San Juan Islands Kayak Tours
Half-Day San Juan Island Kayak Tours: Kayaking in Killer Whale Waters
Estimated reading time: 9 minutes
Why Choose Sea Quest for your Half-Day Kayaking Trip on San Juan Island?
- Best prices for kayak tours on San Juan Island – near Seattle, Washington.
- Our routes are the best places in the US for kayaking with killer whales!
- All routes visit either a National Wildlife Refuge, National Historical Park or State Park.
- Two kayak tour times: morning and sunset departures available.
- The longest history of operating kayak day tours on San Juan Island – since 1989. A perfect safety record thanks to expert guides with extensive safety training & professional experience.
- Unlike others, we provide new high-performance kayaks on our day tours. Our easy to paddle kayaks are perfectly maintained and modern. The best sea kayaking equipment in the San Juans!
Sunset & Morning Half-Day San Juan Island Kayak Tours (3 hour)
Half-day morning and sunset kayak tours are the perfect choice for time limited kayak enthusiasts! In a short amount of time, you can still fully experience sea kayaking in the San Juan Islands. Half day kayak trips also work well for beginners or first time kayakers. If you aren’t sure if you will enjoy sea kayaking, come get a brief first taste of the sport! Join one of our half-day kayak tours. The only requirement is a healthy sense of adventure!
We have three different half-day kayak tour routes from San Juan Island
You may explore either the east, south, or west side of the island. We choose the best route for you based on recent whale reports, weather forecasts and wildlife sightings. All half-day kayak trip routes are scenic and visit parks and refuges home to diverse marine life.
Kayak Tour Half-day Routes!
The east side route is a the best location for Bigg’s killer whales close to Friday Harbor.
There are huge seal populations in the area which provide food for the orca whales.
Both the west and south side routes take you to the best salmon orca whale watching waters in the United States.
Our local salmon orcas follow a pattern that loops back and forth between the two sites.
Orca Whale Sighting Information
Time of day is not important to killer whales. However, the total time spent in orca whale habitat is important. Our statistics show that your chances of a killer whale watching experience are twice as good on the longer afternoon (6-hr) kayak trip. If you only have time for a half-day kayak tour you should consider these stats to set realistic expectations. From 2005 to 2018 we found orca whales on close to 20% of the 3-hour kayak tours during the peak months of June through September. The entire whale watching season runs from April through October and our sightings were about half that rate in the shoulder months.
There Are Two Species Of Killer Whales In The San Juan Islands.
Bigg’s killer whales hunt marine mammals. They are thriving and number over 400 in our area.
Salmon orcas are endangered. They struggle every day to find enough salmon to eat.
Most of our historic encounters on half-day kayak tours have been with the friendlier salmon orcas. Bigg’s killer whales travel in small, quiet stealthy pods and are harder to locate. Due to the mismanagement of our salmon spawning rivers, we can no longer count on salmon orcas to be as frequent as they once were.
Our Experience As Local Biologists And Superb Location Still Afford You The Best Chance Of Seeing Orcas Whales In The USA
Please read our Whale Watching Info page for important details.
Please note: Orca whales may be absent during your kayak trip. Killer whales may move quickly out of range, or alter their normal patterns. Weather and waves may interfere with whale watching success and may force us to alter our normal routes to prioritize safety.
Trip Details For The Half-Day Kayak Tour From San Juan Island
- Schedule: Morning Kayak Tours offered daily; Sunset Kayak Tours only available from spring to early fall
- Trip Fee: $99 per person plus 8.3% state tax & $10 government launch fee. On rare dates, the fee is $129 due to limited resources, and this will be noted in the online reservation system.
- Meeting Place: Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. Look for our van and kayak trailer in the traffic circle. The circles is near the Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal.
- Meeting Time: Half-day San Juan Island kayak trips usually begin at 8:00am and 4:45pm. On some days these times may be altered slightly. However, our online reservation system will indicate altered times if you specify a date. If the times don’t work for you, ask us about a custom start time!
- Finish Time & Place: Friday Harbor Ferry Terminal; 11:30am for the morning tour and 8:15pm for the sunset tour.
- Total Time: Approximately 3½ hours from meeting your guides to finish. Be aware that whales, winds or currents can occasionally delay half-day kayak tours! But there will always be plenty of time to catch one of several departing ferries if you are planning to leave the island.
Our van shuttles you to the beach. This takes between 5 to 25 minutes. At the beach, we provide a one hour kayak lesson. This lesson familiarizes everyone with the basic skills before we launch the sea kayaks. We then explore for about 1½ hours. We travel 2 to 4 miles during the kayak adventure. Floating rest breaks in scenic locations keep you energized. As do frequent stops to take pictures and enjoy wildlife.
Sea Quest Kayak Tours Provides:
Sea kayak and all related sea kayaking tour gear, lesson and expert guides.
You Will Provide:
Suitable clothing and footwear for the beach, water bottle, hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. Bring a warm sweater and rain jacket if windy or rainy. Click prepare for a San Juan Islands kayak tour for some tips.
San Juan Island Kayak Tour Map: Half-Day Morning & Sunset
The shaded zones are the primary orca whale watching and wildlife areas. Different colors representing the two species of Orca
East Side Route Features A Huge Seal Population
These seals make it the best route for Bigg’s killer whales. The route is also often great for otters, and the greatest variety of sea birds. Other whale species and porpoises both occur here. It is the most protected route and our choice during stormy days. It is uncommon when winds make routes unsafe for sea kayaking. However, the east route is often the safest route during these days. Families or groups of friends that have very limited time often request private kayak trips on the east side route. This is because the beach is just a few minutes from Friday Harbor. The east route greatly reduces shuttle time.
West Side Route If Salmon Orca Pods Are Confirmed In Haro Strait
It features some of the best whale watching waters in the United States! When whales aren’t present we typically see a few seals and some marine birds. There is also an active bald eagle nest and often porpoises.
South Side Route Explores Some Of The Best USA Whale-watching Waters
Minke whales and both types of orcas hunt there. The shallow Salmon Bank just off shore is where prey concentrates. Like the east side, it is excellent for seals! A great variety of marine birds live on the south side too. And the vista is spectacular! The south side is very exposed to wind and waves and is often unsuitable for beginners. If we believe whales are there at the time of your tour, we may paddle the south side route. However, the weather must be cooperative. Groups and families often request private trips at this location.
Please note: The San Juan Islands can experience extreme winds or currents even in summer. This can occasionally cause us to alter half-day kayak tour routes if safety demands it. Nevertheless, we will always be able to view the orca whale-watching waters, from the kayaks, shore, or both.
Click on this map to open a full-size map in PDF format that you can save, zoom, or print!