Paddle the waters that make the San Juan Islands famous for sea kayaking with killer whales!
Best For: Experienced paddlers and participants who are physically fit
San Juan Outfitters’ Whale Sanctuary Tour is a premium multiday tour for guests with previous sea kayaking expereince or who are physically fit. Begin your adventure with a departure from the San Juan County Park located on the west side of San Juan Island. Paddle south past the iconic Lime Kiln Point State Park and Lighthouse before turning north to Stuart Island Marine State Park, where you'll camp for one or two nights.
Traversing through the proposed "Killer Whale Sanctuary" on the west side of San Juan Island, this tour is designed to maximize wildlife sightings, including the Southern Resident Killer Whale population that visits these waters in the summer months. Because this tour primarily travels in known orca territory, it gives you some of the best chances to view orcas by sea kayak. Orca encounters by kayak are a once in a lifetime expereince and should be seen as such. San Juan Outfitters gives you the best chances to view orcas by kayak, but it is important to remember you will be covering a small amount of their habitat and orcas have to come to you in a kayak. If your #1 goal is to encounter orcas during your San Juan Island adventure, also schedule a boat based whale watch & wildlife tour by vessel for a 90% or greater whale sighting sucess.
Camp on Stuart Island for one or two nights. Stuart Island is one of the most northwestern islands in the San Juan archipelago and is only accessible by private boat or sea kayak. Camping on Stuart Island for two nights allows more opportunity for exploration on and around Stuart Island, without having to repack and relocated for a second night of camping.
Stuart Island Marine State Park offers an easy three-mile hike to the iconic Stuart Island Light Station on the northwestern point of the island. This, along with Lovers Leap, is a favorite sunset view point with sweeping views of the Canadian Gulf Islands.
Return to Roche Harbor, San Juan Island on the final day of your adventure. The Whale Sanctuary Itinerary can be done as a 2 or 3 day adventure.
Questions? See answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions
Why Choose San Juan Outfitters for Your Adventure
Our guides are AMAZING! – Our guides are the best in the industry, and are hand selected to join our San Juan Outfitters staff. With over an 80% staff retention rate, our guides are highly trained and have years of experience leading tours in the San Juan Islands. All guides have degrees or backgrounds in biology, ecology, or outdoor recreation. Whether it be creating a home-cooked meal in the field or a delivering a whitty joke, our guides can do it! San Juan Outfitters’ guides participant in rigorous safety training with Body Boat Blade International in addition to biweekly safety training sessions. Safety is, and will continue to be our #1 priority.
Attention to Customer Service – We make sure to provide the highest level of customer service from start to finish when booking with San Juan Outfitters. Our reservations office is open daily, and we happy to help answer questions about your tour, San Juan Island, or any part of your trip to make sure you travel with ease.
San Juan Island's Only All-Inclusive Multiday Tour
San Juan Outfitters provides top of the line gear and fresh meals. All you need to pack is your personal clothing and toiletries, which we make easy by providing you with a packing check list. All gear including tents, to sleeping bags and pads, to camp pillows are provided and included brands such as REI, Mountain Hardware, and MSR. All meals from lunch on day one through lunch on the final day are prepared fresh in the field by your guide. Dietary restrictions? No problem! We can accommodate most dietary restrictions including gluten- or lactose-free, vegetarian, and Kosher. We use local, organic, and fresh ingredients whenever possible and meals include menu items like breakfast hash and pasta primavera. All participants are required to complete and return their pre-trip questionnaires, which is used get to know you a little better!
All guests paddle in double or triple kayaks with gear packed into the kayak, with all gear for your adventure packed into the sea kayak upon departure. Gear is not motor-boater to the campsite prior to departure. We use triple kayaks as doubles on overnights and pack larger gear items into the middle seat. We use expedition style Northwest Kayaks that are very stable and easy to steer using a foot peg rudder system. The Whale Sanctuary Multiday Itinerary is our most challenging itinerary, and tours can expect to paddle 15+ miles on day 1, and then 12-15 miles on days 2 and 3. Please note that fully loaded sea kayaks can be heavy, and feeling fatigued and/or sore after a day of sea kayaking is very normal.
Your guide will call you the day before your tour to go over the details of your trip. If you are on island the day before departure, your guide will set a time to meet up and give you dry bags so you can come packed and ready to go the day of your tour.
Depending on your interests and group size, some itinerary items can be ammended to give your group the best trip! Want more camp time or more paddling? Let us know! We email a pre-trip questionnaire prior to your tour to make sure we provide the best tour possible for your family.
Please note that times/activities may change due to tides and weather.
- Meet at our Roche Harbor departure location by 8:30am. Depart by van to San Juan County Park for kayak departure
- Push off from the beach at San Juan County Park by 10am
- Traverse through the proposed killer whale sancutary on the west side of San Juan Island
- Paddle to Posey Island for lunch on Washington State's smallest State Park
- Arrive to Stuart Island around 4pm
- After camp is set up, enjoy some downtime in camp, a hike, or tide-pooling. Your guide will be prepping a fresh made dinner!
- Dinner at 6:30pm
- Take an evening paddle, build a camp fire (burn bans permitting), or do a sunset hike to finish the day
Day 2 (Middle Day of 3 Day Tour)
- Start the day with a hot breakfast and french press coffee
Day paddle through a spectacular section of islands, passing along the shorelines of Stuart Island, John's Island, and the Cactus Islands, a beautiful chain of small islands located east of Stuart Island.
- Another fabulous dinner back in camp and end the day with activities or down time
Day 2/3 Final Day
- After a delicious hot breakfast and brewed coffee, pack up camp to be launching by 10am
- Cross Speiden Channel, paddling toward San Juan Island enjoying views of the channel, Speiden Island, and the Canadian Coastal Mountains
- Arrive to our docks in Roche Harbor by 2pm – do not plan off island travel prior to 4:30pm. Return time is subject to change due to tides and weather
More questions? See answers to our most Frequently Asked Questions
What our customers are saying:
The guide was OUTSTANDING - explained safety, environmentally friendly practices, and knew the wildlife and sea plants very well. We were very lucky to see the Orca whales, many seals, bald eagles, and beautiful nature settings. We could not have asked for a better kayaking experience. Thank you!