While whale watching is most definitely the main attraction when visiting the San Juan Islands, it is also worthwhile to board a day-cruise and explore the three major islands: San Juan, Lopez, and Orcas, all of which present interesting, fun-filled activities that everyone in the family can enjoy.
San Juan Island cruises usually focus on these three islands from among all the other smaller islands and tout the greatest personalities and cultural opportunities. It doesn’t hurt that these are the most accommodating and widely known tourist spots in the San Juans.
San Juan Island
Probably the most culturally and geographically diverse of the three islands, San Juan boasts a topography featuring a curious mix of quiet valleys and popular resorts, complemented by famous art galleries, historical museums, and mouth-watering restaurants with views to die for.
Here, you’ll find the regionally renowned Friday Harbor, the location of the well-known Whale Museum and San Juan Historical Museum. This is also where you will find the main offices of tour companies, including the very popular Schooners North, offering overnight excursions under sail.
If you are fully satisfied the aquatic wildlife viewed during your daytime cruise, you might want to take a land-bound detour by visiting San Juan Island National Park, where seasonal exhibits and historical buildings await you.
Lastly, if all you want to do is unwind and relax, take a stroll through San Juan Vineyards to taste some of the best wines in the region. Then, cap it all off with a visit to Roche Harbor for a relaxing spa treatment. End the day by returning to Friday Harbor for a gourmet meal at the Cask & Schooner Restaurant.
Contrary to popular belief, the island is not named after the whales that are frequently seen around the area, but rather its horseshoe or crescent shape. Being the largest of all the islands, it presents the most beautiful sea vista you will ever see.
Orcas Village is home to the most talented potters in the country. Crow Valley and Orcas Island Pottery feature historic pottery studios that play host to intricate and delicate works of over 100 artists.
It is also home to the highest point in San Juan County, Mount Constitution, which is famous for its camping and biking trails. Orcas Island also features several crystal-clear lakes where you can camp and fish to your heart’s content.
Finally, Orcas is also a must-visit for those looking forward to tasting the local cuisine. It features several restaurants that include mouth-watering local seafood on their menus and are run by the region’s most talented chefs.
Finally, don’t forget to include this pastoral island on your cruise itinerary. Lopez Island is considered a haven for enthusiastic bird watchers and other wildlife observers. It features several day parks and lake preserves where rare and exotic birds are spotted.
The scenic view itself is awe-inspiring—just one look and you will able to let all worries and doubt fade as you take in the island’s beautiful and amazing panorama.
It is also frequented by serious bikers who revel in its sloping terrains and picturesque countryside, presenting an almost perfect bike tour.
In between island hopping, you can seek out orcas frolicking among sea lions, harbor seals, porpoises, and other aquatic animals. If you are lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the priceless San Juan sunset as you hop from island to island and view the starry skies on the cruise’s deck.
San Juan Islands: Comprehensive, TripAdvisor.com
The San Juan Islands Travel Guide, Fodors.com