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Channel Islands: Anacapa Island Whale Watching

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Whale Watching & Wildlife Boat Tour at Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park

Whale Watching & Wildlife Boat Tour at Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park

While visiting my friend in San Diego, we decided to face my fears of whales and large bodies of water by taking a day trip to Channel Islands National Park to go on a whale watching and wildlife tour!

If you’ve ever thought about visiting Channel Islands, you definitely should!

There are boat places that offer a variety of tours. Some drop you off on one of the islands while others are just a boat “tour” around the islands.

This post will tell you about our experience with the Island Packers Whale Watching & Wildlife Tour of Anacapa Island.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through a link, I may make a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Click to read about my experience with the Island Packer's Whale Watching & Wildlife Boat Tour around Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park, California! #channelislands #anacapa #anacapaisland #whalewatching

Channel Islands Info

Channel Islands National Park consists of five islands: Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, and Anacapa Island. The visitor center is located in Ventura, CA.

My Anacapa Island Whale Watching and Wildlife Boat Tour Experience

We chose to book a tour through Island Packers Cruises. Island Packers offered a half-day whale watching tour around Anacapa Island. This tour was perfect for us because it was about a 3-hour drive to Ventura from San Diego. So we had plenty of time to travel to and from our adventure.

Island Packers is located on Spinnaker Drive in Ventura, CA. It was a little difficult for us to find. The roads leading to Channel Islands Visitor Center are one way. We had initially passed it up. But that ended up being fine because we were headed to the visitor center as well. So after the visitor center, we headed back down & we were able to find it.


(If you have a National Parks Passport book don’t forget to grab a stamp at the visitor center!)


After we arrived, we checked in with Island Packers and they gave us our pass to get on the boat. The boat offers drinks and snacks, but I would suggest eating before the tour.

It takes about 1 hour to get from the boat dock to Anacapa Island. This tour is narrated, so whenever our guide spotted any landmark or wildlife, he would stop the boat and direct our attention to whatever he was talking about.

Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park
Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park

Click below to see my other adventures from this trip to California!

How to spend one day driving through Joshua Tree National Park! See Key's View, Skull Rock, and more! #joshuatree #nationalpark #skullrock
Cabrillo National Monument, Point Loma Lighthouse, and Tide Pools

The guide gave us plenty of history and wildlife facts during the boat ride out to Anacapa Island.

Once we started getting close to the island, I could not believe how beautiful the colors were.

The water was very blue, the grass very green. You would think I edited the photos to make them stand out but I didn’t!

My two favorite photo ops were the lighthouse and the arch! These were the first two things we saw when approaching Anacapa Island.

Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park_ Whale Watching and Wildlife Boat Tour
Arch Rock at Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park
Arch Rock at Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park

While researching for this post, there seems to be two different names for this arch: Arch Rock and Cabrillo Arch. Either way, it was an amazing sight!

Lighthouse on Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park
Lighthouse on Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park

The boat tour goes around the arch, and around the back part of Anacapa Island. On the back part of the island, we saw several sea lions sunbathing.

Also on the boat ride around the back of the island, the guide saw a couple of whales but I was only able to see maybe one or two.

Whenever he announced any whale activity, the visitors/tourist literally RAN to that particular side of the boat.

Instead of fighting 35 whale-crazed tourists, I chose to stay put in hopes that a whale would appear on my side of the boat! The blob in the center of the water in the picture below is a whale tail.

Channel Islands National Park_ Anacapa Island Whale Watching and Wildlife Tour

Whenever our guide saw a whale, he would slow down the boat. He would try to follow that whale in hopes we could see it again when it resurfaced.

Once around the back part of the island, the weather started getting overcast and rainy. We chose to sit inside at a table for the hour trip back to the boat dock.

Tips for this Whale Watching Tour at Anacapa Island:

  • Bring a jacket/raincoat. The boat ride can be breezy and it ended up raining on us on the ride back to the dock. All my rain jackets have been Columbia. I love them!
  • Eat before the tour! The boat only provides snacks & drinks. Bring your own snacks if you don’t want to spend money.
  • Bring your camera, preferably one with video capabilities. Taking a random video is how I captured the whale tail in the picture above!
  • Bring something to do or read. It was raining on the entire boat ride back to the dock. Watching it rain on the ocean makes for a long hour if you have nothing to distract yourself with. Click here for the current best selling books on Amazon.

I hope you enjoyed this recap of my boat tour around Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park! I’m hoping to go back at some point in life. I would like to eventually visit all the islands and hopefully do some hikes!

melissa of dogwoods & driftwood travel blog

Want to read about more tours? Check out the Alcatraz Island Tour in San Francisco!


Whale Watching & Wildlife Boat Tour of Anacapa Island in Channel Islands National Park

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