two kayakers surrounded by blue water and with hazy mountains behind them in the distance

Kayaking Santa Cruz Island

Stefanie & Zeinab read my post about kayaking Anacapa Island and wanted to do it. We booked a ride to Anacapa with Island Packers, but when we tried to reserve kayak rentals at the Channel Islands Kayak Center they said the winds were up a bit and tiny1, unprotected Anacapa wasn’t such a good idea, but that we could rent kayaks for larger and more wind-protected Santa Cruz island.2

I do think that kayaking Anacapa is a spectacular experience, but Santa Cruz is also a great place to kayak and filled with Sea Caves too. Plus you can’t really hike on tiny East Anacapa, but you can on Santa Cruz. So… off to Santa Cruz!

Stefanie in a pink sweatshirt & black helmet; Zeinab in a black sweatshirt & pink helmet.
Stefanie in a pink sweatshirt & black helmet; Zeinab in a black sweatshirt & pink helmet; it’s a fashion color thing!
Zeinab Greif with a big smile as she paddles a kayak
Zeinab on her way to Scorpion Rock, not far off the beach at Little Scorpion Anchorage.
Inside a sea cave at Santa Cruz island, the bow of my kayak looks toward the opening
Something about caves. IDK. They’re primordial? Womb-like? Thrill rides? They always seem to have such an allure. Curiosity draws us to them. They can be such visceral experiences.
Glenn and Zeinab paddling kayaks and smiling
Sea Cave Fun!
map of Santa Cruz with red line showing kayak path
Overview map of our 3.29 mile / 5.29km paddle around Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island
Detailed map of kayak path around the eastern end of Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park, Santa Barbara Channel, California
Our cave adventures!
3 kayakers at Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island, California Channel Islands
Glenn, Stefanie & Zeinab
underwater shot of water and kelp under a kayak
Paddling through a kelp forest! Well, a really tiny kelp forest. 😛
Stefanie Kuisle & Zeinab Greif kayaking inside a sea cave at Santa Cruz island
Stefanie & Zeinab
3 kayakers inside a sea cave
Glenn, Zeinab, Stefanie
Zeinab Greif paddling toward the exit of a sea cave
Zeinab paddles toward the opening of a huge, cavernous sea cave. Behind us is a cool beach where we wanted to land, but a guy in another kayak group told us that landing was prohibited.
Stefanie Kuisle kayaks in a sea cave
Stefanie
Stefanie and Zeinab eating sandwiches on kayaks inside a sea cave
Since we couldn’t land on the beach for lunch, we decided to just have lunch on our kayaks as we floated inside the giant cavern.
Glenn Zucman in a kayak eating a sandwich inside a sea cave at Santa Cruz island, California Channel Islands
Lunch!
Stefanie and Zeinab kayaking in the ocean
Stefanie Kuisle & Zeinab Greif, ocean explorers!
Stefanie & Zeinab drag their kayaks onto shore at Little Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island, California Channel Islands
We survived!
a chain of kayaks being paddled from the beach at Little Scorpion Anchorage to a nearby Island Packers boat at Santa Cruz Island
After kayaking, lunch, napping, and lunch, we went for a hike. On our way back we realized our boat had already returned and was loading our kayaks for the return trip. At Anacapa they throw your kayak onto a boat-high dock. But at Santa Cruz an Island Packers crew member paddles a long chain of all the kayaks to the boat. About now we decided to start walking a little faster!

We left home around 6 or 6:30am this morning to make sure we’d be on time. Going on a Sunday rather than a weekday probably helped a lot with the traffic. After a long day of boating, kayking, and hiking, we headed home.

As soon as we started the drive home from Ventura, Stefanie and Zeinab passed out! Fortunately the driver (me) was uncharacteristically awake and alert.


  1. If you consider East Anacapa by itself, it’s the smallest island in the 8-island Channel Island chain. Santa Cruz is the largest. 
  2. Some of the 8 California Channel Islands, like Santa Barbara, San Clemente, and Santa Cruz, have the same names as cities on the California mainland. Don’t get confused! :) 

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