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The giant sea caves of Santa Cruz Island are a microcosm of what makes the Channel Islands special. Formed by millennia of erosion of the volcanic island rock, these sea caves offer a glimpse into the eons that have passed since the islands formed. Unique animal & plant life inhabits the caves. Perhaps the most majestic of all the island sea caves, Painted Cave (or hax̓inu mupʰ nuwaštipa, Chumash) is the largest. Our Painted Cave Trip gives you the chance to explore the depths of this cave by kayak. Read on to learn why a visit to Painted Cave is a bucket list California trip. 

kayak the painted caves

Painted Cave has been described by CIEx guides as akin to what El Capitan is to Yosemite National Park. The largest sea cave in California and the 4th largest in the world by length, Painted Cave is a breathtaking natural wonder. As you paddle into Painted Cave, the reason for its name becomes apparent. A palate of color, ranging from rusty reds to lime greens adorns the walls of the cave. As you paddle into the cave, subsequent chambers reveal themselves, with less and less light penetrating each one. Oftentimes, sea lions inhabit the beaches concealed within the cave. Their loud barking punctuates the otherwise silent cave, save for the gentle lapping of waves against its walls. The sound of the sea lions and the fading light gives the interior of Painted Cave an otherworldly feel. Time seems to stop while you explore the depths of this awe-inspiring sea cave.

 Depending on the conditions, you will be able to paddle all the way to the back of the cave. We will spend plenty of time exploring Painted Cave and its various chambers before moving on to the next portion of the kayak adventure. We look forward to getting you out there soon!

A visit to Painted Cave is truly unforgettable: Book your Painted Cave trip here.

Painted Cave Fast Facts

  • 1227 feet long (more than four football fields!)
  • Maximum width: 100 feet
  • Extends over a ¼ mile into Santa Cruz Island 
  • Home to sea lions, harbor seals, sea birds, and other marine organisms
  • Naturally occurring lichens & algae give Painted Cave its colorful appearance
Sea Caves