Whale Watch  Lime Kiln State Park San Juan Island
Picnic bench at San Juan Island's Whale Watch Park

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5 Worst Planning Mistakes when visiting San Juan Island (and how to avoid them)

Visiting beautiful San Juan Island with its stunning wildlife, breathtaking nature, rich history and culture is the most relaxing, awe-inspiring and rejuvenating experience. Planning such a getaway can be a little intimidating, especially when you haven’t been to the island before and ferry travel is involved.  But don’t worry, we’ll give you the insiders scoop.  Here are the most common mistakes when planning a trip to San Juan and how to avoid them.

  1. Having no reservations

Friday Harbor and San Juan Island are very popular, especially during the Summer months. Travelling without ferry, hotel or restaurant reservations can cause unnecessary delays and hassle.

If you plan on driving your car onto the Washington State Ferry to get here, make a reservation. If you will be coming without a car and walking on, you don’t need a reservation and you will never get turned away!

Our little Bird Rock Hotel has only 15 rooms.  We sell out quickly. Make your reservations early to get the best deal and the room that’s just right for you.

You’ll always find good eats in Friday Harbor. If you have your heart set on eating in one of the famous farm-to-table restaurants like the Backdoor Kitchen or the COHO Restaurant, let us know, and we’ll make a reservation for you.

whale watching on San Juan island

  1. Trying to do too much

There is so much to do here and you can’t do it all in one weekend. If you book a whale watch tour and a zip line tour, you might not have time for your massage. If you visit the Lavender Farm, the Alpaca Farm and do the Distillery Tour, you might miss the Whale Watch Park and American Camp. Let us help you with your itinerary – we can book all the adventures for you -  and you might even want to add an extra day!

  1. Over-packing

Unless it’s a special occasion and you just have to look your very best, leave the fancy outfit at home. Even in San Juan Island’s finest restaurants, you’ll find folks in shirt and tie next to somebody in shorts and sandals.

All island hikes are doable in river sandals or sneakers. A hat and sunglasses are good to bring. It does,however get chilly at night and out on the water. Make sure to bring layers.

In case you run out of clothes, there is a guest laundry at our sister hotel, the Earthbox Inn & Spa. You may also park your car there and use the pool, sauna, hot tub and exercise room.And if there is something essential you forgot, treat yourself to a shopping trip in one of the cute boutiques in Friday Harbor.

  1. Mainland assumptions about cell & internet service

There is great cell reception in downtown Friday Harbor. Once you get out of town, however it can get pretty spotty. Ask us for an island map before heading out of town and we suggest that you put your phone into airplane mode. Especially on the west side where you stand a good chance of picking up a Canadian, rather than US cell carrier causing you to incur international charges. Many service providers will take them off your bill, once you’ve told them that you never left the country, but why hassle with that?

Even the fastest island internet is no match for mainland service. Our free wifi is great to look things up and check your social media, but may not be strong enough for streaming movies.

Better yet: put that phone aside for a few days. You are in paradise.

  1. Going out too late

Friday Harbor, despite being jokingly called “sin city” by islanders from the smaller islands--because it has three bars--is an early town. Shops, galleries and museums close around 5:00pm. It can be hard to get dinner after 9:00pm. The three bars are open late though, so don’t worry too much if you’re a night owl.

"What a delightful place to stay!...

The staff is wonderful and the little extras

make it a comfortable place to stay."