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Where To See Whales On The San Juan Islands – Complete Guide

If you’re looking for somewhere to go whale watching on the San Juan Islands then you’re in the right place.

There’s plenty of places to see whales including orcas in their natural habitat all over the San Juan Islands, located in Washington State.

This post will tell you all of the best places to see whales and orcas on the San Juan Islands and includes all the information you’ll need for a fun day out.

Best Time To See Whales On San Juan Islands

Whales can only be seen around the San Juan Islands at certain times of the year as whales are a migratory species. 

The pods of whales pass through the San Juan Islands every year from May through to September. 

Peak season for whale watching is from mid-June to early September so this is the best time to visit the San Juan Islands for whale watching.

Salmon runs attract a range of different whales to these waters every year, including humpback whales, minke whales, orcas and gray whales.

Where To See Whales On San Juan Islands

One of the best places in the world to see wild orca whales is on the San Juan Islands.

The San Juan Islands are a group of islands located at the north western tip of Washington State. They are known for their stunning rural landscapes and abundance of wildlife. 

At certain times of the year, whales can commonly be seen from various different spots across the islands both from the shore and from the ocean. 

Orcas have actually lived in the waters surrounding the San Juan Islands for thousands of years.

Best Tours For Whale Watching On San Juan Islands

For the best chance of seeing a whale on the San Juan Islands, book onto a whale watching tour. 

During the summer months, the chances of seeing a whale on a whale watching tour is as high as 90%!

  • This top rated whale watching cruise departs from Friday Harbor and gives you up close views of orca whales surrounding San Juan Island.
  • If you’d prefer to do something more active then why not join a kayaking tour around the San Juan Islands instead. This tour offers a chance to spot whales and other marine life.
  • For something a bit more special, join a yacht cruise. Spot orcas and humpback whales whilst relaxing on your own yacht!
  • If you’re worried about spending money on a tour and not seeing any whales then join this guaranteed whale sighting tour. In the rare occurrence that you don’t see a whale, they’ll let you join another tour for free.
  • For an unforgettable experience, join a seaplane tour and fly over the San Juan Islands, looking for migrating whales from above.

I’d recommend booking onto a tour in advance during the peak summer months, it can be hard to get a place on a tour last minute.

Check out how close you can get to the whales on a boat tour in the video below:

Can You See Whales From The Shore On San Juan Islands?

If you want to see whales from the shore then there are places on the San Juan Islands where you can spot whales out in the ocean.

Below I have listed the exact locations across the San Juan Islands where you can go whale watching but bear in mind that sightings from the shore are less likely and cannot be guaranteed.

For the best chance of seeing whales on the San Juan Islands, book a whale watching tour.

If you do want to see whales from the shore then make sure you take a pair of binoculars with you to give you the best possible view of the whales. 

Lime Kiln Point State Park

One of the best places in the San Juan Islands to go whale watching is at Lime Kiln Point State Park.

Lime Kiln Point State Park is a 41-acre park located on the west side of San Juan Island.

This park is often considered to be one of the best places to go whale watching in the world! 

Head up to the rocky cliffs that line the shore for the best views of the whales. 

Three pods of whales frequent the surrounding waters and often come spectacularly close to the shore (this is mainly due to the water being very deep close to the shore here).

If you want to learn more about the whales then head over to the Lime Kiln Interpretive Center which features a range of exhibits and displays all about the impressive whales.

There’s lots of other things to do at Lime Kiln Point State Park including birdwatching, hiking and diving.

Check out the video below which shows a pod of orcas spotted from Lime Kiln Point State Park:

San Juan Island National Historical Park

Another great place where you can see whales is the San Juan Island National Historical Park. 

This national park, located at the southern tip of San Juan Island, is known for stunning scenery featuring vistas, woodlands and frequent sightings of orca whales.

For the best views of the whales, walk along the rocky cliffs by the shore towards the lighthouse. You’ll be able to spot sea lions on the shore below and make sure to keep your eyes peeled for a whale!

You can also get impressive views of whales from the west side of the park. Look out at the waters of the Haro Strait, there’s a great viewpoint of these waters from Grandma’s Cove.

San Juan County Park

Another place where you can go whale watching on the San Juan Islands is at San Juan County Park.

San Juan County Park is located on the west side of San Juan Island and features beaches, picnic areas and epic views of the ocean. 

The scenic park offers many opportunities for whale watching from the shore. You can often see whales from atop the rocky cliffs that line the shore or you can see them from the beach below.

Friday Harbor

If you’re interested in whales then make sure you stop by at Friday Harbor.

Friday Harbor, located on San Juan Island, is the most populated place on the islands and features a charming historical town.

Whilst you can’t see whales from the harbor itself, you can join many whale watching tours here that will take you out into the ocean in search of orcas and humpback whales. 

You can also visit The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor which features a range of interesting exhibits all about whales including the skeleton of a young Orca called Sooke.


Thanks for reading this post on where to go whale watching on the San Juan Islands. 

There’s plenty of options here to see whales and orcas in their natural habitat whether you want to see whales from the shore or join a boat tour.

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