Known as "The Gem of the San Juans," Orcas Island is considered the chain’s most beautiful island. It is definitely the hilliest—drive, hike, or bike to the top of 2,409-foot Mt. Constitution  for a panoramic view from Vancouver, B.C., to Mt. Rainier. Orcas’ most prominent mansion, Moran Mansion at Rosario Resort, regularly graces the pages of national travel magazines.
Orcas Island—named by a Spanish explorer in 1792 for the viceroy of Mexico, not for the orca whales common in neighboring waters—is home to 3,500 people, half of whom seem to now operate real estate offices.
The ferry docks at the cluster of cafés and gift shops called Orcas Village are located on the south end of this horseshoe-shaped island. The tiny settlement of West Sound is eight miles northwest of the ferry landing and has a large marina, along with a couple of stores.
Approximately four miles west of here is another little gathering place, Deer Harbor, with a handful of resorts and B&Bs, a couple of restaurants, charter sailboats, and kayak rentals. It’s appropriately named for the many black-tailed deer in the area and throughout the San Juans.
The town of Eastsound sits at the head of Orca’s horseshoe shape. This is the primary village on the island, and the place to go for groceries, gas, and a wide choice of gift shops, cafés, and galleries. It also probably has more lounging cats per shop than any other town in Washington!
The Washington State Ferry (206/464-6400, www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries ) docks at Orcas Landing on the south end of the island. See the Getting to the San Juan Islands  setion for details on ferry service and flights to Orcas Island. Magic Air Tours (360/376-2733 or 800/376-1929, www.magicair.com , $299 for two passengers) offers scenic biplane tours from Eastsound Airport.
Rent cars at the Orcas ferry landing from Orcas Moped (360/376-5266, www.sanjuanauto.com/rental.html , $60 per day) or at the Eastsound Airport from San Juan Airlines (360/293-4691 or 800/874-4434, www.sanjuanairlines.com , $50–70 per day).
Local taxis are operated by Orcas Island Taxi (360/376-8294). Typical fare for two between the ferry landing and Eastsound is $27.
Public bus service is available June through September from Orcas Island Shuttle (360/376-7433, www.orcasislandshuttle.com , $6 one-way, $12 all day pass). The buses circle the island five times a day and are equipped to handle bikes ($1 extra). This shuttle service also offers group charters and tours of the island by reservation starting at $50 per hour.