Tofino is everything you could want out of a west coast vacation: wind-swept beaches that are perfect for surfing, old growth forests that are great for hiking, and countless opportunities to relax and enjoy nature. Oh, and tacos. Incredible, delicious tacos.
Here’s how to get the most of Tofino on a long weekend.
Day 1: Riding waves
Tofino is the surfing capital of Canada, and was once named the best surf town in North America. No trip to the city is complete without stuffing yourself into a wetsuit, heading out onto the 35 km of surf-able beach, and wading into the Pacific Ocean to try and catch a wave.
If you’re new to surfing, there are a number of surf companies and shops in Tofino that provide lessons and equipment rentals. If you’re no stranger to getting barreled, the surf shops are still your best place to find out which beach has the best waves on any particular day.
Best time for surfing: Surfing is available year-round, but the biggest waves come in the winter
Popular surfing beaches: Chesterman Beach (a 10-minute drive from downtown), Cox Bay Beach (a 10-minute drive from downtown), Long Beach (a 20-minute drive from downtown)
Surfing companies: Pacific Surf School, Surf Sister, Live to Surf, Tofino Surf School, Bruhwiler Surf School, The Original Tofino Travel Company, Storm Surf Shop, Tofino Surf Hub, Tofino Surf Adventures, Long Beach Surf Shop
Cost: The costs for lessons and rentals varies between companies. On average, you’ll be paying approximately $70-$80 for a group lesson, $150-$170 for a private lesson, and $50 for a full day wetsuit and board rental, though prices can vary. Check in with the above companies for a quote.
Day 2: Hiking among giants
If you drive into Tofino from Victoria, you’ll probably notice the trees slowly increase in size, hour after hour, until you’re looking up at ancient monsters. Tofino is located within the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, and is surrounded by ancient temperate rainforest, including the incomparable Pacific Rim National Park. This incredible environment also makes for incredible hiking.
Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, there’s a hike around Tofino with your name on it. Here are a few of the best:
Meares Island Big Tree Trail
A trail through old growth rainforest that culminates in a visit to the 2,000-year-old Hanging Garden Tree, a monster with an 18m diameter.
Skill level: Beginner
Length: 3 km
Where: Meares Island
How to get there: Take a 15-minute water taxi ride from Tofino ($30 for adults, $10 to $15 for kids)
To experience the wonders of Pacific Rim National Park, you won’t do much better than the two rainforest trails, boardwalks that bring you through the rainforest to the valley floor, where you’ll be in awe of the remarkable plants and trees.
Skill level: Intermediate
Length: 2 km per trail
Where: Pacific Rim National Park
How to get there: The trail heads are a 20-minute drive from downtown Tofino
Canso Plane Crash Site
This difficult hike brings you through forests and extremely muddy bogs to the site of a plane crash, where the remains of the aircraft have sat since 1945. The trail isn’t easy to find, and the mud makes it quite a challenge, so please do your research.
Skill level: Expert
Length: 2 km per trail
Where: Close to Radar Hill
How to get there: The trail head is a 15-minute drive from downtown Tofino
Day 3: Hot spring hunting
How do you like the sound of soaking in 50-degree Celsius water in untouched, geothermal hot springs, surrounded by nature? This is the experience of Hot Springs Cove, a remote Hot Springs about an hour by boat from Tofino. Local companies will transport you to the island, and after a casual 30-minute walk through old growth forest, you can strip down to your bathing suit and relax those muscles.
Location: Maquinna Provincial Park, 50 km from Tofino (an hour by boat, or a beautiful 20-minute seaplane flight)
Tour companies: Adventure Tofino, Tofino Whale Centre, Jamie’s Whaling Station and Adventure Centres, Remote Passages, Tofino Whale Watching, West Coast Aquatic Safaris, Atleo River Air Service, Tofino Water Taxi
Cost: Prices vary by company, season, and mode of transportation (boat or float plane), but can range from $95 (in the fall and winter) to $195 (for seaplane trips), with summer excursions falling somewhere in the middle.
Other Tofino musts
Of course, we’ve only scratched the surface of what Tofino brings to the table. Here are a few more things to consider when planning your trip:
Food and drink: For a small town, Tofino has a big time food scene. There’s the Tacofino food truck, which draws crowds with incredible, mouthwatering, fresh, and delicious fish tacos and burritos. You’ll probably visit the truck a few times during your stay. If you want to sit down for a nice meal, Wolf in the Fog, Shelter, and SoBo are all popular options. And if you appreciate a great beer, the folks at Tofino Brewing Company have you covered.
Activities: Tofino is an incredible kick-off point for wildlife viewing. It’s home to the greatest whale migration on the planet as 20,000 grey whales pass Tofino every spring, and is also a popular destination for bear and birdwatching. Fishing and ocean kayaking are other popular adventures among locals and tourists both.
Other highlights: Believe it or not, storm watching draws countless visitors to Tofino every year. Ferocious winter storms, with pounding rain and loud wind, are actually quite fun to watch from the comfort of your hotel. Finally, check out the Aboriginal art of the Nuu-chah-nkulth First Nation, which has lived, worked, painted, and carved in the Tofino region for about 10,000 years.
Ready to explore Tofino? Check out the Hello BC website for more inspiration.