Whether you're interested in booking a tour or already have a reservation, take a moment to review some of our most frequently asked questions to help prepare for your upcoming adventure!
Will I see whales?
Island Adventures has one of the highest whale sighting success rates in the region. In the history of Island Adventures, we average a 97% sighting success rate with whales! With a success rate that high it is incredibly rare to not see whales. However, it does happen on occasion. If you are on one of those rare tours that do not see whales you will receive a voucher to book another tour with us for 50% off.
When is the best time of year to go whale watching?
It depends on what you want to see! You can see whales at any time of year, and our range from Anacortes allows us to go further and see more. The spring months are best for gray whales, summer and fall are historically best for humpbacks, orcas, and minkes, and the winter, while not necessarily peak season, still offers plenty of opportunity for seeing a variety of different whales.
How do you find whales?
The whales in this area are not tagged and can swim more than 100 miles in a single day. We are part of the Pacific Whale Watch Association which includes 28 companies between Washington and British Columbia. We all cover different areas and share our information on a private radio channel and online sightings system. We love to find whales first, but if we don’t, we'll know where they are from our extensive network. We also use hydrophones, shore-based spotters, reports from ferries, fishermen, etc. In short, if there are whales anywhere in the area, we’ll find them!
How close can we get to the whales?
We follow all local, state, and federal regulations while viewing wildlife. For most whales, guidelines stipulate that we view from approximately 100 yards away (200 yards for orcas, 300 yards for J, K, and L Pods during whale watching season). Of course, there’s no rule about how close the whales can come to us, but plan for viewing from at least 100 yards.
Can small boats get closer?
It's a common misconception that small boats get closer to whales. Each vessel – regardless of size – is required to adhere to federal and state whale viewing guidelines. Large boats offer more comfort with added amenities (real bathrooms, food/drink, and much, much more). Large boats are more stable and offer an unparalleled photography platform that small boats simply cannot offer. Size matters, see our vessel.
Does the boat bother the whales?
We work closely with researchers and enforcement to develop guidelines that do not impact local wildlife. We travel at slow speeds around whales and view from respectful distances. While watching whales, we often see them feeding, mating, and even sleeping, indicating that our presence does not change their natural behavior. Washington has the most precautionary whale watching regulations in the world.
Where do we go?
Every tour is different! We don't have a set course and go wherever the wildlife takes us. Our vessel has the largest range of any company in the region.
Will I get cold?
We encourage dressing in layers, even in summer. The air temperature often feels 10-20 degrees cooler on the water. The Island Explorer 5 has two large heated cabins and wind-blocked outdoor seating, but the more comfortable you are, the more time you'll spend viewing wildlife! We always suggest wearing/bringing warm layers with you.
What if it rains?
We operate our tours in most weather conditions. The whales don't mind if the weather isn’t perfect. If we do encounter a rainy day, Island Explorer 5 offers great protection from the weather. Typically the only conditions that would cause us to cancel a tour would be a severe wind event.
What is your cancellation policy?
We have the most flexible cancellation policy in the business! When you make your reservation, you'll be charged in full and receive an instant confirmation email. If you need to make changes to your reservation, we simply ask that you provide at least 24 hours notice (48 hours for groups of 10 or more). There is no charge to modify or reschedule a reservation. If you need to cancel a reservation, however, you'll receive a full refund less a $5 per person processing fee. If for any reason Island Adventures must cancel a tour, there are no cancellation fees and we will offer to reschedule your tour or honor a full refund.
Will I get seasick?
Very few people get seasick on our tours. Our vessel is very stable —large enough to push through occasional wind-chop easily. We do not see ocean type swells as we are 90 miles from the open ocean and the water is calm on the vast majority of days. If a person is very prone to motion sickness we suggest taking a non-drowsy Dramamine or Bonine the night before and the morning of the tour. Feel free to call the day before your tour to check on sea-state forecasts!
Is smoking allowed?
Smoking of any kind, including e-cigarettes and vaping, is not permitted on any Island Adventures vessel.
Can I bring my pet dog?
We love pets, but we can only welcome registered service animals on our tours. Please notify the office if you'll be bringing a service animal with you on your tour.
Can I bring my own food?
Our vessels have great food and drink options available for purchase, but you are permitted to bring your own food and drink items as well. Because we sell beer and wine on our vessels, however, Washington state does not permit any outside alcohol aboard.
Can I pay with cash?
For convenience, we are cashless, just like the airlines. We accept all major credit and debit cards.
Can I bring a stroller?
While you may bring a stroller, we ask that it be a small folding stroller that can be stowed easily. Please be mindful not to block walkways or doorways for safety reasons. Many of our guests with young children find it most convenient to wear their infants or use a car seat carrier.
Are you handicap accessible?
We can accommodate almost any situation, however, we do have a few limitations. At this time, we can not accommodate electric wheelchairs, and a few stairs are required to board the vessel. All of our vessels have restrooms, indoor and outdoor viewing, and cafe service on the main floor, but due to a few Coast Guard requirements, our vessels can not be fully ADA-compliant. Please contact our office with specific questions.
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See what we've seen on the water. There's a detailed account from every tour since 2003!