EPIC Day Trip - Painted Cave Kayak and Snorkel Adventure

DAY TRIP – Vessel Supported Sea Cave & Wildlife Kayak Adventure
Come explore the largest sea caves in the world by kayak and snorkel the kelp forests of Santa Cruz Island.

Adults $399

Group Discounts
5% off total booking price
11-20: 10% off total booking price
21+: 15% off total booking price
Military/Nurse/First Responder: $25 off booking
use code respect25

Trip Details


Travel aboard the vessel “Truth” to the west end of Santa Cruz Island and explore steep cliffs, deep caves, and fissures winding up to 1/4 mile into the island. After kayaking, you can relax aboard while enjoying a hot-cooked lunch.

Dolphins and whales are often seen during the channel crossing aboard the Truth from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz Island. 

Painted Cave Kayak is the perfect day trip departing from Santa Barbara to experience sea cave kayaking at Channel Islands National Park.

kayakers sitting outside the sea cave

Location Information

  • Departure Harbor: Santa Barbara Harbor (at the Sea 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
  • Snorkeling instruction included!
dolphin jumping

Important Times

  • Check-In: 7:00 am
  • Briefing and Departure: 7:30 am
  • Whale and Dolphin watch during crossing to Island: 2.5 hours
  • Snorkeling: 1 hour
  • Tri-Tip Lunch: 45 minutes between snorkeling and kayaking
  • Kayaking: 1.5-2 hours into the world’s largest sea caves!
  • Crossing back to Santa Barbara: 2.5 hours
  • Return to Santa Barbara: By 5:30 pm
the truth unloading kayakers

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

How do we calculate ticket prices?

Ticket Costs


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

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. 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.

Meet at 7:30am for an 8:00am departure

whale-watchingThe 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.

More than half of the Channel Islands National Park is below the surface of the water, which is where you will start your day off by exploring the kelp forests and rocky intertidal areas of West Santa Cruz Island. We will gear up and head off the back of the Truth in search of underwater creatures such as octopus and seals.

You will get instruction and your guide will show you the hard to find creatures from down below. Snorkeling conditions vary, but we can have crystal clear water that makes the aquatic experience one of the best in the world.

The crew on the Truth unloading kayaks for a guided tour of the channel islands

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.

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.

Enjoy the 2.5 hour return trip back to Santa Barbara Harbor.  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

Once done with snorkeling return to the deck of the Truth and enjoy a hot lunch with fresh Tri-Tip cooked on the ships BBQ with fixings for a sandwich or salad. We will eat lunch and get ready to go kayaking after we finish our nurishments!



Continental Breakfast

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


  • Tri Tip Sandwiches and Salads (vegetarian options also available)
  • Homemade potato salad & salads
  • Chips and homemade salsa

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.


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 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

What to bring with you?

  • Water – reusable water bottles can be filled onboard.
  • Warm clothing – street clothes are fine, dress in layers and bring warm clothes. 
  • 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.
  • Waterproof cameras – we strongly recommend 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need boat transportation?

No. All CIEx trips are vessel-supported and include boat transportation to and from your island destination. 

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!


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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!

-Allyson Arons | TripAdvisor

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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!

-Tad | TripAdvisor

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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!

-Alicia | TripAdvisor

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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" .

-Denise W | TripAdvisor