Why go? Dive with sea lions, watch humpbacks breach, snorkel through kelp forests and train your binoculars on the birds (including ten endemic species) – the Channel Islands, eight low-lying isles stretched along California’s Pacific coast, are the natural world’s Hollywood. This largely uninhabited and largely protected haven is a place where wildlife can flourish – their relative isolation has allowed a rare coastal Mediterranean-type habitat to develop, encompassing 790 types of plants. However, it’s in the water that things get most exciting, with a diversity of dolphins, seals, whales and more drawn here to feed and breed. Cetacean-spotting boat trips could yield humpbacks, orca, fin, grey and blue whales.
When to go: The islands are visitable year-round. Summer and autumn are best for snorkelling, diving, kayaking and swimming. Grey whales are present December-April; blues and humpbacks April-September.
How to go: Flights in small twin-engine planes run to Santa Rosa Island from Camarillo, 100km north-west of LA. Boats leave from Ventura, 140km north-west of LA; Island Packers runs a range of trips.