The most remote parts of the Channel Islands are accessible only by a sea kayak. Some of the best kayaking in the park can be found on Anacapa, Santa Barbara, and the eastern tip of Santa Cruz. Anacapa has plenty of sea caves, tidal pools, and even natural bridges you can paddle beneath. Santa Cruz has plenty of secluded beaches to explore, as well as seabird nesting sites and seal and sea lion rookeries. One of the world's largest colonies of Scripps's murrelets resides here, and brown pelicans, cormorants, and storm petrels nest in Santa Barbara's steep cliffs.
It's too far to kayak from the mainland out to the islands, but outfitters have tours that take you to the islands. Tours are offered year-round, but high seas may cause trip cancellations between December and March. Channel waters can be unpredictable and challenging. Don't venture out alone unless you are an experienced kayaker; guided trips are highly recommended. All kayakers should carry proper safety gear and equipment and be prepared for sudden strong winds and weather changes. Also refrain from disturbing wildlife. Visit the park website for kayaking rules and tips.
The operators listed here hold permits from the National Park Service to conduct kayak tours; if you choose a different company, verify that it holds the proper permits.
Tours and Outfitters
Aquasports. This highly regarded company based in Goleta offers guided one-, two-, and three-day trips to Scorpion Cove on Santa Cruz Island for beginner to expert kayakers. They also lead one-day trips to Santa Barbara and Anacapa. Cross-channel passage, instruction, equipment, and guides are included. This is a very popular trip—book early! 800/773–2309; 805/968–7231; www.islandkayaking.com. From $155.
Channel Islands Outfitters. You can take a one-day trip to Santa Cruz, Anacapa, and Santa Barbara islands, or overnight multiday excursions to all the islands from this outfitter, authorized by the park to guide kayak, snorkel, and hiking adventures. Trips depart from Ventura, Channel Islands, and Santa Barbara harbors; all include equipment and instruction. Boat transportation is an additional charge. 117B Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, California, 93109. 805/899–4925; www.channelislandso.com. From $140.
Santa Barbara Adventure Company. Full-service outfitter Santa Barbara Adventure Company conducts guided kayaking single- and multiday excursions to the Channel Islands. Trips include transportation, equipment, guides, and paddling lessons. 32 E. Haley St., Santa Barbara, California, 93101. 805/884–9283; www.sbadventureco.com. From $179.