Anacapa, the smallest of the Channel Islands National Park islands, is actually three separate islands known as West, Middle and East Anacapa. Though several buildings and other signs of past human activity are visible on East Anacapa (the only of the three parts with a boat landing), the island definitely has a primitive feel to it.
Unlike the more popular Santa Cruz Island or Santa Rosa Island, Anacapa does not have a spring or other source of fresh water on the island, making its fuana completely dependent upon rainfall (and its human visitors responsible for bringing all of their own water to the island). This results in a brown and barren feeling for much of the year.
East Anacapa is about a mile in length, and trails shaped in a figure eight traverse it. This makes it easy to cross the island in the course of an afternoon. The lighthouse on its eastern tip was constructed in 1932 and operated until 1990, the last major lighthouse complex on the West Coast. From here to Inspiration Point on the island's western end, the trails pass several vista points. Visitors can view harbor seals and California sea lions lying on the shores below, the remains of a large concrete slope built for water catchment, the simple campground, and many coreopsis flower plants, which may be in beautiful colorful bloom following spring rains or appear as a dying forest of Seuss-like formations the rest of the year.
A visitor center is opened daily by park rangers, and this contains information about the plant and animal life of the Channel Islands and images of the lighthouse's construction and human history on Anacapa. The Fresnel lens from the lighthouse is also on display here.
The single boat launch is in a quiet cove perched above sea caves and kelp forest, and it is open to swimming, snorkling and kayaking (bring your own equipment). Park rangers also perform dives that are broadcast live to screens in a viewing platform above the cove, in the Channel Islands Visitor Center in Ventura Harbor, and in school classrooms. From the boat landing, a 157-step staircase rises to the main island.
West Anacapa is also home to the largest single nesting colony of brown pelicans in the Western U.S. The islands are also the domain of thousands and thousands of sea gulls. The size of the sea gull population can't be emphasized enough, as several hundred thousand pairs nest on the island in the spring, and many remain through the summer. A trip to Anacapa during these months will leave you at the mercy of these sea gulls. The odors, the sounds, the bodies of dead and often cannibalized gulls, and the sporadic flight of thousands and thousands of birds circling into the sky are a dominant feature of the island. Tables and lockers all have propelling metal rods to discourage gulls from landing on surfaces, and nearly every visible surface of trail, rooftop, or any physical structures are covered in dung.
The basic campground basic has four sites along with one group site, each site containing only shadeless picnic benches and a food locker. Reservations that can be made online at ReserveAmerica.
Two vault toilets - one near the visitor center and one at the campground - serve visitors. There is no water or electricity available on the island.
Several Santa Barbara/Ventura/Oxnard based outfitters offer transportation and diving or kayaking packages of the island. A visit to Anacapa can make a great day trip, and can it be especially fun if you do your research into the island and its recreational opportunities before your visit. Note that East and Middle Anacapa are in a protected preserve and no fishing is allowed.