9 things to do in San Juan

The San Juan Islands are an archipelago here in the Pacific Northwest. Easily accessible from Seattle in the US, and Victoria and Vancouver in Canada, this is a beautiful place to visit any time of the year.

We visited Friday Harbor, San Juan. I’d recommend booking the ferry in advance as they are a popular weekend getaway. The ferry ride from Anacortes to Friday Harbor was nothing short of scenic. You’ll be feasting on views of the majestic Mt Baker and other surrounding mountains, the sea, jellyfish, cormorants, seagulls, and possibly an Orca if you’re lucky!

Here’s a list of things we did during our 3-day trip to the island. Most of these items could be covered in 2 days but it was fun to chill out and enjoy the laid back island life a day longer.

Whale watching

Minke Whale spotting in the Salish Sea near San Juan Islands | Roshni Karthikeyan

This part of the world is home to the Orca whales that live in these waters through the year. They’re a beautiful dark blue kind with white patches on them. There are plenty of tours in the island that offer whale watching experiences.

Minke Whale | San Juan Excursions

We booked ours with San Juan Excursions. It was a 3.5 hour round trip and the crew is so friendly and gave a lot of interesting information about the whales, history of the region, whale research, other wildlife in the area, and more. The other best part about booking with them is they give you a “rain check” in case you don’t spot an Orca on your trip, which you could avail at a later date to go on another whale watching tour when you visit again! We spotted some seals, bald eagles and other wildlife on the tour. We also spotted some Harbor Porpoise whales and one Minke Whale that was feeding. The sight of the whale coming up to gobble up its feed along with all the birds getting a share of the whale’s catch is such a treat for us watching too!

Wine tasting

San Juan has a good wine tasting scene much like a lot of other spots on the west coast. We checked out Madrone Cellars & Cider Tasting Room. They had a lot of white options when we visited and I’m not a big fan of white wines so I wasn’t very impressed but if you’re someone who enjoys that, do check it out. We also planned to check out EverElse but we couldn’t find the time.

Young Hill hike

View from Young Hill | Roshni Karthikeyan

If you’re planning to hike this trail, make sure to route to the English Camp and park there – that’s where the trailhead is located. There’s a short detour along the trail to the English Camp Cemetery. Admire the Pacific Madrona trees along the trail – these trees have a pretty green bark that’s exposed by the peeling red outer layer. This is a short hike/walk with really good views of the island, Salish Sea, and the surrounding mountains. On a clear day, you can also see all the way till Victoria, BC, in Canada.

English Camp and American Camp

If you’re a history buff or just enjoy visiting historic places, these two spots are a must see on your trip to San Juan. Located near beaches, these spots also make for a fun evening picnic of walking, enjoying some history, and sitting at the beach to end the day with a beautiful island sunset.

Eagle Cove, South Beach, and Grandma’s Cove

View from Grandma’s Cove | Roshni Karthikeyan

Located closer to the American Camp all these spots are worth spending a quiet afternoon just enjoying the sea and mountains, reading a book, walking along the coast, or enjoying a picnic with loved ones.


The San Juan Friday Harbor downtown area has a lot of fun, quirky shops! Take a stroll downtown to take home some local art, antiques, boutique apparel, and souvenirs.

Food at Mike’s

I’m a vegetarian and most of my family is vegetarian as well, and food is quite often a bit of a struggle in coastal/island regions that predominantly serve seafood. We found Mike’s Cafe and Wine Bar and dined on all three nights of our stay at this amazing vegan cafe. We tried almost all items on the menu along with the specials and we thoroughly loved dining at this warm, homey cafe that served some of the most delicious meals I’ve ever had. If you’re visiting San Juan, dining at Mike’s is a must!

Lime Kiln Point State Park

Sunset at Lime Kiln Point State Park

The Lime Kiln Point State Park is an easily accessible day-use park and picnic area that offers brilliant views of the Olympic range, Mt Rainier, and possibly more on a clear day. This park requires Discover Pass to enter or you could pay a day-use fee of $10 at the parking. Lime Kiln Park is also one among the best places to watch whales and other wildlife. We got to see a few seals during our visit and a lot of birds. The quaint lighthouse here also makes for a good viewpoint and adds more character to the colorful sunset.

Lavender farms

Lavender seems to be an island favorite as there are bushes of different varieties all along the streets and there are farms that you could visit during Spring and Summer. They were closed as we went in Fall but this is definitely on my list for my next visit to the island. Lavender ice cream also features in most local shops so be sure to give that a try too!