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See Whales, Dolphins & Other Amazing Wildlife in the Santa Barbara Channel!
Experience the gray whale migration as these amazing animals make their annual northern migration up the California coast to Alaska with their calves in tow. Visit the picturesque Anacapa Arch & cruise the coastline of Anacapa Island!
- Departure Harbor: Channel Islands Harbor, Oxnard CA (Marine Emporium Landing)
- Destination: Anacapa Island & the Santa Barbara Channel
Trip Specific Information
- This trip operates from January through mid April
- Guaranteed Whale Season: February 14 to April 10
- Minimum Number of Guests: 6
- Maximum Number of Guests: 45
AM Whale Watching
- Morning Trip Check-In: 8:15 AM
- Departure: 8:30 AM
- Return to Channel Islands Harbor: 11:30 AM
PM Whale Watching
- Afternoon Trip Check-In: 12:15 PM
- Afternoon Trip Departure: 12:30 PM
- Return to Channel Islands Harbor: 3:30 PM
What to Expect…
Every year, gray whales embark on an epic migration from Alaska all the way to Baja California, where they birth their calves. Mothers and their young calves then migrate north along the California coastline back to Alaska during the late winter and spring, which is when we encounter them on our whale watching tips!
We are lucky enough to have them visit Channel Islands National Park & Marine Sanctuary starting in February.
Be on the lookout for a variety of other whale and dolphin species that can bee seen during our trip as well!
The Santa Barbara Channel is a global hotspot for biodiversity and marine life. Dolphins, whales, sea lions, and over 30 other marine mammal species thrive in the abundant waters off our shore.
The crossing from Oxnard to Anacapa Island is only 14 miles, which we can cross in just over an hour. During the whale migration north, over 2,000 whales will make their way through this narrow corridor on their way back to their summer feeding grounds in Alaska.
Gray whales migrate close to shore on their northern return journey to Alaska making this portion of the Santa Barbara Channel is the best and easiest place to view the gray whale’s migration!
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.
The Sunfish Whale Watching crew is ready and excited to share their passion and enthusiasm for whales and the Santa Barbara Channel.
Captain Alex L.
Captain Alex can usually be found on, in, or under the water. He has had a love of the ocean from a very early age. He developed this love of the water by going on weekly fishing trips in the Santa Barbara Channel with his father and uncles from the age of two. He is a USCG licensed Captain and a certified PADI Rescue Diver. He has captained many scuba diving, kayaking, and whale watching expeditions around the Channel Islands. In addition to recreational tours, he has also captained for Hollywood film crews such as James Cameron and the Travel Channel show Destination Unknown, taking them to film locations on and under the water. He also has experience captaining for NOAA and other research agencies.
Evan B. – Crew
Evan grew up on the Santa Barbara Channel and from a young age has had a deep love and passion for the ocean and the animals that call it home. Evan is a trained naturalist and drone/camera photographer extraordinaire. He volunteers with Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institution to help stranded mammals and give back to the ocean and its wildlife.
Pre Trip Planning
What to bring with you?
- Snack and beverages – a small cooler is fine if you want to keep things cool.
- Water – reusable water bottles can be filled onboard.
- Warm boat clothing – street clothes are fine, dress in layers. Long pants are recommended. Jackets and blankets may also make you more comfortable.
- Motion sickness medicine and personal medications.
- Gratuity for 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
From February 14th to April 14 we guarantee you will see gray whales or another type of large whale species. We almost always see dolphins, which are toothed whales :), but these are not included in our promise to you.
If we don’t see whales, you can return on any whale watching trip we operate during the same season. An email will be send post trip with a code to rebook for free!
We do a 3 hour loop from Oxnard to Anacapa Island and back.
We do not land at Anacapa Island, but we will usually get close enough for you to see the birds on the rocks and a visit to the Anacapa Arch.
Yes, you can charter the entire boat for a 3 hour tour. Call for details.
-Tanner Keys | Google
-Mark R. | Yelp
-David C. | Yelp
-Chuyên L. | Yelp
-John S. | Yelp
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.
-Jill D. | Yelp
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.
-Jen Y. | Yelp
-Allyson Arons | TripAdvisor
-Tad | TripAdvisor
-Alicia | TripAdvisor
-Denise W | TripAdvisor