Why Choose Sea Quest for your One-Day Kayak Trip on San Juan Island?

Orca Whales Visit a Kayak Tour - San Juan Islands, WA

  • Lowest priced kayak tours to the prime killer whale zone where most whale sightings occur.
  • Kayak the spectacular shores of Lime Kiln “Whale Watch” Park & historic Lighthouse or San Juan Island National Historical Park.
  • Best route for kayaking with orca whales in the US – over 70 resident killer whales from May-Oct.
  • We spend the most time in kayaks searching for whales & enjoying natural beauty, less time on shore.
  • Longest history of any company operating kayak tours from San Juan County Park to Lime Kiln. One of only three companies offering daily trips to the prime orca whale zone as others followed in our wake!
  • The best trained biologist/naturalist guides capable of providing an educational and safe experience.
  • We provide the best and newest kayaks & paddling gear. We only use high-performance fiberglass kayaks on day tours. We have the best-maintained fleet of modern, comfortable, swift kayaks in the San Juan Islands!

Afternoon / 1 Day (6 hour) San Juan Islands Sea Kayaking Tours

Our afternoon / one-day sea kayak tours offer excellent opportunities for kayaking with orca whales. The routes we use are the best for seeing orcas – killer whales – anywhere in the United States! In June and July we see orca whales on about 75% of these tours. Whale watching is good in May and August, too, and we see them on 40% of the kayak tours in those months. After the peak killer whale-watching months, the activity gradually tapers off into October. No one else matches Sea Quest’s exceptional results among companies providing kayak tours in the San Juan Islands. We’ve been studying orca whales and paddling in these waters longer than anyone else.

Kayak with Killer Whales on a One Day San Juan Island Kayak Tour

Since orca whales aren’t present on every kayak tour, we also focus on a diverse variety of wildlife that can be enjoyed. Possibilities include humpback whales, minke whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, sea lions, and otters. Three active bald eagle nests and a peregrine falcon nest rank high among the bird highlights. Other fascinating birds include great blue herons, black oystercatchers, rhinoceros auklets, and pigeon guillemots. Beautiful conifer forests on land and kelp forests in the sea and separated by colorful intertidal zones and tidepools.

We have three different 1-day sea kayaking trip routes from San Juan Island. You may paddle either the east, south, or west side of the island. Our decision on route choice is often made in the final hour before your kayak tour begins and will depend on both the latest killer whale sightings and weather conditions. Safety will always take priority, and regardless of killer whale activity, we will only use a route if wind and wave conditions are suitable. All routes are very scenic and visit parks and refuges home to a variety of marine life.

The west and south side routes are the best killer whale watching waters in the United States. The resident orcas regularly hunt in a loop between the two sites, sometimes up to five times a day! Scroll down to the map below that shows a green shaded area where over 95% of orca whale sightings occur.

Please note: Regardless of which kayak trip route we use, killer whales may not appear during your kayak tour. Orca whales can make sudden course changes or choose to hunt in a different location. They can virtually disappear and confound the best efforts of even the most experienced biologists and whale-watching professionals. You can be assured that Sea Quest will always give you the best chance to kayak with killer whales on your kayak trip!
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Trip Details: Afternoon 6 hr Kayak Tour from San Juan Island

  • Schedule: offered daily.
  • Trip Fee: $99 per person except during high season and certain weekends; $109 on weekdays from Jun 18-Aug 18; $119 on Saturdays from Jun 10-Sep 2 and Sundays June 11-Aug 20 and Sep 3;  plus 8.1% state tax & $8 county launch fee.
  • Meeting Place: Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. Look for our van and kayak trailer in the traffic circle adjacent to the Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal.
  • Meeting Time: One-day San Juan Island kayak trips begin mid-morning. On some dates there may also be an early afternoon tour, too. Our online reservation system will indicate this if you enter a specific date. Ask about earlier or later departures if the starting times shown don’t work for you!
  • Itinerary: Our courtesy van takes you for a 25 minute drive across the island to our launch beach. The instructional period may require a full hour to ensure that everyone is fully prepared for our kayak adventure. After launching, we explore the shoreline for about 3½ to 4 hours, covering 5 to 7 miles during the kayak trip. To stay refreshed we take several floating rests in interesting locations or when wildlife appears. Mid-way along the route, we go ashore for a ½ hour lunch break. After returning to the launch beach we board the van for the return trip.
  • Finish Time & Place: Late afternoon at the Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal.
  • Total Time: Approximately 6 hours from pick up to drop off. Be aware that whales, winds or currents can occasionally delay us! But there will always be plenty of time to catch one of several departing ferries if you are planning to leave the island.

Sea Quest Kayak Expeditions Provides:
Sea kayaks, all related sea kayaking trip gear, safety equipment, tents, cooking gear, breakfast & dinner, transportation to and from Friday Harbor and the launch beach, instruction and knowledgeable guiding.

You Will Provide:
Beach clothing, beach foot wear, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, and lunch. Bring a warm sweater and rain jacket if windy or rainy. Click prepare for a San Juan Islands kayak tour for more tips.
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One-Day San Juan Islands Kayaking Tours Map:

  • The green shaded area is the main salmon orca whale feeding and traveling route. About 90% of salmon orca sightings (also known as “resident whales”) are seen here, with much less frequent encounters in other areas surrounding San Juan Island. The Bigg’s killer whales (formerly called “transients”) are randomly distributed in the San Juans, but are rarely seen in the summer as they prefer to visit from fall through spring.
  • The west side route explores the rugged west side of San Juan Island and the vast majority of our day tours go there. Migrating salmon prefer this shore and attract pods of orca whales. The route passes by Lime Kiln Lighthouse and Marine State Park, acknowledged as the best park in the world for orca whale-watching! When whales aren’t present we usually see porpoises, seals, marine birds, and several active bald eagle nests. Weather and currents must be cooperative as the west side route is the least protected from inclement weather. If winds there are too strong for safe kayaking, we will use an alternate route.
  • The south side route visits the incredibly scenic San Juan Island National Historical Park at the south end of San Juan Island. Killer whale watching is excellent here, too. Especially on the Salmon Bank that extends from the picturesque Cattle Point Lighthouse. The largest concentrations of baitfish and salmon occur here and attract orcas, minke whales, porpoises, seals and sea lions. We may decide to operate your tour on this route if we feel it gives us the best chance of whale watching success. Like the west side, it is very exposed to strong winds on certain days and would be avoided under those conditions. Private trips often request using this route.
  • The east side route is the most sheltered area for safe kayaking. It features a huge seal population, the best chance of seeing otters, and the greatest variety of sea birds. Whales and porpoises both occur here but not nearly as often compared to the west or south sides. The one day kayak tour uses this route usually only when windy weather makes the other areas unsafe. Families and groups of friends that prefer kayaking where the currents and winds are most mild frequently request the east side route. As the beach is just a few minutes from Friday Harbor it greatly reduces shuttle time, too.
  • Please note: The San Juan Islands can experience extreme winds or currents even in summer. This can occasionally cause us to reduce our intended time within, or avoid entirely, the primary orca watching zone as safety is the top priority. In these situations we always have opportunities to watch for whales from trails or beaches that overlook the the best areas.

Click the map below to open a full-size chart in PDF format that you can save, zoom, or print!

One Day - Afternoon Trip - San Juan Island Kayak Trips Map