Santa Cruz Island, Channel Islands National Park, California showing Scorpion Anchorage with wildflowers in the foreground and a calm sea beneath the mountainous terrain and blue sky above.
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Road Trips

Road Trip from Los Angeles to Ventura and Channel Islands National Park

By Dianne Titos | Updated on 2 May 2022

A road trip from Los Angeles to Ventura and Channel Islands National Park is the perfect getaway for those who want to escape the chaos of the city. So jump in your car, hit the open road and get back to nature while exploring some stunning beaches along the way.

The 90-mile road trip from Los Angeles to Ventura and Channel Islands takes 1 hour and 20 minutes. The route passes through Santa Monica, Malibu, Oxnard and Sycamore Cove Beach, plus the islands themselves, including Santa Barbara and San Miguel.

There are so many outstanding pockets of natural beauty and fascinating places to visit on the journey. Check out the sections below for some inspiration on the route and things to do along the way.

How far is Ventura and Channel Islands National Park from Los Angeles and how long will the road trip take?

A road trip from Los Angeles to Ventura and Channel Islands National Park covers an overall distance of about 90 miles, but it isn't one you can fully complete by car.

Instead, you will need to drive to Ventura and catch a ferry over to any of the five visitable islands you want to go to. All of the Channel Islands can be reached by ferry, with both Catalina Express and the Catalina Flyer operating services regularly throughout the day.

If you are driving non-stop along Route-101, the journey should take about 1 hour and 20 minutes to complete, while the ferry ride takes about one hour.

While you can complete this trip in a day, we suggest you stretch it several to full appreciate the sheer number of stunning beach destinations as well as state parks along the way.

Santa Monica pier, California at sunset with the pier and fairground lit up and the sky reflecting in the sea.
The route from Los Angeles to Ventura takes you past Santa Monica and is worth a stop to check out its famous pier.
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Best road trip route from Los Angeles to Ventura and Channel Islands

For its sensational coastal views, we recommend that the best road trip route from Los Angeles to Ventura and Channel Islands takes you along the Pacific Coast Highway.

The drive is very easy to do and there are plenty of convenient places to stop along the way if you need food, a rest stop or to fill up with gas.

Join Interstate-10 out of Los Angeles and head west towards Santa Monica.

After spending some time in Santa Monica, make your way on to the Pacific Coast Highway which hugs the coastline and makes the most of the views. Continue along this road past the turn offs for the Getty Village and Tuna Canyon Park.

Carry on past Malibu and consider an overnight stop to explore this brilliant city. Next continue on I-10 past Point Dume before reaching El Matador Beach and Sycamore Cove Beach. Once you past Point Mugu State Park, you will start to head inland toward Oxnard.

From Oxnard join the Route-101, which will take you all the way to Ventura. From Ventura you will be able to get the ferry across to any of the Channel Islands you want to visit.

Best places to stop between Los Angeles and Ventura and Channel Islands

The route along the road trip from Los Angeles to Ventura and Channel Islands holds a number of very good options for overnight stays.

If you are able to fit a night or two stopover into your schedule, it would be well worth your while to book a room at any of our favorites below:

Watch the sun go down in Malibu

It would be a shame to tackle the road trip Ventura and now spend some time in glitzy Malibu - known for its celebrities, stunning beaches and surf-friendly coast.

Malibu beach, near Los Angeles, California with luxury oceanfront homes overlooking the beach at sunset, trees in the distance.
Spend some time in glitzy Malibu and enjoy a stunning coastal town that is known for its great surf and celebrities.
Nick Fox/Shutterstock.com

If you find yourself wanting to soak up more of the Californian beach lifestyle, then you won't be disappointed with a stop at the Malibu Beach Inn, located just 20 minutes from the sandy shore and oozing sophistication and style.

The hotel also features a soothing luxury spa and rooms with private balconies that overlook the beautiful Pacific Ocean. Situated just 10 miles outside downtown Malibu, guests can even enjoy the coastal cuisine indoors on the hotel's beachfront terrace.

Soak up the sun at the Malibu Beach Inn's own private beach or take a two minute walk to Malibu pier - the options are endless at this classy hotel.

Given its location, amenities and luxurious feel, this hotel is great value for money and will certainly be an experience you won't ever forget.

Kick back and relax in Oxnard

A short drive from Ventura, Oxnard is a pretty seaside city west of Los Angeles and offers access Oxnard Beach Park, a wide, sandy shoreline with grassy lawns and views of Channel Islands National Park. If you're after a beachside stay, Oxnard is a good option.

If being close to the beach is important, then we recommend a stay at Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor. Just an 8 minute walk to the beach, this modern hotel has an outdoor pool and tennis courts and has fabulous views overlooking the Channel Islands.

Get the most of your stay and consider booking a Channel Islands Harbor cruise where you can go whale watching. The Ventura County Maritime Museum‎ is less than a quarter-mile away as is also worth a visit.

As a bonus the hotel also offers parking and a fantastic on-site restaurant. The Hampton Inn Channel Islands Harbor is great value for money, especially considering its fantastic location.

San Buenaventura State Beach, California with an aerial view of downtown Ventura with a pier over the sea, mountains in the background on a hazy sunny day.
The stunning San Buenaventura State Beach overlooks Ventura and its long beaches.
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Stay a stone's throw away from the Channel Islands in Ventura

Although no accommodation other than camping is available on the Channel Islands themselves, the city of Ventura is a great base for exploring them.

As well as ideally situated for catching a ferry from the harbor to visit Channel Islands National Park, Ventura is a destination in its own right. Spend some time at San Buenaventura State Beach or visit Surfer's Point - a favourite amongst water sport fans.

There's a great choice of places to stop in Ventura, but our favourite has to be Crowne Plaza Hotel Ventura Beach. Overlooking the Pacific Ocean and just a minute from the beach, this simply stunning hotel offers a heated outdoor pool and a restaurant offering outdoor dining.

Stylish rooms, fully equipped fitness center and balcony rooms that come complete with a calming aromatherapy kit, are just some of the fantastic amenities offered in this delightful hotel.

Despite being a pricy option, the Crowne Plaza Hotel Ventura Beach will be difficult to beat in terms of location, setting and luxury.

Sycamore Cove/Canyon Beach, USA with tall grass in the foreground and rock formations in the sea in the distance, a beach between the two.
If you are after some tranquility, a stop at Sycamore Cove Beach is the ideal place.
DavidDiaz_Official/Shutterstock.com

Things to see on a road trip from Los Angeles to Ventura and Channel Islands

Although not far in terms of distance from each other, there is such a wide range of sights and attractions to see on a road trip from Los Angeles to Ventura and Channel Islands, you could easily set aside a few days to visit some of them.

Here's our list of some of the best things to see this route has to offer:

  1. Santa Monica – Fabulous coastal city home to a famous pier with a historic amusement park, an Aquarium and the iconic Muscle Beach
  2. Getty Villa - Museum showcasing 4,000 years of ancient culture including Greek and Roman art. Also boasts beautiful gardens and an outdoor ampitheatre
  3. Tuna Canyon Park - Spectacular 1,255-acre state park in the western Santa Monica Mountains. Terrific hiking spot that boasts sensational views of the Pacific Ocean
  4. Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area – Gorgeous mountainous terrain that is a lovely spot to go hiking. Features the magnificent 3,000 feet high Sandstone Peak and the cascading Escondido Falls
  5. Malibu – Famous coastal city renowned for its A-List celebrity homes. Also known for its spectacular beaches and picturesque hiking trails
  6. Point Dume - Promontory on the coast of Malibu, Point Dume juts out into the Pacific Ocean. Offers terrific views of the Palos Verdes Peninsula and Santa Catalina Island
  7. El Matador Beach – Beach made famous by the film "The Notebook" when Allie pretends to be a bird on the beach. Offers great views of Malibu's iconic coastal bluffs
  8. Lake Eleanor Sentinel – Stunning habitat with a freshwater lake and hiking trails
  9. Malibu Springs Trail – Excellent hiking trail that leads you to sensational views of the highest peaks in the Santa Monica Mountains
  10. Sycamore Cove Beach – Beautiful beach with a superb campground and extensive network of hiking trails
  11. Point Mugu State Park - Situated in the Santa Monica Mountains, this park showcases five miles of ocean shoreline replete with rugged hills, rocky bluffs, sand dunes and sandy beaches
  12. Oxnard State Beach Park - Gorgeous 62-acre beachfront park with a stunning beach, manicured lawns, children's playground and picnic area
  13. Ventura – Coastal city with a thriving cultural scene. Boasts a stunning pier, a quaint harbor, beautiful botanic gardens and the historic Mission San Buenaventura

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation, California with a view from the summit of Sand Stone Peak and green hills in the distance with a foggy horizon.
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area is a great spot for hiking with amazing views from the top.
Steven Guo/Shutterstock.com

On the Channel Islands

All of the Channels Islands can be reached by ferry, although there are no roads on the island, you can traverse them on foot or by kayak. Some of their main highlights include:

  1. Anacapa – Verdant island with hiking trails that pass a stunning lighthouse and fantastic scenery
  2. Santa Cruz – Largest and most diverse of all the islands. Blessed with a stunning coastline and a rich landscape of lush coastal vegetation
  3. Santa Rosa - Place where the oldest human remains in North America were discovered in 1959 - the Arlington Springs Man who lived there over 13,000 years ago. Also home to Torrey pines – one of the rarest trees in the world
  4. San Miguel - Popular spot for seals and sea lions to breed and give birth. Known for its beautiful flora and fauna and picturesque tidepools
  5. Santa Barbara - Boasts 5 miles of hiking trails that wind through its stark landscapes and offers sensational views of the coastline
San Miguel Island, Channel Island National Park, California with sand dunes in the foreground and a beautiful remote beach with the sea lapping the shores.
Each of the islands are unique, San Miguel is knowns for its flora and fauna.
Sebastien Burel/Shutterstock.com

Best time to go on a road trip from Los Angeles to Ventura and Channel Islands

A road trip from Los Angeles to Ventura and Channel Islands can be undertaken throughout the year thanks to the weather in California being relatively mild. That said, watch out for winter winds which can make the ocean crossing rough. For this reason, it's always worth checking if you're planning on island hopping.

As a general rule, the summer months are the best time to visit Ventura and Channel Islands, to partake in a range of activities like sailing, kayaking, diving, snorkeling and swimming. It is also the best time for whale watching or to observe sea lions pupping. As such, there are likely to be more crowds and you'd be wise to book your hotel in advance.

If you are looking specifically to spot gray whales, or are a lover of gorgeous sunsets, then fall or early winter is a great time to go. This is also a great time to spot the stunning sunsets. If you'd rather avoid the chill of the colder months, consider traveling in spring when the wildflowers are in bloom and the parks and beaches more peaceful.

During the summer the weather can get hot and humid with average highs of 76 degrees. If you go hiking, be sure to wear a hat and take plenty of food and water with you. This is especially important on the Channel Islands as some of them do not have running water.