Posted Jun 05, 2022 | By Visit Oxnard

What To Do At Channel Islands National Park

Escape to the pristine, untouched landscapes at Channel Islands National Park. Here's your guide to exploring the five islands just off the coast of Oxnard, California.

Overview

Often referred to as the American Galapagos, these islands are as beautiful as they are wild. Each island is unique and has different activities. The islands are perfect for day or overnight trips where can kayak, camp, hike, dive and snorkel and more.

The five islands include:

  • Anacapa Island
  • Anacapa Island Light Station
  • Santa Cruz Island
  • Santa Rosa Island
  • Santa Barbara Island.

Visitor Info

The park is open 24 hours a day. There is no entrance fee.
To visit one of the five islands, you'll have to take a boat or plane. The closest island is just 12 miles off the coast of Oxnard.

There are no services on the islands. No hotels. No restaurants.

The islands are untouched by urbanization. You can camp on the islands, but the sites are basic. No water is provided. There is a fee to camp.

For check-in information, preparation for your trip, cancellation policy and overall safety click here.

Santa Cruz Island Near Oxnard
Santa Cruz Island

Whether you're a thrill-seeker, avid hiker, birdwatcher or nature-lover, there are unlimited activities in Channel Islands National Park. Here's how you can spend the day exploring the islands.

channel islands national park hiking

Hiking

One of the most popular ways to enjoy the islands is to boat in and hike the trails. All of the islands are primitive with very few amenities so you need to pack in your water, food and your sunscreen.

Don't forget to bring your camera and binoculars to enjoy the amazing wildlife.

Whale Watching

Channel Islands National Park is home to a marine sanctuary with 28 species of whales and dolphins. Book a whale watching tour with Island Packers, the park's authorized transportation, and tour along Santa Barbara Island to get a close-up view of Pacific Gray Whales in the winter and Humpback and Blue Whales in the summer.

Related: Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary: Discover Shipwrecks, Artifacts and Sea Life

Backcountry camping

Ready to camp on a pristine beach and let the sound of the ocean lull you to sleep? Rustic, backcountry camping sites are available year-round on Santa Cruz Island and from mid-August through December on Santa Rosa Island.

Both sites require a long hike in and campers must pack in everything they need, including water, to the sites.

Kayaking

Paddle through sea caves, spot vibrant sea life and get a view of the islands' undeveloped landscapes in a kayak. Both Santa Cruz and Anacapa Island offer kayaking experiences, but the Anacapa trip requires more experience since the currents are stronger.

Take your own kayak, rent one or take a guided tour.

Birding

Are you a bird watcher? If so, you'll see a number of sea and land birds that only live on the islands. Santa Cruz Island is the only place in the world where island scrub-jays live.

Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands have the world's largest population of Scripps's murrelets and the only nesting population of California pelicans along the West Coast.

Swimming

Take the family and spend the day swimming in the ocean. Pack a picnic lunch, relax in the sun and make some memories. Head for Santa Cruz Island. Scorpion Beach is easy to access here, with crystal clear water and amazing ocean views.

There are no lifeguards on duty or services/amenities on the islands. Plan to bring everything you need for the day.
scuba diving oxnard

Diving and snorkeling

An array of underwater sea creatures call the Channel Islands home, which is why it's a popular spot for diving and snorkeling. Swim through kelp forests, dip into sea caves and spot black sea bass and bat rays as you glide through the waters.

Santa Barbara, Anacapa and eastern Santa Cruz Islands are the best areas for underwater viewing. There are outfitters that offer training, gear and trips to these areas.

channel islands national park hiking

Conclusion

A trip to Oxnard isn't complete without a visit to Channel Islands National Park. Whether you want to spend the day taking in the islands' natural beauty or want to try something more adventurous like scuba diving, the islands won't disappoint.

Oxnard is the perfect hub for all of your central California coast activities.

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