The San Juan Islands and surrounding waterways are known for their strikingly beautiful scenery, amazing parks, unique & abundant wildlife and thrilling whale watching tours. The evergreen shores, pristine marine environment and its unsurpassed beauty attract millions of visitors each year. With commanding views of the Olympic Mountains to the south, snow covered Mt. Baker and the Cascade Range to the east and the beautiful British Columbia Coast Range to the north, the protected waters of the San Juan Islands provide one of the highest-density of marine wildlife viewing areas in the world! Magnificent Southern Resident Killer Whales live in the waters surrounding San Juan County year round and it is the #1 place in North American to see wild orcas in their natural habitat. People travel from all over the world for the opportunity to see majestic Orcas along with Humpbacks, Minke Whales, Alaskan Steller Sea Lions, and other marine animals here in the waters of Washington and British Columbia in the area of San Juan.
San Juan Whale Watching Excursions
## Whale Watching Boat Tours: Set sail on a high-speed yacht or boat and have the whale watching experience of a lifetime. There will surely be many opportunities to see killer whales, humpbacks, minkes, along with dolphins, sea birds and other marine creatures. Many private whale watching boat tours have naturalists on board who will share their knowledge and explain the mind-blowing behaviors of these truly magnificent mammals.
## Land-based whale watching: There has been a growing interest in land-based whale watching as it also provides the benefit of viewing orcas, without impacting their behavior. There are various public beaches, parks and reserves on the San Juan Islands where whales can often be seen. You'll get ample opportunities to enjoy watching whales and other marine life from shore. Some of the notable spots include:
1. Lime Kiln Point State Park (also known as Whale Watch Park): This 36-acre park is the best place in the world to watch whale from shore. Three pods of southern resident orcas (J, K and L pods) frequent the nearby waters, and often come spectacularly close to the park shore. During the peak of the season, orcas may turn around and pass Lime Kiln twice or more in a day. Don't forget to bring your binoculars so as to get a close up of the whales as they pass by!
2. The Westside Scenic Preserve: This open expanse of preserved land lying west of Westside Road has an ecological significance as it is a remnant of an ancient prairie ecosystem. This scenic preserve provides spectacular panoramic views and visitors may also watch for whales and other marine life from the high cliff.
3. San Juan County Park: Located about 10 miles from Friday Harbor, the 12-acre San Juan County Park is a great place for camping on the coast of Haro Strait and enjoying the amazing views of the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island. Explore the gravel beaches and hike a rocky cliff to watch for whales, play in the meadow or launch your kayak to enjoy the waters.
4. South Beach of American Camp: Located along the southern flank of American Camp, South Beach is not only home to more than 200 species of migratory birds, but orcas are also frequent visitors to the waters surrounding this beach. See incredible orcas swim past the waters near the beach while you wait for them to show up and enjoy the magnificent oceanic views.
5. Agate Beach County Park of Lopez Island: If you're looking for solitude and tranquility along with whale sightings, Agate Beach park is the place to go. Hear the soothing sound of waves over pebbles, spot seals and sea lions, or launch your kayak to explore the island’s inlets and get glimpses of whales, pigeon guillemots, double-crested and pelagic cormorants, and harbor seals.
6. Deer Harbor of Orcas Island: Deer Harbor is one of the largest marinas in the San Juan County of Pacific Northwest. It is famous for boating, hiking, whale watching and other adventurous activities. During your whale watching boat tour you can expect to see orcas, minke whales, bald eagles, ospreys, blue herons, gray whales, elephant seals and other marine species.
## Kayaking: You can take guided kayak tours for exploration and wildlife encounters. For the more adventurous travelers, they can take private kayak tours on the San Juan waters which provide the best opportunities for orca whale watching. Observing orca “killer” whales from a kayak is an unforgettable experience. From a sunset kayak excursion to multi-day kayak tours, customized whale watching expeditions are designed with an emphasis on adventure and education. You can expect occasional sightings of humpback and minke whales, sea lions, mink, roccoon, gray whales and more.
Embarking on a whale watching tour is one of the most exciting adventures to be had when vacationing in the San Juan Islands, and these Pacific Northwest destinations are one of the best places in the world to do it. The memories of the glistening backs of orcas, the metallic ‘whoosh’ sound of their breathing, the newborn calf’s all add to the excitement of your whale watching San Juan Islands tour!