I’m not sure how but I didn’t learn about the Channel Islands National Park off the coast of California until recently. I couldn’t believe it, how did I NOT know about islands that I could camp and hike on? It’s really the perfect trip for those who are feeling a little adventurous or very adventurous.
Here’s what we did on our trip to the Channel Islands:
We camped overnight for 2 nights on the Santa Cruz island. We booked campsite number 23 for these two nights. We reserved an early morning charter and arrived on the island at about 9:30 AM. We packed 2 packs full of our gear which included the sleeping bags, food and clothes.
Our activities included hiking, kayaking and snorkeling. If you go to the islands, you have to go kayaking through the sea caves and snorkeling on the coast. It is such an amazing experience. We signed up for our adventures though the Santa Barbara Adventure Company and they made our trip an unforgettable. We had a small kayak group and our guide, Aaron, always asked to make sure we were comfortable before we went to the next area. We went through a few caves and went around an area where the water was really rough but it was a lot of fun! We also went snorkeling which was breathtaking. We saw so much sea life and we swam through kelp forests and it was absolutely breathtaking.
The one thing that we were truly blown away by was the customer service that the guides showed to us. They were all very patient and very kind. When we had trouble with our kayaks and gear, they helped us until we were comfortable. Since we were camping, they gave us flexibility on when we could do our snorkeling so we went kayaking one day then snorkeling the next day.
Here’s what you need to know about visiting Channel Islands National Park:
- There is no food or water on the islands, you must bring your own. The exception is some of the campgrounds have water.
- Visiting the islands is FREE which is great, however, you do need a way to get there and if you don’t have your own boat, you’ll need to make a reservation on the Island Packers charter. Be sure to look outside for the sea otters and the dolphins! *Tip – These boats go fast and the water is choppy, if you get seasick, sit towards the back of the boat. Trust me, I know.
- Cell phone service for us was very limited. We did not have any service in the harbor or in the campground. We had to hike up to the top of the ridges to call home.
- Those island foxes are very cute! However, they are pesky little creatures and they will try to steal your food. Don’t feed them and don’t leave your food out, even in your tent. One of our camping neighbors had one in there tent and then it howled, well I am actually not sure how to describe the noises they make, which I guess is why they made that song but anyways, it was pretty upset because it couldn’t get out.
- If you are camping, you have to carry everything to your campsites. There are a couple mule style carts but if the boat is full, you may be waiting for a while for a cart.
- Water and fuel need to be stored separately on the boat. Be sure to mark your containers.
What to bring to the channel islands:
You have two choices when visiting the islands, you can camp or you can just visit for the day.
- Visiting for the day? Bring water, food, comfortable shoes and sunblock. You can also bring towels if you want to go swimming.
Camping? Here are our recommendations on what to bring:
- Sleeping gear – Bring a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. Your mat should be thick enough for your comfort. I feel like the cheaper ones don’t have a lot of thickness and if you get sore easily, you will want to invest in a thick one. The temperature at night was about high 50s in September so make sure your bag is warm enough.
- Tent – We researched and found this tent on Amazon for under $50. It is PERFECT! It is 2-3 people and held us comfortably. The tent blocked out the wind and rain and we slept very comfortably.
- Mess Kits – These are perfect for keeping in packs and not taking up too much space.
- Stove – This is the one we use and its great because it’s compact for storage.
- Food and Water– This is where you will need to decide how much you will want to bring. We did all dry food to cook in our packs. Many people wheeled their coolers of food to their sites.
- Our favorite foods we brought:
- Cheddar Soup
- Cliff Bars
- Solar Phone Charger
- Ziploc bags for trash
- Our favorite foods we brought:
- Check out my post for the complete list of tips for backpacking here!
Visiting the islands is FREE which is great, however, you do need a way to get there and if you don’t have your own boat, you’ll need to make a reservation on the Island Packers charter. Be sure to look outside for the sea otters and the dolphins!
*Tip – These boats go fast and the water is choppy, if you get seasick, sit towards the back of the boat. Trust me, I know.
We truly had a blast going to the Channel Islands and can’t wait to go back again!
We did receive a tour with the Santa Barbara company, all opinions are my own.