The Best Things To See And Do On Washington’s San Juan Islands

Off the coast of the Pacific Northwest and 60 miles north of Seattle lies an archipelago of 172 islands, the San Juans, in the Salish Sea. Oh, and they are stunningly beautiful. There are three main islands: San Juan, Orcas, and Lopez, plus several smaller islands with year-round inhabitants, and there are so many unique adventures to be had on them. Here are some of the best things to see and do during your San Juan Islands vacation.

1. Whale Watching In The San Juans

When I visit the San Juan Islands, I’m fortunate to have access to a close friend’s boat for all my whale watching (and crabbing) experiences. I even spent one trip boat camping off Orcas Island, which is something I recommend at least once. Of course, having access to a friend’s boat is not the only way to see the San Juans — or the whales that live around them.

Whale watching excursions are available from San Juan, Lopez, and Orcas islands, but to stack the deck for seeing a pod of orcas or other whales, leave from San Juan Island. The best opportunity to see Orcas is from June to September when they forage on salmon in the area’s waters.

Another tip is to book with a company that is part of the Pacific Whale Watch Association. This professional spotting network communicates whale sighting locations and times to the network so member boats can travel there. Some members of this network find whales and other sea and wildlife on 90 percent of their tours.

The best place to whale watch on land is from San Juan’s Lime Kiln Point State Park on the west side of the island. With over 2,500 feet of shoreline, it’s nicknamed Whale Watch Park.


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