We visited Santa Cruz Island, part of the Channel Islands National Park, on Friday December 28th. We took the Island Packers boat out to Scorpion Anchorage on the east side of the island. There are a couple more islands that make up the Channel Islands but there aren't boats in the winter that go out to the islands further west. Santa Cruz Island is a nice place to hike around for the day. The boat leaves Ventura, CA at 9am and it takes about an hour to reach the island. The boat returns to mainland at 330pm so you have a good 5 hours to explore.
There are several different trails that you can take with varying difficulty. We decided to take the trail to Smugglers Cove towards the south east coast of the island. The islands are not developed so you will have to pack water and lunch for the day and take it with you. There are many spots along the trail to stop and eat or if you are fast, you can have a picnic by the beach on Smugglers Cove. The hike is labeled as "strenuous," but just as long as you give yourself enough time to head back you should be fine. The last quarter mile is a pretty steep descent down to the beach.
Walking to Smugglers Cove and back took us the whole time with a break for lunch and exploring at the beach. The total distance is 7.5 miles with several climbs but amazing views that make it well worth it!