Channel Islands National Park, California (with Map & Photos)

California's Channel Islands National Park is made up of five separate islands: Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara, all stunning in their own rights. Explore these lands rich in wildlife, flowers, plants, and breathtaking views.

Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park

The national park designation protects not only each island, but six nautical miles around the islands, protecting giant kelp forests, fish, plants, and other marine life. This translates into endless opportunities for bird watching, whale watching, camping, hiking, fishing, diving, and snorkeling.

Each island is a new land to discover. A permanent ranger lives on each island and can serve as your best resource for information. So hit them all, but make sure you save time for underwater exploration.

Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park


Two of the islands in this unique national park, Anacapa and Santa Barbara, were first designated as national monuments. They served to protect wildlife: nesting birds, sea lions, seals and other threatened marine animals.

In 1978, The Nature Conservancy and the Santa Cruz Island Company partnered to protect and research most of Santa Cruz. That same year, the ocean six miles around each island was designated a National Marine Sanctuary.

The five islands and the sea around them were established as a national park in 1980 with continuous efforts for ecological research. Today, the park manages a long-term ecological research program that is considered by some to be the best in the park system.

Channel Islands National Park
Channel Islands National Park

When to visit

The park is open all year. Boat schedules are at their peak during the spring and summer. Those looking for the best times to go whale watching should plan anytime from late December through March. July and August are also good times for whale watching.

Get there

US 101 will take you to Ventura. If you are heading north, take the Victoria Avenue exit and follow the park signs. If you're heading south, take Seaward Avenue. The Visitor Center is located on Spinnaker Drive. It's a great place to start and get information on boat schedules.

Convenient airports are in Camarillo, Oxnard, Santa Barbara, and Los Angeles.

Fees / Permits

There is no entrance fee to the park. There is a charge per night for camping on the islands. Please note that most boat trips to the islands charge fees.

Main attractions

Island trips require advanced planning. Carry all necessities, especially food and water, as well as extra clothing.

Anacapa Island – As the closest island, located 14 miles from Ventura, it offers much for time-constrained visitors. You can snorkel in downtown Anacapa or see California sea lions lounging on Arch Rock. Nature walks and ranger-led tours are also a great way to explore the island's greenery.

Santa Cruz – Located 21 miles from Ventura, this is the largest of the five islands. Visitors are allowed on the eastern end of the island, as The Nature Conservancy has placed strict limitations on visitors. Keep an eye out for various species such as the Island Fox and Island Scrub.

Santa Rosa: It is believed that people may have lived on this island 13,000 years ago. Located 45 miles from Ventura, this island is home to more than 195 species of birds and 500 species of plants.

Santa Barbara: If wildlife viewing is on your to-do list, you'll need to travel the 52 miles from Ventura. In the spring, the island's sheer cliffs display the world's largest breeding ground for Xantus murrelets. In the spring and summer, you can also see sea lions and sea pelicans.

San Miguel: Fifty-five miles from Ventura, this island is home to five different seal species. Check out Point Bennett, where at one point, 30,000 can draw at once.


All five camps have camps and are capped at 14 days. Permits are reservations are required. Please note that these are tent sites only.

Nearby hotels are located in Ventura. The Bella Maggiore Inn offers 28 affordable rooms. The Inn on the Beach is also a great stay. For those looking for a unique stay, try La Mer European Bed & Breakfast.

Areas of interest outside the park

Los Padres National Forest – This forest preserves a vast area of ​​California's central coast and mountain ranges that extend into more than five counties. If you plan to visit the 1.7 million acres, take the scenic route on the Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway (Calif. 35). Activities include camping, backpacking, and hiking.

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area - Government and private efforts preserve this area and everything if it comes to cultural and natural resources. From rocky canyons to sandy beaches, there is much to enjoy. Activities include hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, and camping.

Ship information

For trips to Anacapa, Santa Rosa, San Miguel and Santa Barbara, Island Packers and Truth Aquatics offer boat trips. You can call both at the following numbers:

Island Packers: 805-642-1393

Truth Aquatics: 805-963-3564

Both companies also offer boats to Santa Cruz, but landing permits are required. Contact The Nature Conservancy at 805-642-0345 for more information.

Channel Islands National Park Map