Insider's Guide to Santa Barbara

Major attractions, tips and our top things to see and do.

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Just off the Californian coast, dotting the horizon like some distant land, the beautiful Channel Islands are a favorite escape of every southern Californian. Hiking, kayaking, biking, fishing, surfing, and camping are popular pastimes for those who frequent these amazing local treasures, but the Channel Islands are more than just a quick weekend getaway. Five of the eight of the Channel Islands comprise the Channel Islands National Parks - a conservation zone which protects thousands of years of animal, plant, and archeological resources which can be found nowhere else on earth.

The most popular Channel Islands are:

Anacapa Island has peace, tranquility, ample camping, and two miles of hiking trails, as well as numerous rocky archways to explore via kayak.

Santa Cruz Island is larger than its brother Anacapa, and boasts one of the largest and deepest sea-caves in the world – Painted Cave. A favorite island for campers, bird-lovers, and kayakers, Santa Cruz is a popular choice.

Santa Catalina Island is Los Angeles’s preferred Channel Island as it lies just off the harbor. Catalina is also the only Channel Island with a permanent human settlement on it. The little town of Avalon routinely captures people’s hearts, and families enjoy the days lazing on the beach or biking around the islands dusty trails.

Practical Info:

Easily accessible year-round, ferries shuttle tourists to the Channel Islands every day, and half-day air- and boat-tours frequently fly or sail by, giving visitors one-of-a-kind views of the islands without even setting foot on land. For Anacapa and Santa Cruz Island, tours depart the Ventura and Santa Barbara Harbors every day.  December through April is whale-watching time and is a great time to visit the islands.

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