The toothy sea grotto was teeming. Known as the “Green Room” inside Scorpion Rock just off southeastern Santa Cruz Island and part of the Channel Islands National Park, the wave-battered cavern bustled with nesting pelagic birds and raucous California sea lions. Its west entrance agape, inside the dank sea cave narrowed to the point where it laid me flat on my kayak’s back deck. The volcanic rock gouged my helmet before depositing me into an urchin-laden cove.
There’s nothing quite like paddling in to explore honeycombed cliffs and Mordor-like archways. Those craggy caverns and sea caves are best accessed by plastic kayak, the perfect watercraft for sea-bound spelunking.
Here’s a look at where to launch your next paddling trip to access North America’s most stunning coastline sections featuring sheer, pock-marked, weather-beaten cliffs. Respect other kayakers and the wildlife, too. Don’t forget your headlamp and helmet. You’re going to need it.