Posted: Thursday, Mar 21st, 2024

By Visit Ventura

What to Do at Channel Islands National Park

I bet you didn’t know you can hike through the mountains, play on the sand, and kayak through magnificent sea caves on an island with just 48 hours in Ventura. Sure, you may need an extra cup of coffee to get you through, but it’s absolutely possible to see the mountains, beach, and —perhaps most surprisingly— an island in Ventura. Don’t believe us? Keep reading. 

The Channel Islands National Park, known as the “Galapagos of North America”, is just an hour or so off the coast of Ventura. The national park is comprised of five islands (yes islands!) with the largest and most popular one, Santa Cruz Island, offering a plethora of sights and things to do. If you’re wondering How to Visit the Channel Islands National Park and what to do when you get there, we’ve got you covered. 

Where is the Channel Islands National Park Located?

Many people are surprised when they arrive in Ventura to see land masses on the horizon. Here in Ventura, we’re lucky to have beautiful sunrises on the beach and island views! Off the coast of Ventura, the Channel Islands National Park comprises five distinct islands: Santa Cruz, Anacapa, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara. 

These islands are located just off the coast of Ventura, California, making them accessible for a day trip or an overnight adventure.

Also found in the waters off our coast? Pods of dolphins and breathtaking whales! Whale watching in Ventura is absolutely spectacular.

How to Visit the Channel Islands National Park?

How to Get to the Channel Islands
Courtesy of Channel Islands Adventure Company

Now that you know where to find the Channel Islands National Park, let’s talk about how to get there. Your journey to the park begins with deciding which island to explore. Each island is wildly different — from sea caves and pristine beaches to hiking trails and wildlife viewing, you’ll have to decide which adventure you want to embark on first!

Once you’ve chosen which island you want to visit, it’s time to book your transportation. Ferry services run by Island Packers Cruises, the official boat concessionaire for the Channel Islands National Park, are the primary mode of transportation to the islands. Be sure to make reservations in advance, especially during peak seasons, as availability can fill up quickly.

When you’re planning a trip out to the Channel Islands National Park, pack smart. Bring plenty of water, a hiking backpack, good shoes, food, and a bathing suit if you plan on getting wet. 

What Should You Pack for a trip to the Channel Islands

What to Do at the Channel Islands National Park?

image by Heliconia Press
Courtesy of Doug Mangum

With rugged coastlines, scenic trails, and water so clear and blue you may have to stop to realize you’re actually at an island off the coast of Ventura, there’s no shortage of activities to enjoy at the Channel Islands National Park. 

Maybe you want to spend an hour (or two) sitting alongside the cliffside and sit in nature’s peaceful quietness. Maybe you want to embark on a hike with you friends (there are plenty of trails that range from beginner to advanced backcountry hiking). Or maybe you want to play in the water and book a sea cave kayak tour. And maybe while you’re there you’ll want to go bird watching and view all the unique, diverse, and beautiful wildlife at each of the islands.

If a day trip is your style, here’s a full breakdown of a Day Trip to the Channel Islands National Park 

Snorkeling and free diving are also popular activities, allowing visitors to get up close and personal with the island’s marine life. Snorkel guide is available for rent on Santa Cruz Island only and there are plenty of free diving companies in Ventura to check out. Keep an eye out for dolphins, seals, and sea lions frolicking in the waves, or paddle through kelp forests teeming with colorful fish.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you take a moment to appreciate the raw, unfiltered nature of the Channel Islands National Park. 

Looking for more things to do on Santa Cruz Island? Here are top things to do on Santa Cruz Island

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