Why We’re the Best!


When I first started in 1980, I was the only local company leading kayak expeditions in the San Juans. Today there are a lot of outfitters out there.

I think it all boils down to this:  Mine is a small, local company and the oldest, most experienced sea kayaking outfitter in the San Juan Islands!  By keeping my company small, I can hand-pick incredible guides and insure quality equipment and service.  I train each of my staff using the knowledge and experience I gained over more than 36 years of leading three and four day expeditions in the islands.  You won’t find that anywhere else!

My expeditions are a culmination of all I have learned over the past thirty-seven years of living and paddling in the San Juan Islands, and they continue to evolve as I inquire, observe and learn each season. The very fact that my company has been leading safe and educational kayak tours in the San Juan Islands for so many years is unique to the entire sea kayaking industry! These trips attract fun, well-rounded folks with diverse backgrounds, can-do attitudes and a love of adventure. My guide’s perfect safety record is a result of experienced, professional leadership and quality equipment. Our attention to detail and trip planning is unequaled anywhere else! Our sea kayaking expeditions minimize our footprint on the island environment.

kayak with whales orca kayak whale watching trips day tours kayak san juan islandsOur knowledge of this small corner of the world allows us to provide you with the best that the San Juan Islands have to give! Our commitment to offer you a high quality sea kayaking experience is taken seriously. We dedicate ourselves to and work hard toward that goal each year!

Here are some solid reasons why you should choose San Juan Kayak Expeditions for your day, multi-day or rental sea kayaking adventure!

1. MOST EXPERIENCE sea kayaking adventure tours san juan islands

We are a local company.  We have lived and kayaked in these islands for thirty-seven years! Owner Tim Thomsen has guided multi-day sea kayaking tours in the San Juan Islands for thirty-four years, has led over 475 expeditions throughout these islands and has logged more than 16,000 miles paddling in the San Juans.  No other company’s owner can offer you that kind of experience. If you paddle with us, you’ll be paddling in our backyard.  In a place where the tides can change up to thirteen vertical feet in one six hour period and the winds are unpredictable, our professional guides have the training, knowledge, experience and judgement to insure a safe, fulfilling and educational multi-day sea kayak journey.

“We wanted to drop you a line to say THANKS. We had a great time. The weather, food and the people really made this a trip to remember. I am sure you hear this all the time, but your sense of humor and your knowledge of the area are what make your trips so enjoyable. I will be in contact with you as we get closer to September to book our next trip. I have quite a few friends who will love to join us next year. Thanks again”
Rick and Jeanne Thompson
Scandia, MN


Our unprecedented  safety record is a reflection of our experience, judgement, quality equipment and observational skills. Our record stands alone. We carry all safety equipment(flares, GPS, chart, VHF radio, cell phone, first aid kit, etc.).

“Thanks for making this an extraordinary experience for all of us…from start to finish.”
Mark Epley Portland, OR

3. BEST EQUIPMENT kayaking orca whales killer whales san juan islands

We use only new, state-of-the-art, two-person, rudder-controlled sea kayaks(Seascape II by Northwest Kayaks), lightweight fiberglass paddles(Camano by Werner Paddles), top quality, comfortable and dry spray skirts(Snap Dragon Designs)and comfortable life jackets(Sabre by Extrasport). We also supply you with a Therma-Rest inflatable seat cushion while paddling, cockpit covers to keep things dry inside your kayak at night, new two-person tents and, just in case, a quality rain tarp, plus light-weight nylon hammocks for our comfort in camp. Each year we buy new kayaks with new paddles for our expedition fleet.  Our kayaks will handle adverse conditions safely.

 We take pride that our equipment is the best out there, and so will you!!


We are a sea kayaking outfitter.  We do not offer bike/kayak tours, inn to inn tours, wine tasting trips, zip line excursions, etc.  For thirty-five years, we have offered only quality sea kayaking/camping adventures in the San Juan Islands.  We concentrate on one thing:  giving you the best sea kayaking experience possible!

“I’m on my way home from Seattle this morning. I just wanted to say thanks for all you did for us. The trip was safe, fun, varied, challenging, delicious, relaxing, informative and beautiful. All the best to you.”
Christin Arnini
Bethany, CT


The small size and professional nature of our company mean we can give you the personal attention necessary to make your kayak experience a positive one. Owners Tim and Sally answer your e-mail and telephone inquiries personally.


Yes, laughter is an important aspect of our trips that sets them apart. Perhaps it is the nature of our website, the clients who come to us via word-of-mouth or just our bubbly personalities that attract fun people, but everyone just seems to bring along a sense of humor. Our trips are full of variety: relaxing, action-packed and totally fun. Possibly the sorest part of your body after paddling two, three or four days with us just may be your cheeks (facial, that is).

“We came, we paddled, we laughed, we conquered. Thanks,Tim for our sixth great trip. They just keep getting better. Just wish we could have won a game of horseshoes.”
Craig and Ryan Britt
West Seattle, WA


orca whales kayaking Our  Two-Day Whale Sanctuary,  Three-Day Coastal Explorer and Four-Day Islands Adventurer expeditions spend a final night camped on the edge of orca whale country and spend two days (Whale Sanctuary) or one and a half days exploring prime orca habitat.  This gives you the best odds possible of encountering orcas in the wild.  Viewing “killer whales” from a kayak is one of the most exciting wildlife experiences you will ever have.  Our thirty-plus years of whale watching experience will put you in a front row seat! The five-day “Ultimate” traverses channels and bays frequently inhabited by humpback, minke and orca whales.  Our Whales Ho! Half Day tour and our Whales Ho! Full Day tour take you to the heart of orca country, and, with a little luck, you will paddle with whales!  We launch from San Juan County Park on San Juan Island’s west side where orca pods hunt salmon.  Let’s go whale watching!

“I just wanted to drop you a line to make sure you know how special our trip in the San Juans with you was! I had so many amazing moments – it has been very inspiring, and it is mostly due to your positive energy and enthusiasm for what you do – it is absolutely contagious! Thank you for leading us all in an experience that I’m sure we will all remember dearly for the rest of our lives!”

Emily La Shorne
Brooklyn, NY


We have devised and patented a safe, lightweight and easy to use spinnaker complete with a forward viewing window that allows each kayak to sail with the wind at exciting speeds only on our guided, multi-day trips. Anyone can sail. You will receive professional instruction on how to safely and efficiently use the wind to propel your double kayak through the sea. Our patented sailing system is no gimmick and definitely raises our expeditions to an exciting new level of adventure. No other outfitter offers this unique alternative to paddling. It’s a total rush and makes kayaking a breeze (pun intended).

kayak sailing

“Sailing totally blew us away. HAR. HAR. The sound of the sea rushing under our kayak as we crossed effortlessly to Speiden Island at 7 knots made us realize that we were unique and awesome adventurers. Thanks Tim for an experience of a lifetime.”

Mike and Krishna Smith
Portland, OR


Our two-day Whale Sanctuary and Orca Quest overnighters, our three-day Coastal Explorer and four-day Islands Adventurer trips spend a final night camped on the edge of orca whale habitat on an island reserved exclusively for San Juan Kayak Expeditions.  This small, island jewel will be ours for a night.  Our The “Ultimate” 5 – day adventure takes you to some of the most remote and spectacular campsites in the San Juan Islands. Enjoy.


Every evening of each trip we enjoy a leisurely sunset paddle or hike and often an evening bioluminescent paddle. These special moments are always a highlight of our expeditions. Looking west into Canada from our elevated mossy bluff or from our floating kayaks, the serenity is palpable. As we enjoy the magic of the day’s last light, seals and porpoise feed around us while sea birds make their daily evening flights to their roosting sites. As night falls, our seclusion is complete. Upon our return to camp in the dusk, let’s light the campfire and share a few tales of our travels.

After dark on calm evenings, the night-owl in us comes out as we paddle our kayaks through bursts of neon green bioluminescent seas.  This spectacle of nature will be just another part of your experience you will never forget!

“I wanted to send you a brief thank you note. Kathy and I had a great time on our trip with you – it was over much too quickly -and we are having fun recounting our experiences to family, friends and co-workers. We particularly enjoyed the short hikes and the sunsets and your sharing of your knowledge about the area and the things we were seeing. We will be back for another whale encounter. Thanks.”
Al Raymond
Minneapolis, MN
“Thanks for a fabulous trip. What a great way to see a beautiful part of the world.”
Terri Furman Broomfield, CO

11. LOW-IMPACT CAMPING kayak camping san juan islands

I have called these islands home since 1978, and I feel that they and local wildlife are worth protecting. For this reason, our expeditions emphasize low-impact camping. Only by treating each beach, each campsite, each hiking trail and each creature with care and respect can we justify our passage. Our groups average six to eight and NEVER exceed twelve people. We leave each campsite cleaner than when we arrived. Evening fires use beach driftwood only and are kept small. We are not affiliated with motorized, whale-watch tour companies, as these “stink pots” are extremely polluting and have a very high, negative impact on orca quality of life and marine life in general. We call upon all motorized,whale watch tour companies (both US and Canadian) to immediately halt the illegal, greedy, destructive, relentless pursuit of our local orca pods. We do not use motorized support boats. Please be wary of kayak companies that promote power boat shuttles or “Mothership” tours. This really goes against the grain of what sea kayaking is all about and greatly adds to the noise, air and water pollution of the San Juan Islands. Don’t be a part of the problem. As a self-appointed steward of these islands, we paddle to the Kayak Education & Leadership Program (K.E.L.P.) code to help protect marine wildlife. Upon conclusion of each trip, participants are proud, not only of what they have accomplished together, but also of what little trace we have left behind from our voyage.


Are you bringing clothes, gear or luggage that you don’t need for the kayak trip? You may leave them in our van for the duration. Your stuff will be stored in our secure shop and will be waiting for you at our landing site.


Because we are a small operation, we are able to keep our prices low without sacrificing service, quality of equipment and professionalism. We run a well organized yet simple operation honed by experience, and that means a positive experience for you at an affordable rate.