Anacapa lies 11 miles southwest of Oxnard and 14 miles off the coast from Ventura. Almost five miles long, its total land area is about one square miles. Anacapa is composed of three small islets inaccessible from each other except by boat. For much of the year the island vegetation looks brown. With winter rains, Anacapa takes on a new life full of color with the blooming Coreopsis. Sea mammals are often seen around Anacapa shores. January through March is gray whale watch season, and migrating whales can be seen swimming along their 10,000 mile migration route. Ocean waves have eroded the perimeter of the island, creating steep sea cliffs towering hundreds of feet in height and exposing the volcanic origins of air pockets, lava tubes, and sea caves. At the east end of Anacapa a natural bridge has formed in the ocean. Forty-foot high Arch Rock is a trademark of Anacapa and Channel Islands National Park.
Scuba diving at Anacapa Island can be an easy and fulfilling trip for everyone, with its many excellent dive spots and good visibility, you will be in for a treat. Most dives are next to the island in depths from a few feet to about 60 feet. It is possible to do deeper dives but this is really not required to see more. The bottom is rocky reef and sand in most places. Some spots offer kelp forests, walls, and pinnacles. Hundreds of plants and small animals share the reefs with many varieties of fish including kelp bass, sheephead and garibaldi.
It is not unusual to spot sea lions, seals, lobster, bat rays, horn sharks, moray eels, and occasionally giant black sea bass as well as blacksmith perch, sardines, mackerel, anchovies, and other small schooling fish. The more you look the more you see! For someone who has never dived in a kelp forest, this can be quite spectacular. It gives you the sense of being in an underwater forest and the sun rays shining through the kelp combined with curious sea lions darting about can make for some breathtaking moments.
Best time weather wise is generally the end of summer. The sun is still strong and the water has had a chance to warm up throughout the summer months. It is almost impossible to predict exact weather conditions here. Water temperature is coldest from February to May varying between 52° and 58°. From June to September it will range from 60° to as high as 70° then slowly begin to drop. October through January finds the water in the low sixties to high fifties. Air temperature runs 60° to 75° in the summer and fall and in the fifties in the winter and spring. Visibility rarely goes below 10 feet and can be as high as 100 feet. The average is 40 feet and on most days the bottom is visible from the boat. There are many good dive sites around Anacapa like Coral Reef, Landing Cove, Cathedral Cove, Underwater Arch, Aquarium, Guana Banks, Rat Rock and the West End and plenty more along with several shipwrecks and an airplane wreck. Anacapa has much to offer everyone from diving to hiking and more. Anacapa also has its Marine Protected Areas (MPA) where it is strictly look and don’t touch.
Anacapa Outer Reefs & Pinnacles
There are many seldom dove deeper outer reefs and pinnacles around Anacapa and they can be good for hunting, photo or sightseeing and sometimes the Black Sea Bass will pay you a visit. Most boats seem to forget about some of these sites because they are out away from the island where currents can sometimes be an issue but on the good day when you can dive the outer reefs & pinnacles you will be glad you did. Some of the best sites have depths ranging from 50’-120’ and visibility of 20’-80’.
Anacapa, TBM Avenger Plane Wreck
The Avenger is a WWII Navy torpedo bomber that was on a training mission in the early 50’s along with 4 other planes. It hit another plane in the formation and they both crashed. The one that we dive went down on the front side of east Anacapa and had no loss of life. The other plane went down on the back side of Anacapa with loss of life and has never been found. The TBM sits in about 120’ in sand about 40’ from a nice reef and can have visibility of 20’-60’. After all the years you can still tell it’s a plane. It has attracted fish around it and is an excellent deep dive. 3 advanced dives (experienced divers with good buoyancy skills), possible currents and surface signal device recommended.
Anacapa Underwater Arches
There are 3 shallow underwater arches at Anacapa that you can swim thru. The 1st is at the Landing Cove on the east end. This is a protected area and has kelp, lots of big fish and lobster to see. This area looks like the islands did way back when. The depths here range from 30’-50’ with visibility from 20’-60’. The 2nd underwater arch is on the backside of east Anacapa. This is a shallow dive ranging from 20’-40’ and visibility is from 15’-30’. The reef is nice here, but the attraction here is the sea lions and the 3rd is at Baracuda Rock on the front west end of Anacapa. This is a large underwater arch with plenty to see as it is in a Marine Protected Area. These are all fun and relaxing dives for all divers.
Largest and most diverse of the islands within the Channel Islands National Park, Santa Cruz Island is about 24 miles long is 19 miles from Ventura. Its land area is about 96 square miles. The central valley’s north slope is a rugged ridge; the south slope is an older, more weathered ridge. At 2,470 feet, the highest of the Channel Islands mountains is found here. Santa Cruz Island’s 77 mile varied coastline has steep cliffs, gigantic sea caves, and coves and sandy beaches. The shoreline cliffs, beaches, offshore rocks, and tide pools provide important breeding habitat for colonies of nesting sea birds and diverse plants and animals. To biologists, Santa Cruz is specifically significant for its diversity of habitat, greater than any other of the Channel Islands. In 1988 the Nature Conservancy acquired the western 90 percent of the island and the National Park Service owns the eastern 10%. The marine life surrounding Santa Cruz is a whole other world. Porpoises, dolphins, and whales can be sighted near island shores, feeding in the wealth of kelp forests. Pinnipeds such as harbor seals and California sea lions “haul out” in isolated coves to warm themselves and seek refuge. Ragged cliffs, offshore rocks and tide pools support large colonies of breeding sea birds, shellfish, crustaceans and other shoreline plants and animals.
Scuba diving at Santa Cruz Island offers a bit milder diving conditions and with its many dive sites it offers endless diving opportunities. From sandy bays known for excellent halibut hunting to vast rocky reefs covered with kelp to mini walls covered with life, you can always find a fantastic dive spot. Santa Cruz sits in the transition zone of warm southerly and colder northerly currents, creating diverse underwater life. Unknown too many, this island is home to a very extensive system of underwater Caves and caverns. Diablo Anchorage offers one such example at the Diablo Point Cave. The island is blessed with countless coves and anchorages offering protection from wind and weather. The weather usually blows out of the north and strikes the side of the island that faces the mainland. The open ocean side is often the lee side with the calmest conditions.
Scorpion Anchorage is also home to the wreck of the USS Peacock (now identifed as the Spirit of Amercia), a 100′ long wood hulled WW-II minesweeper which is in great shape resting upright on a sheltered 60′ sandy bottom. There are so many good dive sites around Santa Cruz Island some of them are Yellowbanks, Potato Rock, Diablo, Valdez, Fraser Cove, Forney’s Cove, Gull Island, The Guardian Plane wreck at Laguna Harbor, and so many more. Santa Cruz Island also has its Marine Protected Areas (MPA) where it is strictly look and don’t touch.
Southeast Santa Cruz Island, Yellowbanks
Yellowbanks, Santa Cruz Island
Yellowbanks is a large extensive area on the southeast side of Santa Cruz past Smugglers Cove. Yellowbanks has large kelp beds and equally large reefs. The reefs are a variety of different types. Some are parallel reefs with sand between them, some are low lying rocky reefs and others are large rocky outcroppings with small walls. With the entire good reef structure there is much to see such as fish, lobsters and lots of small invertebrates. Depths can range from 40’-80’ and visibility can be 20’- 50’. This trip is good for intermediate divers and above. Possible currents and surface signal device recommended.
Southside Santa Cruz Island, backside
Santa Cruz Island, Backside (south side)
The backside of Santa Cruz is full of excellent dive spots with most being around the Anchorages such as; Albert’s, Willows and Laguna Harbor. Then there is Bowen Point and dive spots up against the island, like walls or steep slopes. Most of these spots have healthy kelp forests, and can be good for hunting, photo or sightseeing. The depths range from 20’-80’ and visibility from 20’-60’. This trip is good for intermediate divers and above. Possible currents and surface signal device recommended.
Southwest Santa Cruz Island
Guardian Plane Wreck, Santa Cruz
The Guardian is a WWII Navy Grumman Guardian AF-2W. This plane was on a mission in March of 1954 searching for a missing jet. It had engine trouble and was ditched in the water with no problems. It is outside of a harbor near Gull Island, Santa Cruz Island at a depth of 50’-60’. The plane sits upright on a sandy bottom and has become an artificial reef with kelp and fish around it and the visibility is from 10’-30’. This can be a very fun dive if the weather is on our side. More information. This trip is good for intermediate divers and above. Possible currents and surface signal device recommended
Santa Cruz Island, Gull Island
Gull Island is located on the south west side (backside) of Santa Cruz Island. It is a small rock island a little over 1 mile offshore and is in a protected area nowadays. Gull Island has excellent diving all around it with depths ranging from 20’-110’ and visibility from 20’-80’.
Gull Island is one of the few spots in California that you can see purple hydro coral at shallow depths (15’-40’) and it is in great shape. The diving around Gull Island is rocky reefs with kelp, fish, sea lions and lots of small invertebrates. There are also some outer deep walls close by which make for some exciting diving and the Guardian plane wreck is not far away. This trip is good for intermediate divers and above. Possible currents and surface signal device recommended.
West End Santa Cruz Island
Diving the west end of Santa Cruz can be a very exciting experience. Because the west end is more exposed to the weather the dive sites are more dramatic then some of the other areas of Santa Cruz. There are some excellent dives sites at the West end of Santa Cruz such as West Point, Fraser Cove and Forney’s Cove along with some deeper outer pinnacles. From these sites it is a short distance to Gull Island on the back side and Painted Cave (the largest sea cave in the world!) on the front side. West Point, Fraser Cove and Forney’s Cove have some excellent reef structure with lush kelp, fish and other marine life and depths of about 20’-60’ deep. Then there is also some excellent scallop hunting (due to the currents) between Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands. The west end dive sites have something for everyone and are good for the photographer, sightseer or hunter. One thing is for sure, the further west you get on Santa Cruz, the better the diving gets.
Northwest Santa Cruz Island
Painted Cave, Santa Cruz
Painted Cave is the second longest and one of the deepest sea caves in the world and is large enough to pilot most any dive boat into it. It is located at the northwest side of Santa Cruz Island. There is no diving inside of Painted Cave as the walls are barren, but there is some good diving on the steep slopes along the side of the island and some good pinnacles and sea mounds on the way back. Depths can vary from 30’-80’ and visibility can be 20’-50’. This trip is good for intermediate divers and above. Possible currents and surface signal device recommended.
North side Santa Cruz Island-front side
Diablo Pt., Santa Cruz Island
Diablo Pt. is next to Diablo anchorage which is located at about the middle north side (front side) of Santa Cruz and not far from Fry’s. There are many exciting dives on the north side of Santa Cruz Island. Around Diablo Pt. there is the East wall and a large underwater mound (outside Diablo) that goes from 50’ to 120’. There are also other great dive sites along the way back that are good for hunting and photography with rocky reefs with kelp. Depths range from 20’-120’ with visibility being 15’-40’. This trip is good for intermediate divers and above. Possible currents and surface signal device recommended.
Santa Cruz Island, Coache Pt. /Potato Rk.
This area is located on the north side of east Santa Cruz and is between Scorpion’s and Chinese Harbor. Most of the diving in this area is up against the island or on pinnacles and large rocks such as Potato Rk. These area’s are not dove often and can be good for hunting fish and scallops and photography. The depths can vary from 20’-80’ and visibility ranges from 15’-40’. This trip is good for intermediate divers and above. Possible currents and surface signal device recommended.
Northeast Santa Cruz Island
The Spirit of Amercia, Santa Cruz Island
The Spirit of Amercia, (formerly identifed as the Peacock)) had a lot of mystery around her. It was known that the wreck was a WWII Minesweeper that sunk in the 70’s. The Spirit of Amercia sits upright on a sandy bottom at about 65’deep outside the Scorpion Anchorage, Santa Cruz Island. Visibility here can be 15’-40’. With the hull and its structure to explore the Spirit of Amercia is a very good dive. It is in a protected area and there are lots of fish and the biggest Spanish Shawls on her, for more information check out this website. This trip is good for intermediate divers and above. Possible currents and surface signal device recommended.
The second largest island is Santa Rosa. Nearly 15 miles long and 10 miles wide, its 84 square miles exhibit remarkable contrasts. Cliffs on the northeastern shore rival those of Santa Cruz Island. High mountains with deeply cut canyons give way to gentle rolling hills and flat marine terraces. Rocky terraces on the west end provide superb habitat for intertidal organisms. Harbor and elephant seals breed on the island’s sandy beaches. The entire island is surrounded by expanses of kelp beds. Consequently, its surrounding waters serve as an invaluable nursery for the sea life that feeds larger marine mammals and the sea birds that breed along the coastal shores and offshore rocks of all the Channel Islands.
Scuba diving at Santa Rosa Island can be quite interesting and fun where the marine life is more like San Miguel Island. There are much of the same things you would normally see at San Miguel Islands such as large schools of rockfish, huge sunflower stars, a colorful array of anemones, scallops, and an abundance of invertebrates, wolf eels, large lobsters and lingcod. Santa Rosa can be a hunters or photographers paradise. One well known area is Talcott Shoals, known for its superb lobster diving. Other great dive sites are Bee Rock, East End Pinnacles, Ford Point, Carrington Point and more. Santa Rosa Island is also where the SS Chickasaw, a former WW II auxiliary transport ship ran aground in 1962 at Cluster Point. Then there is the Johnson Lee anchorage used by charter boats out on multi-day trips. Because of the weather around the northern islands, Santa Rosa is where you may end up if going to San Miguel and you will not be sorry that you did. Santa Rosa Island also has its Marine Protected Areas (MPA) where it is strictly look and don’t touch.
nson’s Lee, a much protect
San Miguel Island
San Miguel is about eight miles long and four miles wide. It is primarily a plateau about 500 feet in elevation, to two 800 foot rounded hills emerge from its wild, windswept landscape. One of the most spectacular wildlife displays in the park is viewing the thousands of seals and sea lions that breed on its isolated shores. Fifty-five miles off the coast from Ventura, San Miguel Island is the farthest west of the Channel Islands. Because of its location in the open ocean, it is subject to high winds and lots of fog. The island is a tableland of lush grasses and wildflowers, with 27 miles of jagged, rocky coastline dotted with sandy white beaches. The westernmost of these beaches, Point Bennett, is the only place in the world where up to six different species of pinnipeds (seals and sea lions) can be found.
Scuba diving at San Miguel Island can be an excellent adventure when you make it there. Between the wind and swells it can be a 50-50 proposition. San Miguel is influenced by the cooler, nutrient rich California current which results in cool water temperatures (55°-60° F.) and marine life typical to what you would expect to find in the central California coastline. Home to large lobsters, elephant seals, sharks, wolf eels, large lingcod and other amazing creatures, you can never go wrong diving San Miguel. Point Bennett is also the site of the wreck of the Cuba and several other wrecks. The undersea marine life features, fish and invertebrates common only north of Point Conception. There are large schools of rockfish, huge sunflower stars, and a colorful array of anemones, scallops and a general abundance of invertebrates. In good weather, usually in the fall, diving is great, with spectacular visibility. San Miguel offers many excellent dive sites for the hunter, photographer or sightseer. San Miguel is also home to some of the best pinnacles and dive sites you will ever dive. Two others fantastic sites are Wilson’s Rock which is two miles off the northwest side of San Miguel and Richardson’s Rock which is eight miles northwest of San Miguel. On rare occasions when you can make it to either of these sites you are in for a treat. San Miguel is host to many great dive sites like, Wyckoff Ledge, Skyscraper, Castle Rock, Prince Island and more. San Miguel also has its Marine Protected Areas (MPA) where it is strictly look and don’t touch.
Santa Barbara Island
Santa Barbara Island lies far south of the other Channel Islands. Smaller, about one square mile, and triangular, its steep cliffs rise to a marine terrace topped by two peaks. The highest point, Signal Peak, is 635 feet in elevation. During World War II the U.S. Navy used the island as an early warning outpost. Santa Barbara Island is part of the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary with 1/3 of its aquatic area designated a reserve, off limits for hunting. Santa Barbara is host to a large pinniped population where divers get up close and personal with them. This is one main reason Santa Barbara Island is a divers paradise.
Scuba diving at Santa Barbara Island you will find kelp forests, caves, underwater arches, pinnacles and rocky reefs. There is a variety of aquatic creatures such as bat rays, lobster, sea loins, large schools of fish, and lots of invertebrates all in large extensive kelp beds. The Rookery, off the island’s southeast side is where divers enjoy the California sea lions, watching eagerly. Typically, these are females and pups. They enjoy rushing at you, turning away at the last possible instance and blowing bubbles. The Rookery is just one of many outstanding dive sites off Santa Barbara. Other good dive sites are Arch Reef, Shag Rock, Hidden Reef, Sutil Island and more. Visibility at Santa Barbara Island is generally about 30’-60’ depending on the time of year with the fall, being the best time to enjoy Santa Barbara Island. Santa Barbara Island also has its Marine Protected Areas (MPA) where it is strictly look and don’t touch.