Snorkeling in California at the 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 the adventurous swimmer and snorkeler 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. The Channel Islands Adventure Company offers 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. From Memorial Day (end of May) to Labor Day (beginning of September) our Snorkel Rental & Retail Store are open every day from 10:30 am – 4:30 pm. Generally, you’ll even find our operation open as early as 8 am in the summer! From October to April we are open from first ferry arrival to last ferry departure (you can check Island Packers schedule online). Our snorkels 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.

The fees for rentals are as following:

  • Snorkel & Mask – $13
  • Fins – $13
  • Snorkel, Mask & Fins – $25
  • Wetsuit – $25
  • Snorkel, Mask, Fins & Wetsuit – $45
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 short 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 online.

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

Snorkel & Kayak COMBO Tour

From mid-May to early October, we offer a 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 and kayak combo tour online.

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.

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