Tofino is the surfer’s paradise of Canada, with massive pacific beaches bordered by lush rainforest. Experience whale watching, hot springs, surfing and that unbeatably laid-back, west coast vibe. Check out my travel guide for a getaway in this idyllic seaside town.
Summer resolution: make the most of my weekends. This summer has been the first summer wherein I am working + in school regular hours i.e. this is my first summer of WEEKENDS OFF. However, this means that it is also the first summer of having a completely inflexible schedule, and the thought was pretty terrifying. I feared summer would fly by without having any cool adventures to show for it. Thus my summer resolution (that’s a thing right?) and our four-day Tofino getaway.
Derek and I headed to Vancouver Island for the first weekend of June (also my birthday weekend). Tofino is actually quite a trek from Vancouver, an 8 hour trip involving a scenic ferry crossing. We ferried from Tsawwassen to Nanaimo, the nearest ferry terminal to Tofino (about 3 hours drive). The island drive to Tofino is GORGEOUS, taking you through massive old growth redwoods, along crystal rivers and beautiful sounds. We got super lucky and saw an incredible black bear right from the road!
In Tofino, we spent an incredible 4 days enjoying the many beaches, forest hikes, fishing, hot springs, and of course, surfing. Tofino also boasts many incredible restaurants making the town a total dream for me. I think that in order to make the most of a Tofino weekend, one has to do something completely different each day.
Tofino Getaway: Travel Guide
How We Got There:
We drove to Tsawwassen Ferry Terminal from Vancouver (about 30 minutes) and took the ferry to Nanaimo. one can also leave from Horseshoe Bay. It costs $115 to go on with a vehicle, and there are multiple and you can reserve beforehand or just buy a ticket when you get there. however, the ferries do fill up so I recommend booking ahead of time if you are heading there for a weekend. You can reserve and check the schedules here.
The whole journey takes about 8 hours. The ferry is two hours across, followed by a three hour drive to Tofino from Nanaimo.
Where We Stayed:
We spent our Tofino getaway at the Pacific Sands Beach Resort on Cox Bay Beach. Pacific Sands is a great base for a stay in Tofino – it sits halfway (about 10 mins) in between Tofino town, and the famous Long Beach. The hotel is pricy, but a better value than other places I have stayed in Tofino.
Other high rated options include the cabins at Ocean Village – which are cozy (if a little dated) with amazing views – and the more upscale Long Beach Lodge. Airbnb also has a number of great options, particularly if travelling with a larger group of people.
Where We Ate:
The Wolf in the Fog: The best salmon I have ever had was at the Wolf in the Fog restaurant in Tofino a few years back. This time, we also thoroughly enjoyed our meal of west coast fusion and locally sourced seafood.
Tacofino: whether for lunch or dinner (or both), the Tacofino food truck is a must during your Tofino time.
Tofitan Cafe: located right next to the surf rental shop, the Tofitian cafe is an adorable and bustling stop for your morning coffee and breakfast.
What We Did:
Walk Long Beach: Long Beach is sort of the quintessential Vancouver Island beach. This 16km long beach is the longest in the Pacific Rim National Park, and with flat, sandy shores and bountiful tide pools at either end, its a great place to spend a morning walking and beach combing.
Surf: You can rent surfboards at Mackenzie Beach and Chesterman Beach, and there are many surfboard rental places in and around Tofino. The rental can also include wet suits, which even in the summer are an absolute necessity. Derek prefers paddleboard surfing, which I always think I will be able to do and end up spending the whole time falling into the water. Make sure you check the wave report, and ask the rental employee where you should go based on your skill level. Riptides and shore crashing waves can occur at any of the beaches, so make sure you know what the conditions are before getting in the water. If you want to take a surfing lesson, I recommend Surf Sister.
Visit Hot Springs Cove: I think Hot Spring Cove goes down as one of the coolest places I have been. I LOVE a good hot spring, and these feature waterfalls of warm water flowing right down into the ocean. They are totally bucket list worthy and a necessity for your Tofino getaway.
The hike in is about 2 km of well maintained boardwalks. There are bathrooms and a shelter to leave your clothes. Other than that, the hot springs have been kept completely natural. You have to climb over the sharp and slippery coastal rocks to get down into the pools, so be careful and know your limits.
Getting to Hot Springs Cove is tricky. The most economical way is to take a boat tour, that includes whale watching and bear watching as part of an itinerary. Many companies, like The Whale Centre offer these tours for about $150 per person. The issue is that all of these boats carry 10-20 people, and all arrive at the same time, so the springs can get very crowded.
Alternatively, you can take a float plane roundtrip for $100 per person (a scheduled flight) or $550 total (a chartered flight) with Atleo Air. Finally, you can schedule a boat charter for yourself. This is what we chose to do and combined the day with a fishing trip for salmon, lingcod, and halibut. The entire day costs $700 – $800 dollars regardless of party size. We went with a private guide that Derek new through a friend, but companies like Vancouver Island Fishing charters also offer day trips.
Watch the Sunsets Facing the open pacific, Tofino offers some pretty epic sunsets. Our favourite sunset spot was a ten minute walk through the rainforest from our stay at the Pacific Sands Beach Resort. Literally called Sunset Point, this spot is on Google Maps and pretty easy to find! We brought a bottle of wine up and watched the waves crash below us.
Tofino offers so many other amazing activities that we didn’t get a chance to do this time! There are some gorgeous hikes in the area through old growth forests. On our next Tofino getaway, I definitely want to hike the Lone Cone, which offers incredible views over the island.
Hope you enjoy your next Tofino getaway! Comment below with your favourite thing to do when visiting this surfer’s paradise!