtual visits to the park are also available to visitors and students through live interactive broadcasts and webcams that highlight the remarkable natural and cultural resources of the islands and the waters around them that they can view in person. For more information, please visit Channel Islands Live.

Channel Islands National Park

Hiking Tours on the Islands with a Guide

Walking tours may be offered by national park volunteers or concessionaire naturalists on days when concessionaire boats and planes are available to transport visitors to and from the islands. Following your arrival on the island, during the visitor orientation, you will be informed of the locations, distances, and departure times of the guided hikes. The islands have self-guided interpretive hiking guides that can be used when a volunteer or concessionaire naturalist is not available to lead a hiking excursion or hike

Junior Ranger is a member of the United States Army’s Rangers programme.

This programme assists children in learning about and protecting the natural wonders of the islands. Find out more about Junior Ranger by visiting their web site.

Channel Islands National Park


Tides in Channel Islands National Park are some of the most beautiful and diverse in southern California, owing to their isolation and protection from the outside world. There are numerous pristine tidepool sites where you can see beautiful species such as anemones, urchins, limpets, periwinkles, chitons, barnacles, mussels, and many other aquatic creatures. For example, Frenchy’s Cove on Anacapa Island, Smuggler’s Cove on Santa Cruz Island, Becher’s Bay at the pier, Southeast Anchorage, East Point on Santa Rosa Island, and the eastern end of Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel Island are among the most easily accessible locations.

For more information on specific tidepool locations, please refer to Places To Go and read the “Things To Do” section for each individual island under the “Things To Do” heading on that page. Consult with the park’s boat and plane concessionaires for information on trips to these tidepooling locations.

Although there is a distinct boundary between the land and the sea, there is a transition zone between them. During high tide, this area may be completely submerged in water, while during low tide, it may be completely exposed to sunlight. The life that thrives in this intertidal zone must be the toughest found anywhere in the marine environment, able to withstand hours of exposure as well as the constant pounding of the energetic surf.

The adaptations of intertidal life to both the sea and the land are numerous. Observe how certain plants and animals can be found in specific areas of a tidepool but not in others when you’re out exploring the area. Upper splash zone residents are tolerant of sunlight, heat, and water loss and have either a means of “sheltering” themselves or the ability to move into an area with higher levels of humidity. An animal with a tightly closed shell or a shell that is firmly attached to rock will be able to hold water within it, reducing the need for water to be present around it at all times. It is common for animals found in rock crevices and submerged pools to require more moisture in order to prevent them from becoming dehydrated.

The ability to move dictates how an animal feeds a lot of the time. Moving animals have the ability to find food more easily than stationary animals. Some graze the rocks for algae, while others feed on the debris that has accumulated. A stationary animal feeds on food particles suspended in water, which is consumed by the animal.

Because space is a limited resource, there is a lot of competition among the organisms. Many animals and plants can be found in a small area; some may even be found living on top of one another or on an old shell that has been repurposed as a living surface. This is one of the most important reasons why collecting is not permitted: you could be taking something away from someone’s home.

Despite their ability to withstand the forces of nature, the plants and animals of the intertidal zone are unable to withstand the impact of humans in their entirety. Because people interact with one another, even minor changes in the surrounding area could have a significant impact on the entire community. Please keep the following tidepool tips in mind while you are exploring:

Take care where you’re going! Because of the slippery nature of the rocks, it is possible that small animals will be found on them.

Keep a close eye on the swells. The surge can sneak up on you without you realising it.

Take your time and examine everything carefully. Tidepool organisms are frequently small and difficult to see because of their camouflage.

Nothing should be collected! Furthermore, if animals and shells are taken, it is possible that there will be nothing left for others to enjoy as a result.

If you pick up an animal for the purpose of observing it, please return it to where it was found. It considers that particular location to be its home territory.

Despite the fact that you may not be familiar with the animals’ names, you can learn a great deal about them by simply looking at them.

Channel Islands National Park

Parks as Learning Environments

Students can participate in educational programmes at the Robert J. Largomarsino Visitor Center in Ventura, on the islands, and in the classroom throughout the year. For more information, please see Education.

Channel Islands National Park


The islands are traversed by a network of trails and roads, providing visitors with spectacular hiking opportunities. There are a variety of trails and roads available, ranging from the well-maintained, relatively flat, and clearly marked trails of Anacapa to the unmaintained, rugged, mountainous, and poorly marked paths of Santa Rosa.

The following links will take you to detailed maps and descriptions of the island’s trails. Trail maps, guides, and topographic maps are also available at park visitor centres and island bulletin boards, as well as at island information kiosks.

Hikers must take personal responsibility for planning their trips and hiking in a safe manner. Visitors should be in good physical condition and follow the regulations and guidelines outlined in Laws and Policies and Limiting Your Impact, as well as those listed below, in order to increase their chances of having a safe hike, reduce their disturbance of wildlife, and lessen damage to resources.

While hiking, stay on trails and roads and avoid animal trails, which are narrow, uneven, unstable, and potentially dangerous.

Cliff edges should be avoided at all costs because they are prone to crumbling and becoming unstable. Keep a safe distance between you and the action. An adult should always be present to supervise children at all times.

Make sure you have plenty of water with you—a quart for short walks, and more for longer hikes.

Hikers should never hike alone; instead, they should form a hiking group. This enables someone else to seek assistance if you are in difficulty.

Keep an eye out for poison oak, “jumping” cholla cactus, ticks, and scorpions, among other things. Poison oak is distinguished by its clusters of three shiny leaflets that appear at the ends of its branches. Ticks can transmit disease, so check your clothing and exposed skin after hiking to be safe. Ticks provides information on how to prevent tick-borne illness.

Smoking should be avoided on trails and in brushy areas in order to aid in the prevention of wildfires. Smoking is permitted only on beaches and in other specifically designated areas.

When leaving the islands, visitors are responsible for making sure they arrive at the boat concessionaire’s dock on time. Inquire with the ranger or concessionaire employees about the departure time so that you are prepared.

It has been discovered that hantavirus is present in island deer mouse populations. This is a disease that has the potential to be fatal, and some basic precautions should be taken. For more information, please see Hantavirus.

Channel Islands National Park


All five islands of Channel Islands National Park have campgrounds that are managed by the National Park Service, and camping is available all year on all of them. The following campgrounds are currently in operation on each island: above the Landing Cove on Santa Barbara, on the east islet of Anacapa, in Scorpion Canyon on Santa Cruz, in Water Canyon on Santa Rosa, and above Cuyler Harbor on San Miguel. Camping is not permitted on the western 76 percent of Santa Cruz Island owned by The Nature Conservancy. On the islands of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa, there is only a limited amount of backcountry camping available. For more information on backcountry camping, please see the Backcountry Camping page.

Getting to and From the Camping Site

Because the concession boats fill up much more quickly than the campgrounds can accommodate them, campers must arrange for overnight transportation to Channel Islands National Park before setting up their campsite. For more information on boat and plane transportation provided by park concessionaires, please see Island Transportation.

Reservations for Camping

Reservations are required for all of the campgrounds, and they must be made in advance. There are no entrance fees to the park, so anyone can come and enjoy it. Camping on the islands, on the other hand, is subject to a reservation fee. Both the National Park Service fee (which supports the operation and maintenance of the campgrounds) and the reservation fee charged by the contractor responsible for managing the National Reservation Service are included in the $15.00 per night-per-site fee charged by the National Park Service.

Reservations can be made up to six months in advance, but not more than that. The following information is required for the reservations: camping dates, transportation information, and the number of campers to be accommodated. Reserving a spot can be done by calling (877) 444-6777 or by visiting the website. Campers will receive a written confirmation of their registration. When you arrive on the island, you must present this notice to the island ranger.

Camping Grounds and Amenities

Unless otherwise specified, all campgrounds are located away from boat landing areas. Visitors must transport all of their belongings to and from the campgrounds.

There is no on-island transportation available. For more information on the distances between campgrounds and landings, please see the table below.

Camping conditions are primitive, and campers are required to camp only in specific areas. The majority of campgrounds are outfitted with picnic tables and vault toilets. Except at the Water Canyon campground on Santa Rosa Island and the Scorpion Canyon campground on Santa Cruz Island, water is not available at campgrounds and must be brought with you. There are no trash cans provided; campers are responsible for disposing of their own garbage.

The campgrounds on the outer islands (San Miguel and Santa Rosa) are equipped with wind breaks for each campsite. Campgrounds are typically clustered together in close proximity to one another.

There are no bonfires permitted. Only use gas camp stoves that are completely enclosed.

Because mice are known to carry the hantavirus, some basic precautions should be observed: do not feed any wild animals; store food and drink in rodent-proof containers; and keep your tent zipped up at all times to prevent mice from entering. More information on the hantavirus can be found here.

Due to the presence of scavenging animals (including birds), campers are required to store all food and trash in containers that are both animal- and bird-proof. Camping sites are equipped with food storage boxes provided by the National Park Service, but coolers, plastic Rubbermaid-style containers, and other types of containers with sealing lids are also permitted.

Additionally, at the Scorpion Canyon campground on Santa Cruz Island, foxes and ravens have been observed to be capable of opening zippers. Safety pins, twist ties, paper clips, and small carabiners are all recommended for further securing your food and trash, as well as for helping to keep zippers closed.

Channel Islands National Park


On all islands, with the exception of San Miguel, picnic tables are available for day use. Many visitors take advantage of the opportunity to picnic on the islands’ beaches if the weather permits. Visitors are required to provide their own food and water (potable water is available at the Scorpion Canyon Campground on Santa Cruz Island and the Water Canyon Campground on Santa Rosa Island). Pit toilets are available for use by the general public on all islands.

Please keep food and trash secure at all times due to the presence of scavenging animals (including birds).

Channel Islands National Park

Backcountry Camping

On Santa Cruz Island, backcountry camping is available all year at the Del Norte campsite, which is located near Prisoners Harbor. Additionally, backcountry beach camping is permitted on Santa Rosa Island during certain times of the year. In recognition of the unique wilderness values of these islands, the National Park Service permitted limited backcountry camping on these islands. Whether you are kayaking or hiking through these wilderness areas, please remember that you have a responsibility to assist us in protecting and preserving these fragile natural resources for future generations.

WARNING: While backcountry camping is an incredible experience, it is not recommended for those who are inexperienced with backpacking or kayaking expeditions. Backcountry camping is a difficult endeavour that should only be undertaken by experienced backpackers and kayakers who are in good physical condition. This is because of the difficult weather, rugged terrain, and off-trail hiking.

Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park


Preparing for Your Trip


Permits and Procedures for Landings

In the Channel Islands National Park, boating (with the exception of personal watercraft; see the Laws and Policies for more information) is a unique and rewarding way to appreciate and experience the pristine marine environment. You will find solitude and splendour in this location. You will also face new challenges and may come across unexpected dangers in this location. This section is intended to assist you in planning a boating trip that is safe, enjoyable, and environmentally friendly while visiting the park. Private boaters are welcome to dock on any of the park’s five islands at any time of the year.

Preparing for Your Trip

For assistance in deciding which island to visit, specific island information is available at Places To Go or from the visitor centre in the form of publications, exhibits, and the park movie, among other resources.

Comprehensive boating information about the channel and islands is available from the United States Coast Guard (USCG) “Local Notice to Mariners” publication, which can be obtained by contacting the Coast Guard at (510) 437-2981. Local marine stores as well as online bookstores carry cruising guides to the Channel Islands, as well as nautical charts. For more information, consult National Ocean Survey charts 18720, 18721, 18725, 18727, 18728, 18729, and 18756 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Visitors may go boating on their own or with a commercial service operator who has been authorised by the park. It is not recommended that novices or anyone who is not properly trained, conditioned, and equipped attempt boating due to the hazardous weather conditions that exist. Currents, shifting swells, fog, and strong winds can all change the course of a boat’s journey through the channel. The journey to the islands takes boaters through some of the busiest shipping lanes in California on the way to the islands. Ships travelling at speeds ranging from 25 to 35 knots present a unique hazard to boaters as they cross the channel.

Around the islands, there are no public moorings or all-weather anchorages. We recommend that at least one person remains on board the boat at all times. Boaters are liable for any damage to the environment that their vessel may cause to the environment.

The weather in the Santa Barbara Channel and the surrounding islands is unpredictable, and the ocean is unforgiving in its harshness. Making the cross-channel passage is only recommended for experienced boaters with vessels that are capable of withstanding severe weather conditions. Obtaining the most up-to-date weather broadcast from the NOAA Weather Service can be done by calling (805) 988-6610, visiting the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary’s Internet Weather Kiosk, or by listening to weather radio on VHF-FM 162.475 MHz (weather station 3) for marine forecasts and VHF-FM 162.55 MHz (weather station 1) and VHF-FM 162.40 MHz (weather station 2) for land-based observations on VHF-FM 162.475

The weather conditions in the channel are extremely variable. August through October are frequently the months with the calmest winds and sea conditions. The other months are subject to a significantly higher risk of adverse wind and sea conditions, as well as sudden and unexpected changes. High winds may occur regardless of whether or not a forecast is issued. Winds of up to forty knots are not uncommon on the Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands. The islands of Anacapa and Santa Barbara are characterised by more moderate winds.

Winds are usually calm in the early morning hours and increase in strength during the afternoon hours. Generally speaking, the wind is from the northwest, but boaters should be prepared for strong east or Santa Ana winds at any time of year, but especially from September through April.

Dense fog is most common during the summer months, but it can occur at any time, necessitating the use of a chart and compass for navigation. It is possible to encounter ocean currents of considerable strength both near and offshore from the islands. The temperature of the ocean water varies from the lower 50s (°F) in the winter to the upper 60s (°F) in the fall, depending on the season.


It is not recommended that novices or anyone who is not properly trained, conditioned, and equipped attempt boating due to the hazardous weather conditions that exist. Currents, shifting swells, fog, and strong winds can all change the course of a boat’s journey through the channel. Around the islands, there are no public moorings or all-weather anchorages. We recommend that at least one person remains on board the boat at all times.

Prior to leaving the harbour, boaters should always file a formal float plan with the harbormaster in order to avoid delays. Your family and/or friends should also be made aware of your floatation strategy. There should be a list with the names and addresses of the boaters as well as emergency phone numbers. Boating trip plans should also include the number of boats and boaters who will be taking part in the trip, as well as the colour, size, and type of vessel that will be used. There should be a list of any survival and special emergency equipment available (EPIRB, VHF, food rations, flares, etc.). The location, date, and time of departure and return, as well as the final destination, should be recorded (s). Having this information can be extremely useful if something goes wrong during a search operation. Keep in mind that your plans may need to be modified. The weather should always be the determining factor in your decision-making.

Shipping Routes: There are several major shipping routes that run between the islands and the mainland. The location of these structures should be noted by boaters, who should exercise caution when passing through them. All boaters should pay attention to the United States Coast Guard’s notice to mariners broadcast on VHF channel 22 because the waters in and around the park are occasionally closed to allow for military operations.

Caves in the sea: Caves in the sea can be extremely dangerous because large waves or swells can suddenly fill a cave with water. Extending your exploration of sea caves requires extreme caution and the wearing of a helmet. Information on sea cave closures can be found in the Laws and Policies section.

Permits and Procedures for Landings

It is not necessary to obtain a landing permit to visit the islands administered by the National Park Service (NPS). The Nature Conservancy (TNC) owns land on Santa Cruz Island, and landing on their property is subject to a landing permit requirement.

On each island, there are areas that are off-limits or restricted. Please keep in mind that landing on or near any of the islands is prohibited year-round due to the presence of rocks or islets, and that pets are not permitted in the park. If you require additional information on regulations and guidelines, please refer to Laws and Policies and Minimizing Your Impact.

In order to receive an orientation, daily events information, island safety instructions, weather forecasts, or to check-in for a camping site on each island, it is recommended that boaters contact the park ranger on each island before landing. VHF Channel 16 is occasionally monitored by park rangers. Channel 16 is only used for hailing purposes, and rangers will instruct you to switch to a different channel if they come into contact with you. If you are unable to contact the park ranger on the island where you intend to land, try contacting one of the other island rangers on a neighbouring island. This is because island canyons and mountains can sometimes interfere with radio communications.

It is possible for boaters to land using the following procedures:

Santa Barbara Island: There is no need for a permit to land or hike on the island of Santa Barbara. The landing cove is the only point of entry to the island and is strictly enforced. The landing dock is only available for the purpose of unloading cargo. No craft, including kayaks and inflatables, should be left moored to the dock for extended periods of time. Please raise your inflatables to the upper landing and secure them there.

On East Anacapa Island and at Frenchys Cove, there is no need to obtain a permit in order to hike or camp. West Anacapa (with the exception of Frenchys Cove) is a protected research natural area that is not open to the general public. Visitors are only permitted on Middle Anacapa with a permit and must be accompanied by a park ranger at all times.

The moorings near the landing cove on East Anacapa Island are reserved for the exclusive use of the National Park Service, the United States Coast Guard, and the park concessionaire. Unless otherwise specified, private boats must anchor at least a reasonable distance from these moorings. This is not an all-weather mooring point, as the name implies. We recommend that at least one person remains on board the boat at all times. The landing dock is only available for the purpose of unloading cargo. No craft, including kayaks and inflatables, should be left moored to the dock for extended periods of time. Your inflatables and kayaks should be lifted up to the lower landing area.

Boaters can land on the eastern 24 percent of Santa Cruz Island without a permit if they are sailing from the mainland. These lands are owned by the National Park Service (NPS) and are located east of the property line between Prisoners Harbor and Valley Anchorage. Landing is prohibited along the shoreline between Arch Point (northwest of Scorpion Anchorage) and the eastern boundary of Potato Harbor in order to protect seabird nesting areas. There are no buoys available at any of the landing areas. Buoys are reserved for the National Park Service and the United States Coast Guard. Scorpion Anchorage and Prisoners Harbor both have piers that can be used. Smugglers Cove, as well as the beaches facing south and southeast between San Pedro Point and Sandstone Point, should be approached with extreme caution due to the current conditions of swell, surf, and tides.

To land on the remaining 76 percent of Santa Cruz Island, you must first obtain permission from TNC. There is a fee to use the island, and it is not permitted to stay overnight. For more information and to obtain a permit, go to Allow at least 10 business days for the processing of your application.

Boaters can land along the coastline and on beaches on Santa Rosa Island without a permit for daytime use only, according to the National Park Service. During the months of March and September, the back beaches and sand dunes between Skunk Point and just north of East Point are closed to hiking in order to protect the nesting area of the snowy plover, a federally listed and threatened shorebird. Please stay on the wet sand (below the mean high tide) or the road throughout this area at all times. Year-round, the beaches in and around Sandy Point are closed. Bechers Bay has a pier for boating and fishing. Boaters, on the other hand, are not permitted to use the mooring buoys in Bechers Bay. They are only available to the National Park Service, the Coast Guard, and the park concessionaire.

Cuyler Harbor and Tyler Bight are the only places where you can anchor overnight on San Miguel Island. Visitors are only permitted to land on the beach at Cuyler Harbor. It is only possible to land on San Miguel Island when National Park Service personnel are present on the island, which is owned by the United States Navy. The island was formerly used as a bombing range, and it is possible that there is unexploded ordnance on the island.

Boaters arriving by private boat are responsible for contacting the park to confirm that the island is open before arriving on the island and boarding a boat. To visit the island, you’ll need to get a permit that includes a liability waiver. Boaters who are not affiliated with a commercial vessel can obtain these forms from a self-registration station located at the Nidever Canyon trail head entry on San Miguel Island.

Visitors must be escorted beyond the ranger station if they wish to continue on. Visitors are welcome to explore Cuyler Harbor beach, Nidever Canyon, the Cabrillo Monument, and the Lester Ranch site without the need for an accompanying guide. Hiking off the beaten path is not permitted.

Private boaters are required to contact us via e-mail prior to departing the island for the mainland in order to arrange for an escorted hike by a ranger. Please include your name, phone number, vessel name, and the dates you wish to go on the escorted hike. When the park staff receives your request, they will respond with available dates and instructions.


Preparing for Your Trip


Permits and Procedures for Landings

Experiencing the pristine marine environment of Channel Islands National Park by kayak (with the exception of personal watercraft; see Laws and Policies for more information) is a unique and rewarding way to spend time in the park. You will find solitude and splendour in this location. You will also face new challenges and may come across unexpected dangers in this location. This section is intended to assist you in planning a kayaking trip in the park that is safe, enjoyable, and environmentally responsible.

Channel Islands National Park

Diving and Snorkeling

The kelp forests, sea caves, and coves of the park are a paradise for swimmers, snorkelers, and divers who are looking for adventure. It is possible to do some of the best snorkelling and diving in the world right here within the park’s boundaries.


These activities are best carried out on the islands of Santa Barbara, Anacapa, and eastern Santa Cruz. On Santa Rosa and San Miguel, these activities should not be attempted by novices or those who are not properly trained, conditioned, and equipped due to the extremely windy conditions.

Channel Islands National Park


To fish in Channel Islands National Park, you must be in possession of a valid California state fishing licence, and you must follow all regulations set forth by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The islands are also surrounded by thirteen marine protected areas, which are listed below. Special regulations for the protection of natural resources are in effect.

Channel Islands National Park


Surfing can be done at several locations on the Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel Islands, depending on the direction of the swell and the time of year.

Generally speaking, the north shore is the best during the north-west swells of winter/spring, and the south shore is the best during the south swells of summer/fall, with the exception of extreme conditions.

Due to the rugged terrain of the islands and the hiking distance between the designated landing areas where the park concession vessels drop off visitors, all surf spots are remote and best accessed by private boat.

Channel Islands National Park

Whale Watching

Throughout the year, Island Packers, one of the park’s concessionaires, offers whale watching excursions. For contact information, please refer to Island Transportation’s website. Other whale-watching companies can be found in the harbours of Santa Barbara, Ventura, and the Channel Islands, as well as in the greater Los Angeles region.

The waters surrounding Channel Islands National Park are home to many different and beautiful species of cetaceans, all of which can be found in the park itself (whales, dolphins, and porpoises). The Santa Barbara Channel, which is home to approximately one-third of the world’s cetacean species, is a great place to see them. Gray, blue, humpback, minke, sperm, and pilot whales; orcas; Dall’s porpoise; and Risso’s, Pacific white-sided, common, and bottlenose dolphins are among the 27 species that have been sighted in the channel so far this year.

Because of the wide variety of cetacean species present, whale watching is a fantastic year-round activity. Gray whale sightings are most common from mid- to late-December through mid-March, followed by blue and humpback whale sightings in the summer and common dolphin sightings throughout the year. Whales and dolphins can be observed from either the shore or from a boat, depending on the season. The best vantage point for viewing the shore is from a high vantage point on a point that juts out into the ocean. Point Dume in Malibu, the Palos Verdes Peninsula near Los Angeles, and Point Loma in San Diego are just a few examples of places to visit. The park visitor centre is equipped with a viewing tower with telescopes, which can be used for both whale watching and island observation. If you can, try to observe whales in the early morning hours before the wind whips up whitecaps on the water’s surface. This will give you the best chance of seeing whales from the shoreline.

From public whale watching boats or private whale watching boats, it is possible to get a closer look at the whales. Whales have been known to come within striking distance of boats. Boaters are required to maintain a distance of at least 100 yards from whales under the terms of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, unless the whale chooses to approach the boat.

Because so many whales are on the endangered species list, they should be treated with extra caution. 

The Marine Mammal Protection Act ensures that all whales are protected, and it is unlawful to disturb or harm any marine mammal. Boaters who use private vessels to observe whales must remember to maintain a distance of at least 100 yards between themselves and the whales. Boaters who approach too close to the whales and cause them to be alarmed or disrupt their activities risk driving the whales away from food or young calves. Please keep in mind that whales are wild animals and can be unpredictable in their behaviour.

Whales and dolphins are fascinating creatures, and we must continue to learn more about them. The health of the cetacean population provides an excellent indicator of the overall health of the ecosystem. If we are successful in bringing these species into the twenty-first century and beyond, it will be a sign of the future of life on this planet. More and more information about these mysterious and unique creatures that live beneath the water’s surface but must rise above it to breathe is being discovered every day.

Whale Behaviour:

The following characteristics should be observed whether you are on the shore or in a boat while watching the wildlife.

Spouts or “blows” are likely to be your first indication of the presence of a whale in the area. On a clear day, it will be visible for many miles, and an explosive “whoosh” of exhalation may be heard up to half a mile away, depending on the wind. As the whale’s warm, humid breath expands and cools as it travels through the water, the spout is primarily composed of condensation.


No one knows what causes whales to perform this most spectacular of their behaviours, and no one can explain it. It could be done as part of a courtship display, as a signal, as an effort to dislodge parasites, as a stress expression, or simply for amusement. When a whale breaches, three-quarters or more of its body emerges from the water, pivots onto its side or back, and then falls back with a resounding splash to the surface.

Whaling dives are preceded by whales thrusting their tail flukes out of the water before diving. In most cases, whales will dive in a series of shallow dives before making a deep dive.


“Footprints” are ripples caused by the vertical thrusts of the whale’s tail as it dives, and they are visible on the ocean floor.


Whales and dolphins are thought to have reasonable vision in both the air and the water, according to scientific evidence. On rare occasions, a whale will raise its head vertically out of the water to look around. The whale’s head can rise 8-10 feet above the water’s surface, sometimes turning slowly for thirty seconds or more before slipping back underwater. It is supported by thrusting flukes.

Channel Islands National Park

Seal and Sea Lion Viewing

The Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary serve as a breeding ground for four species of pinnipeds, each of which has a significant breeding population (California sea lions, northern fur seals, harbour seals and northern elephant seals).

Channel Islands National Park

Bird Watching

The Channel Islands are home to a diverse range of bird species that are distinct from those found on the adjacent mainland in many ways. The islands provide a haven for wildlife in a region of southern California that is becoming increasingly disturbed.

Observing and photographing seabirds and shorebirds

The islands are particularly important to seabirds because they provide critical nesting habitat. There is no other place on the planet where you can find this particular combination of northern and southern species in such abundance. Among the many bird species that call the islands home are large numbers of western gulls, Cassin’s auklets, Brandt’s cormorants, and the only California brown pelican nesting population on the West Coast of the United States. The islands are also home to the world’s largest population of Scripps’ murrelets, which can be found on the islands.

While some seabird species can be observed from the islands, park boat concessioners will search for seabirds on boat trips out to the islands. While some seabird species can be observed from the islands, If you tell a member of the boat crew that you are interested in seabirds, they will often be able to assist you in locating and identifying the birds. The Audubon Society and local chapters of the organisation also offer seabird viewing excursions on boats that travel around the islands from time to time. Aside from the Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel Islands, shorebird viewing is best done on the Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, and San Miguel Islands due to limited beach access on some islands.

Observing the Landbirds

Additionally, the landbirds are a distinct group in that they represent a distinct selection of the birds that live on the California mainland. Ten of the 40 landbird species that commonly nest on the park islands are represented by endemic species or subspecies-forms that can only be found on the islands and nowhere else in the world, according to the park. The island scrub-jay (which can only be found on Santa Cruz Island) is the only bird in this group that is truly endemic at the species level.

It is the larger islands of Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa that provide a greater variety of habitats and, as a result, a greater variety of landbirds. Many birders travel to Prisoners Harbor (which offers the best viewing opportunity) or Scorpion Ranch on Santa Cruz Island in order to see the island scrub-jay in its natural habitat.

Channel Islands National Park

From Shore to Sea Lecture Series

The Channel Islands National Park is sponsoring the “From Shore to Sea” lecture series, which will take place throughout the summer. In order to improve understanding of current research on the Channel Islands and their surrounding waters, the series has been designed to provide educational opportunities. Among the topics covered in previous lectures have been the recovery of sea otter populations in southern California waterways, the French and Italian heritage of Santa Cruz Island, survival strategies of open-water fishes, novel approaches to understanding kelp forest ecosystem health, and park efforts to restore the Prisoners Harbor wetland. The lectures are held six times a year at 7:00 p.m. at the Channel Islands National Park Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center, which is located at 1901 Spinnaker Drive in downtown Ventura. There is no charge for the programmes, which are open to the public. They can also be viewed live on the internet at the following website: Channel Islands Live Broadcasts.

From Shore to Sea Lecture Videos provides access to previous lectures that can be viewed or downloaded at your leisure.

Tuqan Man: Ancient Remains of San Miguel Island on February 13th, 2019

Laura Kirn is a freelance writer based in New York City.

Channel Islands National Park celebrates its 50th anniversary on March 5.

Ethan McKinley is the Superintendent of the Parks.


Channel Islands National Park