Seagull nesting in Channel Islands, California (Getty Images)

Channel Islands (iStockphoto)

USA, California, Santa Cruz, Sunset (Digital Vision)

Point Mugu Peak and Channel Islands in California (iStockphoto)


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What to do in Channel Islands National Park

Contrary to their near-sighted locale—they’re visible from mainland California—the Channel Islands are vastly different from the sandy beaches you’ll find on the Southern California coast. Five of the eight floating wonderlands compose Channel Islands National Park, but the real wonder is what’s beneath them. In the 1,252 square nautical miles of surrounding sea, divers and kayakers can explore more than 2,000 plant and animal species, 145 of which can be found only in the CIs—think giant kelp forests, one of few northern fur seal colonies, and the world’s largest animal, the blue whale. However famous the islands are for the plant and animal life, they’re equally famous to some for their past inhabitants. In 1959, the discovery of the 13,000-year-old remains of a woman on Santa Rosa Island gave new insight into how long the islands have been occupied.