Santa Cruz is the largest of the Channel Islands, covering more than 60,000 acres. The highest of the Channel Islands mountains is found here, and the shoreline cliffs, beaches, offshore rocks, and tidepools provide important breeding habitat for colonies of nesting sea birds and diverse plants and animals. Of the 85 plant species native to the Channel Islands, nine occur only on Santa Cruz.

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Expert Review of Santa Cruz Island

Beach Review of Santa Cruz Island

Away Travel Expert: Christine Loomis
expert favorite Beach Expert Favorite
BeachExpert Rating 4.0 out of 5 Recommended for:
Scuba Diving,Snorkeling
BeachExpert Tips & Helpful Hints
  • The National Park Service owns only 24 percent of the island, the Nature Conservancy owns the western 76 percent and offers very limited access. Santa Cruz is 96-plus square miles, making it California's largest island. Even if access to western Santa Cruz is limited, the eastern part of the island has 14,500 acres to explore.
  • Santa Cruz offers the park's best swimming, snorkeling, diving, and kayaking. Scorpion Anchorage, Smugglers Cove, and Prisoners Harbor all offer beach access, and for those who like to dive or kayak in sea caves, Santa Cruz has some, including Painted Cave, one of the world's largest known sea caves (kayakers cannot get out of their boats in caves and should wear helmets).
  • One of the park's best hikes is from Prisoners Harbor to Pelican Bay (accessible through the Nature Conservancy when it offers one-day trips). Look for the endemic island scrub jay, found only on Santa Cruz and nowhere else in the world.

Channel Islands National Park
Price: free; $15 per night for camping

Visitor Information

Telephone Number: (805) 658-5730
Fax: (805) 658-5799
Price Information: free; $15 per night for camping
The details, dates, and prices mentioned here were accurate at the time of publication.

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