A day on Santa Cruz Island

Positioned along Southern California’s coast, the historic Santa Cruz Island is one of the eight-island archipelagos. The islands, which reside within Santa Barbara County (four), Ventura County (two), and Los Angeles County (two), are home to many native, non-native, and endemic species. Located within Santa Barbara County, Santa Cruz Island  offers great views, miles of trails, clear turquoise-blue waters, and wildlife. Santa Cruz Island consists of 77 miles of coastline, which entails steep cliffs, sandy and rocky beaches, sea coves, and numerous sea caves including one of the world’s largest sea cave known as the Painted Cave.

On October 13th, my conservation biology class took a trip to Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz Island. Covering just over 96 square miles, we hiked approximately 3 miles to Pelican Bay, and observed the beautiful views. We spotted many endemic Island Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma insularis) and multiple endemic Island Foxes (Urocyon littoralis santacruzae). We also spotted island chaparral shrubs, which included the endemic Santa Cruz Island manzanita (Arctostaphylos insularis) and chamise (Adenostoma fasciculatum var. fasciculatum), amongst many others.

The beautiful waters surrounding the rocky beach at Prisoners Harbor is quite beautiful. After we hiked to Pelican Bay, we rested and cooled off in the ocean. The beach was filled with rocks, ranging between the sizes as small as pebbles to even as big as rocks that were several feet wide. We sat, watched, and listened to the calm waves slowly approach the shore.

Whenever I visit the Channel Islands, I always appreciate to see a lack of trash. We often see so much trash stuck on the side of a road or making its way down a river on the mainland, that it is almost shocking when you don’t see any at all on the islands. It reiterates the importance of reducing our trash on the mainland, while also protecting as much environment as possible to encourage a healthier and safer habitat.

Without any cell phone reception, we were able to relax and focus on what was in front of us. Sometimes we need to avoid our phones and our social media accounts for a couple of days to focus on ourselves and get a sense of appreciation for nature. One day I plan to snorkel at either Santa Rosa Island and/or Santa Cruz Island, so that I can see what lives in the beautiful turquoise-blue water.


Views of the pier at Prisoners Harbor.
View of the beach from the pier at Prisoners Harbor.
The beautiful waters of Santa Cruz Island and some little fish!
Some of my Conservation Biology classmates taking a swim.
View of the coastline on the hillside of Santa Cruz Island.
Santa Cruz Island Manzanita Tree (Arctostaphylos insularis)
Santa Cruz Island Fox (Urocyon littoralis santacruzae)

Please Click the “Waves” link below to watch a video.



5 thoughts on “A day on Santa Cruz Island

  1. Swede says:

    Santa Cruz is so gorgeous. I love being at such natural places with little to no cell phone reception, it is very refreshing and grounding. Your post is very informative about the various features of Santa Cruz, and I love your picture of the island fox.

    • rwilliams says:

      I agree that we all need to get away from society every once in awhile! Thank you, I tried my best to make sound as pleasing as it is in person! It’s funny that you say that because I didn’t take my professional camera with me, or I would have had a great picture that was super zoomed in and clear. I know some people got great pictures of the little girl/guy, I wish that they would share it with us!

  2. Lafayette says:

    I loved going to Santa Cruz with my Consbio class last semester. It was such a cool experience. After going to Santa Rosa so many times, it was really special to have to opportunity to experience Santa Cruz. There are so many foxes there its crazy! I love your pictures and your comment about cell phones. It is really nice to get away from things for a while and not having your phone allows you to immerse yourself in the experience without distractions.

    • rwilliams says:

      That is funny that you mention how great it felt to go to another island besides Santa Rosa. I had actually thought of the same thing! I have been to Santa Rosa several times (in fact, I went there November 3-5) but I had never been to Santa Cruz! It was definitely exciting to see all of the foxes since they are harder to see on Rosa, but it is sad to think that it is probably because of the greater amount of human traffic.

  3. Williams says:

    The Channel Islands are an absolute wonder. Personally i’ve only traveled to Santa Cruz island once and unfortunately have yet to spend any time on either of the Bay’s you described. I have spent a fair amount of time on Santa Rosa island (a gem in itself) but the fact that you pointed out that the lack of litter sparks a question, why can’t the rest of our coastline be undisturbed with waste? Several of these posts on our site have pointed out that trash is a common sight on our coastlines, with this being said this is an issue we are all witnessing, and each and every one of us can do something to help. I’m glad you had a good time out at the islands, sounds like it was an enjoyable trip.

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