San Clemente Island

San Clemente Island is the southernmost island in the series of Channel Islands in California and just over 100 nautical miles from the city of Santa Barbara. Beginning in 1934 San Clemente Island has been owned by a variety of naval commands; today it is owned by the U.S. Navy. The island is almost five nautical miles wide and 21 nm long and without inhabitants. Fauna and flora include the endangered loggerhead shrike that the Navy takes care to protect.


Human settlement on the island has been dated back to about 10,000 years ago. The Tongva, who also lived on Santa Catalina Island, are thought to have lived on San Clemente Island prior to the Chumash tribe who were known to live along the Channel Islands. There is evidence of battles taking place; piles of human remains have been found on the island and nearby San Nicholas. In 1542, the island was named Victoria by the first European settler and then renamed in 1602 by Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino. Up until the 19th century and the early 20th century it was utilized by fishermen, ranchers, and smugglers. During the first half of the 20th century whales were often hunted in the area.

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling

Scuba Diving & Snorkeling

Diving and snorkeling are popular around San Clemente Island; the waters around it are the clearest and warmest of all eight Channel Islands. Massive beds of kelp, coral banks, fish schools, and plummeting walls create a paradise for divers. Both ends of the island offer prime scuba diving and snorkeling conditions. On the east end, shear walls, pinnacles, and protected coves are found. Sheer walls cover a large rocky structure on the west end and blanketed by hydrocoral in vibrant purple hues. Swept by swells and current from the open ocean, San Clemente Island diving can be difficult and conditions should always be monitored before entering the water. Though snorkelers frequent either island end, snorkeling is most popular around San Clemente Island’s coves where spiny lobsters and sea lions pair with kelp forests and abundant hydrocoral.

Top image: El Frito (flickr)
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