Santa Cruz Island

Best Channel Island that’s Not Catalina, August 2008

On the boat trip out in summer, it isn’t uncommon to see a whale breaching, and once a visitor sets foot on Santa Cruz Island, about the only sound to be heard is birdsong. With its elevated vantage points and vestiges of Chumash life, this island, the chain’s largest, is the standout alternative to Catalina. Boats land at either the National Park Service section of Scorpion Anchorage or Prisoners Harbor, and day-trippers can roam freely. (Hiking on the Nature Conservancy property requires signing a liability release form.) Ventura-based Island Packers sends boats out daily for a round-trip fare of $48. Park Service volunteers give an orientation and lead tours.