Kayak through the sea caves and arches of Anacapa Island and paddle above vibrant underwater kelp forests.
Channel Islands Kayaking Day Trip – Anacapa Arches, Sea Caves, and Tidepools
The Channel Islands are a true wilderness experience. Steep volcanic cliffs loom out of the ocean mist above while sparkling waters below teem with wildlife. See whales, dolphins, and seabirds while crossing one of the most biodiverse channels in the world.
Wild Blue Anacapa is the perfect day trip getaway from Los Angeles & surrounding regions, or as a day trip highlight on your Southern California vacation.
- Departure Harbor: Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard CA (Marine Emporium Landing)
- Destination: Anacapa Island
- Spend all day in Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary
Trip Specific Information
- Experience Level: Easy for all ages and skill levels (conditions permitting)
- Minimum Age: 7 years old*
- Minimum Number of Guests: 4
- Maximum Number of Guests: 32
- Distance Paddled: approximately 4 miles downwind
*Paddlers under age 12 must be in a tandem kayak with one adult.
2022 Departure Dates and Times
2022 Season Dates
May 5th through October 30th
Saturdays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays
- Check-In: 7:55am
- Departure: 8:15am
- Whale Watching on journey to Anacapa Island: 1.5 hours
- Kayaking: 3 hours
- Boat Crossing to Oxnard: 1 hour
- Whale Watching on return to Oxnard: By 4:00pm
- Boat to Anacapa Island on our custom kayak adventure vessel, the Sunfish
- Whale watching during transit
- Guides and naturalists
- Easy and stable kayaks w/ backrest seat adjustable paddle
- Lifejacket (PFD)
- Cave Helmet
- Nylon Paddling Jacket
How do we calculate ticket prices?
Your guides will greet you on the grass in front of the Sunfish docked at the Marine Emporium of Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard CA. This is where you will have a chance to use a land -based restroom and ask the guides any questions before boarding your adventure boat for the day. If you arrive early, there is a coffee shop in the Marine Emporium Landing complex.
MAKE SURE YOU BRING:
- Food. We suggest snacks that travel well kayaking and a picnic style lunch when you return from your kayaking.
- Water (reusable water bottles preferred, you can refill them on the boat)
- Swimsuit or water activity clothing (to kayak in)
- Warm clothing (after kayaking you will want dry clothing to change into) We also suggest bringing extra warm layers for the boat crossing.
- Sun protection (sunscreen, hats, sunglasses, etc.)
Other items you may want to bring:
- Cooler with adult beverages for the ride home 🙂
- Camera (waterproof case highly recommended if you wish to bring it on the kayak)
- Blankets and towels
The Santa Barbara Channel is one of the best places to view marine mammals on the planet. During our 14 mile crossing, we’ll have our eyes peeled in search of whales and dolphins. When we see some, we’ll slow down and enjoy their company for a short while before continuing our journey to Anacapa Island.
Anacapa Island is one of the smallest of the Channel Islands, but it is home to some of the largest arches and sea caves, which we’ll paddle through. One of the special highlights of Anacapa is the wildlife. Thousands of seabirds use this rocky island for nesting and roosting. Sea lions and harbor seals often swim by to check out kayakers and can be seen sunning themselves perched atop rocks or lounging on cobble beaches. As we kayak along steep volcanic cliffs, through shallow waters, and over kelp forest canopies, you’ll often glimpse the variety of fishes and other sea life found below the surface.
This guided kayaking trip is “one-way”. We’ll begin our paddle when the Sunfish (the big boat) drops us off at West Anacapa Island. From there, we’ll head down current and down wind, finishing at the iconic Anacapa Arch where the Sunfish will be waiting to pick us up!
1)Drop Off – The Sunfish will anchor at “Keyhole Arch” and the crew will begin unloading kayaks while everyone gets ready to get on the water.
2) Sea Caves – Right away there a number of caves that we paddle by and if conditions are good, we get to explore inside them!
3) Nesting Seabirds – The middle island of Anacapa is the largest nesting habitat for brown pelicans and western gulls in North America. During the summer months, we get to watch baby chicks leave their nest and begin to survive without the help of their parents.
4) Bat Ray Cove and Mineshaft Cave: The sandy bottom of the cove here is the perfect place to look for bat rays and other flat-fish. We even see harmless leopard sharks at times when the water is clear and warm. After crossing Bat Ray Cove, we will explore Mineshaft Cave and other caves in this area.
5) East Anacapa Island – After crossing between the east and middle islands of Anacapa we’ll visit Cathedral Cave, a large paddle through cave system.
6) Cathedral Cove – Dramatic rock spires emerge from this picturesque cove. Keep an eye out for pinnipeds!
7) Landing Cove: This is where the only landing on the island is for a ferry from the mainland and other boats to drop off passengers. We don’t have enough time to go ashore, but we’ll have a chance to explore this cove and some nearby caves. Keep an eye out for pinnipeds!
8) Anacapa Arch: Our final paddle through is the iconic Anacapa Arch, a 40-foot high natural rock arch and the symbol of Channel Islands National Park. This is one of the most beautiful & dramatic areas on the islands. Sea lions swim around the lush kelp forest & Anacapa Lighthouse looms in the backdrop. This is where you will have time to enjoy lunch before we head back across the channel to Oxnard.
Enjoy the 1-hour return trip back to the Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard. Keep your eyes peeled for sea life along the way. You can bring adult drinks but they are only to be enjoyed on the return trip home.
Estimated arrival time in Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard is 4:00pm
Anacapa is a small volcanic island located 14 miles off the coast of Ventura County. The smallest of the northern Channel Islands, Anacapa was used intermittently by the indigenous Chumash people for thousands of years. Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the first European to discover Ancapa in 1542, calling it “Vela Falsa” or false sail. In 1793, Captain George Vancouver christened the island Anacapa, a name derived from the Chumash word, “’Anyapax,” which translates to ‘illusion’ or ‘mirage.’ Anacapa is the only Channel Island to maintain its original Chumash name. Anacapa’s dramatic sea cliffs are often shrouded by marine haze or fog, giving the island an air of mystery.
Anacapa is composed of three islets: East, Middle, and West. Altogether, the islets make up a narrow island that is 5 miles long and only a ¼ mile wide. Ocean waves have eroded the perimeter of the island, creating steep sea cliffs towering hundreds of feet in height and exposing the volcanic air pockets, lava tubes, and sea caves. At the east end of the island a natural bridge has formed in the ocean. This forty-foot -high arch is a trademark of Anacapa and is the symbol of Channel Islands National Park. The highest peak is on West Anacapa, rising to 930 feet.
Anacapa is composed of three islets: East Island, Middle Island and West Island. Altogether, the islets make up a narrow island that is 5 miles long and only a ¼ mile wide. Ocean waves have eroded the perimeter of the island, creating steep sea cliffs towering hundreds of feet in height and exposing the volcanic origins of air pockets, lava tubes, and sea caves. At the east end of the island a natural bridge has formed in the ocean. The forty-foot-high Cabrillo Arch is a trademark of Anacapa and the Channel Islands National Park. The highest peak is Summit Peak 2 on West Island at 930 feet.
Kayaking at Anacapa is in a word… incredible! Steep cliff faces, secluded coves, inlets packed with marine life, beautiful sea caves and arches are among just some of the sights you can explore with our expert guides. Kelp forests and sea grass flourish along this rocky coast, and provide habitat for an abundance of wildlife. Though small in stature, Anacapa provides perhaps the most diverse sea cave experience of any of the Channel Islands. The volcanic rock cliffs of the island have been eroded over time by the sea and wind, leaving spectacular geological formations that you’ll have to see to believe.
Anacapa supports the largest breeding colony of the once-endangered California brown pelican in the United States. The largest breeding colony of western gulls in the world is also found here. Other sea birds you will see include several species of cormorants, black oystercatchers, and pigeon guillemots. These species come to Anacapa to nest in sea caves and on isolated rocky shores.
Anacapa’s rocky shores also provide resting and breeding areas for both California sea lions and harbor seals, two species you have a high likelihood of encountering while on the water with Channel Islands Expeditions.
Springtime brings colorful flowers, including the strange tree sunflower called giant coreopsis , a plant found only on the Channel Islands and a few isolated areas on the mainland.
Pre Trip Planning
What to bring with you?
- Food – we suggest snacks that can be brought while kayaking, you will be on the water from 10:30a-1:30p. A cooler for a picnic style lunch is a fine idea, you will have time on the boat when we are done to enjoy lunch with the Anacapa Arch in the background.
- Water – reusable water bottles can be filled onboard.
- Boat clothing – street clothes are fine, dress in layers. Long pants are recommended. Warm layers are also recommended for the crossing as it can get chilly.
- Kayak clothing – bathing suits and sun tops will work just fine, or other activewear you don’t mind getting wet.
- Reef safe sunscreen – We prefer reef safe sunscreen. Learn what makes sunscreen reef safe here.
- Waterproof cameras – we strongly recommend that you take your phone or camera kayaking only if you have a waterproof case for it.
- Motion sickness medicine and personal medications.
- Gratuity for guides and crew.
Local Restaurants & Lodging
Stay for a seafood dinner or drinks at the Marine Emporium after your trip. There are many restaurants right where the Sunfish picks you up and drops you off , some with harbor views.
Book a weekend visit! Stay at the Hilton Mandalay Beach Resort-only a few minutes drive to the harbor. Right on the beach, this is an excellent place to relax after an adventurous day at Anacapa.
Frequently Asked Questions
No. All CIEx trips are vessel supported and include boat transportation to and from your island destination.
The minimum age for this trip is 7 years old.
All children 12 and under MUST BE with an adult in a tandem kayak.
All children under 12 years old MUST BE with an adult in a tandem kayak. Kids aged 12 to 17 may share a tandem kayak.
Our age limits are for your safety and enjoyment.
You will be wearing a PFD but you need to be comfortable in water over your head.
We have single kayaks for those of you traveling solo or in odd number groups. Because of this, we don’t allow people to reserve single kayaks ahead of time.
Weather depending, the degree of difficulty is typically low, that’s why we allow 7- year old kids to join us on this trip. However, if we encounter substantial winds or swell, the difficulty level can increase. The Sunfish (our adventure support vessel) is always nearby and is able to assist with tired paddlers at any time.
This trip does not include landing or hiking on Anacapa. If you want to hike on the Channel Islands, we recommend that you book a 4-Day Expedition Trip with us! If you are interested in hiking specifically on Anacapa Island, we recommend contacting Island Packers. Based on the amount of time it takes to travel across the Santa Barbara Channel, kayaking is all we’ll have time to do in a day!
Yes, prices vary based on day of week and season. Please call or email with the dates you are interested in and we’ll get you a quote.
Difference between the CIEx Wild Blue Anacapa Kayaking Trip and the CIEx Painted Cave Kayaking Trips:
- This trip to Anacapa is shorter and easier. The boat crossing to the island is shorter. The kayaking at Anacapa is typically mellower and better for first time kayak adventurers.
- There are more arches at Anacapa than at Painted Cave( Santa Cruz Island).
- The water is typically a bit warmer at Anacapa Island than the north side of Santa Cruz Island, so we don’t provide wetsuits for kayaking at Anacapa.
- We only provide snacks on this trip. You need to bring your own lunch.
Difference between CIEx Sea Cave Kayaking Trips and Scorpion Ranch Trips:
- All CIEx kayaking trips are vessel-supported. Rather than launching and landing through surf at the Scorpion Ranch beach, all CIEx trips launch kayaks from our motherships with crew assistance from our accessible, water-level swim steps. On our trips, you paddle in one direction with the wind and get picked up at the end of your paddle by the mothership. You’ll have the support vessel nearby at all times to assist you if needed.
- You are our exclusive purpose. All CIEx kayak guests are here for the same reason… to kayak into sea caves! Scorpion Ranch trips require ferry transportation to get to the island paddling destination, which can result in wait times between activities.
- We paddle at areas where we barely encounter other boaters or visitors to the islands. This means less crowds and more wildlife. Scorpion Ranch is the most heavily-visited part of Channel Islands National Park – if you’re looking to get a more remote experience, join us!
Unfortunately no. We cannot pick up or drop off passengers at the Landing Cove at Anacapa. All of our paddlers need to board at Oxnard for the day. The best way to kayak Anacapa Island and see all of the amazing arches and tidepools is to have a support vessel like the Sunfish. We don’t recommend trying this on your own 🙂
-Allyson Arons | TripAdvisor
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