Affordable Pristine Beauty in the San Juan Islands

Posted January 8, 2010 by Jamie Moore

Wa-sanjuan-sunset-def When you discover a place as pristine as the San Juan Islands, you can't help feeling inspired to tread lightly. So awed was the National Trust for Historic Preservation that it named Friday Harbor one of 2008's "Dozen Distinctive Destinations" for its rural charm and reuse-and-recycle ethic. And, since there's no time like the present to plan ahead for a trip when warmer weather reappears, here are a few favorite gone-green spots in the San Juans.

Juniper Lane Guest House: The owner of this affordable Friday Harbor hotel/hostel hybrid was green-minded long before it became trendy. Juniper built her guest house using 75 percent recycled, salvaged, and beach-combed lumber, and installed reclaimed tiles and doors from the landfill. She encourages guests to exchange travel tales over fair-trade coffee, recycle and compost, and ride her "funky town bikes" (old '60s and '70s models) to the harbor instead of driving. Rates range from $60 to $135 per night depending on room and season.

Inn at Ship Bay: This landmark restaurant on nearby Orcas Island sits high on a bluff overlooking Ship Bay. The setting—an 1869 farmhouse in the center of heirloom plum, pear, and apple orchards—is perfectly pastoral. And the food is as fresh as it gets. Every season, the menu changes to incorporate organic, locally farmed products including fruit from the orchards. You can really taste a difference in the grass-fed beef filet and other meats, which are free of antibiotics and hormones. Entrees are $22 to $32 and worth every green-spent penny.

Shearwater Adventures: You don't realize how much quiet is lacking in your life until you glide silently across calm waters in a kayak. Shearwater Adventures' expert guides lead paddlers from Orcas Island on three-hour tours ($60 per person) or day trips ($125 per person) throughout the gorgeous San Juans. Watch for a chance encounter with a bald eagle, harbor seal, river otter, or porpoise, and feel good about not leaving a puff of exhaust in your wake.

Use our price-comparison tool to search for flights and compare prices to Seattle and Vancouver, which are home to the San Juan Islands’ nearest major airports.

(Photo: Michael Bertrand)

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