San Juan Kayak Tours

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Kayak San Juan Island

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UPDATES: July has been great for orca encounters. Our latest encounters have been amazing. Check out our Facebook page for the most recent updates, videos and photos.

Discovery Sea Kayaks has been setting the bar for quality kayak tours on San Juan TripAdvisorIsland for the past 15 years. The foundation of our kayak tours starts with our staff. We are a small group of experienced kayakers with a diverse background in biology, history and outdoor education. We bring modern techniques and safety standards to our waters that some companies have yet to adopt. You will not find images of kayakers without life vest on our site.

Each kayak tour is operated with an emphasis on adventure and education. Guides continually update their knowledge of regional wildlife to provide the most recent understanding of the Salish Sea ecosystem and the Southern Resident Killer Whale population. Traveling in small groups with no more than 8 guests per tour ensures that guides can easily communicate and share their Kayaking with whales knowledge with each paddler.

Fabulous Kayak – Superior service!

“We did the half day kayak with Jason who is extremely knowledgable about the waters, plants, birds, fish and everything happening on the island. He pointed out bald eagles and their nests; jellies in the waters, a river otter launching from shore. Just a fabulous morning on the water.”  -TripAdvisor Review

kayak san juan island Choose from a selection of our most popular kayak tours operating from the west side of San Juan Island. Our Full Day and Half Day Kayak Tours routes travel within the Orca Sanctuary, providing the best opportunities for whale watching. Sunset Kayak Tours are a great option for those seeking an evening kayak experience and witness a beautiful island sunset.

For the more adventurous traveller, our Multi Day Kayak Tours offer the opportunity to camp on smaller isolated islands. Customized kayak routes are designed for exploration and wildlife encounters. These routes travel through the Orca Sanctuary on the west side of San Juan Island.417262_436104519765422_2117595000_n

A unique kayak tour we offer only certain times of the summer and in limited numbers is the Bioluminescence Kayak Tour. We select the best dates of the summer and only take 1 trip of 8 guests on the evenings we offer the tour. This is truly an amazing San Juan Island kayak tour experience. Your guide will lead you through the dark to the best areas to see natures light show.

“My girlfriend and I did a bio-luminescence tour at night then a full day tour the next. Our guide, Jason, was extremely knowledgeable about all natural aspects and history of almost everything we asked. It was s slow orca season so we didn’t see any of those but I still learned so much about the islands and other wildlife during the trips. The bio-luminescence tour was a very special trip that is something so unexpected and cool. Highly recommended!” -TripAdvisor Review

National Geographic Adventure selected Discovery Sea Kayaks as one of the best travel companies on earth for 2008 and 2009, both years the award was offered. Selected based on interviews with guests and history of excellent service.

Recognized by TripAdvisor with Certificate of Excellence Awards 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016.

 

Why Choose Discovery

Our Routes

We select routes that enhance the opportunity to encounter as much wildlife as possible. Our Half Day, Full Day and Sunset Kayak Tours paddle an area know an the Orca Sanctuary. The name was give to the region when the Federal Government recognized the area as the most important feeding area for Southern Resident Killers. We spend the entire time in the sanctuary, as our launch beach is located right in the middle of this area.

Many guests select kayak tours based on whale watching potential but the west side route delivers more than kayakingRoutes for whale watching with whales. The shoreline is more than stunning with high cliffs topped with fir and madrone trees. Bald Eagles nesting in the tops of firs along the route provide plenty of entertainment as their nestlings take their first flights. Harbor Seals haul out to lay in the warm sun on the low water rocky outcrops. Sea birds dive off cliffs and plunge into the water chasing fish. River otters travel the shoreline in the early mornings and sunset in search of fish, clams and urchin.

Multi Day Kayak Tour routes are custom designed by each guide. When guides are assigned an overnight kayak tour they start planning every aspect from tides, weather and routes. Routes are selected to blend whale watching and exploration.

Each day on the water is as different as the next. From changing winds and tides to rare encounters with elephant seals and humpback whales. Kayaking San Juan Island is a true adventure.

Best Value

We offer kayak tours at the best value you will find. Guests on all of our Half Day, Full Day and Sunset Kayak tours are provided comfortable life vests and complimentary dry bags and waterproof rain jackets and pants upon request.

Our Multi Day Kayak Tours provide guests with the most comprehensive set of equipment on island so you can expect 11722120_10100424170480788_6183871357688350450_omore and travel with less. We have you covered from Therm-a-Rest sleeping pads, camp pillows, and dry bags to bombproof tents. All meals are provided (breakfast, lunch and dinner). Meals are prepared with fresh foods and are catered to everyones’ dietary needs and restrictions.

We operate out of a downtown brick and mortar shop. Have peace of mind when you arrive on the island that you are in the right location. All of our kayak tours depart from our shop in the heart of Friday Harbor.  Friendly shop staff will get you checked-in and will cover all necessary information before your tour. Company owners are always on hand to answer any questions. When guides arrive, relax and take a moment to meet your group and guide. All trips will arrive back at the shop at the end of the tour.

We have the best looking fleet of tandem kayaks on the island. Our kayaks are amazingly stable and easy to control. Current Designs fiberglass two person kayaks are comfortable for long and short days on the water. They have supportive back rests, comfortable seating, and are confident in all sea conditions. All kayaks are inspected and meticulously maintained.

Awesome kayak trip

“Had a great time with my buddies on this 3 day, 2 night kayak trip. Our guide, Chad, was awesome – really knowledgable and fun. Food was really good and the kayaking was great. The islands are amazing and the campsites were beautiful. Highly recommend this trip!!”    -TripAdvisor Review

Our Staff

The biggest asset on any kayak tour is your kayak guide. Weather dealing with high winds and currents or learning about orcas and the Salish Sea ecosystem we guarantee you are in the most capable hands.

First and foremost our staff is made up of paddlers. We paddle for fun and we paddle for work. Kayaking is a fundamental part of our lives.

We select guides that are in the outdoor industry as a career not as a summer job. Many of our staff members guide in kayak guide trainingother parts of the world during San Juan Island’s off-season. This allows them to gain more experience and grow as professionals.

We have always set the bar in skill and safety amongst the San Juan Island kayak community. All guides wear dry suits to ensure they are capable of performing in any condition in our cold water environment. Guide are equipped with the latest safety equipment from VHF radios to fully-stocked first-aid kits. A well prepared guide will prove priceless in every situation.

We love training so much that we require all staff, new and old, to complete training every season. Not only does this allow us to learn new techniques, it bounds our staff as a team. Completing training is no easy task. Early mornings practicing rescue techniques in cold water and spending hours being tested in various rescue scenarios is not for the faint of heart. Long days and hard work make us the best when it comes to leading kayak tours.

photo-141-300x225Not all training has do with kayaking. All staff members spend time learning all the new information about the Salish Sea wildlife and ecosystem. We live in a dynamic zone with a high range of wildlife. With our ever changing world and evolution of knowledge, we learn more every year about San Juan Islands’ marine environment and changes in marine wildlife. As Naturalists we love to share our knowledge of the San Juan’s with everyone. Learn about changes in the Southern Resident Orca populations, current topics on salmon recovery, the island’s rich and diverse history, and more.

As you can see, becoming a sea kayak guide with Discovery Sea Kayaks takes time and dedication. We guarantee you will notice the difference when join us for your San Juan Island kayak tour.

Adventure Options

Discovery Sea Kayaks can take care of all your San Juan Island adventure needs. We are a two part company with 12417507_1004060766307714_5527145895604470324_nDiscovery Sea Kayaks focusing on water actives and Discovery Adventure Tours specializing in land based activities. With our brick and mortar downtown location we are easily accessible and can help plan your island adventure vacation. We offer a wide range of outdoor activities from kayaking tours to hiking tours.

We offer San Juan Island Kayaking Tours to some of the best whale watching areas in the United States. Encounter killer whales in the wild as they should be seen. Place yourself at the water level for the most amazing wildlife experience. We have a kayak tour to fit every schedule and skill level.

10653610_10202892254287994_5741101649601947985_nBiking San Juan Island is one of the best ways to see the island. We offer the best bike rentals on San Juan Island at some of the best rates in town. Our Felt Hybrid 24 speed bikes are perfect for cruising around the island or around town. Rent our performance road bikes for a more sporty option. If you are interested in cycling San Juan Island but want to take more time along the way to visit island attractions, then the Felt Electric Assist Bikes are the best option. Rent a bike by the hour, the day or multiple days. Our shop in the heart of Friday Harbor makes the rental process simple and easy. Please visit our bike rental page for more information. San Juan Bike Rentals

Take a walk through time and nature. Our new San Juan Island Hiking 01-340Tours offer a truly special experience. Hiking Tours are guided by published local historian and retired National Park Ranger Mike Vouri. Learn about the unique island history while hiking some of the most beautiful areas on the island. The hikes offer plentiful wildlife from island fox to bald eagles. Learn more about our island hiking tours at the following link. Hiking Tours San Juan Island

With our local connections and reputation as the best kayak outfitter on San Juan Island we are able to extend discounted rates on Whale Watching Tours and Zip Line Tours to our guests. We work closely with the best whale watching operator on San Juan, Western Prince Cruises. Simply reserving a kayak tour with Discovery will provide a 10% discount towards your reservation with Western Prince. We have the same working arrangement with San Juan Island Zip Tours. Joining our San Juan Island kayak tours will grant you 10% off your zip line tour.

For additional information on current specials and deal we are running please visit Packages and Specials or visit our Facebook page for up to date pictures and kayak tour information.

Whale Watching San Juan Island Guidelines

Whale watching is one of the main attractions on San Juan Island. Visitors can choose to visit the Lime Kiln State Park and chance an encounter from shore, purchase tickets for a whale watch cruise departing from downtown Friday Harbor or reserve a kayak tour and head to the west side of San Juan Island for a day on the water.

Many visitors to the island are not aware that the Southern Resident Killer Whales are listed on the Endangered Species List and have been since 2005. There are many laws and guidelines that govern how we behave around the animals.

We follow strict best practices guidelines around all animals and as a member of the San Juan Island Kayak Association we strive to set the best example while on the water.

The following are the best practices in the presence of killer whales:123_diagram

  1. Maintain a distance of 200 yards from the side of the animals. To adhere to this guideline we follow a specific set of procedures to minimize our impact on the whales. If whales are in the area we will paddle near shore and observe their travel behavior. If the animals approach to within 200 yards of the shore we will stop paddling and raft our kayaks side by side in an appropriate area. At this point whales may approach and pass extremely close to our kayaks. Our goal at this point is to stay put and let the animals clear the area.
  2. If we are paddling off shore and notice the whales approaching directly in front of us (the travel path). We will move inshore before we are within a 400 yard distance of the animals. We want to maneuver to avoid being in the travel path of the whales. This can be tricky at times so pay attention to your guides, as they are experienced in working around the whales.
  3. If we are on the shore preparing to launch or having lunch, we will not leave the shore if the whales are traveling near shore. We can easily have a great experience viewing them from the beach.

This is a short list of protocols we follow to minimize our disturbance to the whales.  It is important to note that all vessels whether under motor, wind or human power have to abide by the 200 yard and 400 yard rules.

IMGP0110For a detailed list of guidelines, laws and fines please visit the Be Whale Wise website.

In many ways kayaking can be one of the best ways to experience killer whales. All guides are trained naturalists and have extensive knowledge about killer whales. By traveling by kayak in small groups we are able to be in better positions than larger groups to see the whales when they make a pass. Kayaks are a minimal impact way enjoy the marine environment; sitting close to the water provides an unparalleled experience around the whales.

Discovery Sea Kayaks is a member of the San Juan Island Kayak Association (SJIKA). The association works hand in hand with NOAA and The Whale Museum to develop the best practice guidelines for commercial kayak tour operators on San Juan Island. We hold ourselves to the highest operating standards to provide the best kayak tour with minimal impacts or disturbances to wildlife.

Southern Resident Killer Whales are under survival pressure and we ask all visitors to respect the laws and guidelines in place to help protect them.

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Discovery Sea Kayaks Sunset Tour

Let's Connect

Beautiful day yesterday. We saw orcas on the morning half day tour. #discoveryseakayaks #sanjuanislands ...

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August is around the corner and we are gearing up for a busy month. We only have a few dates left in August for our 3 Day Kayak Tours, August 19th and 26 are still open for reservations. August 9th and 23rd are still open for our 2 Day Kayak Adventure. We only have one 5 Day in August with room open, August 1st. Call or reserve online. ...

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Nice sunset image from our 3 Day Kayak Tour over the weekend. #sunsets #sanjuanisland #discoveryseakayaks ...

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I know we have been posting a lot of images and video of orcas lately. But that is a good thing from our perspective. Its been great having the big guys around so much this month and we enjoy every moment on the water with them. #discoveryseakayaks #whalewatching #sanjuanisland ...

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Testimonials

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Absolutely FANTASTIC! We had it all, Orcas, Eagles, everything! Thanks so much!

Jennifer

We had a great time kayaking with Discovery, the staff and guides were amazing. We saw the most wonderful views and eagles, seals, and orcas. Everything was done safely and respectively. Thanks Discovery!

Allison

AMAZING TRIP! The islands are gorgeous, wildlife and scenery were awesome. What really made the trip were our guides. A wonderful experience and would not hesitate to recommend this trip or comeback. Thanks for a great week

"I CAME BACK" I went on a 3-day kayak tour around the San Juan Islands in 2010, and loved it so much I convinced a pair of friends to come back with me in 2011. Both times, we did it early in the season, so our group consisted of 4 clients and two guides (one in training). The trainees were already pretty fantastic, but their trainer (and owner of DSK), Jason, is just plain awesome.

Luara

"BEST THING I'VE EVER DONE" Wow, a friend and I went on a full day kayaking trip yesterday and it was the most spectacular thing I've ever done! We hadn't gotten more than 5 or so minutes out of the little harbor where we launched when we started seeing Orcas, and they kept coming and coming!

MEG

"ONE OF OUR SUMMER HIGHLIGHTS" My husband and I took a 5 day trip and circumnavigated Orcas. The equipment was great, the scenery even better and our guide Brooke made the trip unforgettable. The entire experience was fantastic

Carol

We have been on numerous kayak trips in the past and this one surpassed them all. We found Discovery Sea Kayaks to be fabulous to work with during the planning stage. We appreciated the excellent equipment (the kayaks are really nice fiberglass ones) and the attention to safety (constant GPS going back to the home base and guide wears a dry suit).

On the west side of the island, Paul guided us to one of the most beautiful places we've ever been. As we paddled, he showed us jellyfish, sea stars, kelp beds, nesting bald eages, seals, Dahl dophins and the majestic Orcas. It was breathtaking to see a pod of Orcas