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.
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
- Schedule: weekends Saturday-Sunday.
- Trip Fee: $549 plus $10 government launch tax/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.