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Best Places in The Channel Island Scuba Diving

Whether you are a new diver in the area or you are going to be passing through on a diving vacation, you may want to know about the best sites in The Channel Island for scuba diving. Here are the 5 best locations for diving when you are in the region.

We’ll go through each location, the benefits of the location, and what you can expect when you get there. We’ll also give you some helpful tips when it comes to lodging, accommodations, transportation, and what gear you should be bringing. Follow along to learn about the best diving places on The Channel Island!


Santa Rosa Island

First of all, let’s take a look at Santa Rosa Island as the first destination on our list. In terms of diving, this is one of the most popular locations on The Channel Island for a number of reasons.

Before we get into diving conditions, let’s take a look at what you can expect when you go there for a diving trip.

A visit to Santa Rosa Island will reveal pristine beaches, rolling grasslands, canyon groves of Oak, Ironwood, and a wide variety of wildlife.

You can explore the shoreline, take a nature hike with a park ranger as your tour guide, or simply relax on this island. During your cruise to and from the island, you will likely see marine mammals such as whales, as well as Painted Cave on the north shore of Santa Cruz Island.

One thing that you need to be aware of if you’re going to dive here is that it does take a bit of a time commitment to get there. You will have to travel by boat, and even though the boat ride is scenic and pretty to see, it also takes 3.5 hours. So, it’s no small time commitment to get to the Island.

Once you are there, however, diving can be a lot of fun. The diving location is on the north side of the West End of the island. Again, you can get there by boat only, but that does make the area more secluded and private, which can be nice.

As for skill level, almost anybody can dive here. Expert divers might get bored eventually, but it’s the perfect diving location for skill levels from beginner to intermediate. This makes it a good candidate for a diving location for almost anybody.

Another great thing about this diving site is that it has great visibility. This creates amazing opportunities for those who want to take photos or sight-see underwater. The visibility at any given point in time can range from 40 to 80 feet, which is outstanding. This great visibility is partly due to the fact that the location is so far offshore that it is able to escape a lot of debris.

This location is well-known for its giant kelp beds and the ability to capture big animals on camera.


Santa Barbara Island

In our list of the best dive sites in The Channel Island, the next location on our list is the Santa Barbara Island. One of the best places to go when you are visiting from around the country is this beautiful location that is also frequently visited by local experts as well as people from all over the country. In the chain of eight islands that are a part of the Channel Islands, this island is the smallest in the chain.

As a contributing factor to the underwater paradise that is present on Santa Barbara Island, pinnipeds are a significant part of the ecosystem. In this particular location, what makes it unique is the fact that once you get in the water, you are likely to be surrounded by sea lions. You don’t have to worry about it! There is no need to worry about them biting you. Despite this, it is possible to be intimidated by them when you meet them for the first time. It is true that they do like to rush divers and play with them underwater, so be on the lookout for them!

It is important to keep in mind that Santa Barbara Island is also only accessible by boat, so it is a good idea to plan accordingly. In order to dive there, it is recommended that you go in a larger dive boat only.

There is no doubt that this island is a great location for photography as well. In addition to the kelp forests, you will also find underwater cliffs that make for some truly spectacular backgrounds that you will not be able to find anywhere else.

There is no better time to visit this location than during the summer months when the water is at its warmest and there is a minimum amount of rainfall. There is a good chance that the water temperature will range between the mid-60s and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and that you will be able to dive from 20 feet to 100 feet in depth.

All in all, Santa Barbara Island is the perfect destination for someone that wants a nice, intermediate-difficulty dive with high visibility and the possibility to see a lot of wildlife. It’s one of the only locations with such friendly and approachable sea lions in the country.


Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island provides one of the best diving experiences in California and certainly one of the best in The Channel Islands. Santa Cruz Island is the largest and most interesting of all 8 islands in the chain. Coming in at 24 miles in length, it has a pristine coastline, thriving wildlife, mountain ranges, and several diverse plants. Part of the island is owned by Nature Conservancy, a non-profit dedicated to preserving certain plant and animal species. The rest is owned by the National Park Service. You can visit either part of the island, so long as you comply with the rules laid out by their respective owners.

One of the more unique characteristics of this island is that it features dozens of caverns and caves to explore both above ground and underwater. Divers who enjoy underwater caves should consider this location a must-visit. There is an extensive system of underground tunnels that are sure to give a rush. The caves on the island are often used for instructional reasons to teach new divers how to dive in caves.

In addition to the amazing cave system that is present under the water, there are also a ton of marine mammals to see while you are on the island. The area has been visited by over 28 species of whales and dolphins. Over the course of the year, 17 of those species are seen frequently. For that reason, this diving location is a prime destination for divers who love to see wildlife.

Another unique thing that you can see when you dive at Santa Cruz Island is the Wreck of the Peacock.

It was discovered during research for the book Shipwrecks of Southern California that the wreck that sank in Scorpion Anchorage may have been a 136-foot long World War II minesweeper with a composition hull. The Peacock was launched in 1943, earning two battle stars during World War II. The Hornbill was reclassified and renamed in 1947. A second reclassification took place in 1953, and she was decommissioned in 1955. A Texan bought the ship in 1960 and renamed it Los Buscaderos. The Peacock was renamed eight years later after she was sold again. The Dominican Republic claimed to have seized her in 1969, but somehow she sank off Scorpion Anchorage ten years later.

As you can imagine, this has prompted quite a few conspiracy theories and is at least a bit suspicious and confounding. When you dive at Santa Cruz Island, you can explore the wreckage and come to your own conclusion!

Diving here is great due to the high degree of visibility. You can dive up to 60 feet deep and there are plenty of opportunities for photography.


Anacapa Island

Anacapa Island offers excellent dive sites with great visibility when conditions are right. Divers can dive from a few feet to 60 feet deep near the island, and diving depths range from a few to 60 feet.

On the bottom, you will find sand and rocky reefs, with kelp forests, walls, and pinnacles. There are hundreds of plants and small animals living on the reefs, including kelp bass, sheepshead, and even nervy garibaldi.

Divers who dive in the kelp forest experience a completely different feel than those who dive in tropical waters. It is important to note that the water varies in temperature from cool to cold.

While water temperatures can vary wildly, in general, the waters off the Park islands average 50-60°F in winter and 60-70°F in summer. A dry suit or 7mm wetsuit with hood and gloves is essential for a comfortable experience. Off Anacapa, divers can see seals, lobster, bat rays, horn sharks, moray eels, and other small schooling fish. If you look hard enough, you’ll find more.

Usually, the warmest water temperatures are recorded at the end of summer, which also happens to be the time of year with the best visibility. The visibility ranges from 40 to 100 feet most of the year, but when conditions are right, visibility can reach 150 feet and beyond.

On Anacapa Island, some of the most popular dive sites include Coral Reef, Landing Cove, Cathedral Cove, Underwater Arch, Aquarium, Guana Banks, Rat Rock, and West End. Anacapa Island is also featured as one of the Best Places for Scuba Diving in California by our writers.

This island is commonly called “The Galapagos of North America” due to the wide variety of beautiful wildlife that can be seen. The island itself is 11 miles wide, giving you plenty of space to spread out and explore. There are also 3 small islets nearby, which serve as the safe refuge for dozens of other small fish species. The island is attractive as a destination for other reasons, as well, such as the lighthouse on the eastern end of the island and the rock arch that is nearby.


San Miguel Island

Closing out our list is San Miguel Island. This is the westernmost island in the Northern Channel Islands. In San Miguel, you will find cooler water temperatures (55-60 F.) and marine life typical of the central California coastline due to the nutrient-rich California current. Invertebrates and nudibranchs are very lush here, including Wolf-eels, big halibut, and gigantic bugs. At San Miguel, Wilson Rock, a remote pinnacle, offers great fishing for rockfish and halibut as well as excellent macro photography.

In addition to high winds and lots of fog, it is located in an open ocean. On the island, you’ll find lush grasses and wildflowers, as well as 27 miles of jagged, rocky coastline dotted with white sand beaches. In Point Bennett, the westernmost of these beaches, you can find up to six different pinniped species (seals and sea lions).

As soon as you step foot on San Miguel Island, you’ll discover that it is a place that is full of geological history. Fossilized bones of pygmy mammoths have been found on the island as well as evidence of early human habitation that was dated to more than 10,000 years old. Adding to the historic appeal of the island is the fact that the memorial of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, a European traveler who is credited with discovering California, is located on the island. It’s easy to imagine Cabrillo arriving on the island first.

Overall, San Miguel island is a perfect place to dive, whether you are a beginner or advanced diver, and can be suitable for younger divers as well. It’s an excellent spot to combine the love of diving and history. Access is available by boat, and it is located 64 miles from Ventura Harbor.


Let’s Recap

The Channel Islands are home to some of the most impressive and beautiful diving locations in the world. If you are looking for an experience that you will never forget, then simply pick out one of these amazing diving locations that we have listed!