If there is a perfect season in Washington’s San Juan Islands, it just might be spring. The sun is vanquishing the clouds, everything is in bloom, and wildlife is venturing forth. The three largest islands—Lopez, Orcas and San Juan—are served by Washington State Ferries and Kenmore Air, as well as smaller airlines. Visitors can take advantage of everything the islands have to offer, from stunning scenery and outdoor adventures to sumptuous local foods and welcoming hospitality, all at a slower pace known as “island time.”
The three main islands offer different hiking experiences, all with one thing in common: knockout views. San Juan Island’s National Historical Park offers a variety of terrain from beach walks to summiting 650-foot Young Hill. On Orcas Island, Moran State Park offers lush forest trails with lakes and waterfalls, and ambitious hikers can tackle 2,409-foot Mount Constitution, the highest point in the San Juans. For a casual trek on Lopez Island, the new 1-mile trail loop at Shark Reef Sanctuary leads to stunning panoramic views, especially at sunset.
The San Juan archipelago is home to a colorful mosaic of wildlife—whales, seals, seabirds and raptors, to name a few. San Juan Island’s Lime Kiln Point State Park is a popular place to watch for orca, humpback and minke whales from shore near the working lighthouse built in 1919. Visitors can also spot whales, Steller sea lions and bald eagles on a whale and wildlife boat tour guided by expert naturalists who provide wildlife identification, education and stewardship suggestions.
Culture & History
The San Juans have a unique history with many stories to tell. The visitor center at American Camp on San Juan Island hosts state-of-the-art exhibits and pays tribute to multiple histories, including the Coast Salish presence, military history and island ecology. History buffs shouldn’t miss the historical museums on each of the three islands with artifacts and exhibits about early island life.
Consider leaving the car behind and walk or bike on the ferry. Cycling on the islands is a fun way to get around. If you walk on, you can rent bikes, mopeds and hybrid vehicles, hire a taxi or hop on a seasonal shuttle. Transportation options vary island to island. The website for the San Juan Islands has all the transportation information you need to plan a car-free visit.