Get a taste of the Galapagos without having to leave the U.S.

  • Untouched nature right off the California coast

    You might swear you were in the Galapagos Islands when you first step foot on Santa Cruz, the largest of the five islands that make up Channel Islands National Park. In reality, you're just twenty miles from the Southern California coastal city of Ventura, an hour’s boat ride away.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Getting there is half the fun

    Transportation to the national park is available year-round by park concessionaire boats and planes, or by private boats. Park boats are a popular choice and the adventure begins a few minutes after departure. Playful dolphins love to put on a show for delighted passengers during the hour-long crossing.

    Photo courtesy of Tony DiBona

  • Hike across glorious landscapes

    While Santa Cruz is part of the National Park system, there are no concessions on the island. You need to bring in (and take out) your food and water and anything else you will need for your visit. Magnificent hiking trails crisscross the island. The Cavern Point Loop trailhead is located near the boat anchorage and visitor center at Scorpion Ranch. After a short ascent, you can walk for miles, high above the rugged shoreline, with unbelievable views of churning waters beating against the rocks some 400 feet below.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Marvel at the vastness of flora and fauna

    Santa Cruz is not only the largest of the islands that encompass this national park, it also lays claim to the greatest number of plant and animal species.  Large colonies of nesting seabirds perch on the cliffs along the shore. Bird watchers can also delight in 140 species of land birds that populate the island.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Reconnect on a pristine beach

    You can do as little or as much as you like on picturesque Scorpion Beach, located steps away from the passenger boat landing.  The azure blue waters invite you to swim, dive, kayak and snorkel – or just relax and drink in the amazing scenery.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Explore the island's rich history

    Home to the Chumash tribe of American Indians for more than 10,000 years, Santa Cruz's history also includes European exploration and ranching. You can learn about the lives of these settlers in the visitor center, where an entire history of the people who inhabited the island is on display. Stroll around the grounds to view the remnants of adobe ranch houses, barns, wineries and blacksmith shops, the remains of the European settlers who lived here in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

    Photo courtesy of Tony DiBona

  • Discover an underwater world

    Crystal clear water, coupled with a marine reserve and extensive kelp beds, make snorkeling off Scorpion Beach an adventure to remember. There's nothing like exploring an underwater world that is part of a pristine ocean sanctuary.

    Photo courtesy of Tony DiBona

  • Find your inner Zen

    Soak in the pure air, radiant sunshine and endless views as you make your way up the Cavern Point trail. The crest overlooking Cavern Point is a perfect spot to have lunch, take some photos, or simply contemplate nature’s glory.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • Kayak through ancient sea caves

    For a kayaking experience you won’t soon forget, plan to rent your gear at Scorpion Anchorage and explore the island’s rugged shoreline and many sea caves. The mother of all sea caves, Painted Cave, is located on the island’s northwest coastline.  At nearly a quarter mile long and 100 ft. wide, it is one of the deepest sea caves in the world and the longest in North America.  Note that you’ll need to book a guided trip in advance to visit this world wonder.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • More adventures await on the return

    Santa Cruz makes for a perfect day trip on boats leaving from Ventura and Santa Barbara. Even the trip back to civilization can be filled with exciting experiences that might include encounters with sea lions and vast numbers of ocean birds frolicking in the waves. For those who would like to stay on the island for a few days, note that primitive camping is also an option at the Scorpion Ranch Campground. Detailed information on planning your trip to the Channel Islands can be found on the National Park Service website.

    Photo courtesy of Tony DiBona

  • A rowdy welcome

    Boisterous sea lions bark their greetings to boat passengers as they vie for a prized position on the buoys in the Ventura Harbor.

    Photo courtesy of Joanne DiBona

  • End of a perfect day in paradise

    As the sun starts to set over Santa Cruz island, visitors take a moment to recall their day’s escape from the bustle of urban life and the magical opportunity to explore the unforgettable natural wonders of Channel Islands National Park.

    Photo courtesy of Tony DiBona


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