By kayaking along Haro Strait, through the Wasp Islands, and into the Cypress Island Marine Reserve, you spend significant time in the wildlife hotspots of the San Juan Islands. Exciting marine animal encounters are a possibility all along this route, as are porpoise sightings, sea lions, and the densest population of Harbor seals on the planet. Bald eagles nest on nearly every island that you explore, and sea birds are everywhere.
By selecting the 5-Day trip from San Juan Island to Anacortes you are choosing a one-of-a-kind experience. No backtracking, new campsites every day, and the opportunity to see more wildlife than on any other sea kayaking trip in the San Juan Islands.
From start to finish you will get to see the entire archipelago as the quaint pastoral landscape, dotted with beautiful seaside homes, gives way to the heavily forested and more mountainous landscape of the eastern San Juan Islands. With its glacier covered volcanic peaks, Mount Baker appears suddenly through gaps between islands and provides one of the most dramatic landscapes in Washington State. Each night your island campsites offer a slightly new sunset and a brand new perspective of this lovely island group.
Every kayaking expedition that we send out gets a lot of personal attention from us, and our 5-day trips are our favorite challenge. We understand that the one thing that you are sure to remember is whether the food was good. As the owners of the company we personally see to the creation of each meal plan on our multi-day camping expeditions. We source much of our food from local organic farms in the Skagit and Samish River valleys, and use the freshest seasonal ingredients possible in all of our dishes. On our 5-day trips we often make a quick stop at the little grocery in the quaint Orcas Island Village to replenish our stocks and support the community. This allows us to offer the freshest meals throughout the excursion. If you have any special dietary needs then just let us know, we can accommodate almost any request.
This is an authentic kayak expedition camping experience! Once you depart from San Juan Island you will be entirely self-sufficient, carrying all that you need in your kayaks. Your campsites are all on peaceful marine parks and offer splendid views right from your tent. Due to the dry climate of the San Juan Islands there is not enough water for showering, although many provide potable water. There is no electricity at these campgrounds and so we recommend bringing an external battery for your electronic needs. Washington State Parks operates well-maintained toilet facilities at each camp area.
No Experience Necessary!
Like all of our kayak tours, this one requires no previous paddling experience. Because we depart from San Juan Island the first day can require longer paddling distances. If you wish for a less ambitious itinerary then please let us know at the time of booking so that we can discuss the different options available.
What is included (Fully Catered Package*)
- Professional guiding service.
- All of your kayaking equipment (boats, paddles, lifejackets, dry bags, etc).
- All meals (from lunch on Day One to Lunch on Day Three) plus snacks, hot drinks, and limited cold drink mixes. Please feel free to bring your own alcohol of choice.
- Cooking Equipment.
- Complimentary insulated travel mug to take home with you afterwards!
- All camping equipment including tents, insulated Thermarest sleeping pads.
- All land use permits/fees.
- Complimentary transportation to the launch site on San Juan Island.
- The best customer service support in the industry.
Please check our packing list carefully to make sure that you have the appropriate gear. If you plan to bring any of your own equipment then please let us know prior to arrival so that we do not bring unnecessary duplicates.
*Self-Catered package includes everything above, except food, cooking equipment, travel mug, and camping equipment. This is a great option if you already have your own camping gear and want a budget conscious choice.
What is not included:
- Flights, airport transfers, taxis, transportation to launch site.
- Travel/Medical insurance.
- Alcoholic beverages.
- Sleeping bags.
- Rain Gear
- Personal Items (toiletries, clothing, headlamps, etc.)
Sleeping bags can be rented for $35/trip if you prefer to travel without one. Please reserve these in advance to ensure that we have one ready for you, can also be reserved at the time of booking.
About The Area
You will gain quite an appreciation and understanding of the labyrinthine waterways of the San Juan Islands on this trip. Choosing a one-way itinerary allows you to cover new territory with every stroke of the paddle, unveiling new shorelines that you otherwise would be unable to explore on just one trip.
Starting on the west side of San Juan Island you will be kayaking along the Canadian Border. The body of water here is called Haro Strait which has a storied geopolitical history. It is a significant waterway due to the presence of the international border between the United States and Canada, a border created in 1872 after an interesting military situation on San Juan Island known as the Pig War.
The trip will also traverse the wildlife-rich waters of Wasp Islands Group, a cluster of nine little islands that are mostly undeveloped, supremely beautiful, and have attracted sailors and visitors for over two hundred years.
Traveling through the heart of the islands allows you to be in the most protected waters of the San Juan Islands. You’ll float past beautiful historical farms and private vacation homes, and the San Juan Island ferries will often be in view as they carry islanders and visitors to their various destinations.
On the last days of your trip you will enter the islands of Rosario Strait, the principal waterway in this part of the San Juan Islands. A hotbed of activity for many kinds of wildlife. There are many National Wildlife Refuges here, and the Cypress Island Reserve with its unbroken forested slopes dominates the scene. The abundance of seals and porpoises on this side of the San Juan Islands is the likely cause for the recent explosion in sightings of Transient Orca whales here. Keep your eyes peeled for whatever the day brings.
Five days of travel, five days of ever-changing scenery, and no reason at all to backtrack. There is a good reason why this is becoming the most popular 5-Day kayaking trip in the San Juan Islands!
Like all of our multi-day kayaking and camping trips, we encourage you to help take part in how you want your experience to unfold. Our professional guides know the area well and can provide the expertise to construct a unique experience that matches your desires. Their biggest concern is to meet your expectations and they love collaborating with you to create an itinerary that works well. Because we make every effort to include you in how the trip will unfold the following itinerary is useful mainly as a hypothetical example. There are also environmental conditions which sometimes affect where are trip might travel to.
For the San Juan Island 5-Day kayak expedition we recommend that you park your vehicle at the Anacortes ferry terminal. With a vehicle you will need to make advance reservations. Be advised that the ferry schedule can often be disrupted in the summer months so try not to plan other things too tightly after the tour in case there are any delays.
Your complimentary shuttle will deliver you to the San Juan Island County Park where your guide will be ready to welcome you. After packing the kayaks, and a safety briefing, you will be ready to launch!
Our San Juan Island 5-Day trip is the perfect fit for the ambitious traveler. Logistics include taking a ferry out to San Juan Island and then hopping on a complimentary shuttle to take you across San Juan Island to the launch site. Being moderately fit will help you to enjoy this trip because this trip requires a longer distance kayaking (approximately 12 miles) to reach the camp areas. If you exercise regularly and enjoy a more active experience then this trip will be the right fit. If you have any questions or concerns then be sure to contact us.
Launch from San Juan Island County Park and head north in Haro Strait. You are now in the proposed Orca Whale Sanctuary, so keep an eye out for whales! You will be likely be covering approximately 12 miles today, so you can expect to be paddling for 6+ hours, depending on the currents. There should be ample opportunities to take breaks on the beach during this time, including a stop for lunch.
After arriving at the camp your guide will assist you in setting up your tent and organizing the rest of your campsite. Now it is time to relax and explore the island!
While at the camp site you are free to explore the trails on your own, or accompany your guide on a walk if you prefer. Later in the afternoon your guide will be busy preparing a delicious dinner for you to enjoy. This is another great opportunity to go for a walk or just relax on the beach with a glass of wine, watching the evening light coloring the sky.
After a enjoying a hearty breakfast you and your guide will talk again about the day’s paddling route, so feel free to talk about what you are hoping to see and do. Our guides love to try and tailor every trip to meet their guests’ expectations. The exact time of your departure on this day is often determined by the timing of the tidal currents. The hope is to have the tides carry you along rather than having to paddle against too much current. Lunch is almost always prepared in the field, usually on a small pocket beach that you can enjoy to yourselves.
After arriving at your next camp it is time for more relaxation! Go for another walk, skip stones, or simply sit at the water’s edge and contemplate the beauty around you, while your guide is busy preparing your next delicious dinner. (As you can tell, these guides work hard for their tips!)
A common report that we hear from our guests in that by the third day of the trip they are beginning to feel transformed. The stress of the daily grind back home has receded and an easy going feeling spreads through your group. The quiet serenity of the San Juan Islands is working its way into your soul. Waking up early becomes a priority so that you may bear witness to the stillness of a mirror-calm sea. There’s plenty of time to enjoy an extra cup of steaming hot tea or coffee.
Your body is getting used to the paddling, and you feel a new strength budding inside. Another delicious breakfast will refuel your body and you will find that repacking the boats has become a much simpler task than it felt on the first morning. Everything is falling into place now. The pace of the day’s paddling depends on where you and your guide have decided to go, but the scenery is sure to be sublime. By midday you have found the perfect beach for your lunch and to stretch those limbs!
As you approach your next campsite --usually Jones Island, Blind Island, or Obstruction Pass-- you might reflect on the day’s journey, and how much you have already seen, smiling at the thought that you still have lots of time left out here. You and your guide can talk about the plan for the last legs of your trip. Will you follow the ferries and head to the beautiful James Island Marine Park? Will you try to kayak to Cypress Island? It’s nice to have choices when all of them are good!
You are fully into every moment by now. Your keen eyes see every seal off in the distance, and you are beginning to understand the lay of the land. The islands have become old friends, recognizable at a glance and welcoming. The sea kayaking has become effortless.
Perhaps your group has decided to kayak to the Cypress Island Marine Reserve for your final evening. Gazing across Rosario Strait you see the high bluffs of Eagle Cliff. The sunset tonight will be amazing up there. The plan has been made and you time your departure to synchronize with a favorable tide for the crossing.
As you approach Cypress Island you notice the ancient trees that blanket the high slopes. Noticeably absent are the farms and homes of the islands behind you. Other than a few small summer cabins scattered in a few places this island is wild. A perfect pocket beach, named Smuggler’s Cove, comes into view. It is the perfect place for lunch and a well deserved stretching of the limbs after kayaking across Rosario Strait.
Although you won’t want to leave Smuggler’s Cove, you know that it is just a short paddle to your final campsite and so you hop into the kayaks and head out.
At camp you and your guide set up the tents for the last time. You have time now for a walk, and Eagle Cliff is calling. It’s not a long walk, maybe 1.5 miles, and it leads to the most amazing views. You might decide on a late dinner tonight so that you can catch the sunset. Hopefully you’ve saved some wine or beer to celebrate your journey because Eagle Cliff pairs well with a long day of kayaking and a good bottle of wine!
This is a morning when waking up early might reward you with one of the more satisfying sunrises anywhere. From the campsite at Pelican Beach the Sun makes its daily debut right over the hulking shoulder of a massive volcano. Mt Baker rises 10,781 feet above the sea and there are few scenes quite as breathtaking as watching the morning unfold with the mountains and the sea. After you enjoy your last breakfast and pack up your kayaks for the last time it is time to go. Once again your guide will time your departure to make the best use of the tidal currents.
Depending on the route you take, and the conditions of the day, you will likely return back to Anacortes sometime between 2:00pm and 4:00pm. The exact return time is difficult to predict because so many factors are involved with this sort of travel experience. We recommend that you do not schedule things too tightly just in case the weather or some other variable slows you down along the way.
One of our logistics people will be there to greet you and help you unpack the kayaks. If you left any luggage at our office during the trip then they will bring that with them as well. After saying farewell to your guide, you are off to the next adventure. Hopefully we will see you again!
**This is a sample itinerary which outlines the type of experience that most often happens. Due to the dynamic nature of outdoor adventures, things can sometimes change without notice. We work very hard to provide the best possible experience for each of our guests so if you have any special needs or concerns, or any particular expectation that you have, then please do call us so that we can talk to you more about it. Thank you!
What trip offers the best chances of a whale sighting?
This is probably the most popular question that we hear on the phone. The best answer is “it is impossible to predict”. Kayaks simply do not travel fast enough to manifest a whale encounter on purpose. Our guests have always appreciated that we set reasonable expectations about whale encounters. If seeing a whale is a primary goal for you then we suggest that you book an additional trip with a whale watch company. They have fast-moving boats which can seek out the whales’ locations on any given day. Kayak trips and whale watch outings are actually very complementary and will give you the best possible experience in the San Juan Islands.
I have never tried sea kayaking before, how do I know whether I can do this?
These kayak tours are designed for people with little or no previous experience who enjoy an active experience. We like to call this activity “soft adventure” because the tours are loaded with fun (without too much adrenaline)! The goal is to move quietly through the landscape, enjoying the views while rewarding the body with a little bit of easy exercise. All of our tours will move as slowly as necessary to ensure that you won’t get too worn out. Our guides are very competent paddlers, and well-trained trip leaders, they will worry about the details so that you can relax and enjoy yourself. If you have any specific concerns then please call us so that we can make sure that you get placed on the most enjoyable trip possible.
What if it rains?
As the saying goes; “there is no such thing as bad weather, just unfortunate clothing choices.” Joking aside, we are very fortunate that we live in the “rainshadow” of the Olympic Mountains and consequently we receive much less precipitation than Seattle and the rest of Western Washington State. Don’t rely on Seattle weather reports to tell you what it will be like up here because we are in a very different climate zone. What little rain falls in the summer rarely lasts for too long and it usually creates some of the most beautiful kayak trips of the season as the muted colors of the Pacific Northwest come alive with the moisture. We won’t cheat you out of the experience because of a little rain, bring a rain-jacket or borrow one of ours and come to enjoy the show!
Can I paddle in a single kayak?
Yes! We have a limited number of single kayaks available to reserve. Check out our info on single kayaks for Multi-Day trips. We are currently the only outfitter in the San Juan Islands to be able to offer this option. The superior training and skill levels of our guides allow us to make this type of experience available to our guests.
What’s the weight limit for paddling in a kayak?
265 lbs for double kayaks and 225 lbs for single kayaks. We have found that these weights are generally the limits for your comfort and enjoyment of the activity.
What is your policy on tipping?
Your guides work very hard to keep your party safe while also supporting an atmosphere that is entertaining. Gratuities are always appreciated with the average tip being 10 percent of the total trip cost, with some guests tipping more and some less, depending on your experience.
What Our Clients Say
Thanks for the magical day at Sucia Island. We are still savoring the moments. What a place! The Wendell Berry quote fits… The world lives in the death of speech, and sings there Your guide Dave was such a pleasant pathfinder for us. And a big appreciation to the Anacortes Kayak Tours owners who provided us with this trip. We… Read more “Magical day at Sucia Island”
Sue and Tom
Thank you again for taking the 3 of us sea kayaking a couple of weeks ago. We really enjoyed our trip. I look forward to going kayaking with you in the future. By the way, my parents will be in Seattle in about two weeks. I gave them your brochure and recommended them to you.
I just wanted to say “Thanks” for a wonderful day of Kayaking yesterday around Cypress Island. For 4–5 years we have been doing a yearly outing of a guided kayak trip and found your group to be the most organized, friendly and well equipped so far. Your kayaks, life vests and spray skirts were by far the best, driest and… Read more “A first-class organization”
I just wanted to thank you for arranging an incredible kayak trip for my sister and I — it truly was a trip of a lifetime! Peter was an incredible guide who was so helpful and informative plus we were blessed with amazing wildlife to watch and perfect weather. It could not have been better.
I want to thank you both for providing us such a wonderful and memorable experience kayaking last week. Andrew, Matt, and I had a fabulous time. Megan — thank you in particular for the fine shopping and meal planning. The boys and I were joking that we ate better during the trip than we did at home the past 2… Read more “A wonderful and memorable experience kayaking”
Pete, Matt, and Andrew Noone
I just returned home from an amazing kayak vacation with you folks, and I’m dreading a return to real life tomorrow. My head is still full of the San Juans and I wish that I could have stayed out for another day, or ten. I did quite a bit of research before booking the trip and your company stood out… Read more “Next time — five-day trip!”
Fantastic trip! Pete and Alex were fantastic! They were both knowledgeable and professional. The trip was a tremendous value for the money; great food and top-notch equipment! Thank you so much! Please thank Pete and Alex again for me.
Just wanted to let you know how pleased we were with the tour to Cypress Island (Sept. 2008). Freddie and Peter were great guides. They were extremely friendly and cheerful, and very well qualified to lead us. What made it especially nice was that both Freddie and Peter related well to both us old fogies as well as the younger… Read more “They were intent on spoiling us”
Cynthia Dietz and Susan Larsen
Thanks so much for a memorable 2 days in the San Juans! We thoroughly enjoyed every moment, though our shoulders and backs indicated that we should’ve done a better job getting in paddling shape beforehand! You could not have tailor-made a menu more suitable for our family (down to the s’mores!) nor have given us a better guide/chef/friend for the… Read more “A memorable 2 days in the San Juans”
Melinda Y. Ching, Senior Attorney-Asia Pacific/Hawaii The Nature Conservancy
Thank you for everything. Our meeting went like Swiss clockwork from start to finish thanks to you and your amazing guides. I simply can’t say enough good things about those four to do justice to the subtle but stout job they did on our trip. We felt completely safe, the food was nothing short of spectacular (and always right on… Read more “What customer service can and should be”
I just got back from a wonderful trip to Sucia with my husband and another couple. We had a great time with Jeremiah, our guide. We were amazed by the scenery, wildlife, and the general beauty of the San Juan Islands. Jeremiah was professional but down-to-earth, and we always felt completely safe because of his degree of knowledge and experience.… Read more “Amazed by the scenery and wildlife”
Hello team at Anacortes — Wendy, Erik, Jeremiah, Gary and Megan and everyone else who helped to make our trip so special! Hey guys Roger and I are now in Juneau about to hit the mountains for a week of running and I just wanted to pause and say thank you so much for a wonderful visit to the… Read more “Thank you”
Kylie and Roger
We had a wonderful trip. Blake was a great guide. Very relaxed and nice pace. The side trip to the lighthouse was magical, and nice to get out and stretch. You do a good job of getting people out on the water safely and comfortably. The equipment was top notch. Well done!!! We will let friends know about the great… Read more “Very relaxed and nice pace”
Prepare for Your Multi-day Adventure
Meeting Place and Time
For all trips to San Juan Island, take the ferry from Anacortes to Friday Harbor. A complimentary shuttle will take you from , where you will meet your guide.
Gear You Will Need
Every person will be assigned 2–20L dry bags and 1–10L dry bag for their gear.
The San Juan Islands have a very mild climate during the summer months. Most trips will experience temperatures around 70° F during the day, and mid-50s at night. Rain is not common, but be aware of the weather and come prepared accordingly.
- Long underwear- polypropylene or something synthetic, top and bottom>
- Shorts (1 pair, preferably non-cotton)
- Pants (1 pair, preferably non-cotton)
- T-shirts (2-3 depending on the trip length)
- Sweatshirt (fleece or synthetic, cotton will not dry) or some other insulating shirt. (2)
- Underwear (enough to make you happy)
- Socks (enough to make you happy, 4 pairs should be plenty)
- Light rain jacket and rain pants>
- Water compatible shoes (Tevas, Chacos, water socks, old tennis shoes, etc)
- Shoes for camp (light running or hiking shoes are great)
- Baseball cap, or a brimmed hat.
- Wool or fleece hat for camp
- Sunglasses! (You will definitely want these!)
- Two water bottles, One liter each (please fill them at the store, or before you arrive)
- Bug spray
- Headlamp or flashlight, with extra batteries.
- Book, playing cards, journal.
- Any favorite snacks (we’ll provide a lot, but you may have special preferences.)
- Small camera (bring freezer grade Zip-Loc bags to protect it, if it isn’t waterproof.)
- Personal medications, as needed, including painkillers (we have First Aid kits, but prefer to keep our medications for emergencies.)
- Allergy medications—if you are allergic to bees, please bring an epi-pen!
- Sleeping Bag must be compressible to fit into one of the 20L dry bags. (we have bags to rent for a nominal $35 cleaning fee)
- Beer or wine, if you like (for insurance reasons we cannot provide alcohol)
- A small hand towel<
- Any personal items that you cannot live without during your trip.
Anacortes Kayak Tours will provide
- All kayaking gear (boat, paddles, spray decks, life jackets)
- A professionally trained and fun guide, with a comprehensive safety kit
- Dry bags for your personal gear, usually two 20L bags and one 10L dry bag
- All camping gear (tents, sleeping pads, pillows, kitchen items, etc)
- All meals, including breakfasts, lunches, dinners, snacks, and hot drinks
If you have younger kids (under 12) then please call before making a reservation.
Anacortes Kayak Tours prides itself on being the most family-friendly kayaking company in the San Juan Islands. We consider your kids to be an investment in the future and we want to get them out on the water and developing an active lifestyle and an appreciation of the natural world!
That being said, kids under 12 are best suited for private trips for better group dynamics and safety on the water.
For your safety and comfort, we have a weight limit of 265 pounds (per person) in tandems and 225 pounds (per person) in singles. Call if you have any questions.
Health / Physical Limits
Our #1 priority is to bring you home safely. In the unlikely event of a capsize we need to know that you are physically capable of keeping your face above the water, that you are able in some fashion to assist with the rescue, and that your heart can take the stress of the immersion and exertion of an unplanned accident. If you think that you may be at risk, or that your health conditions are of concern then please talk to your physician and then give us a call. We’d love to try and help you find a solution, and if possible to get you out on the water.
Deafness and blindness will not prevent you from enjoying our tours, but please let us know at the time of booking.
If you have health issues on the day of your trip, please pull your guide aside and let him or her know. This includes even small issues (like diarrhea) that can turn a great trip into a problem for you. Our guides can then plan the trip accordingly.
Multi-Day Expeditions require a 50% deposit at time of booking. 60 or more days before the trip date, full refund of all payments less a $100 per person cancellation and handling fee. 31-59 days before the trip date, guests will be charged 50% of the entire trip cost. 0-30 days before the trip date, guests will be charged 100% of the entire trip cost and no refunds will be made. All cancellations must be in writing and charged amount is determined upon the date of receipt. Please refer to our Cancellation Policy page for details.
We enjoy about 250 days of sunshine per year, mostly in the summer. Even when it does sprinkle on us it rarely lasts more than a few minutes. We won’t cancel for rain.
The only weather that will cancel a trip is windy weather that causes hazardous sea conditions. Your comfort and safety are our biggest concern.
A Few Rules–Please Read!
- No Smoking in the kayaks on these trips. This is a safety concern for us, many people get seasick after being exposed to cigarette/cigar smoke.
- Please do not litter. Pack out everything that you pack in.
- Sorry, no dogs. We like them, but they tend to tear the heck out of the boats, can disrupt the enjoyment of other guests, and can also create safety concerns.
- Your guide needs you to follow their instructions. Please respect this.
- Respect the wildlife who make the San Juan Islands their home. We give the whales plenty of space when they are around, we try not to frighten seals that are hauled out on the rocks, that sort of thing. Your guide will explain this more out on the water.
And at last, The Fine Print
We strive to make sure that we are being entirely open and honest with our marketing language and also when we speak to people about what our trips are like. We’ve been burned before on our travels and we never want to be remembered as a disingenuous company when you’re reminiscing with your friends later.
To assist us in placing you on the most appropriate trip please let us know if you have any special requests, concerns, or expectations when you call. That will allow us to either recommend the best trip for your needs or at least to give you a proper explanation about what we can realistically accomplish for you.