Frequently Asked Questions
Planning Your Whale Watching and Wildlife Tour
How long are your tours?
We offer tours of varying lengths to suit your desired experience, ranging from 3 hours to half day tours to full day (6-8 hour) experiences. Private charters are also available and can be tailored to your unique interests and itinerary.
What is the cost of your tours?
Our rates include all fees except sales tax. We also include a conservation contribution we make on your behalf.
Our tour rates vary based on the different experiences we offer. Whether you’re joining us for a three hour tour ($149), a half-day tour ($199) or an epic all day adventure ($299), we look forward to sharing this unique and special place with you.
How do I make a reservation?
We offer several convenient ways for you to reserve your whale watching tour. You can reserve seats directly on our online reservation system. If you prefer to speak with us directly, or would like to reserve a private charter, you can call us at 360-378-7996 or you can email us. Please note that we likely have additional seats and other departure times available beyond what is shown on the online booking page. Please phone us or email at any time of day or night. We are always happy to accommodate your itinerary and requests however possible.
What is the best time of year to see whales?
The waters around the San Juan Islands are full of wildlife year-round and we see whales every month of the year. While we may not see whales every day, we have a chance of finding them every time we leave the dock, year-round. Killer whales (orcas) travel in and out of our area on a constant, yet unpredictable, basis throughout the entire year and are seen more frequently between April – October. Humpback and Minke whales are seen more frequently between April – December. Each day is a different adventure and we are grateful to have such an abundance of interesting wildlife to see on our tours.
If you are hoping to see one specific species while you are here, we recommend coming at a time of year we are most likely to see it and that you strongly consider booking more than one tour. Not only will this increase your likelihood of seeing your favored animal, it will also give you an opportunity to see a wider variety of behavior from them. No two tours are the same. It’s truly different every day and even from tour to tour over the course of the same day. We have many guests who book multiple tours during their stay, seeing different animals and areas each time they are on the water.
Is there a better time of day to see whales?
Whales and other wildlife in our area do not pattern their geographic location or behavior based on time of day. Their location and behavior is dynamic, changing throughout the day, so each tour is a new adventure, unique from the tour before and the tour after. Any time of day is a great time to be on the water looking for whales. Choose the tour time that works best for you!
How do I get to San Juan Island?
There are several ways to get here from Seattle, Vancouver, Victoria and the surrounding areas. Each of them are a beautiful adventure in their own right.
The most economical way to get here is on the Washington State ferry. The ferry departs from Anacortes, which is about a two hour drive north of Seattle and about two hours south of Vancouver. The ferry is a beautiful one hour ride through the San Juan Islands. You can drive your car onto the ferry or walk on.
If you are just coming to San Juan Island for the day, we highly recommend that you leave your car at the ferry terminal in Anacortes and walk onto the ferry. The ferry lands in downtown Friday Harbor and our tour departure location and all of the amenities in the town of Friday Harbor are walkable from the ferry landing. If you are bringing your car on the ferry we strongly encourage making a vehicle reservation. Walk-on passengers do not need a reservation.
There is also a seasonal passenger only ferry that departs from downtown Seattle. This is the San Juan Clipper and departs at 8:15 AM and arrives in downtown Friday Harbor at 12:00 PM. The Clipper then departs Friday Harbor at 5:15 PM and arrives back in Seattle at 8:00 PM. This is also a beautiful way to get here. The San Juan Clipper operates Friday – Sunday from late April – early October (Friday – Monday late May – early September). This option gives you a window to have lunch or wander around town before joining your tour with us. This service can be used for overnight stays as well.
The fastest way to get here is on a commuter plane or float plane with a company like Friday Harbor Sea Planes, which offer one way and round trip flights to Friday Harbor. It is a quick, gorgeous 25-30 minute flight up through Puget Sound and the islands.
Flights are also available from other mainland and Vancouver Island locations by regional operators such as Kenmore Air, San Juan Airlines, Westwind Aviation and Rite Bros.
Feel free to ask us if you have questions about the best way to get here from where you are starting your journey.
What is the difference between your two departure locations?
Our tours depart from two convenient locations: downtown Friday Harbor, within walking distance from the ferry landing and Snug Harbor Resort marina on the west side of the island. Both locations are excellent for their geographic range and proximity to whale and wildlife hot spots.
Feel free to ask us if you aren’t sure which location would be most convenient for you. We are always happy to help.
Are your tours appropriate for young children?
All children are different and you know your child best when it comes to their comfort levels and tolerance for certain activities. We have enjoyed hosting children of all ages on our tours and leave it to you to decide if this is an appropriate activity for your child. In our experience, our evening tours are often best suited to guests age 12 and older. In making your decision, we ask that you please consider the other guests onboard and the quality of their experience as well.
Preparing For Your Whale Watching and Wildlife Tour
What will the weather be like?
Weather is typically mild in the San Juan Islands, with an average of 247 days of sunshine and about half the rain of Seattle. Being in the Pacific Northwest, the weather can change over the course of the day. We recommend being prepared for a range of conditions – always dress in layers and bring a jacket along just in case.
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What if I need to cancel?
Please let us know ASAP if you need to change your plans. We will do everything we can to resell your seats, but in the event we cannot, we reserve the right to charge fares for cancellations made within 72 hours of your tour. Thank you in advance for your understanding. We look forward to seeing you soon and to sharing the very best of the San Juan Islands!
What should I wear?
It is always cooler on the water, even when it feels warm on shore, and especially in the late afternoon and evening. In the Pacific Northwest, we believe in layers! Even for summer adventures, bring layering options such as a sweatshirt, jacket and long pants. For evening tours you will want to bring that extra layer. For Spring, Fall and Winter tours, bring heavier layers; a heavier warm jacket, hat, gloves and close-toed shoes. You will be more comfortable having too many layers than not enough.
With an average of 247 days of sunshine, we always recommend that you bring sunglasses.
What should I bring?
In addition to your sunglasses, we suggest you bring your camera, sunscreen, water and a hat. To enhance your experience, we have quality binoculars for your use. You are welcome to bring a backpack, snacks and additional items you may wish to bring along.
What if it rains?
We go out rain or shine, but our tours are weather dependent. We do not go out in excessively heavy rain, big seas or thick fog. We are inland from the Pacific coast and in a rain shadow, so we rarely need to cancel tours. In the event it does rain during your tour, our boat has an enclosed cabin with indoor seating and wrap around windows for viewing.
Do people often get seasick?
The waters around the San Juan Islands are inland and protected from the ocean swells of the open Pacific. And with hundreds of islands in the San Juans and Canadian Gulf Islands, we are in sight of land throughout our tour. Because of these two factors, sea sickness is generally not an issue. If you are especially prone to motion sickness, we recommend taking your preferred remedy prior to your tour. In the event someone needs a little extra support, we also carry ginger candy, ginger tablets and sea-band acupressure bracelets onboard.
Is there a bathroom on board?
Yes! Each of our boats has a head, or marine bathroom, for your convenience.
How many people will be on my tour?
All of our whale watching & wildlife tours are small group experiences. You will never be more than one of 16 guests and depending on the time of year, tours typically range between 12 – 16 guests at a time. If you are looking for something even more intimate and personalized we are happy to customize a private charter just for your group.
Other Frequently Asked Questions
What if I'm just coming to see orca whales?
Our tours take a whole ecosystem approach in hopes of sharing as much insight about this entire, special place as possible. With such a dynamic environment and marine life that is in motion 24 hours a day, every tour is special and different from the previous tour and from the next.
We acknowledge and appreciate that most of our guests invest substantial time, effort and money in getting to San Juan Island and onto one of our tours. We go the distance and do everything we can to get you to whales. We prioritize your seeing whales over our personal time, dinner dates, fuel burn or our expenses.
If you are hoping to see one specific species while you are here, we recommend coming at a time of year we are most likely to see it and that you consider booking more than one tour. In the case of orca whales, consider coming from late spring through early fall. Not only will this increase your likelihood of seeing your favored animal, it will also give you an opportunity to see a wider variety of behavior from them. No two tours are the same. It’s truly different every day and even from tour to tour over the course of the same day. We have many guests who book multiple tours during their stay, seeing different animals and areas each time they are on the water.
Who is Maya?
The “Maya” portion of our name is an acknowledgement of the mentor, educator and gifted storyteller well-known for his years of adventures among the San Juan Islands, Capt. Jim Maya. Learn more about our staff and crew.