"What a fantastic experience! We saw at least 20 Orcas...up close and personal. I still get goose-bumps every time I think about it! Outdoor Odysseys was a pleasure to work with, and our guide, Michael, was very knowledgeable about the Orcas and the ecosystem." Trip Advisor
The pristine waters of the San Juan Islands are currently host to over 82 Orca Whales. The resident J, K and L orca pods are found in the area from May to October due to the high concentration of salmon– their primary food source. Sea kayaking on the west side of San Juan Island, which is tucked away in the NW corner of Washington State, affords participants the best chance in the lower 48 states to observe orca whales in their natural habitat.
Our trip is designed to provide guests with numerous “hands-on” opportunities to observe, study and learn more about the fascinating marine mammals and birds that range along the east side of Haro Strait. Quiet and unobtrusive, double kayaks provide the perfect means for exploring the myriad forms of sea life we encounter.
Outdoor Odysseys launches most of our sea kayaking trips from San Juan Country Park near Friday Harbor. We are the oldest outfitter to launch kayak tours from the park, having been in operation since 1987. Over the years, we have provided our sea kayaking guests with literally thousands of sightings of these majestic mammals along the west side of San Juan Island. Launching from the park puts us in the middle of prime Orca whale habitat as well as giving us the opportunity to see bald eagles, harbor seals, dall porpoise and the occasional minke whale.
Why Choose us for Your One-day San Juan Islands Sea Kayak Trip?
“Magda was awesome, friendly, helpful, and had a wealth of information about the area and the animals...The food was delicious too! It was nice not to have to worry about packing your own lunch. We also got up close to the whales – or rather they got up close and personal with us!” Trip Advisor
Award Winning Tours – We have been named one of the “200 Best Outfitters in the World” by National Geographic Adventure Magazine.
Naturalist / Guides – Our seasoned, mature, professional guides willingly share their knowledge of the whales, bald eagles, harbor seals you may encounter.
Our Cuisine Rocks! - Fresh fruit and veggies, local ingredients, and organic treats, all prepared right there on the beach.
San Juan County Park Launch – This tour launches from SJCP putting our guests in the heart of the “Best Orca Whale Habitat on the West Coast”.
Since 1987! – We are the oldest and most experienced kayak company to launch from SJCP.
Best Value – We include the small things: Dry bags and LUNCH (MANY COMPANIES DO NOT).
Total Time: 6-7 hours | Length: 6-7 miles | Season: Daily from Mid-May to October
We’ll meet you in the morning at the ferry landing in Friday Harbor and take you to San Juan County Park on the west side of San Juan Island. After a thorough dry land orientation covering paddling technique, safety and boat handling we’ll get out on the water!
We’ll kayak for about an hour and a half heading south along San Juan Island passing the picturesque lighthouse of Lime Kiln State Park. We'll stop for lunch (which we provide) at a beautiful little cove that has outstanding views of the Olympic Mountains and Vancouver Island. If it is low tide you’ll also have great opportunities to explore nearby tide pools for smaller marine life.
After lunch we’ll continue paddling for another hour and a half or so, exploring the rocky shores of San Juan Island. After a sublime day of sea kayaking along the west side of San Juan Island viewing the “wonders of the universe,” we’ll get you back to Friday Harbor between 5 and 5:30 PM, in time to catch the evening ferry back to Anacortes or grab a bite in town if you plan to stay the night.
2017 Dates and Prices
Available everyday! Join our naturalists/guides as we sea kayak San Juan Island's west side, the best place for seeing orca whales, Dall's porpoise and other large marine mammals. Tastefully prepared lunch included!
Price: $99 per person (lunch and dry bags included!, plus Washington State sales tax)
Dates: May - October - every day of the week through early fall! (Custom groups year-round!)
Small, Intimate Group Sizes...
We limit the number of folks on our day tours to no more than 8-10 guests per tour. How does that work if we have a group of 16 guests on a sunny day in August? We split the party into two groups of 8 apiece with each group going out with their own individual guide. The advantages of smaller group sizes are pretty obvious:
- Less impact and stress on the wildlife we encounter
- Smaller groups are safer and easier to manage
- You'll have better opportunities to learn more about this amazing ecosystem from our cadre of fun, experienced guides.
What Are Your Chances of Seeing Whales?
It varies from day to day (remember, these are wild animals) but on average your opportunities for seeing them are in the 40-50% range and up to 70% during the peak of the season - late June through August. These whales can swim up to a 100 miles a day in their quest for salmon - so we do not always see them. That said, launching from San Juan County park affords the "BEST OPPORTUNITY" for viewing whales on San Juan Island – and, for that matter, in the lower 48 states!
What Happens if We See Whales?
The southern resident orca whales have been listed as an endangered species so they are protected by federal and state laws. Our guides have been specially trained to follow the strict guidelines designed to protect them. If we see whales, we need to stay out of their path and maintain a distance of at least 200 yards. If we are surprised by whales while out on the water, we will group up and stop paddling until we can move to a secure spot.
And if We Don’t?
There are lots of other very cool things to see and experience on our single-day sea kayak tour on the west side of San Juan Island. You’ll have stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and Vancouver Island off to the west. The intertidal has brightly colored purple and orange sea stars and green anemones. We’ll paddle past the historic Lime Kilns on the west side as well as the picturesque Coast Guard lighthouse on the point. You’ll kayak past striking stands of red-barked madrones along the west side of San Juan Island – my all time favorite Pacific Northwest tree! Some of the waterfront houses that are found on the west side are worth a look as well.
Guide Profile - Magda
"My husband and I went on a day trip with Magda as our guide. She was awesome, friendly, helpful, and had a wealth of information about the area and the animals. The gear was in good shape and the trip was very well organized. The food was delicious too! It was nice not to have to worry about packing your own lunch...even if we had not seen the whales this was still an amazing trip. I would highly recommend this trip to anyone!" Trip Advisor
Magda is our "Diva of the Day Tours." A full time San Juan Island resident she has run literally 100's of our one day tours off the west side and delights in sharing all that she has learned over the years with our guests. An excelent kayaker, she "cut her teeth" as a class 5 whitewater kayaker and river guide before "seeing the light" and switching over to sea kayaking.
Quick "Trip Facts"
Travel: Coming from Seattle? Most guests drive from Seattle to Anacortes & then take the ferry to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. If you are not staying on the Island we strongly recommend parking at the terminal and walking on the ferry. The summer Ferry Departs Anacortes at 9:00 AM - Arrives in Friday Harbor at 10:05 (Spring and Fall Schedule is a 9:30 AM departure with a 10:35 AM arrival)
Meeting Time & Place: 10:30 AM (10:45 AM pick up May - June 15th and after September 20th). As you walk off the ferry bear to your right and look for the large tree and traffic circle a half block from the ferry and look for our 15 Passenger Van with Outdoor Odysseys on the side. (1 Spring Street, Friday Harbor WA, 98250)
Return Place & Time: We'll get you back to the Friday Harbor ferry terminal between 4:30-5:30 PM (Ample time for ice cream, dinner, perhaps a beer..?)
Next Departing ferry to Anacortes: 6:30 PM arriving at 7:35 in Anacortes
Lodging: There are three B&B's (Bird Rock Hotel, Tucker House, and Harrison House) within a short walking distance of the ferry terminal. Check out our lodging page for suggested accommodation informaton.
Luggage: We'll store any luggage/gear that you don't want to take on the trip. Let us know ahead of time if you have exceptional luggage requests (bikes, dogs, private helicopters etc...)
Gear You Will Need: Water bottle, sunglasses and/or hat, sunscreen, appropriate kayak clothing & footwear (preferably not cotton or denim - quick-dry, synthetic and/or athletic layers work best, and extra layers are always recommended; Chacos, Tevas or Crocs are great shoe-wise. (Your feet will get wet getting in and out of the boats.)
Outdoor Odysseys Will Provide: Sea kayaks, all related kayaking gear, a dry bag to stow personal effects while on the water, transportation to and from Friday Harbor and our launch site, instruction and knowledgeable guiding, and a tasteful vegetarian lunch.
Age Requirements: Our kayak tours are held in a region with variable weather, tidal, and current conditions. Using our triple kayak we can take ONE CHILD under 12 years of age as long as there are two adults in the kayak. Generally, however, our recommended minimum age is 12 years for any kayak tours in the San Juan Islands. If you have questions or concerns regarding trips with children under the age of 12, please contact us directly for more information: 800-647-4621
Cancellations: Please refer to our Cancellation Policy for further information.
Weather: We paddle rain or shine so please make sure you bring appropriate clothing. You'll find that you generally stay warm and dry while paddling because it is an upper body sport. We supply you with life jacket and a waterproof spray skirt which provides some protection for your upper body. While you are paddling, your lower body will stay nice and dry because we use decked kayaks.