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Adventures / Kayak Journeys

Kayak the Whale Highway of San Juan

Kayak the wild shorelines of the San Juan archipelago witnessing its dense and diverse wildlife.


Trip Ref #9874

Adventures / Kayak Journeys

Kayak the Whale Highway of San Juan

Kayak the wild shorelines of the San Juan archipelago witnessing its dense and diverse wildlife.

4 nights
United States
Seattle Tacoma International Airport
Perfect for

Travellers looking to break away from daily chaos and get back to nature. This is a gentle and peaceful break but packed with fun non-the-less. Don’t be put off if you’ve never kayaked before; your guides are experts and they'll make sure you'll enjoy the trip. A good level of fitness is recommended.


Experience everything that needs to be seen in the San Juan archipelago; you’ll kayak along the fabled Orca Highway, witnessing the perfect sunsets as you camp at peaceful marine parks in the Wasp Islands Group along the way. Paddling through many wildlife hotspots, you’ll search for whales, porpoises, sea lions and the densest population of harbour seals in the world.

  • 5 days kayaking
  • 4 nights camping
  • Local, professional guide
  • All kayaking equipment
  • All camping equipment (except for sleeping bags)
  • All meals and snacks during the trip
  • Local transfers
  • All and licenses relative to the trip
  • All taxes (usually not included in trip in the US)

Day 1: Get Paddling

The complimentary shuttle will collect you from the ferry terminal and take you to the San Juan Island Country Park in time for launch.

There’s no holding back as you launch your kayak and head north through the Orca Whale Sanctuary – keep your eyes peeled for your first whale sighting.

After around 6 hours of kayaking and a stop-off for lunch, you’ll arrive at camp. It’s time to relax and explore some of the trails on the island.

By early evening, dinner will be ready at camp for you to enjoy with the group and a glass of wine while you watch the colour-changing night sky.

Day 2: Gentle Kayaking and Lunch on the Beach

After breakfast this morning, your guide will brief you about today’s route; every trip is tailored as much as possible to the group, so feel free to talk about what you’re hoping to see throughout the trip.

You’ll hit the water when the tide is right; the aim is for the tide to carry you along, making the paddling that much easier. You’ll stop for lunch on a small pocket beach where you can refuel and relax a while, taking in the peaceful surroundings.

Back in your kayaks, you’ll continue your journey to tonight’s camp. When you arrive, your guides will help you set up home for the night before you relax on the water’s edge and await dinner.

Day 3: Paddle the Quaint Landscape

By now, you’re likely to be feeling the relaxation kick in; waking early becomes a pleasure to appreciate the serenity of the islands and reflect over the stillness of the sea, coffee in hand.

The pace of today’s paddling depends on where you and your guide decide to go but whichever direction you take you’re sure to be surrounded by quaint landscape with bald eagles and seabirds above.

Tonight, you are likely to camp at Blind Island or Obstruction Pass; whichever it may be, you’re in for a delicious dinner, fun company and a stunning sunset.

Day 4: Cypress Island and Eagle Cliff

At breakfast this morning, you and your guide will decide where today will take you; perhaps Cypress Island, where the landscape becomes much wilder, farms and homes now absent, and instead ancient trees cover high slopes.

By now, you’re well in tune with your surroundings; your keen eyes spot seals in the distance at a glance. Close to camp on Pelican Beach, you’ll stop at Smuggler’s Cover for lunch and stretch.

Camp on Cypress Island offers a fantastic evening walk to the head of Eagle Cliff; in just 2.5 kilometres, the trail leads to the most amazing views so be sure to take your camera.

It’s your final night, hopefully, you have a glass of wine left to enjoy while you watch the last sunset of your trip before dinner.

Day 5: Pelican Beach Sunrise and Home

An early start is a must this morning if you want to witness arguably the most satisfying sunrise as it makes its appearance over the volcanic mountain Mt. Baker.

After breakfast, you’ll choose your route and make your way back to Anacortes, arriving sometime between 14:00 and 16:00 depending on the conditions of the day.

When you arrive, the team will be there to help you unpack before you say a fond farewell to your guide, the islands and your kayak.

Note: This itinerary and the duration of the activities are subject to change due to group abilities and preferences, and weather conditions and forecasts. Also, please note that you can be sure to see a lot of wildlife, however, what exactly you're going to spot will vary per trip.

Please Note

All our adventures take place in wild places. Things can go wrong in wild places. Your perfectly planned itinerary may change a bit (or a lot) if the weather turns, someone gets hurt, or a volcano erupts. Usually though, changes make it all the better.

You’ll camp on various islands along the San Juan shoreline. All campgrounds are on public land, mostly Washington State Parks and have composting pit toilets, picnic tables and fire rings. Your host's tents are 3-person tents intended for 2 people. Single tents are available on request and at an additional charge of $50 if requested.

The west side of San Juan Island is home to the proposed Orca Whale Sanctuary. The body of water here is called Haro Strait which has a storied geopolitical history. It is a significant waterway due to the presence of the international border between the United States and Canada, a border created in 1872 after an interesting military situation on San Juan Island known as the Pig War.

The Wasp Island Group is a cluster of nine islands which are mostly undeveloped. The waters are rich with wildlife and the landscape has been left in its natural beauty despite being a popular attraction for sailors and visitors for over two hundred years.

Rosario Strait cluster of islands is a hotbed of activity for many kinds of wildlife. There are many National Wildlife Refuges here, as well as the Cypress Island Reserve with its unbroken forested slopes dominating the landscape. The abundance of seals and porpoise on this side of the San Juan Islands is the likely cause for the recent explosion in sightings of Transient Orca whales here.

Start Point
Anacortes Ferry Terminal - 06:25
Before your adventure begins, make your way to Anacortes, which is a 90-minutes drive from Seattle by car. Alternatively, you can take the Seattle Airport (SEA) Shuttle to the Anacortes Ferry terminal (2.5h) where your adventure will start the next day.

Jump on the Washington State Ferry in Anacortes bound for Friday Harbor on San Juan Island at 06:25 in the morning. You don't need any reservation, however, your host suggests to be 40 minutes early. Once you get off the ferry you will meet a complimentary shuttle at Memorial Circle to pick you up and bring you to the departure location where you'll also meet your guide and fellow adventurers.

Your host suggests spending the night before in Anacortes in one of the suggested accommodations (see FAQ).

Finish Point:
Anacortes Ferry Terminal - 16:00
Your adventure ends close to the Anacortes ferry terminal between 14:00 and 16:00 depending on the conditions of the day. Your host will provide a transfer back to the ferry terminal if needed. Please allow plenty of time for any forwarding transport in case of delays due to unfortunate weather conditions.

There is heaps of wildlife in the San Juan Islands. The marine mammals typically seen are Harbor Porpoise, Harbor Seals, Southern Resident Orcas (these are the endangered ones, so seen less often), Transient Orcas (these are the thriving Orcas who feed on other marine mammals), Humpback Whales, Minke Whales and Gray Whales as well as many different types of seabirds including Bald Eagles, Great Blue Herons, Peregrine Falcons, and many other smaller marine birds.

Please note that not all of these wildlife sightings can be guaranteed, however, your experienced guides will do their best to increase your chances.

This trip will run with a minimum of 2 people, and a maximum of 12. The guest to guide ratio will be maximum 6:1. Please note, if there are not 2 people booked the trip may be rearranged or cancelled.

The following are not included in the trip price:

  • Flights
  • Airport transfers or rental car
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Personal expenses
  • Sleeping bags (optional - $25)
  • Single tent preference (optional - $50)
  • Single kayak (optional - $35 per day)
  • Travel insurance

Sure can! A lot of people do, and it's a great way to meet like-minded people.

Yes, it's a great adventure for children. The general minimum age for this trip is 12. If you want to bring younger children, this can be discussed with your host.

This trip requires no previous paddling experience. The fitter you are, the more enjoyable the experience will be. Please note that you'll be paddling through the heart of the San Juan Islands and on some days you'll paddle over 19km, yet this can be done by anyone with the right mindset.

This kayak tour is designed for people with little or no previous experience who enjoy an active experience. The goal is to move quietly through the landscape, enjoying the views while rewarding the body with a little bit of easy exercise. The tour will move as slowly as necessary to ensure that you won’t get too worn out. Your guides are very competent paddlers, and well-trained trip leaders, they will worry about the details so that you can relax and enjoy yourself.

265 lbs for double kayaks and 225 lbs for single kayaks. These weights are generally the limits for your comfort and enjoyment of the activity.

Yes, of course! Your host only has a limited number of single kayak available, therefore they ask for a supplement of $35 per day per kayak.

The San Juan Islands have a very mild climate during the summer months. Most trips will experience temperatures around 70° F during the day, and mid-50s at night. Rain is not common but be aware of the weather and come prepared accordingly.

Much of the food is sourced from local organic farms in the Skagit and Samish River valleys, and the freshest seasonal ingredients possible are used in all dishes. A quick stop will often be made at a little grocery in the quaint Orcas Island Village to replenish stocks and support the community.

If you have any special requests, let us know and we will do our best to accommodate you.

Anacortes ferry terminal parking fees may vary per season, however at the time of writing the parking prices are:

  • 1 day (0-24 hours) - $7.00
  • 2 days (24-48 hours) - $12.00
  • 3 days (48-72 hours) - $14.00
  • 4 days (72-96 hours) - $17.00
  • One week (7 days/168 hours) - $22.00
  • All kayaking equipment
  • All camping equipment (excluding sleeping bags)
  • Complimentary insulated travel mug

Your host recommends to pack: Every person will be assigned 2–20L dry bags and 1–10L dry bag for their gear.

  • Long underwear- polypropylene or something synthetic, top and bottom
  • Shorts (1 pair, preferably non-cotton)
  • Pants (1 pair, preferably non-cotton)
  • T-shirts (2-3 depending)
  • Sweatshirt (fleece or synthetic, cotton will not dry) or some other insulating shirt x2)
  • Underwear
  • Socks
  • Light rain jacket and rain pants
  • Water compatible shoes (Tevas, Chacos, water socks, old tennis shoes, etc)
  • Shoes for camp (light running or hiking shoes are great)
  • Baseball cap, or a brimmed hat.
  • Wool or fleece hat for camp
  • Sunglasses
  • Binoculars
  • Two water bottles, 1liter each (please fill them at the store, or before you arrive)
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray
  • Headlamp or flashlight, with extra batteries.
  • Sleeping Bag must be compressible to fit into one of the 20L dry bags. (available to rent for a nominal $25 cleaning fee)
  • Beer or wine
  • Toiletries
  • A small hand towel
  • Earplugs

Other recommendations are:

  • Book, playing cards, journal.
  • Any favourite snacks (your host will provide a lot, but you may have special preferences.)
  • Camera (bring freezer grade Zip-Loc bags to protect it, if it isn’t waterproof.)
  • Mobile phone
  • Personal medicine if required (please inform your guide in case of emergency)

Your host recommends the following three accommodation options, depending on what you're after:

1. Cap Sante Inn: Basic, friendly accommodation located in Old Town Anacortes and within walking distance of great restaurants. Most affordable.

2. Ship Harbor Inn: Located within walking distance of the ferry, with a breakfast included. Washingtonian picturesque views of ferries and the San Juan Islands. A taxi would be needed to grab a bite to eat as the town is a 4-mile drive.

3. Nantucket Inn: This is a historic building that has been newly remodelled and new ownership and management. There is a huge outdoor area to hang out and it is located right as you drive into Anacortes.

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The easiest and most popular way of travelling in the United States is by car.

Seattle to Anacortes by car
It's only a short 90 minutes drive from Seattle to Anacortes. Travel via the I-5 and take Exit 230 on Highway 20 towards Anacortes. From here you can follow the signs to the Ferry Terminal.

There's parking available for a nominal fee at the ferry terminal.

Seattle to Anacortes by bus:
The bus shuttle from Seattle Aiport departs every 2 hours and takes about 2.5 to the ferry terminal in Anacortes. Here you can find the link to the Bellair Shuttle timetable. Please have a look at the Sea-Tac (Seattle Airport) to Anacortes schedule. There are 3 drop-off points in Anacortes depending on where you're planning to stay the night before the trip.

Boarding the ferry
If you're travelling by car, please have your vehicle parked and be ready to board 40 minutes prior to the ferry departure time. Once on San Juan Island, the complimentary van shuttle will be waiting directly across the street from the ferry landing, or to your right (north) in the traffic circle located just past the ice cream shop. Your host will let you know which bus stop you need to get off before the start of the trip.

Note: Please note that the buses depart at the specified times and do not coincide with Washington State Ferry schedules. Please allow some extra time (in both directions) to ensure proper connections.

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