Dive the waters off of Santa Cruz Island
Lush kelp forests, abundant marine life, and underwater features make Santa Cruz a must-visit destination for California divers. The variety of dive site options and immersive two-day diving experience make this trip ideal for beginner through advanced divers.
Experience some of the best diving in California!
Spend two days and one night aboard our flagship, custom-built dive boat the Vision for a live-aboard experience unequaled in California.
- Departure Harbor: Santa Barbara Harbor, Sea Landing
- Destination: Santa Cruz Island
- Spend two days in the Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary at Santa Cruz Island
Trip Specific Information
- Season: May to October
- Experience Level: Beginner & up
- Minimum Age: 10 years
- Minimum Number of Guests: 16
- Maximum Number of Guests: 30
- Dives: 3-4 dives per day plus optional night dive
- Check In: starting at 7:30 pm
- Briefing: 9:00 pm
- Departure: 9:30 pm
- Return to Santa Barbara: on second day of trip by 5:00 pm
- Dive Master on deck
- Air Fills
- Nitrox Fills (32% oxygen) available for Nitrox certified divers
- Snacks and beverages between dives
- 3 hot meals a day
How do we calculate ticket prices?
Meet your crew at the Sea Landing in the Santa Barbara Harbor (at 301 West Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA). You will need to park in the main harbor lot.
You will board the boat starting at 7:30 pm and check in with our crew. A bunk will be assigned to you based on your reservation request.
A mandatory briefing will occur at 9:00 pm, and all loading of personal items should be completed before then. All guests must be present for the briefing. The crew will introduce themselves and provide a comprehensive safety briefing and trip orientation. After the briefing, and once the manifest has been signed, passengers are not permitted to leave the vessel. After the briefing, we will depart from the harbor at 9:30 pm.
Check-in at 7:30 pm. Mandatory briefing at 9:00 pm. Departure at 9:30 pm.
Enjoy a freshly cooked breakfast and hot coffee and tea when you wake up at the islands. After breakfast, prep your gear then put on your wetsuit so that you’re ready to hop in when the gates open!
2-3 Dive Sites & 3-4 Tank Fills Per Day, Plus Optional Night Dive
Dive gates open around 8 am after we get set up at the first dive site. Typical entry is a giant stride from either our port and starboard gates or the bow gate. If you need to refresh your buoyancy skills or get familiar with your gear again, you may also enter off the rear swim step. Reboard the boat after your dive at the stern submerged swim step for easy access up the stairs with your tank. Air and Nitrox tank fills will be handled by our crew during your surface interval.
Typically, after 2 dives, the boat is moved to a new site during lunch. The galley prepares a hot lunch around noon, with additional snacks put out after the third dive of the day. Depending on the weather and dive conditions, we may add a third dive spot.
At the end of the day, we’ll anchor in a cove for dinner and dessert. Conditions permitting, a night dive will be optional. Alcoholic beverages may be brought on the trip and enjoyed after you have finished diving for the day. The boats are equipped with hot, fresh water showers and wetsuit drying racks. In the evening, enjoy watching bioluminescence and the many fishes and pinnipeds that gather around our side-mounted squid light!
This second day of diving takes you to at least 2 dive sites with 3 tank fills. Continental breakfast items are put out early, and hot breakfast is available from approximately 7:30-9:00am. Dive gates typically open on the second morning of the trip around 8:00am, and we’ll be at the first site for two dives. Hot lunch is served around noon while the boat is moved to a new dive site, where you can make a third dive before we depart the island for Santa Barbara. If you’re an avid diver, we’ll fill your tank on the ride home for you – just make sure to tag it and ask a crew member!
The return trip across the channel to Santa Barbara will take approximately 2.5 hours. We will keep our eyes peeled for whales and dolphins in the channel and may make short stops to enjoy them. You are welcome to enjoy adult beverages on the crossing back to the mainland. Relax on the sundeck to close out a beautiful few days of diving!
Estimated arrival time in Santa Barbara Harbor is 5:00 pm
We are currently building our locally inspired menu but here is an example of what you may expect from your galley crew onboard the Vision.
- Fresh fruit
- Granola and yogurt w/ fixings and local jams
- Hot breakfast sandwich or burrito (made to order)
- Local grass-fed beef burgers OR locally made veggie patty
- Chicken salad wraps
- Island coleslaw & salads
- CIEx trail mix
- Homemade hummus and veggies
- Buffalo chicken wings
- Chips and homemade guacamole
- Tri-Tip w/ grilled veggies
- Local fish tacos & ceviche
- Garlic cheesy potatoes
- Locally sourced salad bar
- Freshly made desert
Return Trip Snack
- Fresh baked cookies
Beverages Served All Day
- Hot tea and coffee
- Soda Bar (soda, juice, water, seltzer)
- Ginger Iced Tea
You may bring alcoholic beverages to enjoy after all diving is complete. There is absolutely no drinking before participating in a night dive.
Accommodations are in our comfortable bunk room. We supply each bunk with:
1 Fleece blanket
1 Medium soft pillow with pillowcase
The bunk room is air-conditioned to 68-70 degrees at all times. We recommend bringing a sleeping bag or additional blanket.
Each person will be assigned a bunk. Personal-sized bunks are approximately 3 feet wide by 6.5 feet long and oversized bunks are approximately 5 to 6 feet wide by 7 feet long. When making a reservation, you may choose to upgrade to an oversized bunk for an additional $50 (limited quantity).
Each bunk has a privacy curtain and a reading light.
Personal electronic devices may not be charged in the bunk room at any time – charging of devices is allowed during daytime hours in the salon.
Santa Cruz Island, originally known as “Limuw” by the indigenous Chumash people, is located 23 miles off the coast of Santa Barbara, California. The Chumash people inhabited several large villages on Santa Cruz for thousands of years. Their creation story describes it as the birthplace of their people, who reached the mainland via a rainbow bridge across the channel.
Santa Cruz is full of scenic beauty: from its rugged mountain ranges to its deep canyons and dramatic coastline. Year-round springs, expansive beaches, pristine tide pools, giant sea caves and endemic wildlife make Santa Cruz Island well worth the visit. The highest peak on the island is Devil’s Peak, at 2450 feet. The central valley splits the island along the Santa Cruz Island Fault with volcanic rock on the north and older sedimentary rock on the south. Lying directly on the boundary between cold northern and warm southern waters, this island hosts unique plant, animal, and marine communities, representing nearly 1000 miles of marine diversity from California’s coastline. Santa Cruz is the largest island off the continental United States. At 22 miles long, and between 2 to 6 miles wide, it has an area of almost 100 square miles.
Santa Cruz Island offers the most diverse diving within the channel islands. These island bisects both warm southerly and colder northern currents, creating a biologically diverse marine ecosystem with both southern and northern California species represented. There is a wide variety of different dive spots, each with its own unique characteristics and appropriate settings for beginners to advanced divers.
The northwest section of Santa Cruz Island is volcanic with steep, rocky cliffs. It is home to some of the world’s largest sea caves. The southeast section is flatter and composed of large plateaus and thick kelp beds. Warmer water is found seasonally on the south side of the island. Santa Cruz offers more places to find good diving during rough weather periods than any other island, due to its size and many coves. Seals, sea lions, bat rays, and many schools of fish are common sights while scuba diving along the shores.
Pre Trip Planning
What to Bring with you?
- Gear bag for skin or SCUBA dive equipment that will be stored on-deck
- Overnight bag for clothing and personal items – no hard suitcases
- Warm clothing – bring layers as temperatures change rapidly
- Binoculars (great for whale sightings and bird watching)
- Motion sickness medicine & personal medications
- Swimsuit and towels
- Personal toiletries (soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, etc.)
- Sunscreen-We prefer reef-safe sunscreen. Learn what makes sunscreen reef safe here.
- Sunglasses, hat, and other sun protection.
- Additional blanket – the bunkroom is air-conditioned, we recommend bringing a sleeping bag or extra blanket.
- Alcoholic beverages (if desired)
- Mask, snorkel, and fins
- Dive Certification Card
- 7mm wetsuit or drysuit with hood, gloves, and booties (water temperatures are typically mid 60’s in summer and mid 50’s in winter).
- Tank and BCD
- Weight belt and weights
- Regulator with gauges
- Dive computer
- U/W light and chemical light (Cyalume) if you plan to make night dives
- Save-A-Dive kit may be helpful (extra fin strap, mask strap, o-rings, silicon, tools, etc.)
Frequently Asked Questions
No. All CIEx trips are vessel supported and include transportation to and from your destination. Transportation is included in the price of the trip.
10 years is the minimum age. Junior divers must dive with an adult.
You need an open water SCUBA diving certification to SCUBA dive on this trip. Bring your certification card for check-in during the briefing.
We plan for at least 3 dives per day, likely 4 dives on the first day, with a possible night dive at the island. Because this is a beginner-friendly trip, dive classes are common onboard and therefore we often stay at a dive spot for 2 consecutive dives.
Each person is assigned one bunk as per Coast Guard regulations.
This is a beginner-friendly trip. We encourage learning and advancing skills and meeting new divers. This may be some guest’s first liveaboard trip and in some cases their first dive at the Channel Islands. Most dive sites provide a range of depths so intermediate to advanced divers will also enjoy this trip! If you are looking for a more challenging trip, please choose our Northern Island 3 Day.
Yes! Nitrox fills for certified Nitrox divers are FREE on our overnight trips. Each fill is 32% oxygen/68% nitrogen.
A great question that we’re happy to answer in more detail.
West Santa Cruz Island is more than 26 nautical miles one way from Santa Barbara Harbor. Many dive sites are 4-5 miles apart and we like to share as much of the island as we can, so our fuel costs are much higher than an Anacapa or East Santa Cruz Island trip from Ventura harbor.
Labor costs are going up. We pay our crew fair and competitive wages so that we can build the CIEx family with local staff. This is the largest single expense of running these boats.
We have added an additional crew member to enhance the overall safety of liveaboard operations.
Maintaining boats has always been expensive, but if you’ve been to the hardware store lately, you’ll agree that things are more expensive now than ever before. Imagine what that means for boat parts!
We have increased the quality of our food and accommodations so that you can expect a world-class experience on all trips!
-Allyson Arons | TripAdvisor
-Tad | TripAdvisor
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-Denise W | TripAdvisor