Share your knowledge
Edit this page
Seldom is life put into perspective. Watching humpback whales in Juneau is one of those thought provoking times where the balance and complexity of nature is right in front of you. All whale-watching companies in Juneau are subject to Coast Guard safety requirements and licensed personnel, and must have Alaska business license and carry appropriate insurance. All boats carrying more than six passengers must be inspected annually and carry additional safety equipment such as life-rafts.
You can expect to see Steller sea lions, Humpback whales (tails and blows), bald eagles, and on occasion harbor seals, Dall's porpoises, and killer whales (Orcas). Juneau whale watch companies operate out of Auke Bay, about 12 miles west of downtown Juneau.. With over 11,000 miles of coastline, whale-watching is usually very UN-crowded!
Times on the water vary. As with many tours, the longer the tour the more chances you have for more sightings and a better experience. Be sure to check how long each tour spends on the water. Most tours are 2-1/2 hours, but some are only 2 hours on the water, while some are 3 hours and some even longer. The more time on the water means more chances to see more whales and other wildlife. Compare prices to the length of time on the water, as shorter tours are more often more costly on a per-hour basis.
There are different themes in a whale watching experience. Some companies offer a basic sighseeing package, others provide a land-sea photo theme, and others offer (longer) combined fishing and whale-watching. Some also offer a whale watching and bear viewing combination. There are even science based trips where you can gather data for local non-profit science organizations. You can also arrange any imaginable combination of privately chartered wildlife watching, flight-seeing, fishing, meals, etc. by contacting the tour companies or charters directly.
The number of passengers accommodated can range from 6-150.
Pretty much all whale watching boats go searching for whales in the same area near Juneau. The Captains communicate with each other so that even though they are "competitors" everyone can get to see the most wildlife available during the time of the tour. So "whale guarantees" very rarely have to be met, and it has been years since one day when no one could find any whales.
Some companies will drop you off or pick you up at Mendenhall Glacier, most for a modest additional charge but some for free (be sure to add that cost into your comparison of companies), and shuttle buses back to town cost about $8 per person (but shuttle buses generally only operate until about 6pm). After that you will need to call a taxi to bring you back into town.