Top 7 ways to “Get into Your Sanctuary”

Photo Credit// Instagram Fan @SBAdventure

The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary is one of Santa Barbara’s most pristine coastline treasures, leaving you breathless with its natural-overflowing beauty. From land to sea, every inch of the five islands that comprise Channel Islands National Park and surrounding waters are protected and cherished, ensuring each visitor an unparalleled experience of exploration and education. Adventure seekers from all over the word travel to Santa Barbara to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime journey in the area known as “the Galapagos Islands of North America.”

There are many ways to explore this coastal treasure. Spanning approximately 1,470 square miles, the  sanctuary’s blue and teal waters extend from each  island to six miles offshore, encompassing a rich diversity of marine life, habitats and historical resources.

For the can’t-miss, must-see and do at The Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, we’ve put together the top 7 ways to “Get into Your Sanctuary.”


This one is a must, as it’s one of the few ways visitors can get to and from The Channel Islands National Park. While aboard Island Packers and en route to the islands, you’ll be smack-dab in the middle of the marine sanctuary. Kick back, relax and enjoy the views. But don’t relax too much. Keep an eye out as marine life can be seen, including whales, dolphins and sea lions.

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It’s never to early to appreciate the ocean and enjoy its beauty. Photo Credit: Claire Fackler


Hit the waters for the experience of a lifetime. Kayaking through Painted Cave — at 1,215 feet one of the longest sea caves in the world — should be on every adventurer’s bucket list. But, fear not! This is something anyone at any experience level can do. We do recommend booking a trip with an experienced guide, like Santa Barbara Adventure Company. As an added bonus, you’ll have time to go snorkeling or hiking.

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With Condor Express, whale watching is made possible all year round in Santa Barbara. Whether you’re hoping to see Blue, Gray, Humpback or Orca, you’ll be guaranteed to see a whale on your next trip with Condor Express’ whale watching guarantee. Just be sure to check the migration season to ensure spotting your favorite friends.

Whale watching with Condor Express Whale Watching Cruises.


We can’t think of anything more picturesque than learning to sail off of the Channel Islands coastline. Spend your days in the sunshine and take overnight sailing lessons with Santa Barbara Sailing Center.


Kelp forests stretch for as far as the eye can ‘sea’, underwater inside the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. With Truth Aquatics, scuba dive alongside sea lions and surround yourself with lavish flora and fauna, representing every color imaginable.

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An underwater photographer explores the kelp forests of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary. Photo Credit: Claire Fackler


One of the perks of chartering your own boat is that private boats can land on all five of the islands within the park throughout the year. Charter a boat and get to know the characteristics and charm of each of the individual islands. To do this, we’d recommend Sunset Kidd Sailing Cruises or Santa Barbara Sailing Center.


Prefer to appreciate the beauty and serenity of the marine sanctuary from afar? Special helicopter tours are available with  Nanco Helicopters. You’ll get the same sense of awe and wonderment while flying high above the seas for jaw-dropping views and once-in-a-lifetime landscapes.

View of The Channel Islands at sunset with Nanco Helicopters.
View of The Channel Islands at sunset with Nanco Helicopters. Imaage by Blake Bronstad // Instagram at @Posesawkwardly Photo Credit: Blake Bronstad

Now that you’re experienced in all of the ways to explore the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary, get out and “Get into Your Sanctuary”.

Plan This Itinerary

Condor Express Whale Watching

The Condor Express offers daily whale watching trips year round from the Sea Landing dock in the Santa Barbara Harbor. The Condor Express is a 75' state-of-the-art, ecofriendly, high-speed catamaran. Our cruising ground includes the…

Nanco Helicopters LLC

Nanco Helicopters is Santa Barbara's Premier Helicopter Company. We offer helicopter tours of beautiful Santa Barbara and The Channel Islands National Park. We also charter passengers to wineries located in the Santa Ynez wine country…

Santa Barbara Adventure Company

See a part of Santa Barbara few visitors ever get to experience with the best outfitter in town. Our guides create thousands of unforgettable travel adventures each year – come join us! Channel Islands National Park - Sea Cave…

Santa Barbara Helicopter Tours

What to do in Santa Barbara? You are invited to take to the skies above Santa Barbara with an adventurous helicopter tour. Explore the “American Riviera” by air, experience the breathtaking scenery and landmarks in surrounding Santa…

Truth Aquatics, Inc.

SCUBA DIVING: From single day dives to multi-day expeditions, Truth Aquatics is the #1 provider of Channel Islands diving. The best liveaboard dive fleet on the west coast, Truth Aquatics leads dive excursions to the giant kelp forests and rocky…


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