Each day will include a morning of kayaking that usually last for 3 hours and is one-way paddling with the wind at our backs.
The volcanic cliffs on the northern side of the islands are home to hundreds of sea caves, including some of the largest caves in the world. CIEx guides are experienced in taking you on your sit-on-top kayak into these caves when conditions are favorable. This is an experience that is truly unique to the Channel Islands National Park.
California Sea Lion, Zalophus californianus, is a coastal pinniped common from Alaska to Baja California, Mexico.
Elephant seals, sea lions, and harbor seals make up the pinniped populations at the Channel Islands. A kayak paddle along the island coastline is the perfect way to observe these amazing animals in their natural habitat.
Arches and Tide Pools
In addition to the sea caves that litter the coastline of the islands, hundreds of volcanic arches and rock formations are scattered offshore, particularly at Anacapa Island. You will have the opportunity to paddle through these arches while exploring the coves and tide pools of Anacapa Island.
As we explore the Channel Islands, we’ll be taking some time for underwater exploration. This depends greatly on the weather, but we always find a few options to get everyone on the water.
How many dives per day? If you are an adventurous diver, we can probably get you in the water at least once per day, possibly as much as 3 times. It really depends on what the conditions are in the afternoon. The best chance for decent diving will be in the morning before we get started kayaking.
This is an expedition so diving is not the priority it is on dive trips.
Bring your own snorkeling gear or rent a full set-up with a nice comfortable wetsuit from the Dive Santa Barbara. You will have daily opportunities to snorkel with sea lions, explore lush kelp forests, and dive with leopard sharks.
If you are a certified SCUBA diver you are invited to bring your gear, or rent a full SCUBA Pro set-up from Dive Santa Barbara. There will be daily opportunities for diving at some of the most amazing temperate dive locations on the planet. Water temperatures will vary from low 60s to low 70s as we travel from the western islands to the eastern islands.
What to bring with you:
- Additional bedding and/or sleeping bag – we provide a pillow and blanket. We suggest bringing a sleeping bag for staying comfortable in our climate controlled bunk room.
- Toiletries (toothbrush/paste, etc)
- Water shoes or sandals with straps. Flip flop slippers cannot be worn on the kayaks.
- Hiking boots/sneakers – comfortable lightweight cross training sneakers are best. The terrain is moderate and the trails are blazed.
- Day pack – 30L is a good size. Enough to fit your hiking shoes (you’ll want to keep them dry when landing on San Miguel Island), a water bottle, snack, and jacket.
- Reusable water bottle – can be filled onboard.
- Base layers – we suggest having a lightweight base layer, a warmer jacket, and hooded sweatshirts.
- Waterproof/windproof top layer.
- Comfortable evening attire, nothing fancy (Hawaiian shirts are great!) for dinner and evening socializing!
- Kayak clothing – bathing suits and sun tops. You will be given a Farmer John style wetsuit (like overalls). Fleece layers can help stay warm.
- Snorkeling gear – 5mm wetsuit is a good thickness for all conditions. Available for rent at the SB Dive Center and the gear will be waiting for you on the boat.
- SCUBA gear – if you plan to free dive or SCUBA dive, bring your gear set up. (Open-water certification is required to SCUBA dive). Available for rent at the SB Dive Center and the gear will be waiting for you on the boat.
- Sunscreen – It must be reef-safe sunscreen. Learn what makes sunscreen reef safe here.
- Sunglasses and sun hats. We suggest a baseball cap for use under your helmet during kayaking.
- Camera/s- we suggest having a nice camera for the hikes and a waterproof camera for the kayaking and snorkeling/diving. We also suggest you have a reliable waterproof bag for your camera when landing on San Miguel Island.
- Fishing rods/gear with a license per individual over 16 that plans on fishing. Licenses can be purchased at the SB Landing.
- Books for reading 🙂
- Personal alcoholic beverages and personal coolers with ice. We do not provide ice or cold storage for personal items unless it is medications. We suggest cans over bottles. You can enjoy these beverages after all water activities are complete, once you imbibe you cannot dive!
- Motion sickness medicine and personal medications.
- Gratuity for guides and crew.
- NO MARIJUANA- this is a federal crime still and on our vessels you will be in federal jurisdiction. If we are boarded you can go to jail.
- Drones – you cannot fly them in the National Park.
If you are a smoker, you can smoke on the aft dive deck, downwind under the supervision of a crew member who will be making sure your trash is properly discarded.
How to prepare:
How to prepare: Our guides and crew are professionally trained and have decades of combined experience both above and below the water. We routinely guide and instruct guests in ocean activities that they have never tried before. However if you would like to do some extra preparation for your upcoming expedition, please review our recommendations below.
Kayaking – give it a try in calm seas first.
If you haven’t done much kayaking on sit-on-tops, no worries… they are really easy to get accustomed to. We suggest you go for a paddle in calm waters at least once before joining this trip, this will make your first paddle a little more comfortable. If you are looking for an easy way to try out sea kayaking prior to your trip, check out the Paddle Sports Center.
Talk to your doctor if you haven’t SCUBA dove in a while and make sure you are good to go.
What to expect being on a boat for 4 days…
Food and Beverages
Our galley chefs come from years of professional experience serving healthy, nutritious, and delicious meals throughout your expedition. Each day starts with a hot breakfast and we keep you well fed throughout the day. A snack will be ready after each activity and we serve dinner as a family in the galley around 6:30 pm each evening.
Please inform us ahead of time if you are any of the following diets (these are the only diets we can accomodate, sorry)
- Gluten Free
If you are allergic to any foods, please inform us ASAP.
Soda (Coca Cola, Diet Coke, Barqs Root Beer, lemonade, cranberry, ginger ale, soda water) and filtered water is available all day along with hot tea and coffee.
The weather at the Channel Islands can change quickly and while we have a pretty good plan, this plan will likely change while we are out on our expedition based on the wind and waves. Therefore, it’s a really good idea to set your expectations on adventure and not specific goals. We do our best to stick to our panned itinerary, but if conditions do not allow us to visit remote areas, we will do the next best thing with the conditions we have.
Sea Sickness can be a real problem for people, but always goes away. We suggest a few things:
- Start taking sea sickness medication 24 hours prior to departure.
- Avoid alcohol on the day prior to departure.
- Eat light foods and stay away from grease and acid. Coffee can make you feel worse.
- Hydrate – this really helps!
You will be in the company of guide professionals who love the Channel Islands and we’ll be sharing our passion and knowledge along the way. Bring an open mind and inquisitive nature to this unique destination and adventure!
Day of your departure:
Go for a paddle!
You can visit our sister company at Paddle Sports Center and let them know you are on the CIEx Expedition and they will give you a special rate for a 2 hour paddle around the SB harbor where you can get comfortable in the same kayaks we’ll be using on the expedition.
Boarding Begins at 5pm
If you arrive early, we ask that you park and leave your gear at your car until just before 5. We kindly ask that you do not que your gear on the boarding ramp as it clutters the landing for the other boats loading and unloading.
Check-in from 5:30-7:30 with CIEx
Santa Barbara Landing and Dive Center
You can get last minute items for your adventure at the Santa Barbara Landing. They sell:
- Fishing licenses
- Sunscreen, sunglasses, hats
- Fishing tackle
- Dive and snorkel equipment
Dinner, Toast, and Welcome at 7:30pm
A buffet dinner along with a Champagne toast will be served at 7:30pm in the main Galley. You can leisurely enjoy dinner while socializing and at approximately 9pm we will begin our safety briefing and vessel orientation.
Our safety orientation covers the safety gear on board your expedition vessel and a Coast Guard mandated abandon ship drill will be performed by all crew and passengers.
2am Departure from the SB Harbor
Depending on weather conditions, the boat will actually stay tied up at the dock until around 2am when the crew will shove off and head towards San Miguel Island. After the orientation is complete, passengers are not permitted to depart the vessel without checking in with a crew member.
Directions to Sea Landing – Santa Barbara Harbor
301 West Cabrillo Blvd, Santa Barbara, CA 93109
Driving to Santa Barbara Harbor- take US 101 to Santa Barbara and follow the signs to the Santa Barbara Harbor.
Once you arrive in the Santa Barbara Harbor turn left before you cross the bike bath and get a parking ticket at the kiosk.
Drive through the main parking lot until you reach a gate. This gate is to slow drivers down before crossing the bike path. Drive close to the gate and it will open. Begin looking for a parking spot. Do not park in a trailer parking stall, you will get a ticket.
If you are staying the Santa Barbara Waterfront you can easily walk to the Sea Landing from most hotels.
Your return to mainland
5pm at the Docks
We shoot to return to the Santa Barbara Landing by 5pm. Upon returning to the dock you will unload you gear and make sure you don’t leave anything behind. The crew will be cleaning the boat and getting her ready for her next adventure.
Gratuity is much appreciated and equally shared by all crew and guides. It is customary to share a gratuity with the crew if you think they did a good job. For a 4 day trip $100/person is an average gratuity. Cash is preferred but we also accept Venmo. Thank you very much!