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Sea Kayak the San Juan Islands, Washington

See trip details for sea kayaking the San Juan Islands in Washington, one of 100 best American adventure trips from National Geographic.

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A front-seat view of the sunset at Lummi Flats in the San Juan Islands.

For sea kayakers, the San Juan Islands combine the best of all worlds: Only an hour ferry ride from the mainland, they’re sheltered from ocean swells by the Olympic Peninsula and Vancouver Island, and yet, with some 170 islands and islets, they offer endless opportunities for adventure. Though kayakers can easily put in just a few hours of paddling, doing so for several days offer a true immersion.

On a five-day custom trip with outfitter Discovery Sea Kayaks, kayakers paddle for much of each day, encountering resident endangered orcas, porpoises, and bald eagles. The islands, some of which are still uninhabited, are rugged and choked with forests and invite exploration with spectacular bluffs, sandy beaches, and tide pools teeming with sea stars up to 20 inches (51 centimeters) across. On clear days, views of Mount Baker and the Olympic Mountains rise toward the east and south. On dark summer evenings, kayaks form a stream of glowing green as they ply the bioluminescent waters. Come nightfall, guides scout a campsite on a secluded island where paddlers trade stories over a driftwood campfire and fall asleep to the sound of the gentle surf.

Need to Know: Discovery Sea Kayaks’ ( five-day trips cost $875 per person. The outfitter also offers half-day, full-day, and other multiday trips.

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