San Juan Islands whale watching attracts numerous tourists to the Pacific Northwest on an annual basis. Orcas, or killer whales, as they are also known, are the main whales that populate the waters surrounding the San Juan Islands, though the area is also home to minke whales. These aren't the only creatures that you are likely to see on a San Juan Islands whale watching tour, however. Dall's porpoises and sea lions are also spotted, and should you look up to the skies, you might see a bald eagle flying overhead. Generally speaking, orcas are the focus of most whale watching tours in the San Juans, though since you can expect to see a variety of animals, the tours are often labeled as wildlife watching tours.
Most of the San Juan Islands whale watching tours originate out of San Juan Island, with Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor being the primary points of embarkation. Whether you book a Roche Harbor or Friday Harbor whale watching tour, you are all but guaranteed to see orcas, especially during the peak viewing season. Both public and private whale watching tours can be enjoyed, and they typically last around three to four hours. Of course, you can always do some San Juan Islands whale watching on a multi-day cruise through the islands or go searching for these wonderful animals on your own. Boat rentals can be arranged for those who lack their own watercraft.
Not all of the San Juan Islands whale watching tours originate in the island chain, so you might keep that in mind when looking to arrange your own excursion. You can arrange a whale watching tour in the San Juans that departs from Seattle, for example, and other mainland ports also offer them. These ports include those found at Bellingham and Anacortes. The tours that embark from mainland ports such as these tend to last around five or six hours, as extra time is generally needed for transportation.
At marine parks such as Sea World San Diego, you can get a good look at orca whales. That being said, nothing compares to actually seeing them in the wild. The San Juan Islands are one of the best destinations in the world when it comes to wild orca whale watching, and while the peak viewing season is June through September, it is possible to spot these amazing creatures year round. Whale watching cruises can be arranged at various spots around the islands, and should you prefer, it is also possible to arrange whale watching tours that involve kayaking.
Many would agree that San Juan Islands whale watching is best done from a kayak, though you are free to choose which option is best for you. Orcas are the largest porpoises in the world. They can measure up to 30 feet long, and the heftiest weigh in at almost 9,000 pounds. As such, it is understandable if you prefer doing your San Juan Islands whale watching from a boat as opposed to a kayak. You will likely feel safer, though it should be noted that orcas aren't exactly known as people eaters. The ones found in the San Juan Islands region, for example, dine almost exclusively on marine mammals and salmon.