Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Islands National Park, near Santa Barbara and Ventura, is popular with nature lovers of all kinds. A lot of the area is untouched, making it not only a good home for marine life, but it also promotes the growth of many species including sea lions, sharks, and whales, and tons of kelp forests. 

Good visibility also makes it a popular spot for underwater photographers. For these reasons, it is one of the best places to go scuba diving in California. In fact, we even mention it on our list of the Best Diving in the World

How to get to Channel Islands:

The Channel Islands are easily accessible by boat from the mainland, either Santa Barbara or Ventura, or you can just arrange day trips with local dive shops that can take you there with their own boats. 

Channel Islands Dive sites:

  • Sutil Pass: A large kelp forest is home to all kinds of sea life. Playful sea lions will swim by your side. Blackfish, rockfish, urchins, starfish, and lobster are all common sightings. And, for those visiting during the summer months, bat rays congregate in the area for mating season.
  • Sea Lion Rookery: As guessed, this is the best known place for photographing and seeing sea lions. The rock walls are also home to urchins, spiny lobsters, and other small sea creatures.
  • Shag Rock: The rocky reefs here are home to halibut. Below, there is a kelp forest which houses plenty of other species including leopard sharks and bat rays.
  • Black Cavern: Roomy caves and caverns are the highlight of this dive site. Peek into crags and holes to find lobster, starfish, sea fans, and brightly coloured sponges. Due to the depth, this site is not suitable for open water divers.
  • Fraser Point: A great area for all levels of diving, Fraser Point can be separated into a few different dive sites depending on what you are most interested in. There is a large kelp forest, and some rocky reefs. Expect plenty of marine life and colourful sea fans that are popular with underwater photographers.
  • Fraser Cove: Big cliffs and a drop off are the defining feature of this site. There are plenty of channels, holes, and caves make this a good place to find lobster and other fish, so keep a sharp eye.
  • Sandstone Point: Large, thick, kelp forests make this site fun for photography. You will see plenty of gobi, crabs, snails, and starfish.
  • Quail Rock: Small walls and patches of kelp make up this dive site where you can find rockfish, lobster, lingcod, and sheephead.
  • Little Scorpion Anchorage: Cliffs, drop-offs, and kelp forests provide shelter to a variety of sea life at this dive site. Commonly seen species include lobsters, mantis shrimp, and rays.