OUR FLAGSHIP EXPEDITION – A 5 Day Voyage Through the Channel Islands National Park and Marine Sanctuary
We are a unique group of explorers that know these islands, where to paddle, where to snorkel/dive, and what to do when the weather is incredible… and also what to do when it’s not!
Join us on this unforgettable California wilderness experience unlike any other!
- Explore Channel Islands National Park on a unique multi-sport adventure that offers world-class snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, wildlife, and much more – Summer Camp for Adults!
- Swim and snorkel through kelp forests and see abundant underwater life.
- Kayak through sea caves and arches along the dramatic volcanic coast line.
- Hike on Santa Rosa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz Island
- Ocean wilderness experience, you’ll be in a remote area with the experts.
- Guides and naturalists share knowledge of Channel Islands National Park
- Nightly presentations about the islands’ natural and cultural history
- Healthy and delicious food served everyday.
- 5 star galley services w/ beverage bar
This 5 day expedition is the flagship of our company. We have been leading this for private groups for 20 years and we’re now bringing this unique itinerary and experience to the public on an open party 5 day expedition. Board at 10am on day 1 and load your gear into your private bunk. Return at 5pm for the boarding orientation and meet your crew dinner. At this time your captain and expedition leader will share the plan for the next 4 days. Our itinerary is based on weather, but we start each day with a kayak paddle at a special remote destination and spend the afternoon either hiking, fishing, snorkeling, or relaxing (or a combo of all of that!). Food is cooked fresh each day and our galley takes special care in accommodating special diets and keeping the food hearty and healthy. Throughout the expedition your guides and crew will present information about each area we visit and each evening we offer a presentation on a topic relevant to the Channel Islands. To truly experience the Channel Islands you need to be on a smaller expedition vessel with the ability to land at the remote islands by small craft.…
- Pre-boarding: 10:00 AM-6:30pm (you may drop your gear off in our secure bunk room)
- Check In, Boarding Buffet and Orientation: 6:30-8:30pm
- Boarding Gates Close: 9:00 PM
- Duration: 5 day and 4 nights
- Return to Santa Barbara: by 5:00 PM on the fifth day
Your Expedition Vessel – VISION
- Overnight Capacity – 24 people in 16 oversized and 8 personal bunks.
- Bunks are dressed with pillows, blankets, and privacy curtains.
- San Miguel Island
- Santa Rosa Island
- Santa Cruz Island
- Santa Barbara Island
- Anacapa Island
Trip Specific Information
- Minimum Age: 10 years old
- Maximum Number of Guests: 24
Santa Barbara Landing – Santa Barbara Harbor
301 West Cabrillo Blvd
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Healthy and Delicious Food Served Fresh from our Galley
We source most of our produce from the local farmers’ markets in order to serve a seasonal, sustainable, and healthy menu.
We can accommodate the following diets and ALL severe food allergies:
- Gluten Free (we do not provide gluten free bread)
A Sample of Last Year’s Itinerary
- Day 1: Santa Barbara
- Day 2: San Miguel Island
- Day 3: Santa Rosa Island
- Day 4: Santa Cruz Island
- Day 5: Anacapa Island
- Channel Islands National Park
Boarding begins at 10am so you can leave your gear when you arrive in Santa Barbara on board and then go enjoy the shopping and food in downtown which is a short walk from the boat.
We invite you to take out kayaks from our harbor Paddle Sports Center if you want to get comfortable paddling in calm waters before we launch you at San Miguel Island.
Starting at 6 PM we invite you to return to the boat and meet other passengers and crew members. A boarding buffet is served around 6:30 pm. The boarding gates close at 9 PM
GET TO KNOW YOUR NATIONAL PARK AND CREW
During our boarding orientation we’ll pass out National Park literature and maps so you can get situated with where we’re going and follow the captains plan for your island expedition.
We have a large crew for our expeditions, so you’ll have a chance to meet everyone and they’ll get a chance to meet you, the guests.
Our style is to always share some useful information and we’re always open to questions and side conversations. There is a lot to share and more to learn, so we’ll try to keep things brief but interesting!
As the northernmost channel island, San Miguel is subject to rapid weather changes and high winds. San Miguel’s shifting weather patterns can make kayaking here more challenging, however, good weather periods do occur. The remoteness and wildlife at this island make kayaking here incredibly unique. Large seal and sea lion colonies are spread out along the shores. Many varieties of seabirds call this home and dolphins and whales are commonly sighted near shore.
There are several trails that traverse San Miguel Island, providing a variety of hikes. Many parts of the island are closed to protect wildlife, fragile plants, and geological features. Hikes outside of the Cuyler Harbor beach, Cabrillo Monument, and Lester Ranch are done with a qualified naturalist or park ranger. A vigorous 16-mile hike to Point Bennett will take you to see one of the most spectacular wildlife events on our planet: over 30,000 seals and sea lions sunning themselves on the point, depending on the season. There is no pier on San Miguel Island so all landings are done by skiff at Cuyler Harbor. Landing on the island can be an exciting experience as the surf can make the landing challenging.
San Miguel Island is more prone to receive the brunt of any weather systems that move through the area. Most of the time a strong northwest wind blows across the island and these winds typically exceed 25 mph and can surpass 50 mph. When strong high pressure is over the mainland, the winds often cease creating a surreal environment. On warmer days the fog will burn off only to have the strong northwest wind blow in additional fog from the open ocean. On foggy days the temperature will rarely exceed 55°F.
The National Park Service maintains two airstrips, a ranger station, and a research station on the island. San Miguel is normally staffed by a ranger who enforces park laws, while also sometimes providing interpretive services for public visitors. The island also hosts scientists that study pinnipeds and manage the Island fox (Urocyon littoralis) captive breeding program that is conducted on the island. Volunteer interpretive rangers often fill in for regularly paid rangers due to budget deficits within the park. Park employees and researchers are flown to the island by Channel Islands Aviation. Public visitors are not permitted to fly in.
PERHAPS SOME DIVING & SNORKELING
San Miguel has some of the most spectacular scuba diving found anywhere off the coast of California. On any given day the water can be 10 to 15 degrees colder at San Miguel so proper equipment (7 mm wetsuit minimum or drysuit) is needed to enjoy this remote dive location. The topography at its offshore pinnacles makes a diver feel small. Mountainous pinnacles can go from 20 feet of water to 200 on some walls. More varieties of seals and sea lions can be viewed here than on any other Channel Island. Protected coves, banks, offshore rocks, and pinnacles make this a sought-after destination for SCUBA divers. Weather protects this island from frequent human visitation. A nice day at San Miguel is about as good as it gets.
Kayaking at Santa Rosa Island is a fascinating way to experience the wild and rugged coastline of this remote place. The sandy beaches and cliffs are breeding and resting areas for sea birds, seals, and sea lions. Kayaking is often the best way to view all the unique wildlife on the island without disturbing animals in their natural habitat. As with San Miguel, inclement weather may strike at any time. Weather conditions can affect the difficulty of paddling at Santa Rosa.
Hiking with Channel Islands Expeditions on Santa Rosa Island will lead you down some of the trails and roads that traverse the island, providing plenty of opportunities to enjoy the spectacular scenery Santa Rosa provides. These trails and roads range from the relatively flat route to Water Canyon Beach to the rugged, mountainous path to Black Mountain.
A variety of Torrey Pine (Pinus torreyana var. insularis) grows on the island. The population of this endangered species is estimated at approximately 1000 trees. This ancient grove is just a remnant of a much larger forest of Torrey pines that once existed in the Pleistocene era, some 12,000 years ago. A trail that leads to this exceedingly rare species of pine tree can be accessed from Becher’s Bay, the island’s main landing.
Keep a sharp eye out for the Island fox, Spotted skunk, and Munchkin dudleya (Dudleya gnoma); one of the six endemic plant species on the island.
EVENING FISHING AND RELAXING
After the days planned kayaking and hiking are complete you’ll have free time to relax, meet someone new, read a book, or cast a line and see what you can catch.
Given it’s ample 77-mile coastline, Santa Cruz Island has a vast number of kayaking destinations that you are able to visit with Channel Islands Expeditions. An expedition with CIEX is the only way to see a vast majority of the island’s scenic shoreline, as most of the island itself is closed to conventional tourism.
Santa Cruz Island has a huge variety of flora and fauna that live on and around its craggy cliff lines and giant sea caves. The west end of Santa Cruz Island is where you’ll find one of the world’s biggest sea caves, Painted Cave – so named for the vibrant lichen growth on the cave walls. Measured at a towering 160 ft at its mouth, Painted Cave stretches back into the basalt cliff face for over a quarter-mile before reaching its terminus. Expect to see plenty of playful sea lions and seals as well as a host of birdlife here.
There are several hiking trails and roads that traverse the eastern portion of Santa Cruz Island which is part of the Channel Islands National Park. While visitors may explore this section, no hiking is allowed beyond the national park boundary onto The Nature Conservancy property to the west without first obtaining a permit. Landings onto Santa Cruz are either by pier or by skiff. Potential landing areas include Prisoners Harbor and Smugglers Cove.
Once on Santa Cruz, a well-marked trail system will take you to several scenic overlooks of the island’s coastline, as well as to areas of natural and historical significance. Consult your Channel Islands Expeditions trip leaders as to what may be possible on your expedition, as there are many places to explore on this island. Wherever you go, be sure to keep a sharp eye out for some of the island’s many endemic species found here, including the island scrub-jay and the island fox.
EVENING DIVING & SNORKELING
Santa Cruz Island offers the most diverse array of dive sites out of all eight Channel Islands. Warm southern and colder northern currents create unique marine habitats for many different species. Being the largest of California’s Channel Islands, there is a wide variety of different dive spots to explore around Santa Cruz Island, each with its own unique characteristics. Santa Cruz offers more places to find good diving during rough weather periods than any other island due to its size (Santa Cruz is the largest Channel Island).
The northwest section of the island is volcanic with steep faces and hosts some of the world’s largest sea caves. The southeast section is more sedimentary with large plateaus and thick kelp beds. Seals, sea lions, bat rays, and schools of fish are common sights while scuba diving with Channel Islands Expeditions along this island’s shores.
Anacapa Island 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 Anacapa 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.
ALL DAY WATER ACTIVITIES
We will begin our day by loading onto the kayaks and beginning the Eastward paddle down the snaking island where the most sea caves per mile exist on the planet. We explore these coves on our kayaks, and if conditions are ideal, we’ll stop for an underwater experience.
We’ll enjoy our lunch at the islands in the still waters of gorgeous island coves and begin our 3 hour return trip shortly thereafter.
SUNDECK READING AND RELAXING
On the journey home enjoy the sundeck for a nap or a good book. We’ll keep our eyes peeled for feeding whales and leaping dolphins!
RETURN TO SANTA BARBARA
We plan for a 4-5 pm return to the dock.
Frequently Asked Questions
Each person is assigned a bunk, you may reserve an oversized bunk for $100 additional. Each bunk has a privacy curtain. Our nightwatch crew is there for the safety of passengers and the vessel.
You can drop off your gear anytime after 10am and head out to enjoy lunch and shopping in Santa Barbara. At 5pm you can begin boarding with crew and get to know the other passengers during our boarding buffet and orientation. You will retreat to you bunks and we get underway in the middle of the night on our way to the Channel Islands. You’ll wake up the next morning to a lost world where wildlife and breathtaking landscapes are your backdrop to breakfast and coffee.
The minimum age for this trip is 12 years old.
YES! There is no way around this. You don’t need to be excellent at swimming laps, but you need to be comfortable treading water and being in deep water.
Generally, the level of difficulty of kayaking on this trip is beginner to intermediate. Since we are vessel-supported, all of the paddling will be downwind. However, you may have to paddle in a range of conditions so we recommend that participants be in reasonable physical shape and comfortable on the ocean.