Most people travel to the islands by boat from Ventura. Although there are no park fees, getting there is expensive -- anywhere from $56 to $160 per person, the higher price being for a trip by air to Santa Rosa. If you fly, you may leave from the Camarillo airport. Anacapa, 14 miles out, is closest to the mainland, about a 1-hour boat ride.
The Nearest Airport -- The closest major airport to the Channel Islands is Los Angeles International Airport, or LAX (tel. 310/646-5252; www.lawa.org/welcomeLAX.aspx). It's served by all major airlines, with connections to almost anywhere you want to go. Los Angeles is 66 miles southeast of Ventura and 96 miles southeast of Santa Barbara. All major car-rental companies have vehicles at LAX.
Island Packers, at Ventura Harbor at 1691 Spinnaker Dr. (tel. 805/642-1393; www.islandpackers.com), is one of the park's two concessionaires for boat transportation to and from the islands. They will take you on a range of scheduled excursions, from 3 1/2-hour nonlanding tours of the islands to full-day excursions, and will transport you to and from the islands for overnight trips. Prices start at $32 per person for nonlanding tours and run $56 to $100 for full-day excursions or $75 to $140 for campers. Island Packers also arranges specialty trips, primarily sea kayaking and snorkeling. Private yachts and commercial dive and tour boats also visit the park on a regular basis. Specializing in dive trips, the second boat concessionaire is Truth Aquatics (tel. 805/962-1127; www.truthaquatics.com). It leaves from Santa Barbara Harbor and charges $90 for a nonlanding round-trip to Santa Cruz; overnight live-aboard trips are also available. The trips take about 3 hours each way.
If You Have Your Own Boat -- If you want to take your own boat, check with the mainland visitor center. Access to the islands is prohibited in some places and difficult in others -- going ashore often requires a skiff, raft, or small boat. More details:
- You may land without a permit on East Anacapa, Santa Barbara, and east Santa Cruz, between Prisoner's Harbor and Valley Anchorage.
- West Anacapa, except the beach at Frenchy's Cove, is closed to the public to protect nesting brown pelicans.
- Access to middle Anacapa requires a ranger escort.
- At San Miguel, landings at Cuyler Harbor are allowed, and hiking access is limited without a permit and ranger escort.
- Landings and beach use on Santa Rosa do not require a permit; inland hiking excursions are also allowed. Special closures may exist; contact the park for up-to-date information.
- To land on the private western portion of Santa Cruz, boaters must obtain a permit from the Nature Conservancy, Attn.: Santa Cruz Landing Permit Program, 3639 Harbor Blvd., Ste. 201, Ventura, CA 93001 (tel. 805/642-0345; www.nature.org/cruzpermit). A fee is charged, no overnight stays are permitted, and processing the request may take 2 weeks. Applications are available from the mainland visitor center or by contacting the Nature Conservancy directly.
Getting to the Islands by Air
If you want to get to Santa Rosa in a hurry, Channel Islands Aviation, 305 Durley Ave., Camarillo, CA 93010 (tel. 805/987-1301, ext. 0; www.flycia.com), will fly you there from Camarillo or Santa Barbara in one of its small, fixed-wing aircraft (around $160 per adult round-trip, $300 if you're camping).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.