The ability to witness the Southern Resident Killer Whales (Orcas) and Humpback Whales in their natural habitat is an experience of a lifetime. Islanders love these huge animals and keep close tabs on them through online posts and notifications. We are as proud of the newborn orca calves as if they were relatives, and in a sense, they are: Orcas and Humpbacks have been feeding, playing and swimming in our waters for centuries.
Before you head to the San Juan Islands, learn a bit about the Orcas. Visit the Center for Whale Research , whose professional scientists have been studying J, K, and L pods (the Orcas who make up the Southern Resident Killer Whale population). You will soon be talking about Superpods, saddle marks and salmon travel patterns. Next, check out the informative pages of Orca Network, where following a few links will take you to the Hydrophone site and you can listen to archived sounds of Orcas communicating, and listen to the traffic live at any time.
Whales are seen year round on San Juan Island, but are substantially more prominent March – November. The prevalence of the whales depends on migration patterns for Humpbacks, and on food source for the Orcas. At one time, the Orcas were seen only during July and August, and Humpback sightings were rare. Recently, salmon conservation has increased, some of Washington dams are being removed, and the food supply is strong. A recent whale watching trip in November reported sightings of nine different Humpback whales!
Several charter companies leave from Friday Harbor and Roche Harbor including San Juan Safaris, San Juan Outfitters, San Juan Island Whale and Wildlife Tours, Western Prince Cruises, and San Juan Excursions. They offer whale watching expeditions with experienced naturalists. Captain Jim Maya and Legacy Charters leave from Snug Harbor on the west side of the Island. Let our concierge service make your reservations for you to insure a spot for you
The Whale Museum in Friday Harbor is a short walk from the Inns, and offers an excellent primer on whales and the Salish Sea ecosystem. Their interactive displays are teaching opportunities for the entire family.
You can often watch the whales feed and play off the west side at Lime Kiln Point State Park – the only whale watching park in the world. Because of their feeding patterns, J, K and L pods of Orcas frequently are seen on the west side of San Juan Island.
Orca whales, porpoises, seals, dolphins, and eagles are often sighted on these shorelines. during the spring and summer months. Enjoy the hiking trails to lookout points; see the displays describing the abundant sea life; walk the high bank trail to Lime Kiln Lighthouse, which was maintained by lighthouse keepers from 1919 to 1962 to guide ships through the Haro Straits; it is now fully automated. Bring a picnic lunch and stay awhile!