San Juan Island Bucket List - Kayaking with the Orcas

Updated May 2017

San Juan Island is one of the best places in the world to watch killer whales in the wild. While most people go on whale watch boats or try to see the endangered giants from shore, meeting Orcas in a sea kayak is a true, once in a lifetime experience. Now, keep in mind, Orcas are wild animals and are on their own schedule, so no one can guarantee that you will see them (whether from land, motor boat or kayak), but if you happen to be one of the lucky humans seeing these spectacular beings on their own dimension can be a spiritual experience. In a kayak you can hear them coming. A whale’s breach sounds a bit like a semi-truck coming around a corner. You can hear their song and whistle. You can experience first-hand, their size and sensuality.  When you look an orca whale in the eye, when she checks you out, you realize that you just might be looking your intellectual equal. You realize that you and her are part of something much bigger, and that things like the phone bill and folding the laundry don’t matter as much as you thought.

Our friends at the San Juan Outfitters offer two kinds of kayak tours specifically geared towards observing Orcas: A 5 hour Orca Search, which is offered between April 4 and October 31, and a 5 hour Whale Sanctuary Tour offered during July & August only. San Juan Outfitters are known for their low guest to guide ratio and high tour guide retention rate. They are members of the PWWA (Pacific Whale Watch Association), and belong to a spotting network, checking hourly where the whales are. We feel confident putting our lovely guests in their knowledgeable hands and highly recommend them.

If you go, please be Whale Wise and know that the 200 yard zone is in effect for kayakers, just like it is for all other vessels: US regulations require all vessels to stay 200 yards away from Orcas, to observe a 400 yard slow zone, which you probably will in a kayak, and keep a path clear for the animals.

Don’t forget: we at the Earthbox would love to help you plan and reserve your kayak trip.