Post Summary: Things To Do In Tofino, British Columbia
Imagine yourself putting on your wetsuit, grabbing your surfboard, and spending all day out in the wild Pacific Ocean waves.
You come back into shore to watch the sunset with your friends around a beach bonfire, and then wrap up the day falling asleep to the sounds of the rainforest just out your door…
Sounds like a dream?
We thought so too until we experienced Tofino in real life!
Situated on Vancouver Island’s west coast, Tofino is Canada’s surf capital of the country, filled with endless ways to connect with nature and experience life by the sea!
From storm watching in the winter to hand-painted sunsets in the summer, there are so many amazing things to do in Tofino.
Berty and I recently came back from our own picturesque trip, and we couldn’t get to the computer fast enough to tell you all about it!
In this post, we’re sharing the most amazing activities to plan a long weekend trip to Tofino, including our favorite restaurants, places to stay, and adventures to take.
Let’s get started!
Where is Tofino, British Columbia?
Tofino is a small oceanside town located on the western coast of Vancouver Island. It’s part of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere, which includes temperate rainforests, rocky shores, and alpine peaks all in one unique place.
It’s known for its surf culture, island hopping, and luxury oceanside resorts tucked away in all corners of its temperate rainforest!
Directions from major cities in the area –
- Port Alberni to Tofino: 126 kilometers, 2-hour drive
- Nanaimo to Tofino: 207 kilometers, 3-hour drive
- Victoria to Tofino: 318 kilometers, 4.5-hour drive
- Vancouver, BC to Tofino: 283 kilometers, 5.5-hour drive (with a ferry ride)
When Is The Best Time To Visit Tofino?
Honestly, there isn’t a bad time to visit Tofino. Each season offers a unique take on the area, and we think that the season to visit depends on the type of activities in Tofino that you want to do! Here’s a brief overview of what to expect:
- Tofino In The Winter: Lots of rain, stormy weather, and more rain. Perfect for storm watching, fewer crowds, and hiking trails all to yourself.
- Tofino In The Summer: Gorgeous sunsets, endless options for tours (everything is open!), surfing opportunities, and delicious restaurants to try!
How To Pack For A Trip To Tofino
Packing for a trip to Tofino looks a little different from your typical beach destination. While there are gorgeous sandy shores for those long walks on the beach, the temperatures are a little colder than say, Orange, County, California. You can expect to bundle up a bit more than usual!
We’re sharing a few key items to pack for a trip to Tofino, but if you’d like the whole list, we’re giving you a free printable below!
Rain Jacket – Vancouver Island is home to some of the oldest temperate rainforests in the world, and the western side receives around 260 inches of rain per year! Make sure to pack a breathable rain jacket for Tofino hikes, and a sturdier one like this for trips to town.
Waterproof Boots or Shoes – Between high tide and muddy trails, dry feet are essential for a good visit to Tofino. We personally love the St Elias boots by Vasque for their sturdiness and style.
Dry Bag – From whale watching trips to climbing around the rocks during low tide, make sure to keep your gear dry in adventures in Tofino. We bought these dry bags from Amazon in multiple sizes, and we love how sturdy they are!
Where To Stay In Tofino
There are many amazing places to stay in Tofino! From inexpensive Airbnb’s to splurge-worthy, we’ll share some of our favorite accommodations in Tofino to check out.
Vacation Rentals in Tofino
Between private homes and Airbnbs, there are so many ways to stay in a vacation rental in Tofino, almost as if you were living among the neighborhoods! Berty and I were able to book a really inexpensive room in a home walkable from downtown Tofino this way. If you want to save money when planning a trip to Tofino, here’s $55 off your first Airbnb booking!
Beach Lodges in Tofino
There are many gorgeous lodges in Tofino that line the shoreline on the peninsula. Among resorts, there are often options to stay in the larger lodge, or in your own personal cabins on the property.
Camping in Tofino
Driving an RV around Vancouver Island? If you are hoping to save a little money by camping, there are some good options for camping near Tofino.
All The Best Things To Do In Tofino, British Columbia
Surfing In Tofino
It’s no secret that people from all over the world come to surf in Tofino. Known for its unique swells in the frigid waters of the Pacific Northwest, Tofino attracts a certain breed of surfers that aren’t afraid to face the cold water and stormy waves!
You can watch people go surfing in Tofino pretty much any time of year, with the most popular places to surf (for the pros) being at Cox Bay and Long Beach.
If you want to watch but not stand out in the cold, visit the Long Beach Resort for happy hour and sit in their lounge with floor to ceiling windows with spectacular views of the bay. (All while sipping your cocktail!)
Want to try surfing in Tofino for yourself? Here are some of the best gear rental places and surfing schools In Tofino:
Is kayaking or paddleboarding in Tofino more your style?
Take a more relaxing visit on the ocean at Mackenzie Beach or Middle Beach (rentals available at Tofino Paddle Surf) or even on the east side of the peninsula for more calm and protected waters. Rent at Live to Surf for the closest access to the east side!
Explore Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
The Pacific Rim National Park is just south of the town of Tofino, just waiting to be explored by adventurous visitors! This park protects over 500 square feet of rocky shoreline, dramatic cliffs, and stunning temperate rainforest areas.
Some fun and easy hikes near Tofino in the Pacific Rim National Park include the leisurely walk to Radar Hill, strolling the vast shores of Long Beach, and exploring the Kwisitis Visitor Center at Wickaninnish Beach. No matter the trail, you’ll experience the natural and rugged beauty that surrounds Tofino right here.
If you’re looking for fun outdoor activities to do in Tofino, a trip to Pacific Rim is a perfect choice!
Tofino Storm Watching
One of the most popular things to do in Tofino during winter is storm watching. You can do this by visiting beaches during high tide, and SAFELY watching the waves crash on the cliffside in a dramatic fashion. There are plenty of places to go storm watching in Tofino, but here are some of our personal favorite spots:
Sunset Point at Cox Bay: If you are looking to get a little closer to the action, consider venturing out around Sunset Point on the north side of Cox Bay. Here, you can sit near a cove and watch sneaker waves crash dramatically against the rocks. Be extremely careful to not venture near the edges (notice where the rocks are wet and stay clear), and be aware of the current tide. You don’t want to get caught stuck out there!
Tonquin Beach Trail Towards Third Beach: This covered trail sits above the water’s edge up on the cliffside. Scattered throughout the hike are boardwalks facing the sea, where you can watch the angry waves crash against the beach below.
Long Beach Resort at Cox Bay: Looking to enjoy the waves from a distance? Stop by Long Beach Resort on Cox Bay during happy hour. Their inviting lounge has floor to ceiling windows so you can watch the surfers brave the weather from the comfort of a couch with a cocktail in hand.
Whale Watching In Tofino
One of the most popular things to do in Tofino is to take a whale watching tour.
There are many reputable adventure outfitters for Tofino whale watching, ready to cater to a variety of the needs and desires of their clients! We used Jamie’s Whaling Station on our latest trip to Tofino, but we’ve heard great reviews about Ocean Outfitters and West Coast Aquatic Safaris as well.
Some of the marine life that can be seen along Tofino’s shoreline includes grey whales, humpback whales, and orcas. You are also very likely to see bald eagles, sea lions, otters, and maybe even some shore creatures like bears and deer.
When is the best time to go whale watching in Tofino?
The most popular season to go whale watching in Tofino is between June and September. Make sure to book your trip then if you want to have the best chance of seeing a whale!
Hiking Trails In Tofino
There are some incredible hiking trails in Tofino and the surrounding area to explore. Many of them are on the shorter side, with many winding through the forest and ending at the water. Here are some of our favorite Tofino hikes to try:
The Pacific Rim National Park: Most of the trails are fairly short (the longest is around 8km) but they do vary in elevation. Try the South Beach Trail, Shorepine Bog, or the Rainforest Walks for a peaceful way to enjoy the diversity of nature in Tofino.
Wild Pacific Trail Lighthouse Loop in Ucluelet: The Wild Pacific Trail consists of two relatively short hiking trails in Ucluelet, that hug the rocky cliff edges of the Pacific Ocean. This place is incredible at sunset with panoramic views of the ocean lined with sea stacks, raging tides, and several places to sit and soak it all in.
Tonquin Beach Trail: Tonquin Beach trail is a fun hike in Tofino to try if you love wildlife and secret beaches! Only accessible by trail, this beach is perfect for quiet morning walks and beach exploring. Don’t forget to look up because eagles are frequently spotted around here!
Cox Bay Lookout: Cox Bay Lookout is a short but steep trail that takes you to the top of a hill located on the south part of the beach. The trail requires some climbing on your hands and knees and can be muddy after rain showers. However, the climb is worth the effort, because at the top you’ll see downtown Tofino and islands in the Clayoquot Sound!
Scenic Flights Around Tofino
Tofino can be explored by land, sea, and even by air!
In addition to charter flights to various islands and inlets in the Clayoquot Sound, you can book a tour on a scenic flight around the area. A scenic flight tour in Tofino can provide you with geographical facts about the area, history, fun facts, and more!
Atleo Air is the most prominent flight service in the area. They provide scenic flights around Tofino, as well as charter flights, custom excursions like Hot Springs Cove, or being the transportation for a wedding event.
Hot Springs Cove
If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind activities in Tofino, a trip to Hot Springs Cove should be number one on your list!
Hot Springs Cove is in a section of Maquinna Marine Provincial Park, which is an inlet that is part of the greater Clayoquot Sound Area. To reach the hot springs, you will need to book a tour on a charter boat or floatplane. Trips generally cost between $120-$150 per person and last about 5-7 hours.
You can expect your boat driver/pilot to drop you off at the docks of Maquinna Marine Provincial Park. From the boat launch, you’ll take a 1.5-kilometer boardwalk path through the old-growth rainforest, to the edge of the peninsula. There are pit toilets and a shelter for your items as you enjoy the springs.
Spend some time enjoying the steaming pools as you hear the crashing waves of the Pacific Ocean in the distance!
Best Beaches in Tofino
There is no shortage of beautiful beaches in Tofino to explore. Here are some of the best beaches in Tofino to check out on your next trip to Vancouver Island!
- Wickaninnish Beach – Home to some of the biggest swells in Tofino, you can almost always find surfers out here catching waves. Stop by the Kwisitis Visitor Centre to learn more about the indigenous culture, and take the short trail to South Beach for another awesome Tofino beach.
- Long Beach – The longest beach in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve (16km). Stop by Incinerator Rock for big swells!
- Cox Bay – Cox Bay is known for very consistent waves, which makes it a popular beach for surfers. Stay here for sunset, and enjoy some drinks at the Long Beach Lodge, too!
- Mackenzie Beach – Mackenzie Beach is a perfect spot for inexperienced surfers looking to build their confidence. It’s also a popular spot to watch Tofino sunsets, have beach fires, and go open-ocean paddle boarding.
- Chesterman Beach – Chesterman Beach is divided into two beaches: North and South. This is a great spot for beachcombing (come explore Frank Island during low tide!), bike riding, walks.
- Tonquin Park – This is our favorite beach in Tofino. With several boardwalks, overlooks, and hidden caves to explore, this is the perfect family-friendly beach. It’s also the closest one to downtown Tofino!
Tofino Beach Tip: Make sure to have a Tofino tide chart and know the tide times before venturing out to the beaches. We save and refer to this tide chart website and even screenshot the information for the day if we know we’re going to lose service.
Best Places To Eat In Tofino
From the gorgeous dining rooms of the Tofino hotels and resorts to small surf shacks with delicious bites, there are so many amazing places to eat in Tofino! Here are some of our favorite spots to try:
Rhino Coffee – Rhino Cafe is located in the center of Downtown Tofino, and is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike. They roast and sell their own beans and make delicious donuts and breakfast sandwiches. We came here often for breakfast!
Tacofino – Tacofino is a food truck that serves west coast beach food (think California and Mexico-inspired tacos) with casual outdoor seating. Nearby is the Tofino Botanical Gardens, so you can enjoy a relaxing lunch hour with a stroll through the gardens!
Tofitian – Tofitian is a super convenient coffee stop between Tofino and Ucluelet. Grab some of their iconic espresso, tea drinks, and baked goods on your way out to the next beach!
Tofino Brewing Company – Tofino Brewing Company makes small-batch, high-quality brews with hops grown in the Pacific Northwest. Come to their warehouse to enjoy huge community tables, lots of camaraderie, and great snacks to go with your beer!
Shelter Restaurant – Shelter is one of the oldest restaurants in Tofino, serving fresh and local ingredients among fireside and covered-patio dining.