Snorkeling in California at Channel Islands National Park

How does snorkeling at Santa Cruz Island work?

Interested in snorkeling in California? The kelp forests at Santa Cruz are absolutely breathtaking for adventurous swimmers and snorkelers to explore. Given the isolation of the Channel Islands (20+ miles off the coast of California), we encourage all snorkelers to have prior snorkeling experience and be comfortable swimming in the ocean. We offer two options to support you with snorkeling at Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island.

      1. Self-Guided Snorkeling Rentals at Santa Cruz Island

Nothing is worse than having to carry heavy gear around while you are traveling. Snorkeling in California is easy with our on-island rental shop! We offer snorkel + mask, fin, and wetsuit rentals at Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island. Snorkel rentals are available on a first-come, first-serve basis every day from ~10:30am to ~4:30 pm. Our snorkel wetsuits are made specifically for cold water snorkeling and consist of 3 pieces (a 7mm farmer john suit, a 5 mm shortie suit to go on top & an optional hood). In the summer months, some guests might be comfortable wearing just 1 of the pieces but from October-April most guests opt for all 3 pieces.

Interested in snorkeling in California? Come visit the Channel Islands National Park and experience snorkeling the kelp forests at Santa Cruz Island.

Our snorkel rental store is just a 10-minute walk down the main path from the pier. We look forward to seeing you out on the island!

      2. Guided Snorkeling Tours at Santa Cruz Island

We offer TWO two guided snorkel tour options.

Snorkel ONLY Guided Tour

From June to September, we offer guided snorkeling tours on Saturdays & Sundays only. Our snorkeling tours are recommended for those who have previous snorkeling experience and all guests should know how to swim. Please note that our snorkeling tours are not recommended for guests who don’t know how to swim or who have no experience with snorkeling – they are not lessons, they are tours. You can book a Channel Islands snorkel tour here.

Interested in snorkeling in California? Come visit the Channel Islands National Park and experience snorkeling the kelp forests at Santa Cruz Island.

Snorkel AND Kayak Tour

From mid-May to early October, we offer guided snorkel & kayaking combo tours on Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays. The tour is recommended for those who have previous snorkeling and kayaking experience since it is fast-paced. All guests should know how to swim. Please note that our snorkeling tours are not recommended for guests who don’t know how to swim or who have no experience with snorkeling – they are not lessons, they are tours. You can book a Channel Islands Snorkel & Kayak Tour here.

General Information for Snorkeling in California from the NPS Regarding Snorkeling at the Channel Islands:

There are a few important things to keep in mind about snorkeling at Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island:

  • Since the marine environment can be unforgiving, use extra caution when engaging in these activities. Ocean conditions are highly variable and sometimes dangerous.
  • The wind and swell generally come from the northwest and become stronger as the day continues. From October through January, visitors must also be prepared for strong east or Santa Ana winds. The ocean currents outside of coves and protected beach areas can be strong and extremely dangerous. These conditions should be carefully considered when planning your trip and entering the water.
  • There are no lifeguards on duty, so all water sports are at your own risk. Visitors should be aware of boat landing operations at all times — avoid water sports near skiffs that are conducting surf landings.
  • Snorkelers, divers, and swimmers should always use the buddy system. This allows for someone to go for help if you encounter trouble.
  • Before departing, swimmers, snorkelers and divers should leave an itinerary and/or float plan with someone who is onshore and can be easily contacted.
  • Sea caves can be very dangerous — large waves or swells can fill a cave unexpectedly.
  • Due to cold water conditions (55° to 70° F), wetsuits and hoods are recommended.
Interested in snorkeling in California? Come visit the Channel Islands National Park and experience snorkeling the kelp forests at Santa Cruz Island.

5 Comments

Planning a Trip to Scorpion Anchorage on Santa Cruz Island - Channel Islands Adventure Company | Kayaking & Snorkel

[…] Snorkel Tour Options: Snorkel Tour explores the kelp forest right off the beach at Scorpion Anchorage with a friendly and knowledgeable guide who can teach the basics of snorkeling. Snorkel & Kayak Tour is for the adventurer who wants to do it all! Guests spend 1.5 hours paddling exploring sea caves and then 1.5 hours on a guided snorkel tour through a kelp forest. There is also snorkel gear for rental on the island. […]

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Jayne Tolman

Hi there! Will I be able to book five adults on a combination sea kayak/guided snorkel tour between March 29 and April 2? Also (be honest) is it “really” necessary to have a snorkel GUIDE…. (in other words is it hard to find the “good stuff: kelp, rays, etc. or can we see them close to shore?)

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Will Adams

Hi Jayne, thanks for your interest in our Kayak & Snorkel Tour! Unfortunately, we only run this tour and all of our snorkel tours July through Labor Day every year. However, we do rent snorkel gear at the island year-round. We also have Sea Cave Kayak Tours available on the days you mentioned. If you have any further questions, we recommend calling our office at (805) 884-9283. Our friendly staff are in the office from 8am-5pm, 7 days a week and are happy to help plan your trip! 🙂

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