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5 BEST Granville Island Boat Tours (Our Top Choices for 2024!)

5 BEST Granville Island Boat Tours (Our Top Choices for 2024!)

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Vancouver is a vibrant city with so many things to do and places to explore. While taking in the city sights is fun, I don’t think any trip to Vancouver is complete until you get out on the water and experience the natural beauty and wildlife just off the coast!

The best place to do this is Granville Island – a trendy area of Vancouver that embraces the coastal lifestyle and has many fun boat experiences from whale watching to exploring hidden waterfalls. Take it from a local, a Granville Island boat tour isn’t something you should miss while in beautiful British Columbia, so keep on reading to learn about the best ones!

1. Falls Zodiac Tour

View of Granite Falls on a zodiac tour from Vancouver
Explore the remote area of Deep Cove! Photo credit: Vancouver Water Adventures

Buckle up for an adventurous tour to hidden waterfalls and iconic landmarks! On this 3-hour small-group zodiac tour, you get to experience the highlights of Vancouver from the water as well as get off the beaten path into nature to explore some areas larger boats can’t access.

The tour starts right on Granville Island, where you’ll board the zodiac (aka inflatable boat) and cruise through Vancouver Harbour spotting landmarks such as the Lions Gate Bridge and Canada Place. Next up is the historic Siwash Rock – don’t worry you’ll have a knowledgeable guide with you to tell you all about everything you’re seeing!

After grabbing a few photos, you’re off to Deep Cove (one of my favorite areas of Vancouver!). Keep your eyes peeled for seals as you explore this natural area full of forests and granite cliffs. And for the cherry on top, you’ll stop by Silver Falls and Granite Falls – beautiful waterfalls tucked deep away that are best viewed from the water, so seeing them is a very exclusive experience!

Our guide did such a great job of explaining everything to us and telling us hilarious stories along the way. I suggest putting this tour near the top of your Vancouver Itinerary so that you get a fun introduction to the city before venturing off on your own!

This award-winning tour runs every day from April to November. Tickets are $159 CAD, which I think is pretty good for the action-packed adventure you get to be part of! Plus when you book in advance, you don’t have to pay a cent until 48 hours before.

Related Read: If you love the idea of a smaller boat like this, you might like the other zodiac tours in Vancouver that we recommend!

2. Half-Day Whale Watching Adventure

An orca swims in the ocean near Victoria on a whale watching tour
How cool is this?!
Whale watching boat in Vancouver
Grab your camera!

Whale watching in Vancouver is one of those bucket-list activities that you just have to do at least once! From April to October every year, thousands of whales migrate through the waters off the coast of Vancouver, making this an optimal area to spot orcas, humpbacks, and even gray whales!

This awesome half-day whale-watching tour is one of our favorite Granville Island tours as it takes you out on a comfortable catamaran to view Vancouver’s incredible marine life. You will get 5 hours to spot all different types of sea creatures as you sail around the Gulf Islands, San Juan Islands, and Howe Sound.

We saw so many whales on this tour and even sea lions! I loved learning about all of the marine life from the fantastic onboard guides. They even offer a whale sighting guarantee. So if you don’t see any (which is rare) you can return and do the tour until you see one!

This tour runs daily from April to November for $236 CAD. The boat even has a heated cabin on board, making it a great experience on rainy or cooler days too. I still recommend dressing for the elements though because you’ll want to go outside to look at the whales!

Why We Book Tours with Viator

Viator is a trusted online booking system for tours around the world! We almost always book our tours using Viator for a couple of reasons:

  • Free cancellation on most tours – Most of the tours on Viator allow you to cancel and get a full refund up to 24 hours in advance. This is handy in case plans change, or if booking an outdoor activity, the weather forecast is looking grim.
  • Reserve now and pay later – You can secure your spot on some of the most popular tours well in advance and not pay until closer to the day of the tour.
  • Lowest price guarantee – If you happen to find the same tour at a lower price elsewhere, Viator will refund you the price difference.
  • Pay in your chosen currency – Avoid costly international transaction fees by choosing to pay in your home currency.
  • Peace of mind – When booking with tour operators you find in person on the street or in small booking offices, you are often promised one thing and given another. This online platform holds tour operators accountable with a written description of inclusions as well as the opportunity for customers to leave reviews.

Check out the Viator website here! Or, for more info, read our detailed review about Viator here.

3. Seadoo (jet ski) tour

Vancouver Water Adventures Seadoo tour
Photo credit: Vancouver Water Adventures

I never really spent any time on a jet ski until we moved to Vancouver, and I am so glad I tried it! There really isn’t a better place to get out on the water and explore than in Vancouver.

You could rent your own jet ski and explore, but personally, I think this 3-hour guided jet ski tour is the way to go – especially if you are new to jet skiing or are unfamiliar with the area. They make sure you are comfortable riding and take you to all of the best places that you may not be able to find on your own.

This jet ski tour departs from Granville Island at 8 am, so you can take to the water before the rest of the city does. You’ll head through English Bay to explore the islands of Howe Sound, including a stop at an adorable seal colony! You will get surreal views for the entire 2.5 hours out on the water – don’t forget to keep an eye out for dolphins! 

This tour runs daily from May to September. You can choose from a single-rider jet ski for $329 CAD or a double-rider for $210 CAD. While it can seem a bit pricey, this is actually cheaper than renting on your own and includes a wetsuit, life jacket, fuel, one-day boater’s license, guide, and 2.5 hours on the water!

What’s great is that you arrive back at Granville Island just in time to dry off and go grab some lunch at the Granville Public Market – there are so many amazing food vendors I love there!

4. Fishing charter

Bon Chovy Fishing Charters
A day out on the water is a great escape from the city! Photo credit: Bon Chovy Fishing Charters

With its location right on the water, it’s no surprise Granville Island is a great place to hop aboard a fishing boat! Bon Chovy Fishing Charters is located on the island and offers 5, 8, or 10-hour tours to get you out on the water and catching some fish.

You’re paired up with an expert guide who will help you reel in a great catch. What’s awesome is that no matter when you’re visiting Vancouver, you can join one of these tours. Yup, that’s right, they operate 365 days a year! Some of the best fishing is from November to March when you’re most likely to catch chinook salmon weighing between 5-20 lbs (5-9 kg) – just make sure to dress warm!

If you’re a seafood lover, the guides make sure whatever you catch is ready to eat. The fish you catch will be cleaned and bagged so you can easily take them with you to prepare a tasty dinner. Or they can help you purchase airplane-approved coolers if you want to fly home with your catch.

The charters range from the shortest 5-hour tour where the boats generally stay within 20 minutes of Granville Island to the 10-hour tours where you will head out towards the Gulf Islands. Tours start at $925 CAD for 2 people, but are more economical if you book for a larger group – so grab some friends and go fishing for the day!  

Related Read: Vancouver can be a very rainy city, but that doesn’t mean the fun stops! Check out this list of great things to do in Vancouver when it’s raining.

5. Whale-watching safari 

A whale watching tour in British Columbia follows an Orca on a tour
The experience is surreal!

As I mentioned earlier, Vancouver is one of the best places to view orcas, humpbacks, and gray whales as well as dolphins, otters, sea lions, and eagles! This 5-hour whale watching safari is one of the best boat tours in Vancouver and will take you on a fun journey on a comfortable covered boat, so you can relax while watching these majestic animals.

While they can’t guarantee you will see whales (as they are wild animals) they do say 85% of trips spot some! The expert naturalists will teach you everything you have ever wanted to know about the whales’ lives, behaviors, and migration patterns and make it a priority to help you see some during your trip. 

We loved that the on-board guides were taking photos to send to everyone after the trip, it made it so much more enjoyable to just be in the moment and not have to worry about getting my camera out to get a good shot!

The tour departs daily from Granville Island, but what really sets this tour apart is that they offer free hotel pick-up and drop-off at any hotel in Vancouver – making this a truly seamless experience. They even offer complimentary hot beverages on board, which is a nice touch. This 5-hour tour costs $359 CAD. If you haven’t seen whales in the wild before, this truly is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience.

Other Things to do While You’re in Vancouver

View of False Creek from a sea plane in Vancouver
View of False Creek from a seaplane in Vancouver
Bailey poses for a photo at Kitsilano Beach, Vancouver
Welcome to Kitsilano

Vancouver is a city filled with tons of things to do and see. So while you’re here, be sure not to miss some of the top attractions and activities:

  • Ride in a Seaplane – One of our favorite memories in Vancouver was riding in a seaplane. Taking off and landing on the ocean is super exciting, and then the views from the air are breathtaking. This seaplane ride lasts for 20 minutes and costs $168 CAD. It departs and returns to Coal Harbour in downtown Vancouver. The best part is that seaplane tours in Vancouver operate all year round.
  • Eat ALL the food! – Vancouver is a foodie destination. Showcasing cuisine from all around the world in top-rated restaurants, you really need to make an effort to eat out a few times while in Vancouver. For breakfast, Jam Cafe or Medina are our go-to’s. For Asian cuisine, you can’t pass up Minami for sushi or Danbo for ramen. You can also join this highly-rated food tour that takes you to some of the city’s best restaurants in the Gastown neighborhood.
  • Explore Kitsilano – One of our favorite areas in all of Vancouver is Kitsilano. This suburb is super trendy and has many cute stores, cafés, and restaurants that are well worth checking out. On top of that, Kitsilano Beach is one of the best beaches in Vancouver and the perfect place to relax. It’s also our favorite place to watch the sunset.

Getting around Vancouver

Bailey rides the Aquabus in Vancouver on her way to Granville Island from Yaletown
Bailey rides the Aquabus in Vancouver!

Transportation and ease of navigating a new city are super important to consider when planning a trip. It will help you determine where to stay and what you’ll be able to visit while in the city. In Vancouver, there are a few different options for transportation in and around the city.

Driving

This is probably the best form of transportation if you want to explore anywhere outside of downtown Vancouver and participate in activities like hiking or skiing, which require getting a bit further away. Traffic in downtown Vancouver can be fairly busy, just like any city center.

There is ample parking available both on the streets and in parkades, though it can be expensive. Some hotels provide parking, so check ahead of time. 

If you can rent a car so you can explore Vancouver with ease! Just be prepared to pay for parking unless your hotel includes it.

Car share

A great option besides renting a car is using a car share service like Modo or Evo. These services allow you to rent a car and pay based on the time it’s used (i.e. pay for 30 minutes, two hours, or the full day, depending on how long you drive).

You can pick up and drop off the car at specific checkpoints around the city and the best part is they get lots of free parking. This makes it super easy to use a car for just the time that you need it. 

Public transportation

Vancouver’s public transit system is not as extensive as many other major cities, but it is still a good way to get around to main attractions. The SkyTrain provides excellent access to some of the neighboring cities, such as Burnaby, New Westminster, or Surrey, so it offers a good option if you plan on exploring outside of downtown. It also runs from the airport, so again, a good option to get into the city from the airport. 

There are also many buses in the city that run frequently. Note that public transportation options are extremely limited overnight, with only a couple of night buses and no SkyTrian options after around 1:00 am. All public transportation is run by the company TransLink and is fairly affordable; a single trip costs $3.15 CAD, and a day pass costs $11.25 CAD.

Taxis and rideshares

Taxis are available throughout the city, as are Uber and Lyft. These are good options in the downtown core but can get pricey if you are going further outside of that region. For example, the taxi cost from YVR to Vancouver is about $30-$50 CAD.

Aquabus

The Aquabus is one of the more unique ways to get around Vancouver. These small boats visit 8 locations in the harbor all the way from The Village to Granville Island. The Aquabus costs $19 CAD for a full-day pass or round-trip tickets start at $4.50 CAD but prices vary depending on the route you take. You can check out all their routes and prices here.

Walking and biking

Vancouver is a very walkable city, and it is possible to walk just about anywhere in the downtown core.

Biking is also a good option, as there are dedicated bike lanes throughout most of the city. You can rent bikes all over the city and pretty much ride everywhere you want to downtown. I love doing this, especially on a beautiful day!

Where to Stay in Vancouver, Canada

Vancouver city skyline
Vancouver skyline

Vancouver is one of the most popular cities in Canada. The fact is that in the summer and winter, the city books up in advance very fast! Booking your hotel or hostel well in advance is the only way to secure the best place to stay for you!

Some great hotels and hostels in Vancouver that we love are:

Hyatt Regency Vancouver – $$$

Can’t decide whether you’d prefer to stay near Stanley Park or Gastown? Well, the Hyatt Regency might just be right for you, as it’s located right between them! Rooms here enjoy gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows that help to bring in light and there is a small fridge, work desk, and toiletries in the bathroom too.

You can also conveniently enjoy breakfast, lunch, or dinner at their beautiful Mosaic Bar and Grill just off the lobby. As you can imagine, it’s a luxury stay in a large hotel chain that is highly reviewed! So if you’re looking to celebrate something special, or just fancy taking your vacation to a whole new level, then staying here will definitely do the trick.

I’ve seen a one-night stay at the Hyatt Regency going as low as $232 CAD per night, although the rooms here on average are more around the $300-$500 CAD mark. So, for the best price, don’t forget to reserve your room in advance.

Times Square Suites – $$

For a beautiful hotel close to Stanley Park, the Times Square Hotel is a fantastic choice! It’s very hard to fault this hotel, and the location really is perfect. The fully equipped kitchens and gas fireplaces are a nice touch in all of the rooms, plus the suites have living rooms and a washer and dryer.

For being pretty affordable, it has a lot of amenities, which is just one of the reasons we love staying here! You can book a room here from $232 CAD per night, but as this is a popular stay, I recommend checking your dates and booking ahead of time to secure your preferred room type!

The Cambie Hostel Gastown – $

The Cambie Hostel is a great budget-friendly hostel that’s located right in the heart of Gastown and close to lots of bars and restaurants and attached to the hostel is a very lively bar too. The rooms are clean, although the bathrooms are a little on the small side (part of the fun when you’re staying cheap, though!).

It’s perfect for backpackers on a budget and is considerably cheaper than others offering comparable quality. A bed in a dorm here starts at around $50 CAD, and you can book a stay here through Hostelworld.com or Booking.com.

Didn’t find exactly what you’re looking for? Click here to browse all hotels in Vancouver!

For more info on the best areas and hotels, check out my complete guide on where to stay in Vancouver. It breaks down everything you need to know before choosing the right hotel!

Thanks for reading!

Daniel and Bailey on a sunset cruise in Vancouver, Canada
Thanks for reading!

No trip to Vancouver is complete without taking in the incredible sights from the water! With so many amazing boat tours from Granville Island, we hope this guide has inspired you to get out on the water and explore!

Let us know in the comments what your plans are in Van, we can’t wait to hear from you! In the meantime check out the rest of our Vancouver blogs, and here are three more blogs we think you’ll love:

Three Vancouver Gondolas – Our Comparison and Top Choice

How to Get from Vancouver to Victoria

Guide to Visiting Yaletown, Vancouver + 11 BEST Things to do!