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 Land

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.

Friday Harbor
San Juan Safaris Whale Watch & Wildlife ToursSee all information about this member
2 Spring Street Landing #6
Friday Harbor
(800) 450-6858
(360) 378-1323
San Juan Island Whale Watching - San Juan Safaris

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...]

Friday Harbor
San Juan Island Whale & Wildlife ToursSee all information about this member
Spring Street Landing
Friday Harbor
San Juan Island Whale & Wildlife Tours - New Spy Hop

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...]

San Juan Island
San Juan Outfitters Whale WatchingSee all information about this member
(866) 810-1483
(360) 378-1962
Breaching Orca Whales Off San Juan Island

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...]

Orcas Island
Orcas Island Eclipse ChartersSee all information about this member
Next to Orcas Ferry Dock
(800) 376-6566
(360) 376-6566
Boating Cruising Charters Whale Watching Orcas, San Juan Islands

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...]

San Juan Island
Friday Harbor Cruises Wildlife ToursSee all information about this member
1 Spring Street Landing
Friday Harbor
Friday Harbor Cruises - Seals on Rocks

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...]

Orcas Island
Deer Harbor ChartersSee all information about this member
5164 Deer Harbor Rd.
Deer Harbor
(800) 544-5758
(360) 376-5989
Whale Watching Boating Orcas Island Island

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...]

Friday Harbor
Captain Carli's Whale Watching ToursSee all information about this member
Spring Street Landing
Friday Harbor
(360) 378-0302
Captain Carli's Whale Watching Tours - Orca Breaching

Captain Ken has observed whales and many other marine life from Alaska all the way down to the Sea of Cortez in Mexico and the Atlantic ocean. He has seen Humpback Whales “bubble net feeding” in Alaska and scratched the heads of curious Gray Whale calves in Mexico.  One of Ken’s greatest passions is to share his experience with others and now he is able to do just that by taking you out on our boat the ‘Spirit of Orca’ to meet the whales in their natural environment. [more...]

Friday Harbor
Western Prince Whale Watching San Juan IslandSee all information about this member
1 Spring Street
Friday Harbor
(800) 757-6722
(360) 378-5315
San Juan Islands Whale Watching, Friday Harbor, Washington

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...]

Friday Harbor
San Juan Excursions Whale Watching & Wildlife CruisesSee all information about this member
2 Spring St. Landing
Friday Harbor
(800) 809-4253
(360) 378-6636
San Juan Excursions, Orca, Wildlife Tour, San Juan Islands

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...]

Orcas Island
Lopez Island
Outer Island Expeditions Whale WatchingSee all information about this member
54 Hunt Rd.
(360) 376-3711
(360) 622-6562
Outer Island Expeditions - Whale Watching, San Juan Islands,

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...]

San Juan Island
Maya's Legacy Whale WatchingSee all information about this member
1997 Mitchell Bay Rd.
San juan island
Whale Watching Boating San Juan Island

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!