Channel Islands National Park in California includes 5 ecologically rich islands off the Southern California coast. The park provides a wide variety of things to do and offers an escape from the congestion of Los Angeles. The islands are very different from each other, offering unique experiences.
Anacapa Island has trails to a lighthouse from 1932 and the clifftop Inspiration Point. We visited Santa Cruz Island to hike and kayak through sea caves. Santa Rosa Island features rare Torrey pines. Thousands of seals gather at San Miguel Island’s Point Bennett. While the southernmost island Santa Barbara draws nesting seabirds.
Here is your 1 Day Guide to Channel Islands National Park in California
Since the park encompasses five islands and their surrounding one mile of ocean, the decision of where to go, what to do, and how to do it can be difficult. So compiled within this “Planning Your Visit” guide is detailed information to help you make sense of it all.
I flew out to Los Angeles California in June of 2016 to meet up with some girlfriends for the weekend. We spent one day on the Channel Islands National Park sea kayaking, hiking, and boating!
Dolphins playfully jumped around the boat on our way to the channel islands national park
Similar to the Galapagos Islands of South America, isolation has allowed evolution to proceed independently on the islands. Marine life like the blue whale, the largest animal to live on Earth, sea otters, dolphins, and the channel islands fox call these islands home.
The islands within Channel Islands National Park are home to only four native mammals, the island fox, the island deer mouse, the harvest mouse and the spotted skunk. The fox and the deer mouse have evolved into separate sub-species on each island, resulting in eight unique mammal species found only on the Channel Islands.U.S National Park Service
If you visit the park, you will be one of a very select group of people who have. Despite the port being in the populous city of Los Angeles, not many people actually see this park because it is not easy to get to-you can’t drive to the islands. The Channel Islands National Park is one of the least visited
Know before you go visit the channel islands national park
Book your transportation and campsites in advance.
A visit to the Channel Islands takes some preparation and planning. Plan your trip in advance to ensure you have a spot to stay if you plan on staying overnight.
While the mainland visitor center in Ventura is readily accessible by car or public transportation, the islands are only accessible by park concessionaire boats (Island Packers) or private boats, and reservations must be made in advance. Camping reservations are also required for all of the park’s campgrounds.
Hotels on the mainland near channel islands port
Services on the islands are limited.
All services (including food, cell, and emergency services) are extremely limited or non-existent on the islands. This is why it is so important to prepare before you visit the Channel Islands. Bring a backpack with lunch, snacks, water, extra batteries, and sunscreen. Potable water is available at the Scorpion Canyon campground on Santa Cruz Island and the Water Canyon campground on Santa Rosa Island.
Pets are only allowed outside the mainland visitor center.
Pets are not allowed inside the visitor center or in the Channel Islands National Park. Service animals are allowed inside the visitor center and are allowed on the island after they have completed an exam for vaccinations, parasite prevention, and health to ensure they will not compromise the health of island species.
common Channel Islands National Park Visitor questions
Can you stay at Channel Islands National Park?
Yes, there are two campgrounds – the Scorpion Canyon campground on Santa Cruz Island and the Water Canyon campground on Santa Rosa Island. There are NO services or lodging on the islands. Visitors must bring all their own food and water (potable water is available at campgrounds).
How much does it cost to go to the Channel Islands?
There is no entrance fee to visit the islands, however, you’ll have to take a boat to get there. The boat fee is around $45 per person. If you plan to kayak, you can include that in your boat ticket for an additional fee.
Is there food on the island?
No, I recommend bringing a backpack with food, snacks, water, and extra batteries – plan ahead if you are camping overnight.
How long does it take to get to Channel Islands National Park?
One to three hours by boat, or about half an hour by plane. Most boat trips depart from Ventura Harbor from the Visitor’s Center via Island Packers boat, and the majority go to the two closest islands, Santa Cruz and Anacapa.
Which island is best on Channel Islands National Park?
If you only have 1 day available then I’d recommend visiting Santa Cruz Island like we did or Anacapa Island. Santa Cruz has the best options for day hiking and kayaking, while Anacapa has trails to a 1932 lighthouse and clifftop Inspiration Point. If plan on swimming then Santa Cruz Island is where to head.