Which Channel Islands National Park Adventure to Choose?

You want the most amazing experience your money can buy, and we understand. But what trip do you choose? CIO guides have over 250 years of combined experience, and we all have our favorites. Here’s the best way to decide which trip you should choose:

  1. Are you comfortable on boats (ie the ferry)? Yes: Painted Cave, or Caves and Coves, or Sea Caves of Coche Point, or Santa Barbara Island (SBI) Circumnavigation, or Arches of Anacapa Island. No: Caves and Coves is your best choice. The ferry ride is 60 minutes or so and it’s on a catamaran, which is a more stable boat.

    A group unloading the Truth, which is our ferry to Painted Cave.


    The Island Packers ferry unloading at Scorpion Ranch.

  2. Do you want to hike? Yes: Caves and Coves, a wonderful 1 hour hike is an extra perk. If you choose Sea Caves of Coche Point, you’ll have to be a camper, so your hiking options are greater. We suggest Smugglers Cove for a day hike (7 miles round trip). No: Painted Cave, Arches of Anacapa, and SBI Circumnavigation are all kayaking focused adventures. In some cases (such as Painted Cave) you won’t even land on firm ground.
    Hiking to Potato Harbor

    Hiking on Santa Cruz Islands provides some amazing vistas!

  3. Do you have any kayaking experience? No: Caves and Coves is the most mellow and amazing adventure we offer. We also offer this as a 1/2 day for those looking for a quick and intimate experience in only a few sea caves. Yes: If it’s higher adventure you seek, we suggest the Painted Cave, Sea Caves of Coche Point, Arches of Anacapa, or SBI Circumnaviation. For the most experienced paddlers, SBI Circumnavigation is for you, as we screen this adventure for those with intermediate-advanced abilities.
    Anacapa Island

    Paddle to more remote areas with more experience.

  4. Do you want to camp? Yes: East Santa Cruz Island, Scorpion Ranch is the best place to camp and kayak. With year round access and water available in the campground, you’ll be comfortable and well situated for plenty of adventure. We suggest you participate in Caves and Coves and Sea Caves of Coche Point to fully explore the depth of all sea caves, however if you are only going to choose one, choose Sea Caves of Coche Point, it’s an unforgettable experience! No: Arches of Anacapa, Painted Cave, and Caves and Coves are excellent day trips.
    Camping at Santa Cruz Island

    Camping at the Upper Campground at Scorpion Ranch, Santa Cruz Island

  5. Do you want to snorkel?Guided? Yes: CIO is licensed by the National Park Service to guide snorkeling tours. Kelp Forest Snorkeling takes place at Scorpion Marine Reserve (Scorpion Ranch). CIO guides are naturalists and interpreters and will escort snorkelers through a kelp forest exploration. No: Snorkeling equipment is provided on Caves and Coves, Painted Cave, Arches of Anacapa Island adventures. This includes mask, snorkel, fins, and you can use your kayaking wetsuit, or rent a wetsuit top for $12.
    Snorkeling at Santa Cruz Island

    The Scorpion Marine Reserve is a world class snorkeling destination.

  6. Are there kids in your group? Yes: Caves and Coves is the best adventure for children 5 and up. We highly recommend that children be at least 9 years old to participate, but we will accept 5 and over as long as they are capable swimmers. Children must be 12 years or older to paddle in a single kayak by themselves. No: Any CIO adventure will be a good choice, using the above criteria of course!
    Kids Kayaking

    Kayaking at Scorpion Ranch is a great activity for kids ages 5 and up!

And of course if you still have any questions about choosing the right adventure for you and your group, CIO Reservation Specialists are available 7 days a week from 8am-5:30pm to help you make the right choice. 805-899-4925

It is our mission to save the oceans and natural places by fostering an understanding of them through education, adventures and outdoor experiences.