Whale Watching in the San Juan Islands: Orcas vs. Grays vs. Humpbacks

Even if you’ve booked the most unique vessel for your whale watching trip in the San Juan Islands, you can’t fully appreciate a sighting if you don’t know which whale you’re gazing at. To help you prepare, here’s a rundown of the kinds of whales usually spotted in the Pacific Northwest.

Killer whales

Killer whales, or orcas, are the creatures you’re bound to see while whale watching in the San Juan Islands. These black-and-white, dolphin-like animals are divided into three types:

Residents. The most commonly seen orcas off Washington state and British Columbia, these whales primarily eat salmon and travel in groups of 5 to 30.

Their fin tips tend to be rounded, with the edges either straight or slightly curved.
They tend to take 3 to 4 dives of 15 seconds each before going underwater for 3 to 4 minutes.
You should spot them if you go whale watching from May to October.


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