San Juan Islands Kayaking Tour

I had a blast doing the sunset kayaking tour in the San Juan Islands with some friends during a bachelorette weekend. Read about my experience and book your next tour.

A woman kayaing in San Juan Islands. She is in a tandem kayak with a man and there are 4 other people in tandem kayaks around her.

A few years ago, I was up in Washington’s San Juan Islands for a bachelorette party, and we wanted to do something a little more adventurous than brunch and champagne (not that we didn’t want that too 🙂 ).

The San Juan Islands are known for amazing marine life and a rugged green coastline, and one of the best ways to explore this part of the Pacific Northwest is by kayak. The local Friday Harbor company San Juan Kayak Expeditions offers a sunset kayaking tour, and that seemed like the perfect fit for the group of girls I was with.

We had a blast touring Griffin Bay and watching the sun dip down over the horizon from our kayaks. It was the perfect outing for our bachelorette group and I recommend this tour to anyone visiting San Juan Island who wants to get out on the water. In this post, I share the details of my San Juan Island sunset kayaking tour and include a few other paddling options (like looking for whales!!) available for those visiting San Juan Island.

Watch my video of my San Juan Islands sunset tour

Sunset Paddle Tour Details

San Juan Kayak Expeditions has a kiosk about two blocks from the ferry terminal in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. We arrived around 5:45 pm for our sunset kayaking tour and were greeted by our guide, Brandon. He gave us the scoop on what we’d be doing, we loaded into the van and then drove about 5 minutes down to the beach where we’d be launching.

We all helped with unloading the kayaks and then Brandon gave us some basic instructions before hitting the water. He also gave each of us a dry bag, spray skirt, life jacket, and therm-a-rest seat cushion which made the kayaks way more comfortable than most boats I’ve paddled in.

Planning your sunset paddle tour

Our guide Brandon gave us some quick paddling tips before we set off on our tour
Not your typical bachelorette weekend activity, but we had a blast!

From the beach, we paddled up the coastline, which was dotted with cute homes and Washington’s evergreen trees. It was Brandon’s first season guiding with San Juan Kayak Expeditions, but he was full of interesting tidbits about the area including the history of the nearby National Historic Park and the diverse marine life that the San Juan Islands are known for.

The pace of our sunset kayaking tour was pretty mellow – just how we wanted it. We cruised up the coast for over an hour. Brandon never rushed us and did a great job corralling our group while still giving us the freedom to explore as we pleased.

It had been raining earlier in the day, so we weren’t sure if we were going to get a sunset or not. As we turned around and faced west, however, there was just enough break in the clouds to give us that color that we were hoping for. We circled an offshore island and then slowly made our way back to our launch point, taking in the beautiful scenery along the way.

Even though it rained earlier in the day, we got a really nice sunset

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Other Kayaking Tour Options

We chose the sunset tour because we wanted something mellow where we could enjoy each other’s company. For the group of girls I was with, we definitely made the right choice.

If you are looking for something more adventurous, though, with the chance to see some whales (how epic would that be?), San Juan Kayak Expeditions offers a bunch of other trips including full and half-day Lime Kiln tours in the San Juan Islands Federally Designated Whale Sanctuary. If you want the best chance to encounter some exciting marine life, consider this option!

They also offer multi-day paddling trips, which I think would be an awesome way to explore and get off the beaten path in the San Juan Islands. (**Note – prime whale season is late May through early September).

If you’d rather not do a guided tour and want to paddle on your own, San Juan Kayak Expeditions also offers kayak rentals.

Frequently Asked Questions

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What should I wear on my kayak tour?

The San Juan Islands are known for cool temps and rainy weather (even in the summer), so be sure to pack layers, including a rain jacket. For the sunset tour, I also suggest bringing a beanie and maybe even a light pair of gloves (once the sun goes down, it gets cold pretty fast).

For footwear, you’ll want to wear shoes or sandals that you can get wet since your feet will probably be in the water as you get in and out of the kayaks. I’m a big fan of my Tevas for all water-related sports.

Do I need to have kayaking experience?

If you sign up for the sunset tour, you don’t need any kayaking experience. It’s a pretty mellow paddle and you’ll only be out on the water for a few hours. If you want to do one of their full-day tours, I definitely recommend having some paddling experience.

When is the best time to do a San Juan Islands kayaking tour?

San Juan Kayaking Expeditions runs kayaking tours daily from May through September. The PNW is known for rainy weather, but typically June, July, and August are the best months for sunshine and warm temps.

Where can I book a tour?

You can book your kayaking tour on the San Juan Kayaking Expeditions website.

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Have you kayaked in the San Juan Islands? What was your trip like? Did you see whales? Leave a comment below!

Thanks to San Juan Kayak Expeditions for hosting us. As always, all opinions and words are my own.

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5 Comments

  1. Oh this is on the list for when I visit out west! One (maybe) silly question: you say you brought your mirrorless camera. Were you just confident that you wouldn’t tip over at all or did you protect it in some sort of housing? Ha! I ask because I just got back from a cruise where I did some kayaking but I was terrified to bring it in the water. Sure missed out on some great pictures though!

  2. Loved the pictures ! I have had a really hard time to figure out what shoes to wear on such expeditions. Are there any shoes you recommend other than tevas ?

    1. Hey Mike! Thanks for reaching out. I recommend Keen water sandals as well. They are durable and hold up well trip after trip.

  3. Paddling the San Juans/Orcas Islands is highly recommended. If you opt to overnight camp I would strongly suggest a paddle guide. Besides not having to worry about reading tide maps (they specifically can route guide to avoid paddling against tides) the San Juans sit right in the middle of the Vancouver/Seattle shipping lanes and so you must cross among the traffic which can seem quite daunting given the size of the ships. There are bioluminescent lifeforms and guides will take you on night paddles to see (fyi, try to target new moon). All islands have campsites so you don’t have to worry about finding locations or potable water. Also, the great thing about sea kayaking is you don’t have to scrimp on food cargo space in tandem kayaks the storage is spacious allowing for grilling options. Finally, while not guaranteed if you multi-day these islands you highly likely will see either Transients or Resident Orcas…..it’s worth the effort.