San Juan Islands Kayaking Trip Routes & Maps
- Intro to San Juan Islands
- Whale Watching Info & Facts
- Travel to San Juan Islands
- San Juan Islands Kayaking FAQ
- Map of all Kayaking Routes
- How to Prepare
- Resources to Learn More
- Video & Photos
- All Tours
San Juan Islands Kayak Tour Routes & Maps of the Orca Whale Watching Waters
A map of each San Juan Islands kayaking trip routes and whale watching area we explore is displayed on the unique itinerary page for that particular kayak tour.
Big versions of these kayak trip route maps can be seen by clicking on one of the tiny maps below. This will open a full-size map in PDF format. You will be able to view, zoom, save, and print the PDF version of the map from your computer.
The first map is a satellite image of the San Juan Islands of Washington state. The San Juan Islands are located in the yellow circle, just north of Seattle and Puget Sound. The three international airports of the region are located in the labeled cities of Seattle, Vancouver, and Victoria.
Our San Juan Islands kayak tours originate from Friday Harbor, San Juan Island (the namesake of the archipelago). The west side of San Juan Island facing Canada overlooks the prime killer whale waters. The various waterways that surround the San Juan Islands are frequently referred to as the Salish Sea after the indigenous peoples who originally inhabited the area.
Orca whales are mostly restricted to the US side of the waterway that separates the San Juan Islands from Vancouver Island, so this is the area our whale watching kayak tours operate in. The primary salmon orca feeding and traveling area is highlighted in green on the individual kayak trip route maps shown below. The primary Bigg’s killer whale hunting areas are highlighted in orange on the kayak tour maps. Clicking on a chart will download a very large pdf version with much greater detail.
Our San Juan Islands Kayaking Tour Maps
Your best chance of seeing orca whales on a one day kayak trip anywhere in the United States! Plenty of other wildlife, too, including porpoise, sea lions, harbor seals, and river otters. Birds of prey include three active bald eagle nests and one peregrine falcon eyrie.
Enjoy fantastic views of Washington’s Olympic Mountains and Vancouver Island while paddling the scenic “West Side” of San Juan Island. Evergreen firs and stunning madronas give way to steep cliffs, tidepools, and amber kelp forests. Old smuggler’s beaches make good kayak landings and the fascinating human past is revealed by Native American pictographs and historical mining operations.
Total time required is 6 hours from pick-up to drop-off in Friday Harbor, including 3 hours of coastal exploration in the sea kayaks.
The perfect choice if your schedule is tight, or you want to get a brief first taste of the sport. We have two choices of half day tour routes from San Juan Island.
The west side route takes you the best orca whale watching waters in the United States. Please note: if seeing killer whales is your main goal, we recommend the afternoon / one day tour shown above as this tour spends double the time in their habitat.
The east side route begins a few minutes from Friday Harbor. It’s best for groups that have limited time or prefer very sheltered waters. Although whales aren’t expected, the wildlife refuge on this route is home to dozens of harbor seals, nesting bald eagles and many species of marine birds.
Our shortest camping/kayaking tour in the San Juan Islands follows the orca whale’s primary hunting route on both days to maximize our chance of an encounter. Many other exciting marine mammals are often observed: minke whales, harbor and Dall’s porpoise, and harbor seals.
The gorgeous snow-capped Olympic Mountains shield the islands from nearly all rain during the summer months. We camp on one of the smaller islands to the northwest that require having your own boat to visit. The beach campsites are excellent for enjoying the antics of mink and river otters. Bald eagles, ospreys, oystercatchers, kingfishers and many other fantastic birds can be seen.
Our most popular length kayaking tour in the San Juans. Designed for those who wish to savor the full cycle from sunrise to sunset, camp on small islands, and relax to starry skies and meteorite showers.
This tour is similar to our two-day San Juan Islands kayak trip, but features an extra day in the middle of the itinerary that imparts a more relaxed feel to the experience. It may not seem important, but we notice our guests really unwind on that middle day. The additional day also improves your chances of seeing killer whales and some of the more unusual wildlife of the area. This kayak trip is also available as a Women’s-Only Kayaking Vacation.
The perfect adventure for those who want to immerse themselves in a sea kayaking journey and absorb the rhythms of the Salish Sea. Like all of our kayaking tours in the San Juan Islands, the scenery, flora and fauna, and killer whale watching is excellent. Thanks to the extra time spent in their habitat, the five-day expedition offers you the best chance of kayaking with orca whales.
The five day expedition is great for perfecting your stroke, improving navigation skills, and perhaps readying yourself for an extended kayaking adventure on your own. The five-day kayak expedition is also available as a Women’s-Only Kayaking Vacation.