kayaking Central California coast, kayaking Southern California coast, Channel Island tours, kayaking Santa Cruz Island, kayak fishing Santa Barbara, paddle sports Santa Barbara

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Outfitter and guided tour operator to the Channel Islands and the Santa Barbara coast

Each guest is unique and thus our adventures are equally unique. At CIO we strive to create wonderful experiences tailored to a variety of expectations and skill levels. While we recognize the importance of pushing comfort levels to derive the most benefit from adventure, we also want our guests to leave smiling and wanting more. Being employee owned and operated we get a ground level view of what our customers want and love… that’s what makes us special and we hope to see you to show you what we mean!

Visit us for kayaking Southern California coast, Channel Island tours, kayaking Santa Cruz Island, kayak fishing Santa Barbara, paddle sports Santa Barbara, and more!

CIOPic7Develop your skills while having the ride of your life!

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Some of our extensive adventure selection:

Scorpion Ranch Caves and Coves

Start with some whale watching:
The ferry that takes you to the islands is operated by Island Packers out of Ventura Harbor. You will be aboard one of their very stable high-speed catamarans for the 1 hour journey to Santa Cruz Island. As you cross the marine rich Santa Barbara Channel the captain and crew keep a look-out for wildlife, including Humpback, California Gray, and Killer Whales! It is a common occurrence to find ourselves among MEGA-PODS of dolphins.

For total enjoyment, it is best to enjoy a very light breakfast of fruit, saving a nice snack for your arrival at the island.

CIOPic4Gearing up for a Sea Cave Adventure:
Upon arrival at Santa Cruz Island your guide/s will show you to the Channel Islands Outfitters (CIO) base camp where picnic tables, locked storage, and all of the gear we will need for the day of kayaking are located. Each kayaker will be handed a 3mm farmer john style wetsuit that is sized specifically, so be honest with heights and weights. Wetsuits are necessary for protection from the rocks and the sharp things living on them. It can also be a little chilly and most guests find the wetsuit quite comfortable.

Exploring Sea Caves by Kayak:
What you’ve been waiting for all day! We won’t spoil it here, but it’s safe to say this 2 1/2 hr sea cave journey is an experience that you will not be able to compare with anything else. We’ve heard people say “It’s like Disneyland!”… but the honest truth is Disneyland comes to the sea caves at Santa Cruz for ideas!

The Rest of Your Day:
Following your unforgettable kayaking adventure there is typically free time. In their free time, guests may enjoy going snorkeling, searching for Santa Cruz Island Fox, or enjoying a nice picnic lunch on the beach. The ferry will arrive late in the afternoon to pick adventurers up and return them to Ventura Harbor by 5:30.

Painted Cave by Kayak or SUP

West Santa Cruz Island
World’s Longest Sea Cave:
CIOPic13You thought the world’s largest ball of twine was cool? Imagine yourself paddling deep into a sea cave with the bellows of the side chambers making your ears pop from the pressure change. You are still 40 feet from the ceiling of the cave and you can see the sun bouncing off of rocks just below you in the crystal clear water.
Now imagine where you are… 30 miles due South from Santa Barbara on a remote island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Step aside ball of twine, THIS world record is truly impressive!

Making the Journey across the Santa Barbara Channel:
It takes the Truth about 1.5 hours to make it’s way from Santa Barbara Harbor to the cave entrance on the West End of Santa Cruz Island (the Truth being the 70 foot custom built live-aboard vessel that takes you there of course). Relax below in the bunks or whale watch on the top deck, the Truth creates a popular bow wave for dolphins and this sight is endless fun! A light continental breakfast, coffee, tea, and cold beverages included.

Disembark the Truth and Board Your Caving Chariot:
CIO fully outfits you with wetsuits, personal flotation devices, helmets, and you can rent a snorkel and mask. A man or woman wearing a strange outfit with a cave light attached to a helmet will begin the pre-trip briefing, that is your guide, listen up! Going into sea caves is an optional experience, but of all the sea caves at the Channel Islands this cave is inspiring, not intimidating!

Choose Kayaks or SUP:
We offer this experience on sit-on-top kayaks or stable Stand-Up Paddleboards (SUP). There are advantages to both, but expect an amazing caving adventure either way! The SUP option costs an additional $20/person.

CIoPic16Don your Snorkel, Mask & Fins and explore below you:
Don is a fancy word for “put-on” we nautical people like to use to sound special, so it may be helpful to remember this. Hop in the water to take a look below you where the kelp is glistening in the sunshine and the fish are swirling as they tend to do. You can rent a snorkel, mask and fins for $10.

Catch a bite to eat and get your bronze on…
…or literally catch your bite to each while you get your bronze on. If you don’t succeed with the hook, line and sinker mosey over to the galley where a delicious and healthy lunch is waiting for you. We use local organic produce whenever possible and the tri-tip grazed the hills of Santa Ynez… you traveled further to visit the cave than the food did to visit your plate! After lunch the Truth begins back in search of more whales and dolphins… enjoy an adult beverage if you are so inclined (provided by you of course).

Things to Know about a Painted Cave Adventure:
• Anyone who is 12 years or older and knows how to swim may participate
• Vegetarian, Gluten Free, and Vegan options are always delicious and available.
• You may choose a single or tandem kayak at no additional cost, add $20 for an Stand-Up Paddle board, paddle, and PFD.

Sea Caves of Coche Point
Kayak from Scorpion Anchorage
For those who camp at the National Park Service camping area at Scorpion Anchorage, this kayaking trip is a MUST!
Beyond Cavern Point:
We meet at our kayak base at Scorpion Beach at 8am and gear up. Each participant should bring a lunch, water and a snack. We will place the lunches into a dry bag to be enjoyed at a secluded beach, on reachable by kayak. We will head West past Cavern Point where numerous sea caves await!

CIOPic5Potato Harbor:
Carved from a highly erosive rock formation, Potato Harbor is an amazing cove with a sandy beach at the termination of the cove where we will land and enjoy some relaxing and a bite to eat.

If conditions and energy allows…
… we will paddle a mile further to the West to Coche Point where a half-dozen sea caves rest in the volcanic cliffs.

This trip takes about 5 hours and covers between 6-8 miles round trip. Your guide will act as naturalist and cave expert providing an amazing experience. You must be camping because we paddle early in the morning to avoid any afternoon winds that may come up. We can also run this trip from Prisoner’s Harbor for groups of 6 or more. This adds a crossing of China Bay and also takes an entire day.

Quick Facts:
• Everyone over 9 yrs old who can swim is welcome.
• All Kayaking Gear is provided.
• Snorkel Gear is provided.
• Must be camping to participate.

Santa Barbara Harbor Kayak Tour
CIOPic9Santa Barbara is often called the American Riviera, and the best way to see it is from the sea by kayak!

Our guided kayak tour of the Santa Barbara Harbor and waterfront area is a wonderful experience for the whole family. If you are visiting the Santa Barbara area and are looking for things to do, put this trip get on that list!

Traveling by kayak is a wonderful way to view wildlife without disturbing them. Visit the Sea Lionson the navigation buoys and the Sea Stars under the wharf. If you do a special dance right before your tour, there is a good chance you’ll see dolphins as well, and seeing dolphins in the wild beats any Sea World experience!

Trips depart daily at
• 10am
• 12:30pm
• 3pm
• Full Moons, one hour before suns

Black Rock 2-Day Backpacking
Prisoner’s Harbor to Scorpion Ranch over Montanon Ridge on East Santa Cruz Island

Cross the Most Marine Diverse Body of Water in the World!

The Santa Barbara Channel is the perfect place to view whales and dolphins, and during the journey across we often encounter some sort of wildlife. This ferry trip takes you to the isthmus of the island at Prisoner’s Harbor where you will begin your backpacking journey to Scorpion Ranch.

CIOPic10Vistas on the Way to Camp:
With your backpack fully loaded your guide leads you out of the valley and up to the back-country campsite known as Del Norte. The trail gently climbs along several hillsides with vistas galore. Only 3 or 4 hours ago you were driving on the freeway and now you’re on an island lost in the past.

Your Choice from the pantry:
This adventure is fully outfitted. CIO provides backpacks, poles, tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, stoves, water, & hydration packs. All meals are included and consist of a mixture of local fruits/nuts and dehydrated backpacking meals. We supply the fuel and stove, so all you need to bring is your own toothbrush, underwear, and wool cap (full packing list provided at sign-up).

Journey to Scorpion Ranch:
The sunset and sunrise from Del Norte is incredible. After a healthy breakfast and some french-press coffee the hike to Scorpion Ranch begins. This hike is bound to blow-your-mind! The only way to the East end of the island is over the volcanic ridge, only passable by foot. Once you arrive at Scorpion Ranch you will have time to enjoy the peace and quiet of island life before your ferry picks you up to bring you back to Ventura by 6pm.

Quick Facts:
• Everyone over 16 yrs and older is welcome.
• Vegetarian, Vegan, and Gluten free menus are available.
• All Backpacking gear is included.
• This is a package price, includes ferry and campsites.

CIOPic2SUP Mesa DownwinderTour
If you didn’t know yet, SUP stands for Stand-Up Paddleboarding, and it’s really fun. Meet at our Paddle Sports Center location in the Santa Barbara Harbor and get into wetsuits or paddling tops. Your guide will show you the basics of SUPing and then take you on a 2 hour paddle from Hendry’s back to the Harbor.

The perspective from an SUP is unique giving the paddler a 5-6 foot perspective into the water where it is common to see the fish, seals, sea lions, sea otters, and dolphins swimming below the surface of the water. In addition to being able to the world below the water, the view from ontop of the water is equally impressive.

Get a tan and a good work-out on this one-of-a-kind Santa Barbara adventure!

Must reserve space in advance.


Arches of Anacapa Island
A Kayaker’s Paradise:
We all know that kayakers derive their thrills by paddling under, over, and through things… it’s the honest truth. At Anacapa Island a new obstacle that must be conquered in your kayak meets you at every turn. Paddle through caves that cut under 100 foot cliffs, paddle under the 40 foot Anacapa Arch, and paddle over kelp forests jetting up to the surface of the crystal clear water. That is exactly why Anacapa is one of our favorite paddling destinations.

Getting There:
This journey typically departs from Oxnard and the crossing is a little shorter than an hour. With over 20 marine mammal species visiting the Channel each year, expect to see some whale and dolphin activity!
Gearing up for your Sea Cave Adventure:

As with all of CIO’s adventures, you will be fully geared up from head to toe with comfy kayaking gear. The friends who don’t come with you will be jealous when they see your pictures! Fashion divas we are not, but adventure seekers we are… So after the fashion show is over and you’re ready for action, climb down the ladder to the plastic chariot that awaits… Let your guided adventure begin!

CIOPic8A Journey Around East Anacapa:
Our plan is to take you all the way around the Eastern Islet of Anacapa Island. Anacapa Island is actually three islets that are separated on a high-tide. The caves on the Eastern Islet are breathtaking, with the largest being Cathedral Arch. On our way around we will encounter a large Sea Lion haul out beach which usually makes for interesting sounds and smells!

The Rest of Your Day:
This adventure is kayaking based. We always try to give you enough time for a a hike, and hopefully you’ll be able to enjoy a walk to the top of Anacapa Island to Inspiration Point. The ferry schedules do vary and it is possible that we may not be able to hike.

Quick Facts:
• This adventure includes ferry transportation.
• Everyone over 10 yrs old who can swim is welcome.
• Please bring your own lunch, snack, and water.
• All Kayaking Gear is provided.

Rentals at the Paddle Sports Center
The Paddle Sports Center has been Santa Barbara’s premier rental center for 20 years. We rent recreation kayaks, fishing kayaks, pedal kayaks, stand-up paddleboards (SUP), surfboards, boogie boards, tents, backpacks, sleeping bags, paco pads, and watersport accessories such as life jackets and wetsuits.

The Santa Barbara Waterfront is a great place to view wildlife such as dolphins and sea lions.
• All ages can play, as long as you know how to swim.
• Life Jacket (PFD), paddle, and seat included for kayak rentals.
• Wetsuit, paddle leash, and PFD included for SUP rentals.
• We require a valid driver’s license for all rentals.
• Rentals that are taken from the store will be charged a $10 transport fee (members excluded).

Visit us for kayaking Southern California coast, Channel Island tours, kayaking Santa Cruz Island, kayak fishing Santa Barbara, paddle sports Santa Barbara, and more!

  • 117 Harbor Way, Santa Barbara, CA 93109, USA
  • Paddle Sports Center 'Santa Barbara Harbor' (805) 617-3425
  • Paddle Sports Center 'Goleta Beach' (805) 617-3425
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