Exploring the Channel Islands

Is it just me or did the long weekend throw off your entire schedule? I’ve had a tough time getting back in the swing of “normal” life. I had 5 days off and my parents came to visit – we had a packed weekend of hiking, good food, and a day trip to the Channel Islands.

A little background:
• The Channel Islands are made up of 8 islands off the Southern California coast; however only 5 are part of the Channel Islands National Park. We visited Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the national park.
• It is the least visited national park in the United States because of its remoteness.
• The islands are home to 2,000 animals and plants, of which 145 aren’t found anywhere else in the world.
• The park is also a prime example of the coastal Mediterranean ecosystem, which is found in just five places on earth.

We started the morning with an 8:00am ferry ride – the boat trip was about 1 hour and we saw a few dolphins along the way. Once we arrived to Santa Cruz Island, we dropped off our things and began our kayaking tour.

Our kayaking trip was a half day guided tour (8 of us in the group plus our guide), and we were taken around to a ton of sea caves – going inside most of them! It was absolutely insane! Some of them were extremely narrow, others were so low you had to lie down in the kayak and use your hands on the cave ceiling to get out. One had water that appeared bright green because of the way the sun reflected into the cave, and another was pitch black except for the light on our guide’s helmet.

It was a bit tricky to get a ton of photos inside the caves – I was too busy trying to maneuver through them with Zack in our tandem kayak. The pictures below aren’t edited at all and a little blurry, but they give a glimpse at some of the caves.

We also kayaked over kelp forests – literally HUGE areas of kelp that look like a forest if you snorkel under them. Crazy fact: Kelp can grow up to 2 feet a DAY!! Blew my mind.

After about 3.5 hours of kayaking we headed back to shore for a picnic lunch. We had about an hour and a half before our departure ferry, so we took a short hike. Cavern Point Loop is just under 2 miles and has amazing ocean and cliff views. It was the perfect way to end the day. AND we even saw a couple of the small island foxes which don’t live anywhere else in the world.

A few tips for your visit:
• Book  your tickets in advance!
• Pack EVERYTHING you need. Water, food, sunscreen, supplies, etc. There is nothing on the island – no food, no shops, etc. Not even trash cans, so whatever you bring with you, you must also take home, including food items so the animals cant get it.
• You will get wet. Use a waterproof phone case, and wear synthetic clothing.

It was such a great day trip, and I would highly recommend it if you’re into outdoorsy things. We booked our trip through the Santa Barbara Adventure Company and it included our ferry rides and kayak tour. You can book a kayaking tour like we did or just a ferry ticket and spend the day hiking, snorkeling, or even stay and go camping.

It was a full day and we were all exhausted. I think we slept about 12 hours that night and took it easy the next day, but it was so fun to do something so unique that is right here in Southern California.

– Courtney


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