Photo Credit: Liquid Adventures

The Best Private & Small Group Shore Excursions for Your Alaska Cruise

The large cruise ships that travel up Alaska’s Inside Passage carry as many as 5,000 passengers. While these small moving cities are lot of fun, some travelers like to change up the pace by booking more intimate shore excursions when the ships dock in port. Fortunately, private and small-group shore excursions are easy to find. And they offer a chance for cruise passengers to take a break from the crowds, make connections within their small group, and get to know the local Alaskans who guide the tours. Here are our favorites.

Jump to Town: Skagway | Hoonah / Icy Strait | Juneau | Ketchikan | Seward
TEMSCO Helicopter Tours in Skagway Alaska

TEMSCO Helicopter Tours in Skagway Alaska


Midnight Sun Excursions

Take a journey with a certified naturalist on a private van excursion into the Yukon. Pri­vate tours rang­ing from 5 to 7 hours long explore the sights of British Colum­bia and the Yukon, with plenty of stops for photo ops and a good chance of seeing bears, moose, and caribou. More information

TEMSCO Helicopter

Soar high above the Alaskan landscape and enjoy spectacular flightseeing over glacier-filled valleys, plunging waterfalls, and stunning peaks on your way to a gorgeous glacier. Then touch down and tour the ancient river of ice with an experienced guide. More information

Hoonah / Icy Strait

Glacier Wind Charters in Hoonah / Icy Strait Alaska

Glacier Wind Charters in Hoonah / Icy Strait Alaska

Glacier Wind Charters

At this whale-watching hot spot, you can spend all day on the water with your small group looking for any specific whale behavior (like bubble net feeding) or creatures (like orcas) you’d like to see. The area is also known for fabulous birding. Fully customize the experience by booking a private charter. More information


Cycle Alaska

With 7 guests max, head out on tours like the Bike & Brew, including a bike ride, short walk, history lesson, and Alaska beer sampling. You’ll also see the mighty Mendenhall Glacier from three different perspectives. Or book a custom tour, like an endurance ride or a tailored city tour. More information

TEMSCO Mendenhall Glacier & Guided Walk

Soar high on a heli­copter tour, offering beau­ti­ful views of Alaska’s cap­i­tal city and up-close explo­ration of Menden­hall Glacier. Look out on alpine lakes, moraines, and crevass­es before landing and check out the Juneau Ice­field for yourself. More information

Northstar Helicopters in Juneau Alaska

Northstar Helicopters in Juneau Alaska

Northstar Helicopters

Take a magical flight to Mendenhall Glacier for some amazing photographs. You could also choose to hike on the glacier itself, learn how to climb on ice walls, or create a special memory with an exclusive glacier photoshoot adventure. Private charters are also available. More information

Above & Beyond Alaska

Above & Beyond Alaska specializes in trips by kayak, foot, boat, or plane, and all are in intimate, small groups. They explore the areas around Juneau and the Tongass National Forest. Popular excursions include the Mendenhall Glacier Paddle & Trek, Kayak with Whales, and Fortress of the Bears Kayak Adventure.


Baranof Fishing

Take a small-group fishing charter and angle for salmon and halibut. And add a cooking adventure: With Wilderness Dining, you’ll cook your catch as part of a gourmet campsite meal; on the Cook Your Catch tour, your fresh fish will be prepared by a chef in the wilderness or at a restaurant in Ketchikan. More information

Alaska Kayak Company in Ketchikan Alaska

Alaska Kayak Company in Ketchikan Alaska

Alaska Kayak Company

Set off from the Ketchikan cruise ship dock aboard a comfortable boat with a small group—usu­al­ly just 4 peo­ple. You’ll then launch kayaks from the boat and spend time paddling across Alaska’s shimmering waters. Choose from a 3‑hour tour or a 5‑hour kayak-and-hike tour. More information

The Alaska Catch

Head out with Captain Mike to fish for salmon or halibut on a 4- to 6-hour trip, or try something truly unique—a crabbing trip! All trips are private charters and completely custom. Change spots or choose to angle for different species—it’s all up to you. More information

Tongass Teague

Southeast Alaska is home to the Tongass National Forest, where nearly 17 million acres of glaciers, mountains, rivers, and fjords complement old-growth forests of spruce, cedar, and hemlock. Walk among these giant sentinels, some well over 500 years old, and breathe in the pristine air that they provide in one of North America’s largest carbon sinks. Experience this world-renowned gem of a rainforest on a guided hike or an SUV tour when you stop in Ketchikan! More information.

Out to Sea Expedition Company

Explore the gor­geous dynam­ic scenery and wildlife around Ketchikan by get­ting out on the water in a low-impact Zodi­ac—an authen­ti­cal­ly Alaskan way to trav­el! Every expe­di­tion is dif­fer­ent. Small groups (up to 6 people) allow for flexibility and spontaneity. Or ask about custom expeditions. More information

Snorkel Alaska

Don a wetsuit, mask, fins and snorkel and get an up-close look at the unique sea creatures of the 49th state: urchins, sea stars, crabs, sea cucumbers, and...what’s that...a humpback whale swimming nearby?! This is the magic of snorkeling in Alaska—a singular experience that you can only do in the waters around Ketchikan. No experience? No problem. Max group size is 10. More information.

Emerald Forest Tours

Lots of com­pa­nies offer sight­see­ing tours in Ketchikan, but Emer­ald For­est Tours runs only pri­vate, cus­tom tours to ensure you get the inside scoop on this fas­ci­nat­ing Alaskan city. On board an 11-pas­sen­ger van, you’ll head out to stops where you’ll have a chance to see bears, water­falls, inter­tidal life, and Sax­man Native Vil­lage. They also offer win­ter­time tours, as well as tours in Span­ish (which you won’t find else­where in Ketchikan). More information.


Seward Ocean Excursions

Want to whale-watch, see glac­i­ers, go bird watch­ing, or check out hid­den coves? Board an all-season vessel and go on an ocean adventure that suits your fancy. As the boats only carry 6 passengers, you’re guaranteed an intimate outing! More information

Liquid Adventures

Guided Hiking in Seward with Seward Wilderness Collective

Guided Hiking in Seward with Seward Wilderness Collective

Take a small-group tour into Kenai Fjords Nation­al Park on a custom-built catamaran. Cruise around, then hop into a kayak to pad­dle around ice­bergs and watch for wildlife. Or opt for a kayak-only trip or paddleboard adventure! More information; even more information

Exit Glacier Guides

Enjoy a magical small-group guided hike or ice-climbing adventure on Exit Glacier, including instruction. Or start with a dra­mat­ic flight­see­ing trip in either a heli­copter or ski plane, and then step out onto the ancient riv­er of ice for a thrilling hik­ing or climbing expedition. More information; even more information

Alaska SeaLife Center

Take a behind-the-scenes tour of this world-class public aquarium and nonprofit research institution dedicated to rescuing and protecting Alaska’s unique animals. Or opt for intimate encounter where you can observe animal care close up! More information


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