Painted Cave MPA

Painted Cave

State Marine Conservation Area


Photo Credit: Channel Islands Outfitters


One of the largest and deepest sea caves in the world, Painted Cave, is found on the northwest coastline of Santa Cruz. Named because of its colorful rock types, lichens, and algae, Painted Cave is nearly a quarter mile long and 100 feet wide, with an entrance ceiling of 160 feet and a waterfall over the entrance in the spring. Bigger boats can fit into the cave’s first chamber while kayakers can explore deeper inside where flashlights are used.


Recreational Opportunities

Diving, Snorkeling, Kayaking, Surf, and Stand-Up Paddle Boarding


  • Painted Cave hosts several seal and sea lion haul-outs so don’t be surprised if you have a close encounter during your kayaking or SUP trip. While crossing the Santa Barbara Channel visitors are also likely to see dolphins, seals, and sea lions, and the lucky visitor may encounter one of the several species of whales that visit our area.

 Private Boat Charters


 Public Access

Boat Transportation:

  • Truth Aquatics provides boat transportation for diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and SUP experiences of Painted Cave.
  • Trips with Island Packers departing from the Ventura Harbor to Santa Rosa and San Miguel Islands, as well as all day blue and humpback whale watching trips, often include a quick stop by Painted Cave.
  • Other boat transportation options include local dive companies, charter boats, and private boats.



­Take of all living marine resources is prohibited except for the recreational take of lobster and pelagic finfish.

Sources and Useful Links:

Department of Fish and Wildlife

National Park Service