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San Juan Islands for Families on a Budget

What to do with kids on Orcas, Lopez, San Juan and more idyllic islands

Lauren Braden

Published on: June 21, 2024

Family walking along the shore on one of the San Juan islands during vacation
Lauren Braden

San Juan Islands vacation

Have you given up on the San Juan Islands because of the ferries, the crowds and the steep overnight lodging rates? Not so fast. If you haven’t visited in a while, let me assure you: Lopez Island has not suddenly transformed into Nantucket.

Our gorgeous San Juans are as laid-back and charming as ever, especially if you know when to go and where to find the best deals.

My budget-conscious family boards a ferry to the San Juans about once a year, a pilgrimage to emerald isles that immerses our son in Northwest nature and gently nudges him to slow down to the pace of “island time.”

Even the one-hour ferry crossing (which you can reserve) is an adventure for kids as you can spot many different types of sea life, from cormorants to orcas to harbor seals. Once on the islands, pebbly beaches invite our son to indulge in one of his favorite pastimes: skipping rocks. And clear, dark skies away from city lights are perfect for stargazing.

At the end of this article, find our tips for saving money and skipping the hassle on your jaunt to the kid-friendly San Juan Islands.

First stop: Orcas Island

Editor’s note: Originally published several years ago, this article was updated most recently on June 21, 2024, with new recommendations for lodging, restaurants and things to do, by the writer — because the San Juans remain a must-visit destination.

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