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Finding the perfect vacation rental in the San Juan Islands

Schooner moored in Cascade Bay near the Rosario Resort and Spa on Orcas Island. Photo credit: San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau

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Some of my fondest memories growing up are from the week we would spend at Pensacola Beach each year. You can make your own memories nearby in the San Juan Islands. There are many rental options available - from a condo on Friday Harbor and a luxury resort on Orcas Island to a quiet historic cabin on San Juan Island - to spend a summer week in the islands.

The first step is to determine what type of vacation you want. A couple may prefer Friday Harbor for its many restaurants and bars. A family might like a resort that offers activities or a rental home that features lots of space and privacy.

San Juan Property Management offers the largest selection of waterfront and water view homes on San Juan Island. In addition to its large variety of homes, it has condo listings for Friday Harbor, which rent for not much more than the cost of a hotel room while giving you a separate living space and kitchen.

San Juan Property Management, by reservation, 40 Spring St., Friday Harbor, 360.378.2070,

West Beach Resort has hosted families on Orcas Island since it was built in 1938 by the Cramer family. The tradition continues with a family-friendly resort offering cabins, RV and tent sites and tent cabins for rent.  The resort is located on the sunny west side of the island and features a nice pebble beach. The activities kiosk is a hub of activity during the summer months with boat and equipment rentals as well as a daily activity for children.  Fish, clam or crab from the shoreline and marina or try your skills at stand-up paddle boarding.

West Beach Resort, by reservation, 190 Waterfront Way, Eastsound, Orcas Island, 360.376.4746,

For a truly upscale experience, the Rosario Resort & Spa on Orcas Island is truly worth the splurge. The residences are fully equipped two-bedroom, two-bathroom suites with a full living room, kitchen and a full-size washer and dryer. The resort overlooks Cascade Bay and is spread out over 40 acres. Rosario is full service with restaurants, a spa, marina, swimming pools and activities. Not too far away is Moran State Park, which sits on land donated by Robert Moran, the original owner of the Rosario Property.

Rosario Resort & Spa, by reservation, 1400 Rosario Rd., Eastsound, Orcas Island, 360.376.2222,

Word of mouth or a friend's recommendation can help you find one of these little treasures - a private, owner-rented property. These are the types of places families come to year after year, often for the same week.  One such place is the Driftwood Farm Cottage on San Juan Island, nestled a few feet away from a private beach surrounded by 40 acres of fields and forest.  In the 1850s, the historic cottage was part of American Camp, a National Park site.  It was moved to its current location in the 1940s. The one-room cottage is rustic but charming. The view is magnificent, and on a clear day you can see Mount Baker.

Driftwood Farm Cottage, by reservation, 259 Halsey Rd., Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, 360.378.4295,

When planning your trip, remember everything is more expensive on the islands.  Arrive with a full tank of gas and bring food and snacks with you. Don't forget your ferry reservation.  With warmer weather, ferries fill up quickly. Note that when you pay online for a ferry route, it does not give you a reservation. It is a separate step.

Washington State Ferry Anacortes Terminal, Hours vary by season, 2100 Ferry Terminal Rd., Anacortes, 206.464.6400,

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