Landings on Santa Cruz Island are at 2 locations - Scorpion Harbor (the most frequent & popular) and Prisoners Harbor. Land ownership at Prisoners is divided between the National Park Service and the Nature Conservancy. Entering Nature Conservancy property is by permission only by naturalist led hikes. I joined one of the 5 mile hikes and found it to be very informative & interesting. The hike was moderate with uneven terrain & inclines and the further we went the more our group dwindled. Not only were the views outstanding but the presence of brush and trees were a pleasant sight on these barren islands. I'd recommend the hike for those physically able.
The are a lot of opportunites for leisurely walks up to difficult hikes on the islands. You can venture on your own or join a Ranger guided nature walk/hike.
Anacapa -There are 1 1/2 miles of nature trails with spectacular views.
Santa Cruz -There is a more extensive trail system here. Trails range from easy 1/2 mile to strenuous 7 mile hikes. Lots of varied terrain, canyons, mountains, valleys and even trees. This island is not as barren as Santa Barbara and Anacapa.
Santa Barbara - Although this island is just one square mile, there are 5 miles of hiking trails. Hiking is moderate to strenuous, even the steps from the dock to the visitors center and main trails are very steep and long.
You won't find white water and fast running rivers, but the rocky coasts, clear waters, plentiful wildlife and hundreds of sea caves will surely appeal to even the most experienced kayaker.
Kayaks can be rented from a number of outfits on the mainland. Or you may bring your own. Reservations must be made in advance with both the rental outfit and Island Packers. An additional fee is charged to load and haul the kayaks to the islands on the ferries.
I've only rented from 'Island Kayakers' owned and operated by one of the crew of Island Packers. Experienced kayakers can rent without a guide. If it's your first time to the islands a guide is recommended since they know the coastal features including the numerous caves & which ones are safe to enter. Island Kayakers only takes small groups of 6-8, and lunch is included.
There are kayaks on the beach of Santa Cruz's Scorpion Harbor. Not sure which rental outfit owns them but again heard they must be rented beforehand and not when you reach the island.
There is an Island Kayaking link on Island Packers website.
Equipment: If you rent all equipment will be provided including life vests, helmets, wetsuits.
Wear a swimsuit with shorts and a t-shirt over or a wetsuit. The water is very cool and your bound to get at least partially wet.
Bring lunch, drinks, towels, change of clothes, sunblock, hat, possibly a disposable waterproof camera. A waterproof sealing bag to keep all your belongings dry is recommended.