Channel Island scuba diving locations: 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.
A Diver’s Paradise with Great Visibility and Giant Kelp Beds
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 Channel Island scuba diving locations area more secluded and private, which can be nice.
As for skill level, almost anybody can dive here. While advanced divers may tire of the site after a while, novice to intermediate divers couldn’t ask for a better place to learn the sport. 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!
A Photographic Paradise with Friendly Sea Lions
It is important to keep Channel Island scuba diving locations 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
One of the best places to go scuba diving in all of California, if not all of The Channel Islands, is on Santa Cruz Island. The island of Santa Cruz is the largest and most fascinating of the group of eight islands. 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 entered service in 1943 and was awarded two combat stars by the end of WWII. The Hornbill was reclassified and renamed in 1947. She was reclassified again in 1953, and then decommissioned the following year, in 1955. A Texan bought the ship in 1960 and renamed it Los Buscaderos. Eight years after her initial sale, the Peacock received a new moniker. 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 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.
Anacapa Island’s Abundant Marine Life and Diverse Dive Sites
While water temperatures can vary wildly, in general, the Channel Island scuba diving locations 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.
At the end of summer, when visibility is at its best, the water temperature is typically at its highest.
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 Channel Island scuba diving locations 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).
The island of San Miguel has a rich geological past that becomes immediately apparent to visitors. Petrified pygmy mammoth bones and ancient human artifacts indicate that the island was inhabited well before the last 10,000 years.
A monument commemorating European explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo, who is widely acknowledged as California’s original discoverer, enhances the region’s historical allure. Cabrillo may have easily been the first European to set foot on the island.
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.
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!