California Top Sites

CHANNEL ISLANDS NATIONAL PARK 

 

Off of South California’s coastline you’ll find the Channel Islands National Park and the five magical islands that comprise it. With plenty of wildlife and unique endemic plants that have grown in relative isolation, the park is known as the “Galápagos of North America.” 

On Santa Cruz Island, Santa Barbara Island, Anacapa Island, Santa Rosa Island and San Miguel Island you discover lush, diverse ecosystems a world apart yet close to home. Rugged mountain ranges, rich kelp forests, massive sea caves, vibrant tide pools, and sweeping sandy beaches await you on each island. 

On Anacapa and Santa Barbara, yellow bouquets of the tree sunflower coreopsis and red paintbrush color the landscape. On Santa Cruz, discover the colorful rocks coated in algae and lichens in the Painted Cave—one of the deepest and largest sea caves in the world. When visiting Santa Rosa, come upon the rare endemic Torrey pine subspecies, one of the world’s rarest pines, while on San Miguel you can walk through the eerie caliche forest—the skeletal casts of trees that grew many years ago. 

Off the coastlines, dolphins, porpoises, gray whales, orcas and even blue whales can be spotted. On the shores, congregations of sea lions can be heard barking and harbor and elephant seals can be seen cooling off with a swim. In tide pools, look out for vividly colored sea stars and spiny sea urchins clinging to their rocks or the bright orange Garibaldi fish flitting about. Western gulls, Cassin’s auklets, endangered brown pelicans, multiple species of cormorants and storm-petrels, peregrine falcons and black oystercatchers can be caught sailing the winds. 

Jump in the water and go snorkeling with the lively marine life. Sea kayak along the coastlines, discovering coves and secluded sea caves. Walk through diverse landscapes and discover the islands’ rich sociocultural history as you visit historical buildings and lighthouses.