Visiting The Channel Islands National Park California

Often known as the Galapagos of North America, the Channel Islands National Park is located just 11 miles from Oxnard and is surrounded by the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, where you’ll find a variety of sea creatures.

It’s a great place to camp, explore, and hike—just don’t forget your camera, as there is no shortage of photo opportunities.

What is the Channel Islands National Park?

The Channel Islands National Park encompasses 5 of the 8 Channel Islands located off the coast of California.

It spans over 100,000 hectares of land, close to a third of which is federal land.

The Channel Islands National Park contains a wealth of important natural resources, including over 2,000 species of animals and plants.

You can get to the islands by boat using services like Island Packers, which has transported visitors back and forth since 1968.

Boats leave from the Channel Islands Harbor but the frequency of trips varies, so it’s important to plan ahead.

You can access Santa Cruz Island and Anacapa Island all year long, but the same can’t be said for the other Channel Islands.

How Much Does it Cost to Go To The Channel Islands National Park?

There is no entrance fee for the Channel Islands National Park, but you’ll need to pay for transportation.

Costs vary depending on when and how you travel and you’ll usually pay between $50 and $160 per person.

For a cheap trip, take a boat. If you want to get there quicker and don’t mind paying extra, you can take a plane.

The upper end of that price range is charged for flights to the park, with a flight to Santa Rosa costing the most.

When Are the Channel Islands in California Open?

You can access most of the Channel Islands throughout the year, but there are some exceptions to be aware of:

Santa Cruz Island

Boat trips to Santa Cruz Island are available all year from Ventura Harbor, taking around 1 hour with Island Packers.

Anacapa Island

Boat trips to Anacapa Island are available all year long from Ventura Harbor, taking around 1 hour with Island Packers.

Santa Rosa Island

Depart from Ventura Harbor for a 3-hour boat ride from April to November with Island Packers.

Alternatively, depart from Camarilla Airport for year-round flights with Channel Islands Aviation. Flights take 25 minutes.

San Miguel Island

Depart from Ventura Harbor for a 4-hour boat ride from April to November with Island Packers.

Alternatively, depart from Camarilla Airport for year-round flights with Channel Islands Aviation. Flights take around 40 minutes.

Santa Barbara Island

Depart from Ventura Harbor from Spring through to Fall with Island Packers.

What Can You Do At the Channel Islands National Park?

The Channel Islands National Park provides a welcome break from the chaos of urban life and is a must for locals and tourists alike.

What you can do really depends on where you go, but there are many options available:

Anacapa Island

There are no services on the island and there isn’t much that you can do, either.

Proper preparation is a must, and a visit is not something that you should take lightly.

Anacapa Island is best-suited for camping trips, picnicking, and half-day stays.

You can hike, camp, or even enjoy some watersports, including snorkeling, diving, and kayaking.

Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island is one of the most popular destinations in the Channel Islands National Park.

It has the best weather and is the easiest island to get to.

You still need to prepare, though, as there isn’t much to help you when you get to the island.

There are several great hiking trails here, including Scorpion Valley and Montanon.

However, there is no hiking allowed before the national park boundary, which is marked by a fence line.

Scorpion Beach is the ideal place to do a spot of swimming, kayaking, diving, or snorkeling, so take your snorkeling gear.

Santa Cruz Island has a lot of birdlife and wildflowers to explore, as well.

San Miguel Island

San Miguel Island is a little more difficult to reach than Santa Cruz Island.

The wind can be harsh and you will need a permit and liability waiver before you visit.

If you decide to drop by, you’ll need to stick with the designated trail as it was once used as a bomb range and you don’t want to bump into any unexploded bombs!

Santa Barbara Island

When visiting Santa Barbara island, make sure you’re properly equipped (water, food, safety equipment) and prepared for a journey of at least 3 hours.

There are picnic tables available at the visitor center and it’s also a good spot for hiking, camping, and watersports.

Santa Rosa Island

Santa Rosa Island doesn’t have a visitor center and it’s not uncommon for your journey to be filled with strong winds and difficult conditions.

You will need to take enough food and water to prepare and Santa Rosa Island is best-suited to hiking, picnicking, and camping, with the latter taking place at the Water Canyon campground.