Some of the best snorkeling and diving in the world can be found in the cool waters surrounding the Channel Islands. In the relatively warm water around Anacapa and eastern Santa Cruz, photographers can get great shots of rarely seen giant black bass swimming among the kelp forests. Here you also find a reef covered with red brittle starfish. If you're an experienced diver, you might swim among five species of seals and sea lions, or try your hand at spearing rockfish or halibut near San Miguel and Santa Rosa. The best time to scuba dive is in summer and fall, when the water is often clear up to a 100-foot depth.
Tours and Outfitters
Explorer Diving Adventures. The 65-foot Explorer ferries passengers out to all the islands for single- and multiday adventures. Rates include food, snacks, beverages, and air. 1583 Spinnaker Dr., Ventura, California, 93001. 805/890–1142; www.explorerdiveboat.com. From $125 for day trips.
Peace Dive Boat. Ventura Harbor–based Peace Dive Boat runs single- and multiday diving adventures near all the Channel Islands. Travelers sleep aboard ship. 1691 Spinnaker Dr., Dock G, Ventura, California, 93001. 805/650–3483; www.peaceboat.com. From $110.
Raptor Dive Boat. Ventura Dive & Sport's 46-foot custom boat, the Raptor, takes divers on two- and three-tank trips to Anacapa and Santa Cruz islands and is available for private charters, including offical open-water swims in the channel. Ventura, California. 805/650–7700; www.raptordive.com. From $110.
Spectre Dive Boat. This boat runs single-day diving trips to Anacapa and Santa Cruz. Fees include three dives, air, and food. 1575 Spinnaker Dr., Suite 105B-75, Ventura, California, 93001. 866/225–3483; 805/486–1166; www.calboatdiving.com. From $110.
Truth Aquatics. Truth runs kayaking, paddleboarding, hiking, snorkeling, and scuba excursions to the National Marine Sanctuary and Channel Islands National Park. Departures from SEA Landing, Santa Barbara Harbor, 805/962–1127; truthaquatics.com. From $120.