The boat ride to Santa Rosa Island can be an experience in itself with frequent marine life sightings and a stop by Painted Cave, one of the largest sea caves in the world, on the return trip. The island’s beautiful white sand beaches and turquoise water enchant visitors before even disembarking.
Most of the island is covered by rolling hills and steep dramatic descents like Lobo Canyon cut through the hills leading to secluded white sand beaches. Hikers exploring Santa Rosa Island will find the torrey pines are a special treat and one of the rarest pines in the world. Many visitors travel to Santa Rosa Island to see these last enduring members of a once vast Pleistocene forest. The island is home to 500 plant species including 6 found nowhere else in the world, 100 bird species, and three mammal species.
The island is also home to rich paleontological and archeological resources including remnants of pygmy mammoths dating back to the Pleistocene epoch. Pygmy mammoths roamed the island’s grasslands and forests, and stood four to six feet tall. The pygmy mammoth fossils found on Santa Rosa Island in 1994 make up the most complete skeleton ever discovered. Another outstanding discovery on the island was that of Arlington Springs Man, when the oldest human remains ever discovered in North America were found buried 30 feet deep in the side wall of Arlington Canyon. The ancient bones are estimated to date back 13,000 years.
Evidence of human life on the island dates back 13,000 years and the Chumash are known to have inhabited the island until the early 1800s. European explorers, Aleut sea otter hunters, Chinese abalone fishermen, Spanish missionaries, Mexican and American ranchers, and the US military have all left their mark on Santa Rosa Island. Visitors can admire relics of past times throughout the island.