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Hot Tub Whale Watching

For days, Lance and I soaked as if we were little flesh prunes
in our private hot tub on a stilted deck overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The purpose of our Pacific Northwest adventure was solely to see wild orcas swimming free. We made every effort to improve our chances for spotting these marine mammals, including splurging on our travel budget by booking a rental house right on the water. That way, we could casually keep our eyes peeled for any whale-like ripples from the perfect vantage point of the deck. However, there was one variable we had to consider when booking our oceanside getaway…

San Juan Island Whale Watching Pacific Northwest
Yacht Haven, San Juan Island

San Juan Island Whale Watching Pacific NorthwestLance is a bit of an “indoor cat” when it comes to chilly weather. The likelihood of me getting him to sit outside on a nippy September day was slim at best. Insert Lance’s brilliant idea – find a waterfront property with a “whale watch ready” HOT TUB! What a genius plan! We’d dip into the piping hot water as we scanned the frigid coastline for whales. To our surprise, we discovered that hot tubs with panoramic costal views are a relatively common concept on San Juan Island. Surfing the web eventually brought us to San Juan Property Management, a rental company locally based on the Islands. They had the best price for the house that was consistently catching our attention on Airbnb and Vrbo. Sure, we didn’t need all the rooms it had, but we were entirely set on the hot tub’s location and its proximity to the ocean surf. We found a house that was (relatively) in our budget while serving us an unobstructed view of the Pacific orca playground. Jackpot!

When we arrived, we barely took the chance to throw our bags down before we were sliding open the glass door to the deck. From that moment on, our eyes didn’t leave the water the entire trip. It was a serious mission – we HAD to see wild orcas! All we needed at that point was a couple adult beverages, a pair of soaking wet binoculars, and the camera within dry reach- we were set. We had the place to ourselves, thank goodness! There was no one around to laugh at our own spyhopping heads just above the steamy surface! My poor eyeballs got sore from racing left to right and right to left hoping for the glimpse of a towering dorsal fin cutting the surface. I had to repeatedly rub my eyes to prevent any mirage that might trick me into seeing an entire pod of orcas breaching right outside our tub.

After five days of subjecting our poor bodies to the chemically pumped water, we ended with a total of ZERO whales spotted from our submerged station. Thankfully we prepared for this possible outcome and had booked a whale watching excursion. With the help of Ken, an experienced San Juan boat captain, we were lucky enough to see over THIRTY orcas from all three southern resident pods. We nearly had the boat to ourselves, just one other couple toured with us for the three-hour long excursion. I highly recommend Ken’s tour company, Spirit of Orca. He hosted quite the adventure whale watching through the Pacific paradise of San Juan. Most importantly, he understood how to ethically watch the pods and strictly adhered to the highest guidelines of the Pacific Whale Watch Association.

In the end, we were relieved of the pressures we placed on ourselves to see orcas. Sure, spotting whales swim by our hot tub would have been beyond memorable, but that’s not to say we left the island with any form of disappointment. Having that pressure dissipate meant we could take the time to enjoy the atmosphere above the surface of the water. We even hung up our tired trunks and got dressed to venture into the town of Friday Harbor, to discover that this little town is my Favorite Town in America

Why would I 100% recommend hot tub whale watching?

  • I believe there are few things in life more exhilarating than waiting in anticipation for spotting wildlife. No matter if you’re looking for a hummingbird in your backyard or a massive marine mammal, you find your heart beating faster in excitement as you await the perfect sighting. What better way to enjoy that sensation than to literally soak it all in from a hot tub!
  • While our success rate for orcas was 0% from the hot tub, we did see some amazing wildlife from our soaking seats. The Pacific Northwest is teaming with all sorts of animals iconic to the region. Our favorites were a pair of river otters scampering the shore for snacks, numerous solitary harbor seals floating by, and a post-card-perfect bald eagle perched right at deck height.
  • If sweeping ocean views fill your soul, then the Pacific Northwest should be calling your name! From our creative viewing station, I can confidently say that we invested our time well and fully enjoyed the picturesque landscape of San Juan.

I’ve made a promise to myself to revisit the San Juan Islands numerous times in my lifetime. Each time, Lance and I have both agreed to always stay directly on the coast where we can prioritize spotting marine life the entire stay. Come to think of it, I’d say it’s pretty safe to assume that our plans will include a hot tub that can double as our whale watching lookout station!

Sure, our hot tub whale watching adventures weren’t 100% successful but regardless,
I would firmly recommend the experience 110%!