Northern Islands Three Day Dive Adventure!
Come dive the rugged coasts of the Northern Channel Islands where abundant wildlife and game flourish. Our flagship vessel, the Vision, takes you to remote world-class dive sites at these lesser-visited islands and provides a liveaboard experience unequaled in California.
Northern Islands 3 Day Dive trip is an epic adventure perfect for divers seeking all that San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and Santa Cruz Islands have to offer.
- Departure Harbor: Santa Barbara Harbor. Santa Barbara
- Destination: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, and/or Santa Cruz Islands
- Spend three days in the Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary at the more remote outer islands, where world-class diving abounds.
Trip Specific Information
- Season: May to October
- Experience Level: Intermediate
- Minimum Number of Guests: 16
- Maximum Number of Guests: 32
- Minimum Age: 10 years old
- Check-In: 7:30 pm
- Briefing: 9:00 pm
- Departure: 9:30 pm
- Dives:3-4 dives per day plus optional night dives
- Return to Santa Barbara: 5:00 pm on third day of trip
- Free air and nitrox fills (32% O2)
- Accommodations in private bunks ( linens & bedding provided)
- Night Dive (conditions permitting)
- Divemaster and naturalists
- 3 meals a day & snacks
- Hot and cold beverages
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 board the Vision at 7:30 pm to load gear and check in with our crew. 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. After the briefing, and once the manifest has been signed, passengers are not allowed to leave the vessel. Weather permitting, we plan on departing right after the briefing at 9:30 pm.
Check-in at 7:30 pm. Mandatory briefing at 9:00 pm. Departure at 9:30 pm.
Once the mandatory briefing has occurred, passengers are not permitted to leave the boat.
2-3 Dive Sites & 3-4 Tank Fills Per Day, Plus Optional Night Dives
Wake up at anchor to the sound of the ocean lapping against the Vision’s hull. Enjoy a freshly cooked breakfast and hot coffee or tea as you get ready to dive! Hot breakfast is typically served from approximately 7:00 am to 9:00 am, and continental snacks are left out until about 10:00 am.
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 necessary, you may also enter off the rear swim step. Reboarding the boat after your dive at the 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 two 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 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 Vision is equipped with a full shower room and hot, fresh water showers, and a wetsuit drying rack. In the evening, enjoy watching bioluminescence and the many fishes and pinnipeds that gather around our side-mounted squid light!
Return to Santa Barbara
After diving has concluded on the third day of the trip, we will begin our return trip across the channel to Santa Barbara, which will take approximately 2.5 hours. We will keep our eyes peeled for whales and dolphins in the channel. 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 return time to Santa Barbara Harbor is 5:00 pm
After your third tank fill, we will prepare the boat for the return trip to Santa Barbara, approximately 2.5 hours. We will keep our eyes peeled for whales and dolphins in the channel. You are welcome to enjoy an adult beverage or two on the sundeck as we cross back to the mainland and close out a beautiful few days of diving!
Estimated arrival time in Santa Barbara Harbor is 5:00pm
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
- Sushi rolls (veggie and fish)
- Homemade hummus and veggies
- Buffalo chicken wings
- Chips and homemade guacamole
- Sushi rolls
- 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:
- 2 Sheets
- 1 Fleece Blanket
- 1 Medium soft pillow with pillow case
The bunk room is air-conditioned to 68-70 degrees at all times. We recommend bringing a sleeping bag or additional blanket.
Personal vs Oversized Bunks
- You may choose an oversized bunk for an additional $50 (limited quantity). Couples need only select 1 oversized bunk.
- Each person will be assigned a bunk.
- Each bunk has a privacy curtain and a reading light.
Personal electronic devices may not be charged in the bunk room at any time.
The Northern Channel Islands are San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz & Anacapa.
These four islands offer a diverse set of wildlife, geology and diving opportunities. They are all part of the Channel Islands National Park & National Marine Sanctuary.
Santa Cruz Island is the largest and Anacapa is the smallest. Learn more about the Northern Channel Islands here.
The remoteness of San Miguel, combined with its offshore location and shifting weather patterns, can make diving this island dependent conditions. However, San Miguel has some of the most spectacular diving found anywhere off the coast of California. San Miguel offers a wide variety of dive site topography, including offshore pinnacles, walls, and expansive kelp forest reefs. The abundance of marine life at San Miguel is striking compared to the other islands, and the fishing and hunting at San Miguel is spectacular. Halibut, lingcod, schools of rockfishes, and nudibranchs galore inhabit these waters. More varieties of pinnipeds can be seen here than any other Channel Island. A nice day of diving at San Miguel is about as good as it gets.
Popular dive sites include Wyckoff Ledge, Prince Island, Judith Rock, Richardson Rock, Simonton Cove, Wilson’s Rock, the foul hole, Skyscraper pinnacle, and Castle Rock. Weather permitting, we like to spend the night in Cuyler’s Harbor, one of the most spectacular anchorages in the Channel Islands, or at Tyler Bight near the elephant seals.
Learn more about San Miguel Island here.
California divers began flocking to Santa Rosa in the 1970’s and 80’s and it has remained a popular diving destination ever since. Talcott Shoals, which lies off the northwest section of the island, is a large plateau reef with extensive kelp forests that offers various terrain for divers. The shipwreck of the Aggie, which lays in 25 to 50 feet of water along a ridge, is a highlight. The east end of Santa Rosa has a wonderful assortment of pinnacles that are covered in corynactis (strawberry anemone), rockfishes, and scallops. Weather permitting, we often spend the night in Bechers Bay, a large sandy anchorage overlooking the windswept island.
Learn more about Santa Rosa Island here.
The diving at Santa Cruz Island is probably the most diverse of all eight Channel Islands. The island bisects both warm southerly and colder northern currents, creating a marine habitat for many different species. As the largest of California’s Channel Islands, Santa Cruz has a wide variety of different dive spots, each with its own unique characteristics.
The northwest section of the 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. 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?
- Soft, packable duffle bags for clothing and skin or scuba equipment
- Warm clothing – bring layers as temperatures change rapidly
- Low heeled rubber soled shoes for on board the boat
- Binoculars (great for whale sightings and bird watching)
- Motion sickness medicine & personal medications
- Swimsuit & 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.
- Small backpack
- 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 boat transportation to and from your island destination.
You need a current open water certification to dive on this trip.
The minimum age is 12 years.
At each dive site we open the dive doors and check each diver off as they exit to the water. The dive doors are open for 90 minutes at each site. All divers must return to the boat at the set time or they risk being asked to sit out the next dive. We do not limit your dive time, but we strongly encourage each diver to stay in the limits of no decompression. Between each dive is a mandatory 60 minute surface interval.
Each diver is responsible for their own safety and their buddy. CIEx keeps a deck master and a divemaster on each trip along with a dive assistant that helps with gear and tank fills. The CIEx dive crew reserve the right to check dive computers and make recommendations for diver safety at any time.
CIEx is committed to running the safest dive boats in the world, thank you for helping us with that!
Each person is assigned one bunk. Our night watch crew is tasked to focus on the safety of the passengers on board the vessel at all times.
This trip is for advanced divers. We will be diving at sites with various depth potentials and possible strong currents
We understand that years of experience and recent experience are two different things. So if this is your first time diving in 5 years or more, we suggest you start with our Discover 2 Day/2 Night trip where you can brush up on your skills in more controlled environments and the help of an instructor or divemaster.
This trip does not include landing or hiking on Santa Cruz Island. If you want to hike on the Channel Islands, we recommend that you book a 4-Day Expedition Trip with us! Because you are not paying a National Park entrance fee, you cannot take advantage of the National Park’s terrestrial areas.
Yes, we offer FREE Nitrox fills for certified divers.
A great question that we’re happy to answer in more detail.
- The western islands of the Northern Channel Islands are more than 80 nautical miles from Santa Barbara Harbor. This is a great deal of fuel, much more than the eastern islands from Ventura and Oxnard.
- Crew costs are going up. Minimum wage in California $14/hour and will be $15/hour next year. Most of our crew is paid more than that and is required to be on duty for a 12 hour period at at time. This is easily the largest expense of running these boats.
- We have added an additional crew member to enhance the overall safety of the 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
-Alicia | TripAdvisor
-Denise W | TripAdvisor