San Juan Islands Kayak Tours
Five Day San Juan Island Kayak Expeditions: Kayaking in Orca Whale Waters
Why Choose Sea Quest for your Five-Day Kayak Tour in the San Juan Islands?
- Lowest priced kayak tours to the prime killer whale zone where most whale sightings occur.
- Kayak the beautiful sea cliffs & lighthouses of the rugged San Juan Islands nearest Canada.
- Best route for kayaking with killer whales in the US with 470+ orcas May-October.
- Camp on small islands with abundant bald eagles, river otters & harbor seals. Routes feature a National Wildlife Refuge, National Monument, State & County Parks, and maybe a National Historical Park.
- Sea Quest has been leading kayak expeditions in the San Juan Islands since 1989 without an incident thanks to extensively trained guides and the newest kayaks & safety gear.
Five-Day San Juan Islands Sea Kayaking Tours
This the perfect sea kayaking adventure for those who really want to immerse themselves in the rhythms of the Salish Sea. Our five-day expedition through the San Juan Islands is guaranteed to cleanse away the stress of modern life. This kayak trip is ideal for perfecting your stroke, improving navigation skills, studying natural history, and reading a novel. Many guests choose the 5-day kayak tour as a means of preparing themselves for an extended kayaking adventure on their own, or the purchase of their own sea kayak.
Like all of our camping adventures in the San Juan Islands of Washington, killer whale watching is a possibility on this kayak trip. As most students of nature understand, the longer you linger in proper habitat, the more likely it becomes to see the full range of wildlife that an area supports. We believe the five-day expedition offers you the best chances of kayaking with orca whales or seeing them on multiple days. In the years 2005-2018, killer whales were spotted on 50% of our trips in May, 70% in June and July, 65% in August and September, and 40% in October.
We produced the best whale watching results of any kayak tour company by far in those years despite the fact that our friendliest pods were listed as endangered beginning in 2005. Prior to this was an era of abundant salmon prey and our sightings were even more spectacular! Sadly, salmon orcas have been experiencing leaner years recently with fewer migrating salmon through the San Juan Islands. The years 2013, 2019, and 2020 were so bad they shocked people into finally recognizing the plight of our salmon orcas and begin projects designed to reverse the decline of chinook.
Despite our great successes in the past, the future of orca whale watching is unpredictable, and we could lose our genetically unique population of salmon orcas in the next 20 years. Fortunately, there is another species of killer whale that is actually increasing in our region. Bigg’s killer whales depend on seals and sea lions and now number over 400 individuals. But they are more elusive and erratic than salmon orcas and despite their larger numbers they can be difficult to find. Our decades of experience as local biologists and kayak guides will give you the best chance for seeing either species of killer whale and we still remain the best place in US for orca whale watching. Please read more on this topic in our Whale Watching Info page.
Our kayak tours also afford the best opportunities to spot some of the less famous denizens of the San Juan Islands such as humpback whales, minke whales, otters and mink. Please read about our two-day and three-day San Juan Island kayak trip details to discover features shared by all of our camping adventures. This kayak expedition is also available as a Women’s-Only Kayaking Vacation.
Trip Details: Five-Day San Juan Island Kayak Tour
- Schedule: Monday-Friday.
- Trip Fee: $999 plus $10 government launch tax/fee.
- Meeting Time & Place: Early morning Friday Harbor, San Juan Island – your email confirmation provides the exact time but you will be able to arrive via ferry in time. Look for our van and kayak trailer in the traffic circle adjacent to the Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal.
- Day 1 Itinerary: The van delivers us to a beach facing the main orca whale watching corridor. After packing the kayaks, we engage in an hour-long kayaking tutorial and safety briefing, and your guide will help improve your paddling skills right through the kayak expedition. Kayaking time fluctuates from 4 to 6 hours each day, resulting in daily distances of 8 to 12 miles. Many floating rest breaks, and one to three daily shore visits keep us invigorated. We explore the countless isles and reefs that make up the archipelago and camp at a variety of beautiful marine parks.
- Days 2, 3, 4 Itinerary: After enjoying the sunrise and the dawn bird chorus, we meet to discuss our kayaking route for the day. A weather/current check and guest input is crucial for making our daily decision. Our route is very flexible and may involve a partial circumnavigation of San Juan Island or an exploration of the northwest portion of the archipelago. Most days will find us kayaking a good chunk of time in the primary killer whale watching waters and the remainder in areas where orcas are seen several times monthly. Stunning views of the Mount Baker volcano, the Cascade Range, and Olympic Mountains always surround us. A favorite event of most five day kayak tours is a 5½ mile round trip hike to the Turn Point lighthouse atop a magnificent sea cliff used by nesting peregrine falcons. This beautiful vantage point, like several others we may visit, are famous for sun sets and sightings of orca whales and porpoises. Evenings may involve a hike, or short paddle forays to enjoy the sunset or displays of bioluminescence on moonless nights.
- Day 5 Itinerary: Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal between 1:00 and 3:00pm. If you wish to take a ferry to the mainland, you will several sailings to choose from.
- Finish Time & Place: Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal between 1:00 and 3:00pm. This allows you time to catch various departing ferries if you desire to leave the island that evening.
Sea Quest Kayak Tours Provides:
Sea kayaks, all sea kayaking equipment and safety gear, radio and emergency signals, tarps & tents, galley, freshly prepared breakfasts & dinners, van transport to and from and our launch beach and Friday Harbor, kayak instruction and superb guides.
You Will Provide:
Outdoor clothing, footwear for wading and hiking, hat, sunglasses, sunscreen, sleeping bag & pad, and lunches. Click prepare for a San Juan Islands kayak expedition to learn more.
Five-Day San Juan Islands Kayaking Tours Map:
Color shading depicts the main orca and killer whale feeding and traveling routes where most encounters happen. The red lines show our frequently used tracks but should not be interpreted as the strict route you will explore. We navigate through the primary salmon orca waters for about half of the five-day kayaking tour. The remainder of the expedition will be in the best Bigg’s killer whale habitat where sightings are mainly near seal haulouts. High winds generated by solar heating or out-of-season weather systems may occur and could prevent or limit our time kayaking in the shaded killer whale watching zones. Even on these infrequent days we may experience successful whale watching from land or safer kayaking areas.
Click the chart below to open a full-size version in PDF format that you can zoom and print!