Whale Watching at Orcas Island, Washington

Whale Watching at Orcas Island, Washington

During my trip to #Washington, my #family and I took the opportunity to get up close to one of #nature's greatest animals: orcas. Whale watching is a truly #aspirational experience. This time we were lucky and saw a baby orca and saw one jump out of the water! It was a magical day.


Although Washington is known for cold and rainy weather, the nature and outdoor adventure in this Pacific Northwest state is incomparable.

What most people don’t realize is that this type of climate is perfect for temperate rain forests to flourish and wildlife that thrives in cold waters.

For these reasons, nature and animal lovers from all around the world make it a point to visit Washington so they can get a taste of the Pacific Northwest wonders.

Though many travelers make Seattle their home base for their Washington trip, those who want a vacation geared towards the great outdoors will want to head to the San Juan Islands, an archipelago in the northwest corner of the state sitting between the continental US and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.

On these islands, visitors can experience everything the Pacific Northwest is known for: mountains, forests, rivers, hiking, waterfalls and the most impressive animal roaming these waters, the Southern resident killer whales.

Orca Whales in the San Juan Islands

A little bit about the Southern resident killer whales

Killer whale in the wild
Killer whale in the wild

Residing off the coasts of Oregon, Washington and Vancouver Island, this clan (J) consists of three pods (J,K and L) and are commonly referred to as “fish-eating” or the “SRKW” population. This population is the only one listed as endangered and have been studied by biologists for years to learn more about their behavior, diet (preferably Chinook salmon) and lifestyle. All the orcas have been documented and recognized by the markings on their dorsal fins.

About 85 whales make up the population so every new baby whale calls for a celebration and is closely monitored for the first year of its life. This population connects within one another through a matrilineal system that can have anywhere from one to five generations.

every new baby whale calls for a celebration

Whale Watching at Orcas Islands

Whale watching requires patience!
Whale watching requires patience!

As orca whales play such an important role in these waters and are the most beloved animals in the islands, whale watching has become one of the main reasons why visitors come to this little part of the country.

orca whales play such an important role in these waters

Yeison, my family and I camped on one of the San Juan Islands for three days with hopes of seeing orcas. Going with a whale watching company is the best guarantee so we signed up with one to go whale watching at Orcas Island. Last time I went in college we saw a couple orcas far away so I had high hopes that this time we’d see more!

from  $89

Whale Watching Tour in Orcas Island

Aspirational
 Orcas Island, San Juan County, WA, United States
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And boy we sure did. Not only did we see them but we saw a male and female mating, a baby and one jump. It was a wild, exciting and thrilling day, one that we will never forget.

We got lucky!
We got lucky!
Spotting orcas
Spotting orcas
An orca breaching the surfae
An orca breaching the surfae

Companies for Whale Watching

We went with Deer Harbor Charters but there are a few on Orcas Island you can also go with such as Orcas Island Whale Watching Tours or Orcas Island Eclipse Charters. You don’t necessarily need to book tours beforehand unless you’re only on the island for a day or you’re there in peak season (June-August), then I’d reserve a spot ahead just in case.

We went end of August and were able to book a tour for the next day at the stand in front of Brown Bear Baking. They had tours running morning and afternoon in different locations.

Tips for Whale Watching at Orcas Island

Take anti-nausea medicine if you get sea sick. It was a bit choppy when we were out and I started feeling pretty sea sick at one point

Orcas can be seen all year long but best times are late May through mid October

Bring a camera with a good zoom lens, boats aren’t allowed to come closer than 200 yards

Bring a jacket, once the boat gets out in the water, even during summer it got cold.

Orcas can be seen all year long but best times are late May through mid October

There are lots of other wildlife to see such as bald eagles, other birds, seals and other whales so keep your eyes open!

Most companies have a naturalist or two on board so try to learn as much about the orcas as you can from them

Price: around $80-90 depending on the season and company.

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