Whale & Wildlife Tour Operators
Magnificent orca (or killer) whales live in the San Juan Islands year-round, and this is the best place in the world to see them in the wild. You can also spot humpbacks, minkes and occasionally even gray whales. Transient or Bigg’s, killer whales (aka orca whales) can often be seen year-round, as well as Steller sea lions, harbor seals, porpoise, bald eagles, and much more. See why the San Juans are the perfect place for nature and wildlife lovers!
Whale sightings are never guaranteed, but the greatest potential for spotting them is with a professional whale and wildlife tour. An added benefit to a tour is that onboard naturalists provide identification, education and stewardship suggestions for passengers. Pacific Whale Watch Association (PWWA) members on both sides of the border are committed to prioritizing their efforts on watching the abundant Bigg’s killer whales and humpbacks whales, instead of the critically endangered Southern Resident Killer Whales (SRKW), when this option is available.
Three orca pods, J, K & L—the “Southern Residents”— were historically in the area from late spring through early fall. Recently, transient or Bigg’s orca have become more prevalent around the San Juan Islands than the Southern Residents. We ask everyone to follow the Be Whale Wise guidelines and watch all whales from a respectful distance. Find out more about the whales when you Follow the Whale Trail and find ways you can help the whales here.
The shorter your stay in the Islands, the more important it is to plan ahead. Booking activities in advance will make your trip run smoothly and you'll be more likely to get your first picks! Most tour operators have generous cancellation policies in case you need to make changes. (Check with individual companies to be sure of their policies.)