When to go and what whales you will see

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Washington’s Puget Sound is a paradise for whales, and these tours will provide guests with the experience of a lifetime.

If one is on the north coast of the west, this is one of the best places for whale watching and seeing giant humpback whales. There are excellent whale watching tours from Seattle in Puget Sound and the Salish Sea. There are a range of excursions to choose from and most companies even guarantee whale sightings.

For some whales their migrations may be seasonal so it is best to check whale watching websites to find out when they offer these tours, for other species they may be year round residents and sightings whale watching is year round. This area of ​​Washington is teeming with marine wildlife and has been called “America’s Serengeti” and has some of the highest concentrations of whale and dolphin populations in the world.


The local watch industry

Some of the wildlife species to see include humpback whales, minke whales, gray whales and killer whales (also known as killer whales). During these visits, these majestic animals can be observed singing, piercing, playing, feeding and frolicking in their natural habitat. There are several companies to choose from, five of the best are:

  • Island Adventures Whale Watching
  • San Juan Cruises
  • Safaris in San Juan
  • Puget Sound Express
  • Clippers Holidays

For those wishing to see other species of whales like the magnificent sperm whales, a dizzying variety of dolphins and even the occasional blue whale (the largest animal that has ever lived), consider whale watching in Kaikoura New Zealand .


Puget Sound Express

One company offering whale-watching tours is Puget Sound Express and bills itself as the only half-day whale-watching tour operator in the Seattle metro area (although others seem to claim that as well). They have been offering tours for three family generations.

Seattle Whale Watching Tour

  • Site: Seattle/Edmonds
  • Tour departure times: April 30 – September 26, 9:30 a.m.
  • Tour departure times: From June 18 to September 12, 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
  • Tour departure times: Sept. 27 to Oct. 31, 11:30 a.m.
  • Duration: 4-5 hours
  • Cost: $135 per adult, $95 per child (2-10 years old)

Related: Washington Wineries: A Guide to Enjoying a Drink on the Tri-City Wine Route


Other Puget Sound Express tours include:

  • Port Townsend – San Juan Island Whale Watching Tour
  • Port Townsend – 4 Hour Whale Watching Tour
  • Edmonds and Port Townsend Gray Whale Tours

Island Adventures

Island Adventures has been running whale watching tours since 1996. They assure everyone that whale watching has never been better in the area than it is now. A number of whale species are seen in record numbers, including minkes, gray whales, humpback whales and killer whales (killer whales are actually dolphins, not whales).

Island Adventures has been voted the best in the Northwest for a few years now and they claim to have the highest killer whale sighting success rate in the industry. The guarantee is that if no whales are seen, guests can return for free – for life and on any excursion.


  • Range of humpback whales: All over the world In all the oceans
  • Humpback whale population: About 80,000 worldwide
  • Island Adventures Guarantee: They guarantee whale sightings on every visit

Island Adventures’ fleet of boats are specifically designed for whale watching and their vessels are not allowed to fill to capacity so that every passenger can have an unobstructed front row view of these incredible marine mammals. No one will be stuck behind other taller guests who have made their way forward.

  • Drinks : They serve cold local beers and hot drinks during the tour
  • Heater: Inside, the cabins are heated
  • Ship design: Ships are equipped with large, low-noise propellers and have an above-water exhaust, making it quieter for whales (ships make less noise than rain)


Related: 15 (Best) Things To Do In Seattle (That Aren’t The Space Needle)

Clippers Holidays

Clipper Vacations is primarily a ferry service between Seattle and Victoria in Canada. So they are not as focused on whale watching, but more on their ferry service. The ferry ride takes 3 hours and dolphins and whales are usually spotted along the way.

But also offer excursions dedicated to whale watching. They are Seattle’s only whale-watching tour operator that departs from downtown’s easy-to-reach Pier 69. One of their popular tours is their full-day whale-watching tour from Seattle to the San Juan Island, they also have more than a half-day Seattle whale watching tour.

  • Departure : Downtown Seattle from Pier 69
  • Whales seen in Puget Sound: Humpback whales, minke whales, gray whales (seasonal), killer whales (technically dolphins)

Their tours have an expert naturalist on board who will keep guests fully informed about whales and conservation efforts throughout the trip. Like other companies, they guarantee whale sightings.

For those who are truly adventurous and want to explore all of America’s beautiful West Coast all the way to Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, see here for a guide on how to visit these remote Aleutian Islands.

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