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Find the Best Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands This Summer

Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands, photo of two whales traversing the Salish Sea

Summer is just around the corner, and as you can imagine, it’s a popular time to visit our Northwest island community. One of the memorable reasons is to experience whale watching in the San Juan Islands firsthand. Peak whale watching season starts in May and extends through September, and the waters off San Juan Island offer some of the most incredible whale watching in Washington. And while there’s always a chance to see these majestic creatures year-round, if seeing them is your goal, you’ll want to join us during this time frame. 

Those who have experienced seeing these marine mammals up close often view these expeditions on the water as life-changing. We have many guests return time and again to encounter these beautiful creatures. We’ve also seen people take home valuable lessons about sustainable practices, leaving with a sense of greater stewardship for protecting our environment. This makes whale watching in the San Juan Islands, not just another activity to cross off your list—but a monumental life experience!

As long-time Innkeepers and residents of San Juan Island, not only do we try to be as green and sustainable at our San Juan Island lodging property, be we love to encourage our guests to learn more about our habitat and the importance of protecting our precious wildlife. As a guest, we’re more than happy to arrange your excursions for whale watching in the San Juan Islands for you, based on your needs and hopes—we’ve partnered with many of the local companies over the years. Summer is a lively time (and busy), so it’s best to plan ahead! Check out our upcoming availability and book a room at one of the best San Juan Island lodging properties today.

Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands, photo of a boat tour heading out to search for whales in the Salish Sea

Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands: Best Tours for 2023

There’s nothing quite like seeing these magical giants breach in the waters of the Salish sea or catching sight of a fin or tail while whale watching in the San Juan Islands. If you’re on a particularly lucky tour, you might see pods jumping and splashing. It’s truly the experience of a lifetime!

There are several tour companies for whale watching in the San Juan Islands, and many of them are family owned and operated right here in Friday Harbor. Tours are diverse in what they offer, including small crafts and zodiac-style adventures to larger and more spacious vessels. If you want to enjoy the best whale watching in the San Juan Islands, we recommend choosing from one of the tour operators below. The concierge service at our San Juan Island lodging property is always available to help you narrow down your choices and book a suitable tour for you, too.

  1. San Juan Safaris: Based out of Friday Harbor, this local tour company offers classic larger vessel tours and the high-speed adventure boat tour. Both excursions are three to four hours and include a naturalist on board to help answer questions.
  2. San Juan Outfitters: As a sister company to San Juan Safaris, if you’re in Roche Harbor, this touring group does a fantastic job of pointing out other wildlife, including Dall’s Porpoise, Harbor Porpoise, Minke Whales, Humpback Whales, Bald Eagles, and more. They have a 90% success rate during peak season for whale watching in the San Juan Islands—so they are always a good choice for those with one goal in mind! These tours are via sea kayak, so you’ll feel even more connected to nature.
  3. Maya’s Legacy Charters: These tour offerings are intimate and small, focusing on the natural ecosystem of the San Juan Islands and its inhabitants. They offer multiple selections for whale watching tours and always have an experienced naturalist on board.
  4. Western Prince Cruises: Hop aboard these “fast-raft” style tours for whale watching in the San Juan Islands. The three-hour tour is the perfect addition to any trip to the islands! They also offer private charters, perfect for group travel—great for wedding parties or family reunions.
  5. San Juan Excursions: Head to Friday Harbor to climb aboard a converted Navy search & rescue vessel built in 1941. The boat offers multiple wrap-around viewing decks as you venture out in the waters around the islands in search of whales and other wildlife. If you don’t happen upon Orcas on your trip, they’ll take you out again for a free second chance.

Whale Watching from Dry Land

If you’d prefer to stay on the shore, there are plenty of wonderful San Juan Island State Parks, beaches, and even an insightful and extensive whale museum. Here are the best ways to keep your feet dry and catch sight of these beautiful creatures.

  1. Lime Kiln Point State Park: Also known as “whale watch park,” the beautiful state park offers bluffs and trails overlooking the waters. Set on a rocky bluff at the west end of San Juan Island, this park is considered one of the “best whale-watching spots on earth.” The pods, including humpback and minke whales, pass through the area every May through September, with peak times depending on salmon runs. Visitors can climb to the top of the 1919 vintage lighthouse or take in the views from one of the many scenic outlooks.
  2. San Juan Island National Historic Park: This park is split into two locations, but American Camp, located on the Southern tip of the island, is a great spot to do some whale watching in the San Juan Islands. You’ll see the historic Cattle Point Lighthouse and sweeping vistas of the sparkling waters. 
  3. The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor: This is the perfect spot near our San Juan Island lodging property to learn more about whales, practice stewardship, hear about current studies, and participate in some whale watching. For more details on what to find, read our blog here
Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands, photo of one of the suites at our San Juan Island Lodging

The Best San Juan Island Lodging for Whale Watching Excursions

Our San Juan Island lodging property is in the ideal location in Friday Harbor for those seeking this magical experience of whale watching in the San Juan Islands. You’ll be steps away from the launch areas and have our warm and welcoming B&B as your home base. Our knowledgeable innkeepers and staff are more than happy to help arrange these excursions, taking all of the guesswork out of it and allowing you to enjoy your getaway to the islands.

After enjoying some of the best whale watching in the San Juan Islands, return to our San Juan Island lodging to relax and freshen up. Excursions out on the water really work up an appetite, and Coho Restaurant is just down the block, offering guests an exquisite taste of the Northwest. We use high-quality ingredients from local farms and make everything from scratch whenever possible. The wine list features bottles from the great producers of Washington, Oregon, and California, along with a fine selection of international wines. Craft cocktails and decadent desserts are available as well! 

After dinner, sink into comfort in one of our cozy guest rooms, larger suites, or private vacation cottages at our San Juan Island lodging property. We also offer plenty of pet-friendly lodging for those who want to enjoy the wilderness with their furry family members. In the morning, we’ll treat you to a sensational breakfast with ingredients from scratch right here in our kitchen. We’ll also treat you (and your pets) to treats throughout the day. This attention to detail is one of the many ways we set ourselves apart from other San Juan Island lodging options. Book your room for your excursions whale watching in the San Juan Islands today! 

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lighthouse at a rocky shorline with evergree trees at back

Recognized by Travel & Leisure Magazine

We have been humbly recognized by Travel & Leisure Magazine as the best place to stay when visiting Friday Harbor and San Juan Island.