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San Juan Islands Kayaking Tours & Rentals

**2020 UPDATE: Due to the impacts and implications involved with Covid19 and THE first priority of keeping our guides, guests and community safe, San Juan Kayak Expeditions has postponed opening their kayak season until 2021.**

Shop Information

Forged from leave-no-trace ethics and a commitment to excellence, San Juan Kayak Expeditions continues to lead the industry, not in size but in quality.  They focus on providing top-notch guides, gear and customer service, and aim for small group sizes for a more personalized, intimate guest adventure experience.

San Juan Kayak Expeditions is the oldest sea kayaking outfitter in the San Juan Islands.  They specialize in sea kayaking adventures, using their many years of experience and local knowledge to guide incredible adventures around the islands. From guided three hour tours to five day expeditions, San Juan Kayak Expeditions continues to put adventurous folks like you on the water.

Tour & Rental Information

Kayak the San Juan Islands with the Island’s Original Sea Kayak Outfitter for a just a few hours to a full day or more. You will paddle with a small group using tandem fiberglass sea kayaks and top of the line gear, enjoy spending time with experienced guides and exploring a wide variety of island ecosystems.  More than four decades of experience will ensure a safe, educational and rewarding experience! No previous experience necessary, but bring an adventurous spirit!

If you wish to embark on a self-guided, multi-day or one day adventure, they also rent double sea kayaks.  With quality boats and gear, detailed, written itineraries and thorough instruction on the beach, yours will be a safe and rewarding exploration of the San Juan Islands.

Friday Harbor Kayak Tours and Rentals Duration Rate/ person
Lime Kiln Half-day Kayaking Tour 4 Hours $99
Lime Kiln Kayaking Tour 6 Hours $125
Sunset Tour in San Juan Islands 3 Hours $79
Griffin Bay Tour 3 Hours $79
Orca Quest 2 Days $399
Coastal Explorer 3 Days $599
Islands Adventurer 4 Days $769
The Ultimate 5 Days $899
Double Kayak Single Day $195
Multi-day Double Kayak Rental Per Day $125

Trail Info

Lime Kiln Half-day Kayaking Tour

This trip packs a lot into a short time! Launching from San Juan County Park into federally designated Whale Sanctuary on the west side of San Juan Island, you’ll spend a few hours paddling pristine coastline and enjoying spectacular views of the Olympic Mountain range and Vancouver Island, Canada. Besides killer whales,  keep your eyes peeled for humpback whales, minke whales, Dall’s and harbor porpoise, river otters, harbor seals, and Stellar sea lions. Bald eagles soar overhead and seabirds forage along the eddy lines.

Lime Kiln Kayaking Full Day Tours in San Juan Islands

Enjoy a scenic drive to San Juan Island’s west side and launch with the team into prime killer whale country! You will maximize your time to view wildlife such as bald eagles, river otters,porpoise and harbor seals and, if luck is on your side, orca whales! For a different perspective, you’ll take a short walk on a spectacular coastal trail and, from an elevated viewpoint, enjoy a complimentary lunch with nothing but islands and ocean as far as the eye can see!  Diverse wildlife, stunning vistas, and spectacular coastline make this an experience to cherish.

Sunset Tour

This three-hour sunset kayak tours depart daily in the late afternoon and are the perfect way to end the day! Enjoying the long shadows of the last light of day, we will paddle in uncrowded waters with seals, porpoise, otters, bald eagles and seabirds and watch spectacular alpen-glow colors paint the icy flanks of Mt. Baker! This is a special time to be on the water because no one else is. Griffin Bay is a great vantage point for views of the Olympic Mountains and the setting sun falling behind the fields and forests on San Juan Island!

Griffin Bay 3-Hour Tour

Although just one mile south of Friday Harbor, Griffin Bay is a world away from it all! This trip offers peace and quiet and superb views of glacier-covered Mt. Baker and the Olympic Mountain range. Unhindered by strong tidal currents, it is an ideal trip for families and anyone wanting to experience sea kayaking in a uniquely peaceful, beautiful environment.

You will explore picturesque Dinner Island and it’s colony of chubby resident harbor seals, then turn south toward quiet coves. You may see bald eagles, Dall’s or Harbor porpoise, river otters, mink and oodles of migratory sea birds such as scoters, harlequin ducks, loons and mergansers along with our local herons, cormorants, gulls and kingfishers! This trip moves at an easy pace and offers a chance to get away from the crowds.

2-Day Orca Quest

This super-popular overnighter covers 19 miles and traverses prime transient and southern resident orca country! The trip is planned only when tidal currents are just right to aid our journey each day, but the trip is for the fit and adventurous! After a day of paddling, kayak sailing, and hiking, you will enjoy a seaside campsite on an island accessible only by boat. After a scrumptious dinner, you will hike to a secret lookout to watch the sunset over the Canadian Gulf and Vancouver Islands. From our mossy aerie, you will be able to view feeding Dall’s and harbor porpoise and harbor seals below, while sunset colors bathe the British Columbia Coast Range in pink and purple!

On day two, continue your search for whales! The west side of Henry and San Juan Islands is prime orca habitat, as your local pods move up and down Haro Straight in search of salmon, and will spend the last afternoon paddling with eyes wide open. This trip launches from Griffin Bay to the southeast, but never looks back, because it finishes in Westcott Bay at an exclusive landing beach on the northwest tip of San Juan Island. It has an exciting, two-mile crossing into Spieden Channel with a river of current behind us and intimately explores rugged, steep coastlines and inter-tidal zones where sea stars, sea cucumbers, and urchins go about their daily lives!

3-Day Coastal Explorer Kayaking Tour to San Juan Islands

Classic Three-Day Coastal Explorer, you’ll start from San Juan Islands’ southeast side and steer north and then west exploring remote coves and beaches along the way! Keep a constant watch for orca, humpback and minke whales, as you spend a day and a half in prime whale country. Rugged coastline, an abundance of wildlife and a last-night island jewel campground reserved exclusively for San Juan Kayak Expeditions highlight this trip.

4-Day Island Adventure

This Four-Day Islands Adventurer is for those who really want to maximize their San Juan Islands experience and encounter as many local critters as absolutely possible! You’ll explore the coastlines of more than 20 islands, large and small! You’ll paddle and sail your sea kayak up to 37 miles and see shores of awe-inspiring beauty and variation! Explore the rocky cliffs of Speiden Island rising hundreds of feet out of the ocean; the warm, sandy beaches and impenetrable forest of Henry Island; the spectacular hiking and vistas of Jones and Yellow Islands and American Camp National Park.

This is an ideal expedition for kayaking with orca whales (we spend a day and a half paddling and camping in prime orca whale habitat), stellar sea lions, humpback and minke whales, porpoise, otters and other marine mammals and to observe the varied flora and fauna of the San Juan Islands.

Four days gives you time to hone your sea kayaking skills, more opportunities to experience the joy of sea kayak sailing and to really get into the rhythm of a sea kayaking expedition. You will enjoy three spectacular and unique campsites, savor scrumptious cuisine and see breathtaking colors on our sunset hikes and paddles! Bioluminescence paddles are also a great way to end a full day of adventure!

5-Day “The Ultimate”

Remote campsites, scenic vistas, wild coastlines and the chance to see every critter that lives in these parts are all a part of the package!  This trip is only for fit, adventurous people willing to accept a challenge. You must be active, muscle-toned and ready for excitement. For those who meet these criteria awaits an adventure with cozy campfires, sea glass hunting, whale watching, sea kayak sailing and scrumptious camp cuisine.  Marvelous sunset hikes and bioluminescent paddles will make this trip the highlight of your summer!

The “Ultimate!” is scheduled only when the tides are just right to aid you with favorable tidal current each day of the trip. Learning about tidal flows and observing the beauty of a moving sea adds greatly to your education and enjoyment of this unique environment. Your guides are experts at using tides whenever possible to sweep you along coastlines and make open-water crossings. Wind and/or rough seas may require prolonged paddling at times, so all participants must be fit and have a can-do attitude.

Camping at a uniquely beautiful, seaside campsite each night gives you  the chance to explore special islands. By kayak and on foot we’ll experience Jones Island, Sucia Island, Matia Island, Clark Island, Turn Island, Yellow Island and Obstruction Pass (we avoid overcrowded, damp and dark Stuart Island). In between these locations lie majestic sandstone cliffs, pristine beaches, dense coniferous forest and intertidal abundance. You’ll hike coastal and old-growth forest trails, relax in hammocks we carry along and enjoy sunset views that will astound.


Q Am I guaranteed to see orcas?

Orca whales can travel up to 100 miles per day, so while you paddle in prime orca habitat on all day and multi-day tours, the team cannot guarantee orca sightings. Because they have been leading quality kayak trips since 1980, they have a keen eye for spotting local and transient orca pods.

Q What’s the difference between you and other orca whale watching companies in the area?

San Juan Kayak Expeditions is a small, local, sea kayak outfitter that makes its home in the San Juan Islands. They are the original kayak company in the islands established in 1980. Being small allows them to maintain quality customer service, hire and train only the very best guides and continue to provide top of the line fiberglass sea kayaks and quality gear in excellent condition. Owners Sally and Tim Thomsen have been guiding trips and running the company for 40 years and are involved in every aspect of the daily operation. Tim’s extensive knowledge and experience goes into the training of each carefully chosen guide. This kind of experience, attention to detail and intimate customer service can be found nowhere else.

Q Will we be able to see other types of whales?

Yes! In addition to the local Southern Resident Killer Whales Orca pods and the transient or Biggs or transient Orca whales the San Juans are also home to minke whales and, increasingly, humpback whales. These baleen whales and can be found traversing the west side of San Juan Island, in San Juan Channel and many other locations as they hunt schools of small fish.

Q Will we be visiting the primary orca watching zones during trips?

Orca whales are constantly traveling in search of salmon (our local pods) or marine mammals (transient pods). The main salmon spawning migration path is the west side of San Juan and Henry Islands. Marine mammals such as stellar and California Sea Lions, Harbor Seals and Dall’s and Harbor porpoise are scattered throughout the islands. All of the day and multi-day kayak tours and trips spend time kayaking in these prime orca whale habitat coastlines and camping along their routes. When not on the water, you may see orca whales from shore during beach breaks or coastline hikes.

Q What should I bring?

The tour launches from the beach so shoes that can get wet is important. For day trips this can be as simple as flip flops although ideally a chaco type sandal with a heel strap or water shoes are recommended.

Shorts, leggings or light weight trekking pants and layered top. Jeans and heavy cotton are never appropriate. You will be exerting a lot of energy so preferably a non-plastic water bottle that we can refill is vital. (preferably a refillable not plastic bottle) A detailed equipment list will be sent along with a confirmation invoice upon.

Q Can I bring a camera?

By all means! You can secure your electronics in handy dry bags, and to be extra certain, place them in a ziplock bag.

Q What's the age limit?

Age limit is 8 years on the Griffin Bay three hour tours, 10 years on our Whales Ho! Half Day and Full Day Tours and 16 years on multi-day trips and sea kayak rentals. They can take 6 and 7 year old children on the Griffin Bay and Sunset trip on a case by case basis.

Q Is there a weight/height limit?

Yes. For the paddler's safety and comfort 250 lbs is the per person weight limit. Anyone taller that 6'6 may be uncomfortable on longer trips.

Q Do I need a car?

No. Leave your car parked in Anacortes ferry terminal and save time and money! You meet the guides at their outdoor kiosk conveniently located just two blocks from the ferry. San Juan Kayak Expeditions provides the transportation to and from the launch site.

Q How long do the trips take?

Trips run from 3 hours to 5 days with lots of other options in between. Griffin Bay and Sunset tours are three hours; Lime Kiln 1/2 Day Tour is four hours and Lime Kiln Full Day Tour runs six hours. These times are from pick up at the Sea Kayak Center Kiosk in Friday Harbor to return.

Q Is there a bathroom?

Bathrooms are available in Friday Harbor and at all day trip launching and landing sites. Multi-day adventures have composting toilets at all campsites.

Q How close to the orcas can we get?

Though SJKE follows all whale watching regulations, it is possible to encounter orca whales at very close range. Regulations require that a kayak group raft up, move into the kelp beds on shore and not approach within 300 yards. Once out of their way, orca pods or individuals often come near us either in search of food or out of curiosity. Past kayak tours have witnessed orcas spy-hopping, hunting, traveling, playing or sleeping from a half mile to within a few yards.


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