Single yellow kayak
Photo by Doug Mangum

Kayaking at Santa Cruz Island

Santa Cruz Island, Scorpion Anchorage is the most popular destination for kayaking.  The sand and cobblestone beach make it easy to get your kayak in the water and the many caves and coves make for great kayaking fun.

Santa Cruz Island, Prisoners Harbor has fewer visitors in general. Therefore, kayakers can enjoy a  more personal exploration of the caves and coves found in this area of the island.  The sand and cobblestone beach allows for easy entry into the water. At times, the ocean water at Prisoners Harbor can be cloudy. However the coves around this area usually have clear water for wildlife viewing.

Kayaking at Anacapa Island

Anacapa Island is a cliff island and has no beach in the landing area.  Kayaks are offloaded from the boat to the landing dock.  Kayaks are then lowered to the water by rope and you must go down a ladder to get into the kayak.  When you are finished kayaking, you must pull the kayak back up to the landing dock before the Island Packers boat returns for pick up of passengers and kayaks.  The waters at Anacapa Island are usually crystal clear and you can see down many feet to the ocean life below. The shoreline is pocketed with many sea caves and small secluded beaches. Anacapa Island can have stronger current along it’s shore so kayakers should be moderately experienced at ocean kayaking.

Double kayak in the kelp bed
Photo by Dan Harding

There are Three Options for Kayaking

There are three options for kayaking adventures in the local islands. You can go on a guided tour, rent kayaks or bring your own kayak. Whatever your choice, you will see the island and the ocean wildlife from a new perspective when paddling a kayak.

  • Must arrive one hour before your departure time.

  • Must have transport space reserved.

  • Must have a 6-8’ bowline with a strong, spring-loaded clip (Carabiner style) attached to the free end. Bowlines should NOT use para-cord. We recommend webbing material for bowlines.

  • Should be plastic Sit on Top type (special approval at time of reservation required for  all other types -wood, composite, peddle etc.).

  • Must be under 100 pounds.

  • Must be empty of all gear.

  • Island Packers reserves the right to refuse transport of late arriving kayaks or kayaks misrepresented at the time the reservation was made.

  • Should be less than 16 Feet in length (special approval at time of reservation needed for over-sized kayaks).

Guided Kayaking

Guided kayaking tours are available by contacting Channel Islands Adventure Company, 805- 884-9283.  Touring kayaks are kept on Santa Cruz Island at Scorpion Anchorage. You do not need to reserve transport for kayaks when taking a guided tour.  At other island locations, the outfitter will make all the arrangements for kayak transport.

Kayak Rentals

Kayak rentals are available from Channel Island Kayak Center (805) 984-5995.  Rental kayaks must be arranged at least a day ahead of your departure date.  Kayaks rented from this company will comply with all Island Packers guidelines. There are no kayaks for rent at the island.  You must reserve transport space with Island Packers for rental kayaks.  Space is limited to 18 kayaks a day at Scorpion Anchorage by the National Park. Be sure you have transport space reserved before reserving the actual kayak.

Bring Your Kayak

Personal kayaks may also be transported to the island. All kayaks must meet Island Packers transport guidelines. Personal and rental kayaks must have space reserved for kayak transport. Boat space for kayak is limited both on the boat and on the island and is first come, first served.  The summer and fall often see many days where all kayak space has been reserved.  You must plan ahead when taking kayaks to the island.  Personal kayaks must comply with the following guidelines:

Personal Kayak Requirements

Kayak Transport Fares

Small Kayak

Under 13 Feet in Length


Large Kayak

13 - 16 Feet  in Length


Special Kayaks
Oversized - Over 16 feet  or Composite or Wood

Transport of Special Kayaks must be approved at the time you reserve your kayak space. Please be prepared to give length, weight and construction material for apporval process.


Additionally, be sure to consult with the on-island National Park staff upon arrival to the islands. Review the kayak guidelines and regulations posted on the park bulletin boards. You should preview this important information on the Kayaking page of the Channel Islands National Park (CINP) website before taking a kayak out to the islands.