Calling the Channel Islands “California’s Galápagos” has a marketing ring to it, but also the ring of truth. Like the archipelago west of Ecuador, these 8 islands off our coast, from Santa Barbara to San Diego, each support diverse ecosystems.
Of the 2,000-plus species on and around the islands, 145 exist nowhere else on Earth. Standouts include the impossibly cute island fox and the screechy island scrub-jay. Others may not be endemic but are rare or endangered enough to merit protection and recovery efforts.
Five of the islands make up Channel Islands National Park, and 4 of them harbor sites that are sacred to the Chumash, who lived on these islands for more than 10,000 years. It all makes any island visit a primeval, time-warp experience.