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.
Whale watching and wildlife tours. Sea kayaking tours and custom adventure tours from Roche Harbor and Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. Tours depart from the best locations in the San Juan Islands. See killer whales, seals, eagles and porpoise. Join our expert staff for a unique adventure. [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...]
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...]
Whether you are looking for a premier whale watch tour, quality family adventure, or a fun-filled fishing excursion, Legacy Charters is here to make it happen. Offering whale watching and fishing charters for groups of six or less assures the most authentic and personalized charters available. [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...]
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...]
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...]
Half & Full Day Sails, Whale Watching & Nature Sails, Sunset Sails, Private Charters and Schooner Adventures on the Salish Sea and beyond! Step aboard with San Juan Classic Day Sailing and take your opportunity to let go of the hustle and bustle of the daily grind and and connect with the the natural rhythm of the sea, traditional maritime heritage and our pristine marine environment. We offer a variety of sailing charter opportunities, giving you the chance to experience the joy of being on your own classic yachting adventure in the Islands! [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. [more...]
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...]
Join us on a 2 ½ to 3 hour tour to view the orcas and other wildlife. We take only 6 people at a time aboard our beautiful catamaran, Peregrine. Capt. Jim not only informs our guests with his experience and knowledge, he will also entertain you! [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...]