Santa Cruz Island

Smugglers Cove on Santa Cruz Island is considered one of the top 10 beach hikes in California. This eight mile round-trip trail ascends along a grassy plateau that provides great views of the Pacific Ocean and the other islands, before winding down through a scenic olive grove to a stellar beach that reflects both the blue sky and the water, amidst complete solitude. Other activities available around the island includes snorkeling, diving, sea cave kayaking, whale watching, bird watching, and camping.

Santa Cruz is the largest of the Channel Islands spanning 96 square miles over two rugged mountain ranges, a large central valley, and deep canyons. The island boasts over 77 miles of coastline with cliffs, tidepools, beaches, and sea caves. Painted Cave, named after its colorful rock types, is one of the largest and deepest sea caves in the world with an entrance ceiling of 160 feet, a depth of over 1300 feet and a width of 100 feet. Isolated for over millions of years, many plant and animal species have adapted to the island’s unique environment and become endemic species that are found nowhere else in the world. The island is home to more than 600 plant species, 140 landbird species, and 11 land mammal species including the beloved island fox, always among the first to greet campers. The National Parks Service welcomes visitors to explore the southern point of the island, while the rest is managed by The Nature Conservancy.

The cultural history on the island is not to be overlooked with over 10,000 years of American Indian settlements and 150 years of European exploration. The island is known to have been home to 10 villages where evidence of human history is most commonly spotted in the form of shell-bead money, used by several American Indian tribes in California. Also visible is evidence of European exploration and ranching in the 1800s and 1900s. Rehabilitated adobe ranch houses, barns, blacksmith and saddle shops, wineries, and a chapel remain as historical sites on the island making it a great destination to experience southern California’s cultural heritage.