Pacific Northwest: Seattle and San Juan Islands

Pacific Northwest: Seattle and San Juan Islands

San Juan Islands Washington State Whale Watching Orca

Fly in/out: Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA)

Ball Park Price: $750/per person (airfare not included)

Pace: Easy

Best Time to Travel: For best marine life viewing, April-September

Time Zone: Pacific


DAY ONE: Arrive in Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA), Washington. Take a cab to hotel and check in at Four Seasons Seattle. Pre-purchase tickets to take the Seattle’s Space Needle for a beautiful view of the city. Enjoy a wonderful dinner at Purple Cafe and Wine Bar.

DAY TWO: Visit the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum, a Frank Gehry designed museum with 140 pop culture and interactive exhibits. Take some time observing the Ballard Locks to watch the Salmon swim upstream. Spend the afternoon exploring the Pike Place Market overlooking the Elliott Bay and visit the iconic Pike Place Fish Market. For dinner, enjoy the oyster bar, Walrus and the Carpenter.

Ferry in Friday Harbor, San Juan Island
Friday Harbor, San Juan Island

DAY THREE: Head out early for an amazing breakfast at Morsel near the University of Washington in the University District. Stroll and explore the University District. Succomb to taking the most touristy, cheesy, yet entertaining tour in Seattle, take “Ride the Duck Tour”, an amphibious boat that can travel by land and sea. Walk and explore the Olympic Sculpture park.

DAY FOUR: Take the Kenmore Air seaplane morning flight from Lake Union in Seattle to San Juan Islands, Friday Harbor. Check in at The Island Inn in Friday Harbor. Explore and shop in Friday Harbor, San Juan, Island.

DAY FIVE: Take a morning whale watch tour with Maya’s Westside Whale Watch Charter. Dinner at Cask and Schooner walking distance from hotel.

DAY SIX: Kayak in Friday Harbor with Sea Quest Kayak. Dinner at Backdoor Kitchen.

DAY SEVEN: Board the seaplane back to Seattle and fly home.

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Vacation Highlights

  • Seattle has so many things to offer for a family vacation. It is a striking city with scenic mountain and ocean views offering twelve months of outdoor activities with a collection of fascinating and unique neighborhoods that are easy to get around. Famous for the first Starbucks; a waterside sculpture park; inspiration for many musicians and artists including Jimi Hendrix and Macklemore; and of course an iconic space needle, there’s tons of fun things to do for a family.
  • Three days was the perfect amount of time to explore Seattle. We started with the Space Needle to get an orientation of the city and it’s great neighborhoods. The EMB museum is a unique museum capitalizing on Seattle being home to many great musicians and world famous icons. It’s a tween and teen paradise for kids that enjoy pop culture. With an original Starbucks, Pike Place Market boasts a farmers market for shopping 363 days out of the year. The Starbucks had a line around the block, but it was fun to shop at the Pike Place Market. There are endless parks to explore in Seattle and Olympic Sculpture Park offers some of the best outdoor sculptures along the water and is free.
  • If weather cooperates, an option for taking in Seattle’s scenery is to rent bikes and take the Burke Gilman Trail from the Fremont Neighborhood to the Ballard Locks. The Fremont Neighborhood is a great place to walk around, grab a snack and enjoy some local breweries.
  • Explore Seattle
  • We had an unforgettable short seaplane flight to the San Juan Islands. It’s a breath taking and fist clenching experience to take off on water and land in water, but so worth it for the views and the experience. Boasting over 170 Islands, the San Juan Islands offers all kinds of outdoor family activities for kids to enjoy. Hiking, boating, kayaking and visiting San Juan National Park for a “Pig War” recreation are among some family favorites. Additionally, Friday Harbor in San Juan has a very personable and relaxed atmosphere. The whole culture of San Juan Islands has a summer escape feel far away from reality.
  • We chose to stay on Friday Harbor for the whole vacation but got to see a lot of the islands (most notably visited Orcas and Lopez) by boat. The Maya’s Whale Watch tour and Kayaking gave us a remarkable tour of the area. There are also other boating charters and sailing tours to explore on water.
  • Spectacular Pacific Northwest
  • To get an additional education about the whales in the area and support the Orca whale as an endangered species, visit the Whale Museum that hosts a remarkable collection of whale exhibits, artwork, models, and artifacts, including real whale skeletons and a family tree of the Resident orcas.

Great Excursions

  • We thoroughly enjoyed the whale watching tour provided by Maya’s Westside Whale Watch Charters. The naturalist guides had a significant knowledge base about the orca whales and their habitat which made the 3-hour tour particularly enjoyable and informative for the kids. We had a smaller boat with great viewing of the whales.
  • Whale Watching - San Juan Islands
  • We also enjoyed our one day afternoon kayak trip with Sea Quest in San Juan Islands. The islands host an abundant number of wildlife including bald eagles, harbor seals and salmon. On our kayak trip, we got to see baby seals lying in a bed of kelp that didn’t seem to mind our presence while kayaking by.
  • Sea Kayaking - San Juan Islands

Places to stay

  • In Seattle, the Courtyard Marriott is centrally located , very reasonably priced and includes breakfast, fitness center and indoor pool.
  • For a little more luxury and a beautiful outdoor infinity pool with great views, book the Four Seasons Hotel, in the heart of Seattle’s city center.
  • Courtyard Marriott SeattleFour Seasons Hotel Seattle
  • The Island Inn at 123 West in Friday Harbor is a fabulous family friendly hotel with two-bedroom suites. It has a unique and European design and flare. A great location in Friday Harbor, beautiful views from a rooftop deck over breakfast, and spacious suites for the family.
  • The Island Inn at 123 West Friday Harbor Washington


We loved our dining choices in Seattle. We had heard about these great restaurants through friends:

  • In Seattle, the Purple Cafe fabulous food, kids menu, casual ambiance.
  • The Walrus and the Carpenter with an innovative small seafood menu. Kids must love seafood, but for the adults-think great martini and whole, pan fried smelts.
  • Barolo Seattle, a highly recommended Italian restaurant in Seattle.
  • You’ll be talking about these biscuits for months at Morsel in the university district.
  • Purple Cafe and Wine Bar, SeattleMorsel Biscuits


  • Our family had a specific request that this be one of our lower key and relaxing vacations, so we would have room for downtime and relaxation. However, we felt we really hit some major highlights on this trip. For many more activities to chose from for the entire family in the San Juan Islands visit this site.
  • Top rated things to do in Seattle with kids depends greatly on the age of the children. For other ideas for children of different ages, explore the Visit Seattle website.
  • You shouldn’t need a car to get around Seattle. We used the monorail and taxis to get around which was a better cost saving than a car rental and hotel parking.
  • Because you’re in the Pacific Northwest, bring many layers and your best windbreakers for the water activities. Don’t forget to pack binoculars as well for the whale watching.

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