Our three-day kayak tours in the San Juan Islands are our most popular camping trip. Extremely dry summer weather, whales and wildlife, and hundreds of intricate islands unite to make this the ultimate sea kayaking trip and camping adventure, especially for first-timers. If you enjoy relaxing to starry skies and meteorite showers, and revel in the beauty of sunrises and sunsets, this three-day kayaking adventure in the San Juan Islands is for you!
The three-day San Juan Islands kayaking trip is similar to our two-day kayak trip, but having an extra day sandwiched in the middle imparts a much more relaxed feel to the experience. It may not seem significant, but we notice our guests really unwind on that middle day, beginning with the dawn chorus of songbirds and ending with the hooting of owls at bedtime. For one day at least, you won’t have to think about planes, ferries, and automobiles. The three-day kayak trip in the San Juans is a great escape from modern stress.
Killer whale watching is possible on this kayak camping adventure in the San Juan Islands. Each extra day in the killer whale watching zone improves your chances of seeing orcas and other interesting wildlife. From 2005-2018 our guests watched orcas on 30% of the 3-day tours in May, 70% in June, 60% in July, 55% in August, 55% in September, and 35% in October. Surprisingly, salmon and salmon orcas have both been listed as endangered throughout those years! Prior to 2005 we found whales even more often because salmon were still abundant in that earlier era. Environmental conditions have taken a turn for the worse and very few salmon migrated through the San Juan Islands in 2013, 2019, and 2020. Very few salmon orca were sighted in those three years, underscoring the fact that whale-watching will be much less predictable until our society takes the necessary steps to recover salmon spawning habitat.
The San Juan Islands remain the best place in the US to watch killer whales. While salmon orca struggles to find food, a related species known as Bigg’s killer whale find plenty of prey, and their population has grown to over 400 in our region. Fortunately, they specialize in hunting our expanding herds of seals and sea lions. This requires them to travel in smaller pods and be much stealthier than salmon orcas. Even though they are not endangered, spotting them on our kayak tours can be very challenging compared to the salmon orca. Learn more about kayaking with killer whales with Sea Quest here.
Read our two-day kayak trip description to learn more about features common to our camping tours. This kayak trip is also available as a Women’s-Only Kayaking Vacation.
Trip Details: Three-Day San Juan Island Kayak Tour
- Schedule: Tuesday-Thursday & Friday-Sunday with some exceptions for holidays.
- Trip Fee: $799 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 direct to the launch site, ready the kayaks, and spend the next full hour in basic skills and safety instruction. Paddling begins in the prime killer whale watching zone and throughout the next three days we can spot them at any and all times. The entire route is excellent wildlife habitat sprinkled with reefs, rocks, and islets. Kayaking time ranges from 4 to 6 hours daily, traversing 8 to 12 miles per day in typical weather. Paddling is punctuated by one or more beach landings and numerous float breaks at interesting places each day. Marine parks serve as campsites. Post-dinner we may hike to a viewpoint, do a short sunset or moonlight paddle, or stroll the shore in hopes of seeing bioluminescent plankton.
- Day 2 Itinerary: Sunrise wakeup, breakfast made fresh by your guide, then a carefree day of exploration in our sea kayaks. Again we’ll travel through important killer whale and porpoise habitat. There are many beautiful sights along the way, including views of three mountain ranges: the Olympics, North Cascades, and Coast Range. Several route options exist with the guide’s decision determined by expected currents, weather forecasts, and group ability and interests. If the paddling day is short, we often hike 5 miles round trip to a picturesque lighthouse perched high on a headland with stunning views. The vantage is perfect for spotting whales and porpoises or watching the sun set. As the sun approaches the horizon, it paints the glassy waters in outrageous colors.
- Day 3 Itinerary: After enjoying the morning sunrise, we breakfast and depart for another wonderful day of sea kayaking. As always, we stick close to the main thoroughfares of killer whales. After landing we reboard the van for the drive to Friday Harbor.
- 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.