In its 16th year of operation, Alaskan-owned company Juneau Tours and Whale Watch weighs in as the largest independent tour provider in Southeast Alaska. But don’t let that title mislead you, this family operation is all about the customer experience. From sales agents and dock representatives to bus drivers/ guides, naturalists/deck hands and boat captains, Juneau Tours and Whale Watch treats everyone like well-loved family.
Back in 1998, Sky Bonnell relocated from Hawaii to fish commercially and drive a cab in the off-season. Even back then—before everyone owned a cell phone—Juneau greeted a large number of visitors. The growing demand soon warranted the need for a larger vehicle so Sky bought a bus in 2002. Flash forward to 2017, Sky’s little company that started with a cab is now in two locations (Juneau and Skagway), offers more than eight different tours and serves close to 90,000 guests every summer. Managed by his sister, Serene Hutchinson, Juneau Tours and Whale Watch employs 60+ employees (more than half call Alaska their home) and has a whopping 70% employee retention rate!
Along with being #1 on Trip Advisor, a proud member of the Whale Sense project, Juneau Tours and Whale Watch is 100% committed to its recycling program (all tours, all the time) and a big supporter of sustainable and responsible tourism.
One of the world’s premier whale watching destinations, Juneau is located along Southeast Alaska’s Inside Passage. It’s also home to the owners and operators of Juneau Tours and Whale Watch. This family business believes in partnering with year-round residents and giving back to the community. From donating tours to local schools and non-profits, to bartering services for fresh crab, the sibling duo believes in keeping business in Alaska and collaborating with other Alaskan companies. Case in point, the newest addition to the fleet—the Atlin—was built to order in Homer by Bay Welding and designed by Coastwise Corporations.
Juneau Tours and Whale Watch is grateful to be able to share the wonders of Southeast Alaska – by land and sea – with visitors and locals alike.
What we'll do
Great things come in 3s! See the Mendenhall Glacier, humpback whales, AND feast on the delectable Alaskan king crab!
Meet our largest local residents - the humpback whales! Once aboard your coach, your driver guide narrates as you're transferred to the harbor to board our custom-made whale watching boat.
Experience two hours of guaranteed whale spotting and other possible wildlife. Afterward, our coach transfers you to the beautiful Mendenhall Glacier National Park. (The order of the glacier portion may be reversed for afternoon tours)
Once you're back in town, enjoy Juneau's Original King Crab Eatery at Tracy's Crab Shack. The combo meal includes a meaty King Crab leg, yummy crab cakes, and their oh-so-delicious bisque! Beer and wine are available for purchase.
What to expect / what's provided
*Duration: Approximately 6 hours
*Snacks and binoculars are provided
The pickup meeting place is located on the street side in front of the Mt. Roberts Tramway ticket office. Dock representatives are waiting under the aerial tramway cables, holding Juneau Tours and Juneau Whale Watch signs, and wearing bright blue hats. All docks, with the exception of the AJ dock, are within walking distance (under 10 minutes.). Check-in is required prior to boarding the shuttle.
- Directions from the "AJ" dock: Look to the left as you exit the ship. The cruise line provides a "Downtown" shuttle, which will drop you right in front of the Mt. Roberts Tramway. A small fee may apply. If you’re up for a walk, it's about 20 minutes. Ask the shore excursion representative from your cruise line for directions
- Directions from the Franklin Dock: Exit, and turn left. Walk along the Sea Walk for approximately 8 minutes. You'll see the Mt. Roberts Tramway building in front of you. Right of the building, on the street side, in between two parking lots, is the meeting area under the cables From the Tramway and Cruise Terminal docks, which are located next to the Mt. Roberts Tramway office, exit the ship and go straight ahead. Depending on your ship, walk right or left around the building to the street side and meet a representative under the cables. 1 - 2-minute walk
- Directions from the Steamship dock: Exit the ship and walk down the ramp to the Sea Walk, turn right, walk along the boardwalk and look for the Mt Roberts Tramway building. It’s on the left after passing Tracy's Crab Shack. 5 - 7-minute walk
*Check-in with a Juneau Tours and Whale Watch dock representative in front of the Mt. Roberts Tramway, look for the Juneau Tours and Juneau Whale Watch signs, and bright blue hats. Please don’t board a bus before checking in. We often have multiple tours departing at the same time.
*The drop-off location is the same as the pickup location at the Mt. Roberts Tramway. Be sure to plan 5-10 minutes by foot back to your ship. AJ dock passengers must take a 5-minute shuttle back to their ship. On nice days, it's a 20-minute walk.
- What Happens If My Ship Is Delayed Getting Into Port?
Please don’t worry; we’ll know if your ship is delayed. This is because we receive a constant stream of updates on the cruise ships’ timetables. Consequently, we will automatically adjust your schedule and factor in any delays against the timing of your tour. When you arrive at the port, just check in with any of our Juneau Whale Watch dock representatives, who can be located under the overhead cables of the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway. (Look for them holding a Juneau Tours and Whale Watch sign.) Without further ado, we’ll get you started on your tour! If your ship doesn’t make it to port for any reason, we will refund you in full without incurring any administration fees or penalties.
- The Cruise Ships Say If We Don’t Book With Them We Might Get Left Behind: Is It Safe To Book With A Local Company?
One of our favorite FAQs: It is totally safe! And reliable. As a company that has been in the business of whale watching for years, our tour schedules are mindfully constructed around the cruise ships’ arrivals and departures, so we can guarantee you will be back to board your ship in plenty of time. Helpfully, we receive a constant stream of updates to the cruise ship timetables, which means we’ll know if your boat is delayed for any reason. Best of all, we’re able to offer more competitive deals than the cruise ships because you are booking locally. Moreover, our seafaring vessels are smaller than those offered by the cruise ship companies, giving you a more intimate encounter with the humpback whales and other myriad wildlife here in Juneau.
- Where Does The White Glacier Shuttle Bus Go?
Our easy-to-spot White Glacier Shuttle bus leaves from the parking lot in front of the Goldbelt Mount Roberts Tramway. It goes only to the glacier where it rides to (and from) the glacier every 30 minutes, although your driver will know your pick-up time. If you’ve purchased a combination tour, your shuttle ride back to downtown is included.
- How Much Time Can I Spend At Mendenhall Glacier?
One of the benefits of booking with Juneau Whale Watch is our flexibility around the timetables of the cruise ships. If your cruise ship is here all day, we recommend a morning combination tour using our White Glacier Shuttle bus, which rides every half an hour. Foremost, it affords you to maximize your time and stay as long as you wish. There is a mind-blowing amount to see, absorb and explore there. If your ship docks in the afternoon, you can plan on 45 minutes to an hour at the glacier. Please be aware of your “All aboard” time – it does take 30 minutes to get back to port. See more on the glacier tours available and read about Mendenhall Glacier.
- Can You Guarantee I Will See Whales?
Because in the region of 5% of Southeast Alaska’s humpback whale population embark upon an annual odyssey to nourish themselves after a 3,000-mile migration. Courtesy of Juneau’s nutrient-rich waters, which are teeming with herring and other baitfish, krill, and plankton, the whales feast to their bellies ’ desire. And regularly, just like we do. But for the whales, it’s feeding time all day!
Although there may be more, as far as numbers go: 150 humpback whales have been officially documented, which abound in Juneau’s protected waters! And, because the Inside Passage of the Alaskan Marine Highway is a relatively narrow body of water, makes the whales easy to spot. It is estimated that the worldwide population is at least 80,000, with 18,000–20,000 in the North Pacific, about 12,000 in the North Atlantic, and over 50,000 in the Southern Hemisphere, down from a pre whaling population of 125,000. See more on our whale watching tours and our page devoted to “The Team.”
- What Other Wildlife Is On Offer In Juneau?
Aside from humpback whales that come to feed on Juneau’s nutrient-rich waters, you might also get to feast your eyes on harbor seals, sea lions, porpoises, and otters. Bald eagles and other myriad birdlife soaring overhead also populate our skies so don’t forget to look up. Sometimes, black bears can be seen when the salmon are running too. It’s a wildlife utopia, it really is!
- What Kind Of Boats Are In Your Fleet?
Our five-strong, shiny fleet comprises three catamarans and two jet boats. The catamarans are sturdy boats with twin aluminum hulls in parallel. Where our jet boats afford an equally comfortable ride, they will propel you to the right spot in no time at all. Moreover, our fleet of whale watching boats is the newest in town. But perhaps best of all, we rarely weather cancel on our guests as the conditions are stable on the Inside Passage.
Our fleet of boats, together with our experienced captains at the helm, are more than capable of coping with whatever Southeast Alaska waters might throw at them. That said, the conditions are usually calm. Furthermore, our jet boats boast a front and back deck, while our aluminum dual-hulled catamarans have an additional upper deck. Superbly, all our boats have an enclosed heated cabin with wide-viewing windows and a marine toilet facility (referred to as “the head” when at sea”). Read more about our fleet of seafaring vessels, all of which are geared up to leave you wide-wide on whales! Check out our drone (aerial) footage showcasing two of our seafaring beauties here!
- What Is The Capacity Of Your Boats?
Our jets boats can accommodate up to 26 passengers and our larger catamarans cater to up to 49 people. Our jet boats have a front and back deck, while our catamarans have an additional upper deck. Also, our boats have an enclosed heated cabin with wide-viewing windows. If you have a group of 20 or more – call or email us about our group rates. Read more about our fleet of seafaring vessels and check out our drone (aerial) footage showcasing two of our seafaring beauties here!
- Are There Restrooms On The Boats?
There is a marine toilet on all our boats; seafarers call it “the head.” Although, we do recommend making use of the facilities just before coming aboard. Conveniently, there is a restroom at the Mount Roberts Tramway and at the boat harbor.
- Are Your Boats Available For Private Charters?
Absolutely. Whether whale watching is a priority of yours or not, all of our vessels are available for private hire. Should a private charter be of interest, the Rochelle B, one of our catamarans, comes complete with a bar area. And The Chilkat, another one of our catamarans, offers a lower deck with a bar and food service area for catering. This is perfect for once-in-a-lifetime events with family and friends. For example, bachelor and bachelorette parties, anniversaries, and graduation parties. Even getting married on the water, taking pictures at the glacier, and holding your reception on Mount Roberts with stunning, elevated views overlooking Juneau. See more on our fleet of seafaring vessels.
- What Should I Bring With Me On A Whale Watching Tour?
All the usual suspects: your camera; spare batteries; clothing to keep you cool, layers to keep you warm, and a rain jacket; as well as shoes you don’t mind getting wet. Sunglasses, a hat, and sun cream. Medication if prone to seasickness, although conditions are usually stable. We provide water and granola bars.
- What If The Weather Is Bad, Is The Tour Still On?
We rarely cancel on our guests as the conditions are stable on the Inside Passage. Not only that, our sturdy fleet of boats in conjunction with our experienced captains at the helm, are more than capable of coping with the conditions. Furthermore, we ensure your safety aboard our boats and buses. If in the unlikely event we do cancel the tour, we will provide you with a full refund, without incurring any administration fees or penalties.
- What Should We Wear?
A valid question in our FAQs. The only thing you can count on in Juneau is that you can’t count on the weather. With that in mind, prepare for the worst and hope for the best! Even waking up to warm, sunny skies can turn cool and rainy. We recommend layers of clothing, which are easy to don and easy to remove. Typically a short-sleeve and long-sleeve mid-layer and a waterproof jacket, long pants, and sturdy shoes you don’t mind getting wet. It can get chilly and rainy in our temperate rain forest, although summertime often sees our coastal city enjoy mild temperatures. Read more on recommended proper clothing against the typical weather and climate of Juneau throughout the year.
- How Rainy Is It, Really?
Juneau averages about 62″ of rain annually–that’s only two inches less than Miami! With precipitation falling on average 230 days of the year, expect rain at some point during your stay. We call it “liquid sunshine.” Typically though, May through to July comprises our driest period.
- What Time Zone Does Juneau Fall In?
Juneau falls in the Alaska Time Zone (AKST), one hour earlier than Pacific Time, and we follow Daylight Savings.
- How Many Hours Of Daylight Does Juneau Have?
On our longest day, June 21, Juneau experiences 18 hours and 18 minutes of daylight. Where our shortest day, December 21, is just 6 hours, 21 minutes. The “Land of the Midnight Sun”–where it never sets in summer (or rises in winter)–begins north of the Arctic Circle, at around 66 degrees latitude. Juneau falls just above Latitude 58 and incidentally, is on the same latitude as northern Scotland and southern Sweden.
- Do I Need A Passport?
Only if you plan to cross the international border into Canada. Our tours in Juneau cross no borders as we are bound by the ocean on one side, and the Juneau Icefield on the other.
- Where Can I Exchange Currency?
ATMs are widely available in downtown Juneau to withdraw US dollars from and will accept all major credit cards. You may want to check with your financial institution for associated fees. Visitors can also exchange currency aboard ships and at several downtown businesses and banks.
- I’m Not A Cruise Ship Passenger So Where Should I Stay?
Juneau offers a variety of accommodations ranging in price range and style from quaint bed and breakfasts to modern hotels. Wilderness lodges for fishing and outdoor adventures are also accessible from Juneau. Campgrounds are located near the ferry terminal as well as near Mendenhall Glacier on the outskirts of town.
Payment is due upon booking. Full refunds are available for cancellation requests up to 24 hours before the day of the tour. Less than 24 hours before departure time no refunds, please.