No Ferry Hassles!
We know that you want to spend less time traveling and more time sea kayaking. This trip accomplishes that goal and gets you out on the water faster than any other. No San Juan Island ferry hassles are necessary to begin your expedition. We depart directly from Anacortes, on lovely Fidalgo Island, and you can drive directly to us which saves all sorts of time, worries and added expense.
The trip starts on Fidalgo Island and enters the waters of the San Juan Islands National Monument. The protected status of the nearby Cypress Island Marine Reserve and it’s large neighbor to the west, Blakely Island, have created a healthy habitat that supports some of the most dense wildlife populations in the Puget Sound region. This abundance spills out into the surrounding waters and islands, creating many wildlife viewing opportunities. Bald eagles are common here and nest on nearly every island. Seals and porpoises are found in good numbers throughout the San Juans which has attracted the groups of Orca whales who hunt them.
The San Juan Islands are world famous for their pastoral beauty and protected waterways. Sea kayaking is the preferred mode of exploration, allowing you to slowly move through the landscape and see details missed by others. Gliding silently through a maze of islands you are treated to new vistas around every corner.
Each island has its own character. Small historical family farms dominate the “Friendly Isle” of Lopez, while the outstanding Cypress Island Reserve is best known for its unbroken forests and dense wildlife populations. Orcas Island dominates the scene with 2400 foot high Mount Constitution, the highest point in the San Juans. The Wasp Islands Group, with its tiny cluster of grassy islands has long been a favorite place for visitors.
We encourage you to collaborate with your guides on setting up the most rewarding itinerary for your group so that you can create the memorable and personalized experience that you deserve.
Every expedition that we send out gets a lot of personal attention from us, and our 5-day trips are a favorite challenge. We understand that the one thing that you are sure to remember is whethe of any kind ar you liked the food and so we focus intently on that. 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 little stores found on certain islands to replenish our stocks and support the communities there. 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 expedition! Once you depart from Fidalgo Island you will be entirely self-sufficient, carrying all that you need in your kayaks. Your campsites are all located on 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.
- 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
The San Juan Islands of Washington State are the southern representatives of a massive island group that extends all the way from Washington State to Southeast Alaska. It is set apart from its northern neighbors in several ways that benefit residents and visitors alike. In the summer months the San Juans enchant visitors with a mild and warm climate with very little rainfall. In many places this produces a Mediterranean climate with associated oak forests and grasslands. Summer visitors can expect sunny days and comfortable temperatures. The calm summer weather patterns also means that we enjoy better kayaking conditions than other places in Washington State.
Your five-day sea kayaking expedition will be the perfect opportunity to explore a wide variety of shorelines. Beginning in the wildlife rich waters of Rosario Strait you will enter the heart of the San Juan Islands archipelago and visit islands that are only accessible by small boats. Washington State has preserved many places as Marine Parks, complete with camp areas and trail systems. The campsites offer peaceful views of the sea and are perfect locations to watch for passing wildlife.
Progressing further into the San Juan Islands brings a subtle change to the atmosphere of the trip. The air is often warmer and calm, and small farms come into view. Summer homes invite dreams of a quiet life away from the hustle of the city, and small watercraft carry island residents to their favorite fishing holes.
Depending on your chosen route you may find yourself out in the Wasp Islands. Shaped by glaciers this cluster of small islets has been used for centuries by native groups as fishing and hunting grounds, and more recently has become a favorite stopping point for kayakers and boaters.
As you begin to loop back toward Anacortes your group may choose to kayak along a slightly different route, bringing you to the Cypress Island Reserve. This is one of the most unique places in the San Juan islands, and a real treasure for Washington State. Cypress Island is the fourth largest of the San Juan Islands and 90% of it has been set aside for preservation. Free from the pressures of development the island has matured into a hotspot for wildlife. Miles of trails beckon adventurers, leading them into groves of old growth forest, hidden lakes, and some jaw-dropping viewpoints. Eagle Cliff is often the highlight for guests on our kayak trips that visit Cypress Island. Sunsets here are simply the best.
Your 5-Day kayak expedition will depart from Anacortes in order to maximize your time and to avoid the San Juan Island ferry hassles.
Because we make every effort to include you in how the trip will unfold the following itinerary is useful mainly as a hypothetical example. Some groups choose to cover a lot of territory while others are content with a more leisurely pace. Your guide will engage with you and the other participants to help you create the best possible experience.
Arriving at our shop in Skyline Marina you will be welcomed by our friendly staff who will check you in, issue you dry bags, and give you directions to the launch site. Take your time packing your personal items at our office before making your way to the beach where your guide and logistical staff will already be packing your kayaks.
After parking your vehicle and loading up the kayaks you will receive a pre-trip briefing with your guide. They will go over some safety considerations, explain the planned route for the day, and give you a short introduction on the basics of sea kayaking. After a last minute restroom break you’ll be off the beach and headed into the islands!
We have three different Anacortes launch sites that we use depending on the prevailing conditions and the needs of the group. Your guide will determine the best route to take on the first morning depending on these factors.
Launch from Cabana Beach at Skyline Marina. Passing between Burrows Island and the grassy slopes of Washington Park you will be treated to views of Rosario Strait and the islands that the trip will be passing through. After crossing the Strait your first landfall will likely be James Island, one of our favorite Marine Park camp areas. Some groups fall in love with the place and choose to stay, while more ambitious paddlers may choose to press on to Lopez Island. [Pro Tip: If given the chance, stay on James Island. It’s amazing!]
After choosing your home for the night your guide will assist you in setting up your tents and the rest of the camp. The rest of the afternoon can be spent exploring the area, or simply relaxing on the beach. If there is time and you would like to participate in a short afternoon paddle then just let your guide know.
Later in the day your guide will be busy preparing a delicious dinner for you to enjoy. If you are going to be out exploring the island then check in with them so that you can be sure to get the meal while it is hot and fresh. As the light changes in the evening you’ll want to seek out a special place to watch the sunset. Don’t forget to bring your beer or wine, it’s been a great day of kayaking and you deserve it!
The second day of this trip is often where you and your guides will be deciding on how you wish the experience to unfold. For some people the goal is to cover as much territory as possible, putting in long days and lots of miles between camp areas. Other groups may prefer a more leisurely pace, often choosing spend multiple nights in the same places and making day trips with empty kayaks which require a little less effort to paddle. Maybe you want to split the difference, camping in new places each night but choosing islands that are relatively close to each other. Any choice is going to be rewarding, and your guide will help you decide on what will work well for everyone. Lunch is usually going to be prepared in the field during a stop along the way, and there are plenty of snacks available in between.
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!)
After a preparing you a hearty breakfast your guide will talk with you again about the day’s paddling, so feel free to talk about what you are hoping to see and do. The exact time of your departure on this day is often determined by the timing of the tidal currents and how far the group wishes to travel this day.
If you are an ambitious group that is putting in a lot of miles of kayaking then you might spend this evening out in the Wasp Islands, or perhaps you already pushed that far and are now looping around to a campsite closer to home. Either way you can be confident that you’ll find the day to be filled with satisfying views and fun conversation. The third day of this trip is when you will likely feel a transformation inside of your soul. The worries and stress of home give way to a sense of peacefulness. Everything is in place and you are carrying all that you need. It is this transformation that makes the longer kayak trips so special.
Another delicious breakfast will refuel your body and satisfy your soul. On the fourth day you may find that repacking the boats has become a much simpler task than it felt on the first morning. Your transformation is complete, this is what you hoped for.
Picking where you are going to spend your last night in the San Juan Islands is always a bittersweet choice. It will be good to get back, but you are not quite ready to leave. Early in the afternoon you approach your final campsite, in this story it is the Cypress Island Reserve. It’s been a fantastic day on the water and you are excited to explore another island. As your guide prepares the camp you are free to wander out on the trails on your own. If you are on Cypress Island then you won’t want to miss the exceptional views on Eagle Cliff. On a clear day you can across the San Juan Islands and into Canada. Behind you the massive Mount Baker rises high above the Cascade Mountain Range. Back at camp you will want to open that last bottle of wine and make a toast to your next kayak trip in the San Juan Islands!
Greet your final morning in the San Juan Islands with a hot cup of coffee. [Pro Tip: If camping at Pelican Beach on Cypress Island, it is recommended that you wake early to see the sunrise over Mount Baker.]
After breakfast you and your guide will talk about the last channel crossings and the best time to depart before taking down your camp and packing the boats for the last time. Lunch will usually be another beach break somewhere along the route home.
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 our 5-Day kayak trips please meet at our store 2009 Skyline Way at 8:00 a.m, unless instructed otherwise by our office staff. We are located just past the Anacortes Ferry Terminal, in Skyline Marina. We like to try and get you on the water as early as possible to maximize your day.
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.