Whale Watching Cruises from Friday Harbor (San Juan Island), Washington: A Guide

If there is a capital of whale watching in Washington, it is definitely Friday Harbor on San Juan Island, which has almost as many whale watching outfits as the entire state of Washington combined, despite the fact that the small island town’s population is only about 2,000. There are, in fact, an overwhelming number of whale watching cruises that leave from Friday Harbor. It is difficult to even determine which companies offer them, and this is to say nothing of the process of selecting a particular whale watching cruise. To give you some orientation as you navigate your way through the plethora of options, we have compiled the following guide to whale watching cruises from Friday Island. We have, as far as we can tell, tracked down every company that offers whale watching cruises on Friday Harbor, allowing you to work from this list as you determine the right cruise for you.

We should begin by saying that it makes a certain amount of sense that there are so many whale watching outfits located in Friday Harbor. The town is located right in the heart of the San Juan Islands, which is one of the premier whale watching destinations in the world because of the relatively high concentration of killer whales that live among the islands. On whale watching cruises in most other parts of the country, killer whales are rarely spotted, but in the San Juan Islands, they are the main event, although other whales are sometimes spotted, as are other forms of marine life (seals, dolphins, sea lions, and so on). Why Friday Harbor has such a disproportionate number of whale watching companies is still unclear – Orcas Island, also of the San Juan Islands, is equally well-positioned, and it only has three outfits, and there are several coastal towns that are near the killer whale waters that only have one or two companies – but it does have a disproportionate number, and that is really all that matters for our purposes.

And because there are so many different whale watching companies, it is impractical to mention them in any form but a list, so below we merely supply the name of each company, which links to its website:

San Juan Safaris
Western Prince Whale & Wildlife Tours
San Juan Excursions
Maya’s Westside Whale Watch Charters
San Juan Outfitters
San Juan Island Whale & Wildlife Tours
Friday Harbor Cruises
San Juan Classic Day Sailing
Legacy Charters
Captain Carli’s Whale Watching

We can’t guarantee that this is an exhaustive list, but our research suggests that these are all the companies that offer dedicated whale watching cruises from Friday Island specifically. We have excluded companies that stop by Friday Harbor as part of larger whale watching cruises, like Puget Sound Express, which departs from and returns to Port Townsend. We also haven’t included any of the exclusively kayaking companies that operate out of Friday Harbor because even though you can see whales while kayaking, these aren’t really whale watching cruises per se.

As you can see, there are a lot of whale watching cruises that depart from Friday Harbor. There are almost too many, as it is difficult to figure out which company to book with. However, you might take some comfort in the fact that virtually all of these outfits are operating extremely similar cruises – they are all tours that sail the same waters looking for the same whales and marine life. Moreover, while the prices may vary a bit from company to company, they will be fairly similar; from what we’ve gathered, the average adult ticket price for a 3-4 hour cruise is about $90. So, if you simply select whatever cruise is easiest for you to take, you’ll most likely be getting a deal that is comparable to what any other company would offer, and the on board experience will be similar.

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