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Channel Islands Adventures: Seasonal Highlights

Santa Barbara is a magical place; we have over 300 days of sunshine, experience a Mediterranean climate, and are lucky enough to be only a short boat ride away from the beautiful Channel Islands. Here at Santa Barbara Adventure Company, we often get asked when the best time of year is to visit the Channel Islands National Park.

Our answer is always the same – “the best time of year to go is now!” We offer trips year round and guests rave about their experience no matter what month they visit. So while there is no “best” time to go, below you will find a summary of the experiences you could have during the different “seasons”.

Winter: December through February is the peak season for Gray Whale migration, so during the boat ride over and back, as well as during the kayaking portion of the trip, there is a great chance of sighting whales! After the first few rains hit the Islands for the winter, the island will start turning green, making for majestic hiking and picture taking conditions. In addition, for those who enjoy solitude, this is the best time of year to be on the Islands with the fewest crowds. You will generally get a more personal experience with our guides during the quietest time of the year!

Spring: The Island comes alive during the spring! Flowers bloom all over the hillsides and valleys, and the temperature will start rising. For those passionate about plant life and hiking, this is the time to book, as this is the peak season for plants and longer days. In addition, many trips stop requiring wetsuits, as the sun’s heat is enough to keep us warm on the water. Spring is the best time to see birds nesting in the sea caves and offers the highest chance of seeing Orca Whales in the Channel.

Summer: It goes without saying that summer is our most magical season on the island. Blessed with the Mediterranean climate found around Santa Barbara, we get nearly perfect conditions daily: the days are long, the sun is out, the water begins to warm up, and humpback and blue whales are seen in the channel almost daily! If you are looking for the best time to explore caves and enjoy a stunning day on the water, this is the time to go!  Swell is generally the smallest this time of year, which translates into calmer waters and the best opportunities for cave exploration.
*Note: Summer is also the time of the year we offer our Painted Cave Kayak tour, which shows clients some of the largest and longest sea caves in the world on the more exposed west end of Santa Cruz.

Fall: Many locals often call the fall our “second summer” since Santa Barbara usually feels just as pleasant in the fall, as summer does in many other parts of the world. The fall season generally has sunnier, calmer days than the month of June!  In addition to the ideal weather conditions, the winds usually stay calm and the water is the warmest it will be all year.  This water is also the warmest in the fall and while snorkeling is always available year round, this is definitely the most fun time to swim.

Have you traveled to the Channel Islands yet? When is your favorite time to visit? Leave us a comment below and let us know!

You can see all of our Channel Islands Kayaking Tours on our website here.

Photo: Gray whales are often seen on trips during Winter and Spring. 

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