Best Time To See Orcas In San Juan Islands - The Ultimate Guide

Best time to see orcas in San Juan Islands

The San Juan Islands make up an archipelago off the coast of Washington in the United States. They’re also close to Vancouver, British Columbia, making them a popular destination for many tourists. One of the best reasons to visit the San Juan Islands is for the whale-watching tours. Southern Resident Orcas, and Transient Orcas ply these waters throughout the year. Not only do you have the chance to see a variety of whales, but you may see some other wildlife like bald eagles, harbor porpoises, otters, seals, Stellar Sea Lions and more sea birds too.

Here at Emerald Island Sailing Charters, we offer a variety of wildlife viewing sailing experiences. You’ll find eco-friendly and luxury charters from one to 6 days that give you a new way to see the Pacific Northwest. Once you discover the best time to see orcas in the San Juan Islands, contact us to set up your trip.

 

Whale Watching In Late Spring

Many tourists and locals think that the best time to visit the San Juan Islands for whale watching is during the late spring. Summer starts near the end of June, but you might see a few orca whales during April and May.

As temperatures usually range from the 40s through the 60s, make sure you bring a jacket or wear layers to stay warm. You’ll stay comfy on your whale-watching adventure as you look for local wildlife.

Summer Whale-Watching Tours

The best time to visit the San Juan Islands for a whale-watching trip is summer. Many tour groups see whales during this season. Plan your trip for the middle of June through the end of August to see your favorite whales.

July and August are when the temperatures are the highest. During the peak of summer in the San Juan Islands, you’ll even see temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit. With one of our summer whale-watching experiences, you also get the chance to enjoy the local climate. The San Juan Islands have a warm summer climate with less rainfall.

Visit The San Juan Islands In Early Fall

September first marks the first day of fall and a good time for whale watching around the San Juan Islands. Temperatures climb into the high 60s during the early days of the season and start dropping in October.

Fall is also the best time to visit the San Juan Islands for whale watching if you want to avoid the crowds. The cold weather causes some tourists to skip boat trips.

Where To Go For Whale Watching In The San Juan Islands?

Once you decide on the best time to see orcas in the San Juan Islands, think about where you want to go. While we cannot guarantee that you’ll see whales on our sailing trips, your odds of seeing these gorgeous animals are hig. You don’t even need to hop on a boat to see some of the local orca whales. Enjoy whale watching at Lime Kiln State park on San Juan Island.

Friday Harbor is home to the Whale Museum where you can learn more about these animals. Some of the other things you may want to check out on your trip to Friday Harbor include:

  • San Juan Island Brewing Company

  • Friday’s Crabhouse

  • Spring Street Landing Aquarium

  • Susie’s Mopeds

  • Downriggers Restaurant

Other Spots For Whale Watching

Whale Watch Park is another place where you can see whales once you pick the best time to visit the San Juan Islands. Locals gave this nickname to Lime Kiln Point State Park because whale sightings are so common here. The park is open to the public and has rocky cliffs that overlook the water.

Some tourists prefer Orcas Island, which is the largest of the San Juan Islands. You can hop on the ferry and get to the island fairly quickly. Orcas Island also has a shuttle that takes visitors from the ferry to local landmarks. If you think the best time to visit is in the summer, visit this island as the ferries run several times per day.

 

Tips For Your Whale-Watching Experience

Planning your trip involves more than just picking the best time to visit the San Juan Islands. We found some tips to make your trip a success:

  • Keep your eyes peeled for other types of wildlife. Many of our tours see bald eagles and sea lions on their trips to the San Juan Islands.

  • Opt for boat tours over shore sightings. While you may see an orca whale at one of the locations we mentioned, the animals moved further out to sea in recent years to find better food sources. Our trips help you get closer to the majestic creatures.

  • Bring the right supplies on your San Juan Islands tour. Bring sunscreen and sunglasses to protect yourself as well as a camera to capture the animals. Many visitors to the San Juan Islands also find it helpful to wear flat shoes and several layers of clothing.

  • The best time to visit the San Juan Islands to see humpback whales is from the late spring through the middle of fall. Most of the local whales have a mating season that coincides with these months.

Plan A Day Of Whale-Watching Fun

While the best time to see orcas in the San Juan Islands for whales is between May and October, whales are native to the Salish Sea. You have a good chance of seeing them and other wildlife no matter when you visit.

Reach out to Emerald Island Sailing Charters to schedule a sailing tour and share the sea with these giant animals in their natural habitat!

Duration
3 days
Group Size
2 to 6

3-Day All Inclusive Sailing Tour of the San Juan Islands

Join us for an all-inclusive multi day sailing tour of the most beautiful marine environment in the world!

Prices start at $1999 USD per person. Early and late season discounts available. Gratuities are welcome, but not included in cost of trip.

2024 Dates for 3-Day Tour:

Please note: THE DATES BELOW DO NOT REFLECT CURRENT RESERVATIONS. Please use the "Check Availability" button on this page to see a real-time calendar.

May: 5/10-5/12
June: 6/7-6/9
September: 9/7-9/9, 9/13-9/15, 9/18-9/20

If the dates you want are not listed above, please contact us. We are very flexible, and can often adjust the sailing schedule, and can create tours of any duration.

Our multi-day, all-inclusive sailing tours are the best way to unwind, relax and immerse yourself in the Salish Sea's natural beauty. With each day aboard, you'll feel a deeper connection to the natural world as you let the stresses of everyday land-based life melt away. We follow the rhythms of the wind and tides to show you the true beauty of this magical archipelago.

Sailing from our home port of Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, we are quickly in one of the most scenic and wildlife-rich areas of the world. Our naturalist captain will hoist the sails and guide your small group in an intimate exploration of wildlife and nature by eco-friendly sail power.

Sailing aboard the S/V Nawalak is about escaping the crowds, relaxing, and connecting with nature and the sea while exploring the quiet beaches and pristine islands of the northwest. During our tours we share with you the gems and secrets we’ve discovered in our 30+ years of sailing these amazing waterways.

23 Reviews verify
from
$1,999
Duration
3 to 6 days
Group Size
2 to 6

Sail & Paddle Tour

New this year!

Hey there, avid kayaker or paddle boarder! Think you've seen and conquered it all? We invite you to paddle the mystical waters of the San Juan Islands, while you return each evening to the safe, warm and cozy confines of our luxury 55' sailboat.

Aboard Sailing vessel Nawalak, you'll be treated to 3 luxury meals per day by our on-board chef to fuel your kayaking journeys, as well as a warm, dry berth aboard. No need to pitch a tent, or haul heavy gear - keep it all on the boat!

This tour blends the elegant simplicity of sailing with the intimacy of near shore kayaking, utilizing our vessel as a mother ship for your San Juan Islands kayaking adventures. This is a bring-your-own-kayak adventure where we board, our luxury 55' sail boat and sail deep into the majestic waters of the San Juan Islands. By sailing to these highly sought after kayaking destinations, we eliminate the hassle, and danger of paddling across large bodies of open sea to get to our coveted kayaking destinations. Tour durations are from 3-6 days, and are fully customizable for duration, skill levels and dates. Give us a call to learn more.

Our multi-day, all-inclusive sailing tours are the best way to unwind, relax and immerse yourself in the Salish Sea's natural beauty. With each day aboard, you'll feel a deeper connection to the natural world as you let the stresses of everyday land-based life melt away. We follow the rhythms of the wind and tides to show you the true beauty of this magical archipelago.

Sailing from our home port of Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, we are quickly in one of the most scenic and wildlife-rich areas of the world. Our naturalist captain will hoist the sails and guide your small group in an intimate exploration of wildlife and nature by eco-friendly sail power.

Sailing aboard the S/V Nawalak is about escaping the crowds, relaxing, and connecting with nature and the sea while exploring the quiet beaches and pristine islands of the northwest. During our tours we share with you the gems and secrets we’ve discovered in our 30+ years of sailing these amazing waterways.

88 Reviews verify
from
$1,999
Duration
5 days
Group Size
2 to 6

5-Day All Inclusive Sailing Tour of the San Juan Islands

Join us for an all-inclusive 5-Day sailing tour of the most beautiful marine environment in the world!

All inclusive prices start at $2499 USD per person. Early and late season discounts available. Gratuities are welcome, but not included in cost of trip.

2024 Dates for 5-Day Tour:

Please note: THE DATES BELOW DO NOT REFLECT CURRENT RESERVATIONS. Please use the "Check Availability" button on this page to see a real-time calendar.
If the dates you want are not listed, please contact us. We are very flexible, and can often adjust the sailing schedule, and can create tours of any duration.

May: 5/3-5/7, 5/17-5/21, 5/31-6/4,
June: 6/18-6/22,
July: 7/2-7/6, 7/16-7/20,
August: 8/1-8/5, 8/16-8/20, 8/31-9/4,

Our multi-day, all-inclusive sailing tours are the best way to unwind, relax and immerse yourself in the Salish Sea's natural beauty. With each day aboard, you'll feel a deeper connection to the natural world as you let the stresses of everyday land-based life melt away. We follow the rhythms of the wind and tides to show you the true beauty of this magical archipelago.

Sailing from our home port of Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, we are quickly in one of the most scenic and wildlife-rich areas of the world. Our naturalist captain will hoist the sails and guide your small group in an intimate exploration of wildlife and nature by eco-friendly sail power.

Sailing aboard the S/V Nawalak is about escaping the crowds, relaxing, and connecting with nature and the sea while exploring the quiet beaches and pristine islands of the northwest. During our tours we share with you the gems and secrets we’ve discovered in our 30+ years of sailing these amazing waterways.

25 Reviews verify
from
$2,499
Duration
6 days
Group Size
2 to 6

6-Day All Inclusive Sailing Tour of the San Juan Islands

Join us for an all-inclusive 6-Day sailing tour of the most beautiful marine environment in the world!

All inclusive prices start at $2699 USD per person. Early and late season discounts available. Gratuities are welcome, but not included in cost of trip.

2024 Dates for 6-Day Tour:

Please note: THE DATES BELOW DO NOT REFLECT CURRENT RESERVATIONS. Please use the "Check Availability" button on this page to see a real-time calendar.
If the dates you want are not listed, please contact us. We are very flexible, and can often adjust the sailing schedule, and can create tours of any duration.

May: 5/24-5/29
June: 6/11-6/16, 6/25-6/30
July: 7/9-7/14, 7/24-7/29
August: 8/8-8/13, 8/23-8/28

Our multi-day, all inclusive sailing tours are the best way to unwind, relax and immerse yourself in the Salish Sea's natural beauty. With each day aboard, you'll feel a deeper connection to the natural world as you let the stresses of everyday land based life melt away. We follow the rhythms of the wind and tides to show you the true beauty of this magical archipelago.

Sailing from our home port of Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, we are quickly in one of the most scenic and wildlife-rich areas of the world. Our naturalist captain will hoist the sails and guide your small group in an intimate exploration of wildlife and nature by eco-friendly sail power.

Sailing aboard the S/V Nawalak is about escaping the crowds, relaxing, and connecting with nature and the sea while exploring the quiet beaches and pristine islands of the northwest. During our tours we share with you the gems and secrets we’ve discovered in our 30+ years of sailing these amazing waterways.

84 Reviews verify
from
$2,699
Duration
6 hours
Group Size
2 to 6

San Juan Islands 6-hour Day Sail

Climb aboard and immerse yourself in the vibrant beauty of the San Juan Islands.

All inclusive prices start at $229 USD per person, check dates on the right. Please note: If the dates you want are not listed, or another tour is designated, please contact us. We can often adjust the sailing schedule.

Sailing from our home port of Deer Harbor, Orcas Island, we are quickly in one of the most scenic and wildlife-rich areas of the world. Our naturalist captain will hoist the sails and guide your small group in an intimate exploration of wildlife and nature by eco-friendly sail power.

Sailing aboard the S/V Nawalak is about escaping the crowds, relaxing, and connecting with nature and the sea while exploring the quiet beaches and pristine islands of the northwest. During our tours we share with you the gems and secrets we’ve discovered in our 30+ years of sailing these amazing waterways.

3 Reviews verify
from
$229
Duration
12 days
Group Size
2 to 6

INSIDE PASSAGE - Desolation Sound, Broughton Archipelago & Great Bear Rainforest

We will be offering this tour again in late August/early September 2025.
Please use the contact form on this page to let us know you have interest, or have any questions.
Prices are yet to be determined, but will probably be around $5999 per person all inclusive of food and beverages.

Sail with us to where civilization gradually fades astern. Northwest is where we're headed, underneath a golden sky as we begin to get a taste of the wilder side of the North American coast. Natural Hot Springs, 10,000 yr old protected First Nation villages, ancient totem poles, pods of leaping dolphins, Orcas, Humpbacks, Bears, Rain Wolves. These are just some of the highlights on our farthest north tour. This is a true adventure, but with all the creature comforts and safety we've developed from over 20 years of experience with this route.

We pass north through the Inside Passage roughly retracing the route that Captain George Vancouver did in 1792. Much of the area looks the same now as it did then. With each day aboard, you'll feel a deeper connection to the natural world as you let the stresses of everyday land based life melt away.

Sailing aboard the S/V Nawalak is about escaping the crowds, relaxing, and connecting with nature and the sea while exploring the quiet beaches and pristine islands of the northwest. During our tours we share with you the gems and secrets we’ve discovered in our 30+ years of sailing these amazing waterways.

27 Reviews verify
from
$5,300