Orca Whale Watching

A Fascinating San Juan Islands and Vicinity Journey

Orca Whale Watching

Orca whale watching in the San Juan Islands, Puget Sound is the center of whale watching in the Pacific Northwest.

The best time of the year for the Orca whale watching season is from mid-April through mid-October when the resident pods of Orca whales prowl the ocean for marine food sources.

The marine wild life that can be seen during this period include the Orca whales, porpoises, seals, minke whales, and bald eagles. .

Orca whales are highly social;and are composed of matrilineal family groups where they stay with their mothers for their entire life. Since females live as long as 95 years, several generations can be seen traveling together. Closely related matrilines travel together as groups called pods, usually consisting of one to four matrilines. Though on occasion, pods may separate for weeks or months at a time.

Orca "Killer" Whale watching in its natural environment is one of the most prized marine wildlife experiences. Orca whales are members of the dolphin family and can vary in size from 17 - 32 ft and in weight form 3-11 tons. There are three different types of Orca Whales: Off shores, transients, and residents. Each differs physically, in diet, and in behavior.

Very little is known about the off shoes because of their unpredictable travel patterns.

Transient pods are smaller than resident pods generally having an adult female and one or two of her offspring. The first born male tends to stay with its mother. The diet of the transient Orcas consists mostly of seals, porpoises and other marine mammals.

The San Juan Islands has three pods of Southern Residents Orcas, numbering around 88 whales. It is the only Killer Whale population listed as endangered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The diet of the resident Orcas consists mostly of fish, primarily salmon.

Wild killer whales are not considered a threat to humans although there have been cases of captive killing or injuring their handlers at marine theme parks

The Top San Juan Islands Orca Whale Watching Expeditions

Sea Quest Kayak Expeditions
PO Box 2424
Friday Harbor, WA 98250
(360) 378-5767 or (888) 589-4253
Departing from Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, they offer several different lengths of guided kayak tours from Friday Harbor in the San Juan Islands of Puget Sound. The trips vary from half day guided tours to a variety over overnight multi-day camping trips in the western San Juan Islands.

Orcas Island Eclipse Charters
PO Box 353
Orcas, WA 98280
Departing from Orcas Island, they offer 3 1/2 hour whale watching tours. The 56' "Orcas Espress" ship can carry as many as 50 passengers.

Island Adventures, Inc.
1801 Commercial Avenue
Anacortes, WA 98221
Departing from Anacortes, WA, they offer tours from 3 to 6 hours aboard the Island Explorer 3, a vessel that can carry over 100 passengers. They have a wildlife naturalist on board. With the 3 5-6 hour tour you will get a much higher probability of spotting Orca whales than the short 3-4 hour tours.

San Juan Islands Area Attractions

Visiting the San Juan Islands is not complete without taking in some of the areas fascinating outdoor attractions.

Chuckanut Drive (Route 11)

Chuckanut Drive (Route 11) 
One of the west Coasts most spectacular coastal drives. This 22 mile drive from Burlington to Old Fairhaven in Bellingham, takes you in view of the San Juan Islands along the coastline, with hidden beaches, and a 2500 acre Larrabee State Park. The route offers the traveler some excellent hiking, cycling, beach-combing, and fine dining with awesome scenic views of the San Juan Islands. For dining recommendations, try the Oyster Bar locate above the steep cliffs with a view of Orcas Island. This is a top fine dining restaurant. For a less expensive alternative, try the Chuckanut Manor with a large glassed dining room overlooking the The Samish River and bay.

Deception Pass State Park

Deception Pass State Park
Located on Whidbey Island, this is one of Washington's most popular state parks, The park is famous for it's scenic bridge over Deception Pass. The bridge is a scenic wonder consisting of two steel arches that span over Canoe Pass and Deception pass with a scenic view of the narrow cliff lined crevasses that funnel the churning waters below. The park offers many activities for the outdoor traveler including camping, fishing, hiking, kayaking, boating, and picnicking.

Where To Stay

The Wild Iris Inn
La Conner, WA
Located a 20 minute drive from the Anacortes ferry terminal serving the San Juan Islands, this 18 room charming inn offers suites with jetted spa tubs, king beds, fireplaces, and outdoor decks/patios with fabulous views of the Cascade Mountains

Autumn Leaves Bed & Breakfast
Anacortes, WA
If you're into antiques, comfort, quiet and wonderful breakfasts, this is the place for you. The hosts do everything they can think of for your enjoyment. You will love the gas fireplace in your room, your 2-person jetted tub and beautiful views. In summer the trees and flowers are spectacular.