Skip to main content

Giant Sea Caves Kayak Adventure

Departs from Santa Barbara Harbor @ 7:30am on scheduled days.

Painted Cave is known for the lichen and moss that grows at the entrance of this gigantic sea cave, the largest in the world. Weaving over 1,200 feet into the darkness, this is a wild experience! 

What's Included

  • Boat trip from Santa Barbara Harbor to Santa Cruz Island on the Truth
  • Continental Breakfast, hot lunch, snacks and cold and hot beverages (sodas, coffee, and tea)
  • Guides and naturalists
  • Tandem or single person kayak w/ backrest, seat, and adjustable paddle
  • 3mm Farmer John Wetsuit
  • Wetsuit top
  • Mask, Snorkel, Fins
  • Lifejacket (PFD), Cave helmet

snorkel-whiteSnorkeling is included on all of our tours and takes place from the boat at the end of your tour. We provide you with mask, snorkel, and fins. You can take the mask with you on your kayaking trip and go for a swim if you’d like.

Book your Giant Cave Tour Now

Book your Giant Cave Tour Now

What's Included

snorkel-whiteSnorkeling is included on all of our tours and takes place from the boat at the end of your tour. We provide you with mask, snorkel, and fins. You can take the mask with you on your kayaking trip and go for a swim if you’d like.

  • Boat trip from Santa Barbara Harbor to Santa Cruz Island on the Truth
  • Continental Breakfast, hot lunch, snacks and cold and hot beverages (sodas, coffee, and tea)
  • Guides and naturalists
  • Tandem or single person kayak w/ backrest, seat, and adjustable paddle
  • 3mm Farmer John Wetsuit
  • Wetsuit top
  • Mask, Snorkel, Fins
  • Lifejacket (PFD)
  • Cave helmet

Trip Details

Explore some the World’s Largest Sea Caves – Depart from Santa Barbara – Hot Lunch Served

kayakers sitting outside the sea cave

Location Information

  • Departure Harbor: Santa Barbara Harbor (at the Santa Barbara Landing docks)
  • Destination: West end of Santa Cruz Island
  • Spend all day in Channel Islands National Park and National Marine Sanctuary

Trip Specific Information

  • Season: May 5th to November 5th
  • Experience Level: Intermediate & up
  • Minimum Age:  12 years
  • Minimum Number of Guests: 6
  • Distance Paddled: 4 miles
the truth unloading kayakers

Important Times

  • Check-In: 7:00 am
  • Briefing and Departure: 7:30 am
  • Return to Santa Barbara Harbor: 6:00pm

How do we calculate ticket prices?

Ticket Costs

Itinerary

Get your day going nice and early and let us take care of everything for you!

Meet your crew at the Santa Barbara Landing in the Santa Barbara Harbor (at 301 West Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA). You will need to park in the main harbor lot. We provide almost everything you need for the day, including food and drinks, but we highly suggest you bring plenty of warm clothing and layers. Being prepared for all temperatures will ensure that you remain comfortable.

dolphin jumping

The Santa Barbara Channel is one of the best places to view marine mammals on the planet. As we cross, we’ll have our eyes peeled in search of whales and dolphins. If we encounter any, we’ll slow down and enjoy their company for a short while before resuming our journey to Santa Cruz Island.

Depending on the conditions and group interest we will snorkel at the end of our trip from our kayaks. If conditions are great, you will be able to peer into the kelp forest and reef below. Snorkeling can be fantastic at Santa Cruz Island at times and can be challenging at others. Consult with your guide during your trip for snorkeling advice.

Santa Cruz Island is the largest island off of the West Coast of the United States. It also has some of the largest volcanic sea caves on the planet. The longest in the world is called Painted Cave and it extends almost a quarter mile deep into the island. We will spend about an hour exploring this cave. The cave is named after the multi-colored lichen growing on the inner walls and ceiling.

In addition to Painted Cave, there are roughly a dozen other large sea caves that we explore depending on swell, weather, and tides.

Snorkeling From the Kayaks: Along the paddle there are several places where your guides will recommend snorkeling, given good conditions. You will be provided a 3mm farmer john wetsuit and a mask and snorkel. This allows for snorkeling from your kayak. If you have an your own wetsuit and want to snorkel longer, you may want to bring that.

This guided kayaking trip is “one-way”. We’ll begin our paddle when the Truth drops us off near Painted Cave, and then we’ll head down current and downwind to finish at Quail Rock where Truth will be waiting to pick us up with a hot lunch ready!

After everything is loaded back on the Truth, we’ll pull the anchor and begin our journey home to Santa Barbara.

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 Santa Barbara Harbor is 6:00pm

Hot Lunch

Dinner aboard the boat

Our galley is stocked with local organic produce from Tutti Frutti farms. In order to keep our menu fresh, our salads and soups are prepared based on the available produce. Everything is home-made, including our sauces (we do not bake our bread).

We can accomodate ALL several food allergies and the following diets

  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Gluten Free (we do not supply Gluten Free bread, if you want to bring your own bread we can use that for your sandwich, otherwise we’ll make you a protein salad if you eat meat)

Continental Breakfast

  • Granola, cereals, and yogurt w/ fixings
  • Toast, bagels and fixings.

Hot Lunch

  • Mediterranean style chicken sandwich (Portabella mushroom for vegetarians)
  • Seasonal salad
  • Hot Soup (Organic homemade soup from seasonal veggies)
  • Chips

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 on the return trip home.

Destination

channel islands map

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 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. The island’s coastline has steep cliffs, large sea caves, secluded coves, and sandy beaches. The highest point is Devils Peak, at over 2,450 feet of elevation. A central valley splits the island along the Santa Cruz Island Fault, with volcanic rock on the north side of the island and older, sedimentary rock on the south side of the island. This volcanic rock was heavily fractured during an uplift phase that formed the island, and over a hundred large sea caves have been carved into the resulting faults by wind and waves. The largest of these is Painted Cave, among the world’s biggest sea caves.

Kayaking at West Santa Cruz Island

Kayaking along the western end of Santa Cruz Island gives you the chance to explore along cliff faces, into secluded coves, inlets packed with marine life, and beautiful sea caves. We will explore Painted Cave, one of the largest sea caves in the world. Sea lions and harbor seals inhabit the many coves and caves of this stretch of the island. You’ll paddle through a Marine Protected Area where kelp forest provides habitat for an array of fishes and other marine life.

Downwind Kayaking

Rather than kayaking a loop or out and back, we will kayak downwind in one direction, with The Truth meeting us at the end of our paddle to pick us up. This gives you the opportunity to see more of Santa Cruz Island, while making your journey less strenuous.

Painted Cave

Sea caves are common throughout the Channel Islands and are formed where faults in the volcanic rocks are exposed to the forces of waves and winds. Painted Cave on Santa Cruz Island is one of the largest sea caves in the world (specifically it is the longest in the world) and penetrates over a quarter mile into the interior of the island. The cave is named after the multi-colored lichen growing on the inner walls and ceiling. We explore the depths of this cave by kayak and check out the sea life that inhabits it.

Pre Trip Planning

MUST BRING ITEMS:

  • Water bottle– reusable water bottles can be filled onboard. We do not provide plastic water bottles (sorry)
  • Warm clothing – street clothes are fine, dress in layers and bring warm clothes. Long pants are recommended. 
  • Kayak Clothing – bathing suits and sun tops. You will be given a farmer John style wetsuit (like overalls) and a wetsuit top.
  • Sunscreen – We prefer reef safe sunscreen. Learn what makes sunscreen reef safe here.
  • Personal Medication (inform CIEx crew when boarding)
  • Towel-for drying off

Recommended Items

  • Waterproof cameras – we strongly recommend you take your phone or camera kayaking only if you have a waterproof case for it.
  • Personal wetsuit for extra warmth while snorkeling.
  • Motion sickness medicine.
  • Gratuity for guides and crew.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need boat transportation?

Boat Transportation is included. All CIEx trips are vessel-supported on our custom built expedition vessels. 

What is the age limit?

The minimum age on this trip is 12.

All children 16 and under MUST BE with an adult in a tandem kayak.

Our age limits are for your safety and enjoyment.

Do I need to know how to swim?

You must know how to swim to go snorkeling. If you aren’t a strong swimmer we recommend the Anacapa Caves and Coves Day Trip

If I am solo or in an odd number group will I be in a tandem kayak with a stranger?

We don’t allow reservations of single kayaks ahead of time, but we have single kayaks available for those of you traveling solo or in odd-numbered groups. 

How difficult is the kayaking?

The kayaking on this trip is of moderate difficulty due to the chance of exposure to wind and waves on the west end of Santa Cruz Island. You will not be paddling into the wind, we paddle downwind,  but you may have to paddle in a range of conditions. We recommend that participants be in reasonable physical shape and comfortable on the ocean.

Can we land on Santa Cruz and Hike?

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! If you are interested in hiking specifically on Santa Cruz 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 on this trip!

Do we offer private trips to Painted Cave?

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.

What's the difference between Anacapa Island and Santa Cruz Island?

Difference between CIEx Sea Cave Kayaking Trips:

  • This trip to Santa Cruz is longer and might be more challenging depending on weather conditions. 
  • The highlight of this trip is Painted Cave (one of the largest sea caves in the world); at Anacapa, the arches are the highlights in addition to many smaller sea caves.
  • The water is typically a bit colder on the north side of Santa Cruz Island compared to Anacapa, and so we provide farmer John-style wetsuits.
  • We provide food and beverages on this trip. You do not need to bring your own food.

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 easy access water-level swim step. 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 fewer 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!

Testimonials

tanner
Giant Sea Caves Kayak Adventure
Rated 4.9/5 based on 11 customer reviews

1st Sea Kayaking Experience

Amazing experience led by Garrett and his team to the Channel Islands. I had travelled from Hawaiʻi for this 4 day adventure. I'm not a diver (they had a ton of opportunities for them) but was able to free-dive and go kayaking. I had never kayaking on the ocean like this but felt incredibly confident with the instruction from the guides and crew. Incredibly competent and friendly, the trip felt completely about the participant experience. Kayaking around and seeing all the Harbor & Elephant seals and sea lions was an amazing experience. Their knowledge on the water, the wildlife, and especially the history of the place made for an experience I've been recommending to friends since the trip. Great grub too!
5/5stars

- | Google

mark r
Giant Sea Caves Kayak Adventure
Rated 4.9/5 based on 11 customer reviews

Kayaking Channel Islands

Did this with my wife and 4 of our friends. Drove up from the IE , 2 hour drive, well worth it! What a great crew! Very knowledgeable about the island and surrounding area. Going in and out of the caves was awesome, though challenging at times but that made it even more enjoyable. If you are considering this trip, DO IT! We WILL do it again.
5/5stars

- | Yelp

david c
Giant Sea Caves Kayak Adventure
Rated 4.9/5 based on 11 customer reviews

Anacapa Caves

Great outfit. Very professional guides, safety and COVID conscious. I went on a trip to Anacapa Island in mid-November. The cruise out was pretty quick. The wildlife on the way was excellent. The caves and rocks on Anacapa were wonderful to play in. I will return again when the Gray Whales begin to head back up the coast. I highly recommend them.
5/5stars

- | Yelp

Chuyên L.
Giant Sea Caves Kayak Adventure
Rated 4.9/5 based on 11 customer reviews

Channel Island National Park

Channel Island National Park so amazing and beautiful places. And The Wild Blue Adventurer was professional. We loved it . Thanks You so Mụch for get we the nice trip .
5/5stars

- | Yelp

john s
Giant Sea Caves Kayak Adventure
Rated 4.9/5 based on 11 customer reviews

Father and Son day

I had an epic day with my son in late July 2020. Our guide Phil was a UCSB grad, marine biologist who was in area, as his normal guiding in Antarctica was limited due to Covid. The boat staff was knowledgeable, friendly and worked hard to make our day both enjoyable and safe. Only 8 people on a boat that can hold 30-40 and they were very Covid compliant. Masks in the boat at all times (except lunch - bring your own food) and outdoor seating but could take off masks in the double kayaks. Really easy and felt safe and compliant. 10 out of 10 and I'm a tough critic.
5/5stars

- | Yelp

yelp
Giant Sea Caves Kayak Adventure
Rated 4.9/5 based on 11 customer reviews

5 Night Liveaboard Trip

Recently went on a 5 night, 6 day liveaboard trip off the Truth. The crew and captains were all very nice and welcoming. The boat has great safety protocols to ensure us divers were safe throughout the entirety of this trip. Chef Tim was fantastic! I have never had better quality food on a boat trip, and he has definitely set the bar high. We had amazing homemade dishes almost every meal, he had vegetarian and vegan options as well. I would 100% recommend this boat to anyone interested in planning a multi-day dive trip to the Channel Islands.

5/5stars

- | Yelp

jelly fish
Giant Sea Caves Kayak Adventure
Rated 4.9/5 based on 11 customer reviews

Kayaking Anacapa Arch

We had a wonderful time kayaking through the sea caves and Anacapa Arch.  All the on board staff were excellent.  We will definitely come back and do a different tour with them.

5/5stars

- | Yelp

go blue icon
Giant Sea Caves Kayak Adventure
Rated 4.9/5 based on 11 customer reviews

Great Family Day Adventure

We had the BEST first time kayaking experience with Blue Ocean. Garret and his crew are great! The Anacapa tour is something special... we all loved it! It was a perfect day for our family. We highly recommend!
5/5stars

- | TripAdvisor

go blue icon
Giant Sea Caves Kayak Adventure
Rated 4.9/5 based on 11 customer reviews

Another great day kayaking with Blue Ocean

We had a great day at Anacapa with Garrett, Jordan and the rest of the crew. We paddled for about 3 hours but it is not too strenuous, so if you are wondering if you can do it, you probably can! Thank you, Blue Ocean Crew!
5/5stars

- | TripAdvisor

go blue icon
Giant Sea Caves Kayak Adventure
Rated 4.9/5 based on 11 customer reviews

HIGHLY RECOMMEND

LOVED IT! Truly an amazing experience that I will never forget. Awesome crew, wonderful day, all around great time. I hope to do it again some day!
5/5stars

- | TripAdvisor

go blue icon
Giant Sea Caves Kayak Adventure
Rated 4.9/5 based on 11 customer reviews

A great time!

Even though it was a foggy day, we had a great time. The boat crew was great and friendly. Garrett the guide was knowledgeable and friendly. He even saved a pelican-"Birdie Sanders" .
5/5stars

- | TripAdvisor