Whales & Wildlife
On your San Juan Islands vacation, be prepared for a wealth of wildlife possibilities. You may hear an orca whale blow as it plies its native waters, or a bald eagle calling to its mate. You may spot a red fox or a black-tailed deer and her fawn slipping into the woods, or marvel at the brilliant orange of a Rufous Hummingbird buzzing around your bed and breakfast's garden, or at a convention of Steller sea lions lolling on a rock.
From the Water
You can start watching wildlife from the ferry—cormorants nest on the pilings at the Anacortes ferry terminal and gulls swoop around the boat (they’re likely to be Bonaparte's, Heermann's, or Glaucous-winged). On whale/wildlife tours, you’re most likely to see pods of orcas between late May and September, along with sea lions, seals, and seabirds; most tours have a naturalist on board. Humpback, gray, and minke whales often migrate through these waters during the year. Kayaking the island waters may give you another view of these marine mammals, as well as stunning purple starfish.
Kayakers also have the opportunity to see birds from an unusual perspective—the Cascadia Marine Trail comes through the San Juan Islands.
Scuba divers in the waters of the San Juans are blessed with good visibility and endlessly entertaining dives. You’ll swim among beds of large anemone, sea cucumbers, and other colorful swarms of invertebrates. Look for pectin scallops, the occasional abalone and wolf eel, spiny sea stars, vibrant red Pacific Henricias, and the ever-present sunflower starfish, sometimes measuring two feet across and possessing 20 or more legs. No wonder the Salish Sea was Jacques Cousteau’s second favorite place in the world to dive.
On shore, whether you’re biking, hiking, or driving, a stop on San Juan Island at South Beach, the cliffs of American Camp, or Lime Kiln Point State Park—also known as Whale Watch Park—is your best bet for spotting whales from land.
Even if you’re not an avid birder, you can’t miss the islands’ chirping, calling, whistling, cooing bird population, with more than 300 recorded species— including the highest concentration of nesting bald eagles in the state. Located directly in the Pacific flyway, the islands host spring and fall migrants, virtually all species of North American waterfowl, including Harlequin Ducks and Trumpeter Swans, and three cormorant species, including the Brandt's and Pelagic. Marbled Murrelet (a threatened species), Oyster Catcher, Pacific-slope Flycatcher, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Hutton's Vireo, Varied Thrush, Townsend's Warbler . . . the list goes on and on. Birding organizations run San Juan Islands birding trips throughout the year.
You’ll find a welcome refuge on the San Juans . . . and so do several species listed as endangered or threatened, among them the orca and humpback whale, the bald eagle, the Marbled Murrelet, and the Steller sea lion. The common loon, peregrine falcon, and gray whale are considered sensitive species. Twelve other bird, insect, or mammal species are candidates for protection.
Experience premiere whale watching with San Juan Excursions aboard the 65-foot, twin-engine, classic motor yacht "Odyssey". The largest whale watching boat in the islands, the "Odyssey" offers guests excellent, comfortable indoor and outdoor viewing with heated cabins, lounge-style seating, a snack bar, two restrooms, padded outdoor seating, and wrap around decks. We see orca whales on a high percentage of our tours and if you do not see an orca, then you are welcome to come out another day -- free of charge. [more...]
Enjoy an informative, narrated cruise through the San Juan Islands in search of orca whales and minke whales. The thrill of seeing one of these majestic creatures will be an unforgettable experience. Discover the other abundant marine life and wildlife that call these waters home. You'll pass by unspoiled, pristine islands and historic landmarks. Established in 1988. [more...]
Professional guided whale and wildlife tours. Boat departs next to the Orcas Island ferry landing. See abundant wildlife and 172+ islands. 56-foot Orcas Express offers heated cabin with seats and tables inside, and top and lower viewing decks. Historic guided lighthouse tours, too. Celebrating 25 years in the whale watching and wild life business! [more...]
Experience the islands with a cruise on the “Bee”! A proper little yacht, the Bee is a Grand Banks 32 and is one of the most comfortable boats in the harbor. A sunny flying bridge or a heated cabin offer all weather comfort as we see wildlife in one of the most beautiful places in the world. Captain Greg’s stories of the colorful history of soldiers, smugglers, and the wildlife in this corner of the world will keep you entertained and informed. Try a sunset cruise or our “Round the Rock” day trip that circles the island with a lunch stop at Roche Harbor. [more...]
Why Choose Captain Carli's Whale Watching Tours? Captain Carli has lived on San Juan Island for over 30 years and first started driving whale watching boats professionally in 1995. Small boats are personal and offer direct access to Captain Carli, (have a question…just ask him). Walk off the Washington State ferry in Friday Harbor and two minutes later you are on-board "Soulmate,” Captain Carli"s boat. He belongs to an orca whale spotting network located on Vancouver Island. If the whales are in the area he will know about them. [more...]
Join owner Captain Hobbes aboard "Natsilane" for an intimate whale & wildlife tour of a lifetime. Limited to only 6 passengers, come discover the unique ecosystems of the Salish Sea in a comfortable and stable boat with a heated cabin, indoor & outdoor seating, and a restroom. Tours depart one or two times daily depending on the season. [more...]
We offer unique whale watching and wildlife tours with no more than six passengers on board. Small group size, your expert captain, and informed biologist/naturalist, assure the most authentic and personalized experience available. Our 30' vessels offer comfort, plenty of elbow room and unobstructed viewing from the front bow, back deck and cabin.
We have professional grade hydro-phones and binoculars on board, so you can listen to whales as well as see them. Tours depart from Snug Harbor Resort - the closest marina to where we most often see whales!
Whale sightings on over 90% of our tours! See orca whales in the wild. Sit comfortably on a 45 foot- long whale watch boat with a walk-around deck, inside cabin and bathroom.
Other whales around San Juan Island are Humpback Whales and Minke Whales. We also can see Dalls Porpoise and Harbor Porpoise. Whale Watching tours also see Bald Eagles, Harbor Seals and many exceptional sea birds.
San Juan Outfitters also offers private whale watch tours, private boat charters and water taxi service to the many San Juan Islands and Canada [more...]
Adventure awaits you! Join Western Prince Whale Watching on an intimate sized tour (limited to 32 passengers on the Western Prince II and 15 passengers on the Western Explorer) as we explore protected waters and discover the islands' abundant wildlife and spectacular beauty. [more...]
Located steps from the Friday Harbor ferry terminal, San Juan Safaris Whale Watching & Wildlife Tours has an excellent reputation for respectful wildlife viewing. On the water since 1995, this company is known for providing high-quality, small-group size whale watching & wildlife tours. [more...]
Outer Island Expeditions offers whale watching tours -- see whales or ride again free! -- from Orcas Island, Lopez Island, San Juan Island and the Bellingham area. Last year we saw orcas on over 95% of our summer tours, and whales on 97%. [more...]