Get up close to the sea caves of the Channel Islands


The beauty of the Channel Islands’ painted sea caves is best seen up close on one of these many kayaking tours.

The Channel Islands National Park is one of the national parks off the coast of the United States. Fortunately, although the mainland coast is densely populated, the islands are relatively undeveloped. The isolation of the island made them very special with abundant flora and fauna – some of which cannot be found anywhere else. Not only that, but they are world famous for their sea caves.

The Channel Islands are by far California’s most exotic offshore destination and a must-see for anyone who enjoys unspoiled nature. Catalina Island, south of the Channel Islands, has a permanent population and is also great for vacations with this guide.

The painted sea cave of the Channel Island

The eight islands have all been a UNESCO World Heritage Biosphere Reserve since 1976 and five of the islands are part of the national park. The Channel Islands are famous for their sea caves, the most famous of which is the Painted Sea Cave.

It is a huge sea cave and the longest in North America. It makes its way for about 500 meters into the island of Santa Cruz in the national park. The entrance ceiling to the sea cave is an impressive 160 feet.

When the tide is good, the cave opening is large enough to allow a 60 foot boat to travel almost half of the tunnel. If you come by kayak, you can go even further. Come during the rainy season and there is even a waterfall at the mouth of the cave, which makes it a truly awe-inspiring sight.

As you descend into the cave, it narrows and you enter a huge room of pitch black. But here there are a dozen or more sea lions barking and resting on a rocky beach in the dark. It is common for beginners to be speechless and even a little panicked.

“It’s hard to describe because it’s such a surreal thing: being in a dark room, with barking sea lions, under an island. “—Grant Cunningham Kayak Tour Guide (excerpt from Visit California)

Visits to the painted sea cave of Santa Barabara Adventures

Santa Barabara Adventures runs tours that include continental breakfasts on the way to the island and a hot lunch on the return trip.

Sit back and enjoy watching whales and marine life in the national park. You might spot blue whales, bald eagles, mega pods of dolphins and other beautiful marine life. The special trip may only be available in the summer – contact them for up-to-date information.

Additionally, this special trip requires a minimum number of kayakers and is subject to cancellation due to weather conditions.

Related: Cave Exploring 101: The Ultimate Guide On What To Do If You Find Yourself in Trouble

Sea Cave Adventure Kayak

The Sea Cave Kayak Adventure explores the sea caves around Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island. It is the park’s hotspot for the large number of sea cave kayaking opportunities and is home to some of the most beautiful sea caves in the world.

Note that these tours are often full, so it’s best to plan ahead and book in advance. If one is keen on snorkeling, they also have snorkeling gear for hire from their shop on the island. After the kayaking tour, you have some free time to snorkel before you need to catch the next ferry to the mainland.

  • When: Daily on Santa Cruz Island at 10:30 a.m. and some days from 9:30 a.m.
  • Time and distance traveled: 2.5 to 3 miles and 2.5 to 3 hours of kayaking on the island
  • Difficulty level : Beginner to Advanced
  • Age restriction: Must be 5 years old and over


  • Adult: $ 161 + ferry transportation ($ 63)
  • Child: $ 150 12 and under + ferry transportation ($ 50)

Related: What To Expect When Visiting The Incredible Mammoth Cave National Park

Ultimate kayaking in the sea cave

The Ultimate Sea Cave Kayak Tour is the longest of their kayak tour options and caters to the true ocean adventurer. On this tour you will explore sea caves and kelp forests along the route to the famous Potato Port. Potato Harbor is a secluded area of ​​the park and offers breathtaking views of its water-colored cove and pristine shoreline. This tour also sells out often, so plan ahead.

  • Difficulty: Intermediate to advanced kayakers looking for a longer day
  • Ferry: You have to get the ferry departure at 8:00 a.m. and the return at 4:30 p.m. (except camping on the island)
  • Season: Certain days from June to October
  • Time and distance traveled: 3 to 5 miles and 4 hours of actual paddling


  • Adult: $ 221 + ferry transportation ($ 63)
  • Child: $ 211 12 years old and under + ferry transportation ($ 50)

The Channel Islands are truly beautiful and they even once had their own species of mammoths on the island. It was the pygmy mammoth that descended from the Colombian mammoth. He was only 5.6 feet tall at shoulder level and weighed 1,680 pounds, in stark contrast to this mainland ancestor standing 14 feet tall and weighing 20,000 pounds.

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