Share on Pinterest
Share with your friends


The Pacific Northwest is known for its adventurous spirit and rustic charm, and travelers are finding the region the perfect spot to unplug. So how will you spend all that focused free time once you put away the smart phone and laptop? We happen to know a place that will calm the mind (and fingers) and give you an opportunity to experience the region’s natural beauty, up close and personal.

RELATED: 3 perfect days in Seattle

Located just off the coast of Seattle, the San Juan Islands are made up of 172 named islands, yet only four are served by the ferry system: San Juan Island (with the bustling village of Friday Harbor), Orcas Island, Lopez Island and Shaw Island. From wildlife spotting to water sports to culinary tours, they offer plenty of outdoor adventures for couples, solo travelers and families alike.

1. Kayaking

The cool, crisp and often still waters of the Puget Sound are perfect for kayaking. Kayaking adventures allow you explore the rugged coastlines and hidden coves of each individual island. If you’re looking for a bit more in-depth adventure and education on the ecosystem of the region, take a guided tour. With a little luck, you just might find yourself paddling among orca whales.

2. Biking

The San Juan Islands all have very different terrain, landscapes and vistas which makes bike tours the perfect means of transportation. Some islands are more hilly than others so be sure you do the research to see which excursion best fits your fitness level. Lopez Island, the least hilly, is the most popular island for biking. While cycling, you’ll be granted spectacular views and plenty of spots to enjoy a picnic lunch, stop for a short hike or appreciate the unique wildlife of the San Juan Islands.

3. Cider tasting

Cider is the newest drink making its mark among distilled beverages and in this trend Washington’s apple industry takes center stage. Visit the San Juan Island Distillery, a family-run small batch distiller making craft ciders and other spirits using locally sourced fruits. Their award-winning apple brandy won a gold medal and best in class from the American Craft Spirits Association.

4. Whale watching

If there’s one thing the San Juan Islands are most famous for, it’s orca whales, and whale watching tours are one of the region’s most popular activities. You’ll get to see some of the country’s most breathtaking coastal views but you’ll also see some of the region’s indigenous wildlife including harbor seals, bald eagles, blue heron, and during the right time of year, the orcas.

ALSO: When it comes to big travel rewards, Orbitz Rewards is natural choice—join today!

Hiking the rugged coastline of the San Juan Islands; photo credit: San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

5. Hiking

Hiking is one of the best methods for exploring the islands and experiencing the diverse landscapes and attractions. You’ll find beaches lined with driftwood, historic lighthouses to explore and endless coastal views. Hikes range from easy, family-friendly walks along the coast to more challenging climbs up to rocky bluffs. For stunning views, try the challenging trek to Mount Constitution.

Biking among the lavendar fields; photo credit: San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

6. Stroll the lavender fields

The Pelindaba Lavender Farm is 25 acres of bliss with fields of purple against the backdrop of the Olympic Mountains. It’s the perfect spot for families to experience the islands’ heralded flowers and enjoy a scenic picnic. The onsite gift shop features more than 200 locally-produced goods including botanical, culinary, personal care, therapeutic, household and pet care products.

7. Boating

Perhaps the best way to experience the San Juan Islands is via the water. Private water taxis can shuttle you between islands where you’ll marvel at the rugged coastlines. Friday Harbor is the seaport of San Juan Island where you can board other types of watercraft to explore the many islands of the Puget Sound.


Friday Harbor House; credit Friday Harbor House

Perched high on a bluff with a view of Friday Harbor, luxurious Friday Harbor House is a great place to settle for the night. The newly updated guest rooms all offer stunning harbor views with king beds, cozy fireplaces and balconies. But the rooms’ best features are oversized jetted tubs for two offering expansive water views, all from the privacy of your room. Meanwhile, the outdoor dining veranda is the perfect spot to enjoy a late afternoon cocktail as you watch the seaplanes glide in.


Backdoor Kitchen is situated just off the main street in Friday Harbor. With its garden-like setting, you’ll dine among bamboo, trickling fountains and natural artwork, and feast on locally sourced, international cuisine like grape leaves, corn masa cakes and the popular East Indian vegetarian platter.

If you have a hankering for pub-style food, visit Cask & Schooner Public House & Restaurant located on the waterfront in Friday Harbor. Wash down fish and chips, stout-spiked chicken sandwich and lamb burger with English beers on tap.

Tagged: Seattle

Note: Orbitz compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site.

Beth Graham
Beth writes about the things that feed her soul - food, wine and travel and blogs at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *