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TWO DAY SAN JUAN ISLAND KAYAKING TOUR

WHY CHOOSE SEA QUEST FOR YOUR WEEKEND KAYAK TOUR IN THE SAN JUAN ISLANDS?

 

Lowest priced kayak tours to the prime killer whale zone where most whale sightings occur.

Kayak the stunning seashores & lighthouses of the wilder western San Juan Islands.

Our company has been leading kayak tours in the San Juan Islands since 1989 with a perfect safety record thanks to extensively trained guides and the newest kayaks & paddling gear.

Best route to kayak with killer whales in the US with 470+ orcas from spring through autumn.

Camping on small islands with abundant eagles, otters & seals. Routes include a National Monument, National Wildlife Refuge, State & County Parks, and possibly a National Historical Park.

Ready to Start Your Adventure?

Our two-day sea kayak trips in the San Juan Islands are the perfect choice if you have limited vacation time or want an introduction to camping where rain is a rare event. The gorgeous snow-capped Olympic Mountains are more than mere scenery on this kayak tour – they make the San Juans the driest micro-climate along the Washington coast. Tiny cactus and red-barked madronas cling to steep sea cliffs thanks to the Mediterranean climate. Elsewhere, dense forests of massive dark green firs cloak the landscape. Below the surface, forests of multi-colored kelp wave rhythmically in the strong currents that bring nourishment to sea stars and diverse tidepool life.

Weekend Kayak Tour San Juan Island: Blood Stars live in the Colorful Tidepools of San Juan Island

We have had excellent success in kayaking with orca whales on this kayak adventure. Our route traverses the ultimate killer whale habitat on both days of the two-day kayak tour. From 2005-2018 we encountered orca whales on about 40% of the trips in May, 50% in June through September, and 30% in October. Amazingly, this span began in the same year our salmon orcas were listed as endangered! Before 2005, salmon orcas and their prey were thriving and we saw them even more often. Sadly, the salmon have dwindled, leading to three terrible years for killer whale watching in 2013, 2019, and 2020. Clearly, the future of whale watching is now unpredictable and we can only hope that humanity is willing to make the changes necessary to ensure abundant salmon and orcas in the years ahead.

The San Juan Islands remain the best place in the US for seeing killer whales, despite erratic results in recent years. Sea Quest’s many decades of experience, both as local biologists and expert kayak guides, provides you the best chance to see these spectacular whales! While the salmon orca struggle to find prey, a newly recognized species of killer whale shares Washington’s waterways. Bigg’s killer whales hunt marine mammals and are thriving on our growing population of harbor seals and sea lions. They number over 400 individuals but are quiet, stealthy, and difficult to locate compared to salmon orcas.

In addition to killer whales, many other exciting marine mammals may be seen: humpback whales, minke whales, harbor and Dall’s porpoise, mink and river otters. Peregrine falcon eyries, bald eagle nests, a pelagic cormorant rookery, colonies of guillemots, breeding black oystercatchers and kingfishers are just some of the avian features. This kayak tour is also available as a Women’s-Only Kayaking Vacation.

Trip Details: Two-Day Kayak Tour from San Juan Island

Duration

2 Days

Group Size

All Group Sizes

Age Range

All Ages

Activity Level

Beginner Friendly

Starting From

$599

Departures

8:00am Every Day

Location

San Juan Islands, WA

RATED 4.7/5

(874 Reviews)

  • Schedule: weekends Saturday-Sunday.
  • Trip Fee: $599 plus $10 government launch fee.
  • Meeting Place: Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. Look for our van and kayak trailer in the traffic circle adjacent to the Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal.
  • Meeting Time: 8:00am. On some dates there may be a slight difference in trip start time. Our online reservation system will indicate this if you enter a specific date. Ask about earlier or later departures if the starting times shown don’t work for you!
  • Day 1 Itinerary: We go straight to the launch beach, load the kayaks, and then prepare everyone with the basic skills during a hour-long instructional session. We launch directly into prime orca whale watching territory and must keep a sharp eye out for “blows” as we paddle. Our route passes numerous islets, rocks, and reefs rich in wildlife. Paddling time may vary from 4 to 6 hours, covering 8 to 12 miles each day depending on sea conditions. To keep fresh, we take several floating rest stops throughout the day, plus one or more visits ashore for lunch and relaxation. We will spend the night at a spectacular marine park. After dinner you can request a moonlight paddle and may see bioluminescent life swirling in the waters like fairy dust.
  • Day 2 Itinerary: After enjoying the morning sunrise, we break camp and launch for another wonderful day of sea kayaking. We cover a similar distance as the day before, still sticking to the main thoroughfares of killer whales. After landing we reboard the van.
  • Finish Time & Place: Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal between 1:00 and 3:00pm. This allows you time to catch various departing ferries if you desire to leave the island that evening.

REVIEWS

Frequently Asked Questions​

 

The only thing we require is a healthy spirit of adventure! No previous paddling or camping experience is required to participate in a kayak camping trip. Let us handle the heavy lifting so you can enjoy your vacation. We do all the trip planning so you can focus on what is most important – adventure!

We provide breakfast and dinner and our all inclusive listing price includes spacious tents to ensure you will be well rested for adventure. Sleeping bags and pads can be rented for an additional nominal fee – but feel free to bring your own!

Anyone in average physical condition can join a two day kayak camping tour. No prior experience in small boats or camping is necessary.

Tour preparation might include walking, cycling, swimming or calisthenics; but this preparation is by no means required!

A two day kayak camping tour offer a few different islands to explore within the range of San Juan Island. We usually explore other islands and areas throughout the day. Here are some islands we camp on or explore:

  • Posey Island
  • Turn Island
  • San Juan Island

Posey Island Marine State Park is one of our most popular campsite and more than 50% of our tours visit this island! The campsite is very private and does not get a lot of traffic because their are only two campsites available. The north side of the islands offers sweeping views of Speiden Channel and spectacular sunsets. Other popular activities from Posey Island include kayaking in bioluminescence, reading, or having great conversations around the campfire.

Posey Island Marine State Park has the following amenities:

  • Picnic and Day-Use Facilities
  • Campsites
  • Composting vault toilet

Turn Island Marine State Park is also a favorite among our kayak camping destinations. The island is very special because it is both a state park and a national wildlife refuge. Upon approaching the island from the south one immediately becomes aware of the vast number of harbor seal haul out sites! Upon arrival, the inviting campsites offer shaded nooks to tuck you tent and there are plenty of swimming areas around the island perimeter. A 30 minute walk around the island displays steel cliff sides, fantastic current exchanges and incredible views of surrounding islands. Finishing the day with a sunset view and warm dinner cooked by your expert kayak guide is hard to beat.

Turn Island Marine State Park has the following amenities:

  • Picnic and Day-Use Facilities
  • Mooring buoys
  • Campsites
  • Composting vault toilets
  • Potable Water

The Griffin Bay Department of Natural Resources Campsite on San Juan Island offer a quiet retreat away from it all! The campsites are tucked within the shelter of inviting wild rose bushes and other native shrubs. The mowed area is welcoming to groups of all sizes but most of the time this hidden gem of a campsite is under utilized. There are ample opportunities for exploration from this side including walking along the beach or paddling a short distance to hike the American Camp trail system where one can witness spectacular views from Mount Finlayson overlooking the Olympic Mountain range and southern extent of San Juan Islands. The placid and warm waters of Griffin Bay also promote dynamic displays of bioluminescence at night!

Griffin Bay Department of Natural Resources Campsite has the following amenities:

  • Picnic and Day-Use Facilities
  • Campsites
  • Composting vault toilets

GEAR LIST

 

We provide the following:

Sea kayaks, all related sea kayaking trip gear, safety equipment, transportation to and from Friday Harbor and the launch beach, instruction and expert guides. While camping, meals provided include breakfast and dinner. Our all inclusive listing price includes spacious tents to ensure you will be well rested for adventure. Sleeping bags and pads can be rented for an additional nominal fee – but feel free to bring your own!

What you need to bring:

Beach clothing, beach foot wear, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and lunch. Bring a hat, warm sweater and rain jacket if cool, cloudy, windy or rainy. A detailed packing list of camping related household items will be provided after you book your tour!

MAPS & ROUTES

 

Click the map above to open a full-size chart in PDF format that you can save, zoom, or print!

The green shaded area is the main orca whale feeding and traveling route. We stick very closely to the killer whale waters on both days of our two-day kayaking tour. The red lines represent the most frequent routes we use but by no means depict the exact route your tour will follow.

There are many routes to choose from but there is no “Set Route” because we believe in being flexible to the needs and safety of our customers given a multitude of factors.

The primary or “North” route travels north from the west side of San Juan Island through a top killer whale watching corridor. The campsite is most often Stuart or Posey Islands. If camping on Stuart Island, we may attempt a sunset or dawn hike to a clifftop lighthouse that overlooks a great whale watching point. Weather and currents must be cooperative and the group must be moderately fit to reach Stuart. On some days, regardless of fitness, conditions will mandate camping on Posey Island, a tiny jewel included in the National Monument.

The “South” route begins at San Juan Island National Historical Park at the south end of San Juan Island. Killer whale watching has been excellent here, too. Especially on the Salmon Bank that extends from the picturesque Cattle Point Lighthouse. The largest concentrations of baitfish and salmon occur here and attract orcas, minke whales, porpoises, seals and sea lions. Orca pods and minke whales traditionally visit nearly daily and may make repeated visits in a single day. We may decide to operate your tour on this route depending on a variety of factors, including availability of campsites, recent patterns of whale sightings, anticipated weather, and the predicted power and direction of tidal currents.  We will certainly use this route on several trips, but usually don’t make the determination until too late to provide notice.

The “West” route is the absolute best for orca whale watching encounters with the highest chance of sightings. From our launch beach at San Juan County Park on San Juan Island, we explore south to Lime Kiln Park and beyond, and north to Henry Island. This should be the least physically demanding route, but has been the most productive for killer whale sightings. The trade-off is that we camp at our launch beach on San Juan Island and will not visit the “wilder” parts of the archipelago.

PLEASE NOTE:

The green-shaded area can experience extreme winds or currents even in summer. This can occasionally cause us to reduce our intended time within, or avoid entirely, the primary orca watching zone as safety is the top priority. In these situations we always have opportunities to watch for whales from trails or beaches that overlook the the best areas.

author avatar
Francis Barbero