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Sea Kayaking Channel Islands National Park & the Santa Barbara Coast

Maximize Fun / Banish Fear

Santa Cruz Island
Viewed looking south from the hilltops above the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Island Trade-offs

Kayaking and hiking itineraries vary in response to opportunities presented by weather, swell, and tides. An island experience presents a number of trade-offs. For instance, when the swell is high some caves become off-limits, but high swells produce dramatic blowhole activity with compressed air driving fountains of spray high overhead. Another example: when the tide is low, some caves are too rocky to enter, but other caves become exposed for exploration which are submerged under higher tides. Overcast skies often mean calm, still waters -- but you get the idea. The guides will suggest activities that will take the most advantage of the conditions, and make the most of your precious island time.

If it rains or becomes extremely windy, the ferry company will cancel the trip and there is no charge. Once in a great while we are able to get to an island, but kayaking conditions turn out to be too rough. The trade-offs in this case may be a day of hiking, or a motor boating tour of the island coastline, and a reduction in your fee.

The sun begins to dispel the morning fog at Scorpion Landing, Santa Cruz Island.....
.....which paints the calm, clear waters azure in the late morning.
The Seasons

As with any characterization of the weather, what follows in this section are tendencies. Some winters have been predominantly warm and still, and some summers have been damp and cool. Our advise? Come out as soon as you can, or risk being one of the people who says, "I've been wanting to go there for years, but..." And after your first trip, come again -- there's lots to see!


Shortest days, clearest air, fewest visitors, migrating whales, breezy/windy, green vegetative growth in late winter, coldest temps, occasional storms to dodge (possible trip cancellations at no charge.)


Lengthening days, warmer weather, increasing visitation, fewer storms to dodge, some fog, breezy/windy, green vegetation with wildflowers, some migrating whales early.


Longest days, warm weather, some haze and fog, the most visitation, storms very unlikely, breezy/windy, few migrating whales, brown vegetation.


Shortening days, beautiful mild and clear weather with rich lighting, colder nights, few storms, decreasing visitation, brown vegetation.

"If you're inside when a big wave comes in, it's very dangerous. If you're a beginner, you shouldn't go into the caves. Never go in without a helmet. The best way to experience a sea cave is with a guide so you have someone saying, 'This is safe, this isn't safe.' Then over time you begin to learn and figure this out, and you can go by yourself."

--Bill Faulkner, Park Ranger
Inside the caves...

Wasted Vacation Time: The Monster Fear!

What's Worth the Money?
"What are your greatest vacation concerns?" we asked our clients. Expense? Sharks? Turns out it's not just spending the time or spending the money, it's wasting their time or not getting enough value for their money. Oh sure, there are concerns about sharks or giant squid or claustrophobia or not being strong or capable enough, but it all boils down to maximizing fun and banishing fear:

"We only have a day or two. How much can we see?"

"We were there for three days, but there wasn't much to do."

"A disappointing vacation is worse than no vacation at all!"
Park visitors budget their time, they budget their money, and they worry that they will end up budgeting away the purpose of their vacation in the first place: the enjoyment that flows from having a top quality experience.

Why Guided?
Vacationers who've been to the islands without the benefit of a guide mostly have a pretty good time. But often we hear things like "There weren't many sea caves," or "The hiking was so-so." We wonder how they can expect to just 'know' where to go and what the good options are under prevailing weather and sea conditions -- it took us thousands of client-days over many years to figure it all out.

Which caves have teenie doors inside that open into bigger rooms? Can I really go on through this cave to the other side without getting smooshed against the ceiling? Under what conditions? This cave certainly LOOKED impressive, but now that I've spent the time paddling over here I see that there's no interior to speak of. I wonder what I'm missing in the meantime?

Banish Your Fear!
We take people kayaking all the time who've never even seen the ocean before, much less kayaked on it. We'll help you match the trip and the equipment to your abilities, with the goal of having a stellar exploratory adventure with a comfortable amount of physical effort. Our sit-on-top kayaks are easy to use and selected for superior stability. Tandem kayaks are available for those who are concerned about their strength or coordination, and all kayaks have tow lines in case a paddler gets overly tired. (And if you're a kayaker, we have optimal experiences designed just for you -- if you don't find them, please ask!)

Claustrophobes can take comfort knowing that entering every cave is an informed choice. Many caves are pretty wide open and well-lit, and all can be entered to the degree to which you are comfortable.

And yes, worrisome species of sharks inhabit the ocean, and we're sure there have been a few pass by our paddling areas. We've never been approached by any, never even SEEN any. We're WAY more concerned about driving on the freeway to and from the harbor than we are about the actuarially non-existent "shark threat."

So come ON already, and maximize your vacation fun-time with a guided kayaking trip!

Partial Client List
• 2Lane Media
• Aflac
• Amgen
• Atlas International
• Bain & Company
• Boojum Institute
• Boy Scouts of America
• Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
• Cate School
• Chaffey High School
• City of Nurnberg (Germany)
• Credit Suisse
• Crossroads School
• Fujitsu
• Girl Scouts
• Henry Radio
• Imation
• Indian Guides
• La Canada High School
• Mormon Church
• New Horizon School
• North Hollywood High School
• Oak Grove School
• Odyssey School - Malibu
• Ojai Valley Land Conservancy
• Options for Youth
• Overlake School
• Patagonia
• Perforce Software
• PlanMember Services, Inc.
• Pomona College
• Reader's Digest
• Santa Rosa Junior College
• Scripps Ranch High School
• Shalom Nature Center
• Sony Pictures Entertainment
• South Gate High School
• Southwest Geotechnical
• St. Andrews Church
• St. Paul's Episcopal Church
• St. Timothy's Episcopal School
• Sun America
• Swedish Trade Council
• Tawonga Summer Camp
• TeamOne Advertising
• The Nature Conservency
• Toyota Motor Corp.
• University of Redlands
• University of Tennessee
• Waldorf School (Marin)
• Westmark School
• Westridge School
• Young Presidents Organization
Sea Kayaking Channel Islands National Park & the Santa Barbara Coast

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