Ever since watching Free Willy the movie, it has always been my childhood dream to see orca’s in the wild. So when we visited Vancouver as start of our ultimate Canada road trip, whale watching couldn’t be missed. In fact, whale watching in Vancouver is one of the best and easiest places in the world to spot orca’s and humpback whales! But there are quite some different whale watching companies in Vancouver offering their services, so it might be confusing which whale watching tour in Vancouver is the best to book. After doing a lot of research to have the best whale watching experience for ourselves, I share with you in this complete guide the best and most ethical whale watching tours in Vancouver. You will also find all the things you need to know and prepare before embarking on an unforgettable whale watching tour in Vancouver!
When is Vancouver whale watching season?
Orca’s are present year round in the waters around Vancouver. But considering the weather, the best time to go on a whale watching tour in Vancouver is from April to October. During this period, you have the highest chance of spotting orcas, humpback whales and other marine wildlife.
For the most enjoyable experience, consider planning your whale watching tour in Vancouver between May and September. The weather is then more favorable and the chance of spotting several types of whales is very high.
No time to read the whole article?
Don’t worry because I can guarantee you that this half day whale watching tour on a catamaran is the best and most comfortable whale watching tour in Vancouver.
The big 24 meter (80 ft) catamaran has a heated indoor cabin with floor to ceiling windows, toilets and open air decks.
Professional wildlife guides will tell you everything about the marine life you can see and the complementary tea, coffee & hot chocolate makes the whole experience super enjoyable.
You even get a free photo package of your trip including personal photos of you and the wildlife you’ve seen!
→ Check here current prices and availability for this half day whale watching tour
What kind of whales can be seen from Vancouver?
What we loved about whale watching in Vancouver is the chance to see a diverse range of whales. Orcas, also known as killer whales, and humpback whales are most commonly seen during the whale watching season. Gray whales and minke whales make occasional appearances around Vancouver City and can be easier spotted on a whale watching tour from Victoria on Vancouver Island. Of course you can also see plenty of other wild life during your tour like seals, sea lions, porpoises, pinnipeds and seabirds such as bald eagles.
As mentioned before, Vancouver is some of the best places in the world to spot orcas. We learned from our professional wildlife guides during the tour that there are two main types: resident and transient killer whales. Both type of killer whales pass through or live in this area for the huge number of salmon that can be found here. This means that especially during salmon spawning season from May to October chances are very high to spot killer whales. As soon as it gets colder in Vancouver in fall season the orca pods migrate south to mate in warmer waters.
How long is a whale watching tour in Vancouver?
Most whale watching tours in Vancouver are 3 – 5 hours long. The length of the tour depends on the type of tour, boat and the distance traveled to reach prime whale-watching areas. Logically, the longer your whale watching tour is, the more time you have to admire and observe these majestic animals.
How much does it cost to go whale watching in Vancouver?
The cost of whale watching tours in Vancouver vary based on several factors, including the tour operator, the duration of the tour and the type of vessel used. On average, prices can range from approximately $90 to $150 USD or more per person. Whale watching tours including a sea plane flight for example have higher costs.
What are the best whale watching tours in Vancouver?
This is the most comfortable whale watching trip from Vancouver. Embark on the big 24 meter (80 ft) catamaran and sail across Howe Sound while enjoying the stunning views of the San Juan Islands. The knowledgable guides will explain about all the different marine life you’ll see while telling more about their habitat.
This whale watching company has without a doubt the most comfy boat with heated indoor cabin, floor to ceiling windows, toilets and open air decks. This makes it an ideal option for families traveling with kids and / or elderly. You even get a free photo package of your trip including personal photos of you with your loved ones and the wildlife you’ve seen!
The 5 hour whale watching tour departs from several times to suit your schedule. With its meeting point and departure location at the lively Granville Island, you can explore the famous public markets, shops and galleries before or after the tour.
This 5 hour whale watching tour includes round-trip transport from your hotel and is the longest time you can spend whale watching in Vancouver. This will make your chances on spotting several types of whales and other marine life very, very high. The warm and covered boat makes it a comfortable experience and the knowledgeable staff is very enthusiastic and willing to answer all your questions.
The tour runs from April to November, so this is the perfect Vancouver whale watching tour in the colder winter months. Because there’s a minimum of 2 adults per booking, you can’t do it solo. Therefore I highly recommend booking this tour if you’re a family because of the comfortable boat. Or if you’re a couple who loves the outdoors and spotting wildlife.
This is the most exhilarating whale watching tour which also combines a sea plane flight from Vancouver to Victoria on Vancouver Island. So you’re not going whale watching from Vancouver city, but from Vancouver Island which always has a huge whale sighting success rate. Vancouver Island is in fact one of the best and easiest places in the world to spot whales!
This full day tour takes about 10 hours and starts with a stunning sea plane flight from Vancouver city to Victoria on Vancouver Island. The sea plane departs at 8.30 AM and 9 AM, and as you’re boarding a flight you will need to bring your identification for check in. Upon arrival in Victoria you will then board the type of vessel you choose upon booking which is either an open air zodiac or closed vessel. The huge advantage of a zodiac is that you will get an even closer encounter with the marine life.
After an unforgettable time on the water and spotting many type of whales and marine life, you will hop aboard the sea plane again to make your way back to Vancouver.
This sunset whale watching adventure from Vancouver combines the best things of nature in one tour. Spotting the majestic whales while taking in a magical sunset from the boat with an impressive backdrop of surrounding mountains. Sounds too good to be true? Well, it isn’t. Prince of Whales Vancouver offers as ONLY whale watching company this unique experience.
The huge advantage of this whale watching tour is that a free photo package of your trip & wildlife is included! This will give you all the time and freedom to enjoy the moment without having to worry about capturing the best moments.
Another advantage is the comfortable catamaran vessel which is 24 meter (80 ft) long. There are toilets and several viewing decks aboard, giving everyone the space and comfort they need.
This sunset whale watching cruise is a seasonal tour though. It only takes place from June until September, but if you’re in Vancouver in those months, I highly recommend booking this tour.
What to wear and prepare for your whale watching tour in Vancouver
Spoiler alert… It’s going to be much cooler on the water than in the city! So when embarking on a whale watching tour in Vancouver, be prepared for varying weather conditions on the ocean. Wear a waterproof jacket, long pants, closed toe shoes and bring a warm hat and gloves in early spring and late autumn.
Depending on the type of vessel you booked, you will get a warm overall pants (also known as cruiser suit), provided by your tour operator to stay warm. This is only the case with an open zodiak to keep you warm and protected from the wind.
Another important thing to bring or already wear is sunscreen and sunglasses. Especially in the summer months the sun is very intense and reflects off water and decks.
Is whale watching in Vancouver an ethical experience?
Yes, absolutely. As animal lovers we only promote ethical whale watching practices and choose operators who are committed to sustainable practices that prioritize the well-being of the marine life and their habitats.
All whale watching tours in Vancouver need to adhere to guidelines, such as maintaining a safe distance from the whales to minimize disturbance and avoiding behaviors that could impact their natural behaviors. This means that you will observe the whales from a respectful distance of at least 200 yards (about 183 meters) away.
Is whale watching in Vancouver worth it?
100% YES!! The waters surrounding Vancouver, particularly the Salish Sea, are very rich in marine biodiversity. So the chance to see different type of whales during your tour is very, very high. And besides the whale watching adventure, the boat tour also offers breathtaking views of Vancouver city and the surroundings mountains.
Where to stay in Vancouver
- West Vancouver: This is the closest urban area to Lynn Headwaters Regional Park. You can find all sorts of hotels, motels, and bed and breakfasts in West Vancouver.
- North Vancouver: Located just across the Burrard Inlet from West Vancouver, North Vancouver also offers a variety of accommodation options.
- Downtown Vancouver: If you don’t mind a bit of a drive, downtown Vancouver provides a wide range of hotels for all budgets.
More Canada travel inspiration
I hope you enjoyed this complete guide about the best whale watching tours in Vancouver. For more travel inspiration of British Columbia and Alberta, head over to our other Canada travel guides.