Heading to Vancouver Island? In this guide we’re sharing the best things to do in Tofino, plus tons of information to plan your trip and a three day itinerary!
One of the biggest highlights during our Journey to Alaska in 2022 was finally getting to spend more time on Vancouver Island. We visited the island for a weekend in 2017 for our 3 year anniversary, but were only able to explore the Victoria area (which we loved!).
And high up on our list for our return visit to Vancouver Island was making it to Tofino, on the island’s west coast. For years we had heard incredible things about Tofino’s trails, beaches, chill vibe, and overall stunning views. And we can confirm that it was all true!
Watch our experience in Tofino on Vancouver Island, including different hikes, surfing, local foods, and more!
We spent two jam packed days exploring this region of the island and fell in love with it, just as we hoped we would. And in this guide we’re sharing 12+ FUN things to do in Tofino, plus everything you need to know to visit, including how to get there (it is on an island after all!), what to bring, and a three day itinerary to help you plan your own adventure!
Looking for more things to do in British Columbia? Check out our Canada guides and vlogs!
- How to have an EPIC 10 Day Vancouver Island Road Trip!
- Things to do in Campbell River on Vancouver Island
- Sea to Sky Highway Road Trip: The Best Stops from Vancouver to Whistler (+Itineraries!)
- 3 Days in Vancouver
- Backpacking at Garibaldi Provincial Park
- 17 FUN things to do in Dawson City, Yukon
- Watch all of our Canada vlogs and read all of our Canada guides!
Tofino is located on the west coast of Vancouver island on the tip of the Esowista peninsula and what was once a small fishing village is now known for its pristine beaches, a unique mix of coastal, forest, and mountain scenery, and surfing. In fact, it’s nicknamed Canada’s surf capital!
The town itself is pretty small and takes a bit of effort to get to, but has become a popular hot spot for Canadian and foreign tourists in the summertime, who want to hit the waves, hike the trails, and enjoy the beaches. And we can see why!
It feels like a wild, remote place that while has become more developed over time, still maintains that authentic, smaller town, laid back feel. And with gorgeous views from the harbor, ample outdoor activities, a quaint downtown with shops, plus trendy local eateries, there is a little something for everyone in Tofino.
As Tofino has grown over the years, it has seen a surge in visitors, so PLEASE treat the area with respect and follow the Leave No Trace principles, so that others can enjoy this beautiful place for many years to come!
These seven principles include planning ahead and preparing, hiking and camping on durable surfaces, disposing of waste properly (pack out what you pack in!), understanding campfire rules and always fully extinguishing your fires, respecting wildlife, and being considerate of other visitors.
12+ FUN things to do in Tofino
As we mentioned above, there are a variety of things to do in Tofino, both outdoors, as well as delicious eats in town. Below are some of the spots we loved during our visit, plus a handful that are at the top of our list for next time!
Visit Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is located just south of the town of Tofino in the traditional lands of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation. Nuu-chah-nulth means “along the mountains and sea,” and they have lived here for centuries, using the ocean and temperate rainforests of the park as important resources.
Today there are 14 individual nations within the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation and they have worked collaboratively with the park to protect and conserve the natural and cultural resources found within the park.
This park became a national park in 1970 after the growth of surf culture, which led the area towns to demand help with conserving the area and building infrastructure. It boasts kilometers of beautiful coastline, temperate rainforests, and the beautiful, but wild Pacific Ocean.
The park has three separate units to explore, the Long Beach Area, the West Coast Trail, and the Broken Group Islands, with the Long Beach Area being right by Tofino. And it is one of the top things to do in Tofino!
A couple things to know before visiting:
- Dogs are allowed just about everywhere in the park except Combers Beach from April 14 to October 1. They must be on a leash! Please follow this rule, as it helps keep wildlife safe and not all humans and dogs want strange dogs running up to them.
- Pacific Rim National Park Reserve does charge a day use fee for admission which is variable depending on your age group (17 and under are always FREE!) and what area you’ll be visiting. There is a reduced fee if you are just planning to visit the Long Beach, Kwisitis, Wickaninnish, and Incinerator parking lots to visit the beach for four hours maximum. You can find more information on the fees here!
Kwisitis Visitor Center
The Kwisitis Visitor Center, which means “Other end of the beach” in the Nuu-chah-nulth language, is housed in an iconic building at the southern end of Wickaninnish Beach.
From the deck you have great views of the ocean, where you may be able to spot whales, surfers, and winter storms. This is a great starting point in the park, as it has a lot of information about the area and the First Nations culture.
Nuu-Chah-Nulth and South Beach Trail
Distance (roundtrip): 6.4 km | 4 miles
Elevation gain: 200 m | 659 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
This trail starts from the south end of Wickaninnish Beach and takes you by Kwisitis Beach and South Beach, both of which are beautiful and rocky, and then goes through a forest to Florencia Beach, which is huge!
It’s a beautiful hike that combines a variety of scenery, although most of the trail is along boardwalks through the forest. As you hike through this area, you’ll come across some information boards about the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation and the ecosystem around you. Be sure to time your hike so that once you get to Florencia Beach the tide is low and you can explore the sea life and rocks on the beach.
Things to be aware of before hiking this trail:
- Black bears do live in this area and we were warned by a ranger that a black bear and her cubs were hanging around South Beach during the time of our visit. Please keep your dogs on a leash so they do not disrupt wildlife. We also prefer to carry bear spray, just in case one gets aggressive.
- Some of the boardwalks are in a bit of disrepair (during our visit in May 2022) and when you get closer to the end of the trail the boardwalks either end are completely deteriorated, leaving lots of really muddy spots to navigate. Make sure you have shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy!
- If you want to avoid this section or want a shorter hike, you could drive to the Kwisitis Visitor Center and hike to Kwisitis Beach and South Beach and then drive to the Florencia Beach trailhead and visit Florencia Beach. This would still let you experience the best parts of the hike, but with less effort.
Rainforest Figure Eight Trail
Distance (roundtrip): 3.2 km | 2 miles
Elevation gain: 52 m | 173 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
For something a bit shorter and easier, head to the Rainforest Figure Eight Trail! This hike takes you along boardwalks through the rainforest, where you’ll be surrounded by tons of giant trees. You’ll feel like you’re strolling through a magical forest!
Canso Bomber Plane Crash
Distance (roundtrip): 7.5 km | 4.7 miles
Elevation gain: 236 m | 774 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
For something extra unique, hike to a plane crash! In February 1945, a Canso bomber plane was flying out with a crew of 12 onboard and shortly after takeoff it crashed into the trees. The pilot saved the lives of all onboard and the entire crew was rescued 11 hours later. And it’s still pretty intact today!
When we first heard about this hike we weren’t sure if we wanted to do it, as plane crashes are a fear of Kathryn’s and it also felt morbid and weird to visit such a tragic site. But when we learned that no one died during the crash, we felt better about hiking it, since it had a happy ending. And we are really glad we did!
The trail starts from a parking lot just off Radar Hill Road. You’ll head back towards the main road and get onto the multi-use pathway, going towards the right for about 0.8 km (0.5 miles), before turning right onto the actual trail.
Soon after starting the hike you’ll soon come to an old radio building which is a tad creepy! It’s covered in graffiti and feels like the set of a horror movie, but is also really interesting to walk around.
After you’ve explored the old building, the trail gets interesting! We had read that the trail was super muddy (in May) and the reports were true! The rest of the hike was covered in deep mud, which you could usually easily get around by going on rocks or roots (don’t slip), but one of us misjudged the ground a couple times and went shin deep into mud. We were glad we didn’t bring Kona for this one, as she would’ve been filthy!
Closer to the actual plane crash the trail will turn into a boardwalk, which is a nice way to avoid the mud for a bit. Just keep an eye out for any missing sections!
Shortly after the boardwalk section you’ll start to get a glimpse of the plane from a distance, which is pretty eerie, as it has not been moved since the crash!
The plane is situated on a downslope of a hill and exploring it requires climbing up a rooted section of trail. There are various areas of the plane that you can explore up close and it was wild to see the engines and other plane parts and how they’ve held up over time. It’s unlike any hike we have done!
Cox Bay Lookout
Distance (roundtrip): 1.6 miles | 2.5 km
Elevation gain: 102 m | 337 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
The Cox Bay Lookout was hands down our favorite view not just in Tofino, but on Vancouver Island!
While the distance looks easy for this hike, it is a doozy. You’ll encounter very steep and muddy sections, confusing trails, and the complexity of timing your hike with the tides. While we were uncertain if we wanted to mention this hike, as it is NOT for everyone, we thought that sharing our experience and warnings would be helpful, so you can decide if it’s right for you.
This hike starts from a paid parking lot just outside of Surf Grove Campground. If you’re staying at Surf Grove, which we highly recommend, then you can walk from your campsite! The first part of this hike will require you to walk along the beach, going towards the left (south).
Timing your hike with low tide is CRUCIAL, as the entrance onto the actual “trail” may not be accessible at high tide and you do not want to risk getting stuck. This hike took us a total of two hours, including enjoying the view at the top. So make sure you have two hours with the tide!
To find the actual “trail,” you will look for a rockier cove-like area right by where the water is meeting the sand. You will have to climb up these rocks and see a “trail,” which is really just a matted down area from others. This entrance point is pretty close to where AllTrails says it is (you can see where we entered the trail here).
Once on the trail, things start out a bit more straightforward, but then get really confusing. It’s a short trip to the top, but people have formed multiple paths over time (some of which are not correct), which makes things very confusing. You will have to navigate muddy sections, lots of roots, slick rocks, and trees that are hanging over. It’s an adventure and be prepared to use your hands at times!
We got turned around a couple times, but managed to figure out where to go and you can download our exact route, which may help you on the hike. Close to the top you’ll find a very steep rocky section that you’ll have to climb up. During our visit, someone had tied on a rope to help you, but we can’t guarantee that it’ll be there. We didn’t really need it though!
As soon as you make it to the top of the rocky section, you’re at the overlook! While AllTrails shows two camera icons, implying two overlooks, we personally thought the lower lookout had better views. And WOW, are the views stunning!
From the top you can see Cox Bay Beach, the various islands nearby, and tons of mountain peaks. It doesn’t get much better views wise than this!
Note: While technically you could bring your dog on this hike, we wouldn’t recommend it, as it may be too steep and muddy for them. We are very glad we left Kona behind, even though she may be part mountain goat, as it would’ve made the experience a lot harder.
Want to get 30% off an AllTrails+ membership? Click this link or use our code aplusk30 (you must redeem this code on the website, not the app)!
We use AllTrails+ on every single hike and it is the most helpful hiking tool out there! Some of the features we love are offline maps (so we can navigate even without cell service), wrong-turn alerts, and its 3D maps feature, so we can get a feel for trails before we hike.
Eat some delicious local food
Despite being a small town, Tofino packs a big punch when it comes to places to eat…it may be the best food city of its size! Tofino has a mix of food trucks, casual spots, and fancier meals, with something for anyone who visits. Here are some of our favorites, plus some we’d like to try next time!
Note: Some restaurants in Tofino close for the winter, so make sure to check their website or social media in advance to make sure they are open!
If there is only one place you can eat in Tofino, make sure it’s Tacofino!
As the clever name implies, Tacofino is a taco spot and while there are other Tacofino locations around British Columbia, this is the original taco truck that got them started! And it is very likely the most popular spot to eat in Tofino, as evidenced by the very long line and wait times (even at around 2:30 PM we waited an hour). Waiting in line for food is never fun, but if you go there with the expectation of waiting and embracing it then you’ll be just fine! Trust us, it’s worth it!
We ordered the Krispy Chicken Burrito, which had fried chicken karaage, guacamole, black chili mayo, cabbage, and pickled red onion and was loaded with different textures and flavors. We also got some Gringa tacos, which are basically a taco/quesadilla hybrid full of melty, cheesy goodness and it was top notch!
Another place we tried and LOVED in Tofino is Toki Doki! Serving Japanese street food out of an ‘80s Airstream, Toki Doki specializes in Japanese beer food and Osaka style Okonomiyaki, which is what we got.
We tried the prawn and pork belly Okonomiyaki, which is a savory cabbage and carrot pancake topped with a couple types of mayo, cheese, green onion, aonori (a type of powdered seaweed), bonito flakes, and mixed greens. Okonomi translates to “as you like” so it is a super customizable Japanese comfort food. It was super delicious and something we had never tried before. We can highly recommend it!
We also tried their Stickle, which is a pickle on a stick with togarashi seasoning and it was super duper good and VERY juicy! Be prepared to have pickle juice get all over you. 😂
Toki Doki is located at Tofino Brewing Co. and to sit at the food truck, you do need to order something from the brewery. Since we don’t drink, we just ordered some water and a soda, but for beer lovers, this will be the perfect beer + dinner combo!
Some other places we’d like to try next time are:
- Al’oha Poke & Tostada: This poke spot is right in town and has various poke bowl options (which can also be tostadas) or you can build your own. And BONUS! It’s right next to Tofino Licks, if you want some ice cream afterwards!
- Surfside Grill: Surfside Grill has fish tacos and burgers and is just a short walk from the beach!
- Shelter Restaurant: Unfortunately this place is closed for the foreseeable future due to a fire, but once they get back open, make sure to give them a visit!
- Shed: This spot is known for their burgers, bowls, and brews and looks like a perfect post surf sesh spot!
- Bravocados: This vegan spot has many meat filled favorites, like wings, burgers, and calamari, but without the meat!
- Wildside Grill: This seafood shack has fish and chips, fish tacos, and burgers!
- Wolf in the Fog: For a nicer meal, head to Wolf in the Fog, which has a variety of seafood and meat dishes.
- Chocolate Tofino: This chocolate shop not only has chocolate, but homemade gelato too!
- Ukee Poke: This spot is technically in Ucluelet, but looks to be worth the drive. They are located in a surf shop and they offer a blend of Hawaiian food and flavors from Peru and Latin America.
Check out the local coffee shops
Being in the Pacific Northwest, there is no shortage of great coffee options in Tofino. Here are a few to check out!
Tofitian Cafe: Located in the same block as Tacofino, the Tofitian Cafe looks like a great spot to start your day or for an afternoon pick me up, with delicious coffees and pastries, plus some breakfast items. And if you’re a coffee shop branding nerd like us, they have a pretty rad logo!
Rhino Coffee House: This popular coffee shop is located right in town and is always busy! Make sure to get donuts or a bronut, which is a breakfast sandwich on a donut!
Tofino Coffee Roasting Company: This local roaster is also whipping up delicious coffee and pastries!
Enjoy the beaches
There are tons of beaches in Tofino and you can’t go wrong with any of them, but here are a handful that we’d suggest checking out!
Note: dogs are allowed on the beaches, but must be on leash. Please follow this rule, as not all humans or dogs want strange dogs running up to them.
Chesterman Beach is possibly the most popular beach in the area and it is pretty large at 2.7 km and is home to Wickaninnish Inn at the north end. Chesterman Beach is popular for exploring tidepools at low tide, visiting the Carving Shed by the Wickaninnish Inn, taking a surf lesson or watching the surfers at the south end, and so much more!
Bonus: unlike most beaches in the area, this one has FREE parking, but it does fill up! Tofino offers a shuttle from town that you can take if you’re unable to park.
Mackenzie Beach is a popular beach for families and little ones because of how calm the waters tend to be. Here you can ride your stand up paddle board and have tons of fun on the beach!
Note: This beach does have a fee to park, which can be paid via credit card at an electronic payment machine.
Cox Bay Beach
While we can’t say for sure, as we haven’t experienced them all, Cox Bay Beach might be the most beautiful beach in Tofino. This crescent shaped beach is where most of the surf competitions are held. Here you can explore tide pools, build drift wood structures, look for sand dollars, explore tidal caves at low tide, and of course, surf!
Note: This beach does have a fee to park, unless you’re camping at Surf Grove, which can be paid via credit card at an electronic payment machine.
Located in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, Long Beach is properly named, as it is the longest beach on Vancouver Island at 16 km. It is made up of Florencia Bay, Wickaninnish, Comber, and Schooner Cove beaches. Long Beach is popular for really long walks, gray and humpback whale watching, and storm watching.
Note: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve fees apply to park and access this beach.
At the south end of Long Beach is Wickaninnish Beach. Here you can go up the steps to get a great view of the beach at the Kwisitis Visitor Center, walk north to see the huge sand dunes, play on the beach, or hike the South Beach Trail to South Beach to find beautiful rock formations.
Note: Pacific Rim National Park Reserve fees apply to park and access this beach.
Go for a bike ride
Something really cool that we noticed during our time in Tofino is a bike path that runs from town all the way to Pacific Rim National Park Reserve! This path is actually a combination of two pathways, with 8.8 km (5.5 miles) of it being a multi-use path which goes from the center of town to the beaches, before connecting with the 25 km (15.5 mile) ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (ups-cheek ta-shee) pathway through Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, with a continuation down to Ucluelet!
Hike the Wild Pacific Trail Lighthouse Loop
Distance (roundtrip): 2.9 km | 1.8 miles
Elevation gain: 68 m | 223 feet
Reviews & Current Conditions
The Wild Pacific Trail is a 9 km trail network in Ucluelet, so while not technically in Tofino, it’s so close that it’s worth mentioning anyways!
This trail has two different sections and we highly recommend hiking the Lighthouse Loop, which has coastal views from various overlooks, takes you to a rocky beach area, and brings you by the Amphitrite Lighthouse. This lighthouse was originally built in 1906 after a shipwreck of the Pass of Melfort, but was replaced in 1915 to better withstand hurricane force storms. It’s so adorable and unique!
Hit the waves
Even though the waters off the coast near Tofino are ice cold, the surfing is primo! Tofino boasts over 32 km (20 miles) of surfable waters, including ideal conditions for all varieties of surfing abilities. The town of Tofino and the surrounding area is loaded with surf shops and oozing with surf culture. As you walk or drive around, it seems like almost every car has a surfboard attached to it!
After taking a surf lesson in Ventura, California and getting hooked on surfing, Adam was determined to surf in Canada’s surfing capital. He decided to go on his own (instead of with a guide) and let’s just say he wasn’t ready! While he maybe didn’t catch many, or any, waves, it was still a blast!
Some of the popular surf spots are Long Beach, Wickaninnish Beach, Chesterman Beach, and Cox Bay Beach. If you stay at Surf Grove you’ll be mere steps from Cox Bay, which is a great spot for beginners (and where Adam surfed) and to make it even better, you can rent any gear you need from their surf shack.
If you don’t have a surfboard, there are tons of places to rent boards and wetsuits in town. Adam rented his from Pacific Surf Co, which is a cool little shop and the staff were super friendly and helpful. It was $50 CAD for a surfboard and wetsuit for 24 hours, which isn’t too bad!
Go on a wildlife watching tour
Surfing isn’t the only way to get on the water in Tofino, you can also go wildlife watching! There are many tour companies in town, such as The Whale Centre, Clayoquot Wild Tours, Adventure Tofino, and Jamie’s Whale Watching Tofino that can take you out for whale watching and even bear watching.
Whale watching tours are most common between March and October, when 20,000 gray whales make their way up to Alaska from Mexico, with some sticking around Tofino. There is also the chance to see orcas and humpbacks!
Bear watching tours are offered April through October, when the bears are active on the shores looking for food, as opposed to the rivers for salmon during the winter months. All bear watching tours are operated on the inside waters of Meares Island during low tide so that the bears can access the beaches for their snacks.
The only bear species you’ll see on these tours are black bears. There are actually no grizzly bear populations on Vancouver Island. The closest grizzly population can be found in Knight Inlet and Toba Inlet, which is off the northeast coast of Vancouver Island.
See Tofino from above
You not only can view Tofino and the surrounding area from the water, but you can also take a scenic flight to see the area from above! Tofino Air runs a variety of scenic flights around Tofino, which can take you over the coast and even up by the mountains. The flights aren’t super long and they aren’t cheap, but if you want to splurge on an unforgettable experience, this is it!
Visit Hot Springs Cove
One of the top things we want to do next time we are in Tofino is visit Hot Springs Cove! Hot Springs Cove is located in Maquinna Marine Provincial Park about 27 nautical miles (43 km) northwest of Tofino and it looks so magical! There are 7 hot spring pools here, with the source being about 50ºC (122ºF), which gets cooler the closer you get to the ocean.
Hot Springs Cove can be accessed only by a 1.5 hour boat ride or 20 minute seaplane ride, or in what is called a “Sea to Sky” trip, where you boat out and fly back. On the way out you’ll have a good shot at seeing lots of wildlife and on the way back, you’ll get stunning views of the area!
Besides the boat or plane ride, there is also a short hike to actually get to the hot springs.
All of the guides listed above also run tours for hot springs cove, with all being around $200-$300 CAD per person.
Kayak on Clayoquot Sound
What’s better than seeing the Clayoquot Sound from land? Seeing it from a kayak! There are many operators in town that rent kayaks and offer tours of the harbor and nearby islands. The calm waters of Tofino Harbor can be kayaked year round.
Here are a few kayaking operators to check out!
Tofino Sea Kayaking: Tofino Sea Kayaking offers half day, full day, and private tours, as well as rentals, an inn, and a coffee shop.
Paddle West Kayaking: Paddle West Kayaking offers a variety of different locations for their kayaking tours, including a nighttime tour where you can see bioluminescence during certain times of the year!
Black Bear Kayaking: This kayaking outfitter will take you out by boat first, where you’ll then kayak in search of bears. They see them 90% of the time!
Go storm watching in the winter
With no landmass between Tofino and Japan, this area of the coast makes for epic storm watching in the wintertime. The winds and storms can build up over vast distances and create some gnarly waves, sometimes over 6 meters (20 feet)!
In fact, The Wickaninnish Inn was built in 1996 by the McDiarmid family, who loved to watch the storms so much that they built the inn hoping that others would too. You can take in the beauty of the beach and the storms from The Pointe Restaurant at the inn. Some other prime storm watching spots are Chesterman Beach, Cox Bay Beach, and the Kwisitis Visitor Center.
If you choose to go storm watching, make sure to watch storms as safely as possible. Dress in appropriate clothing, know the tides, don’t stand on the tidal rocks, and never turn your back on the ocean.
Learn about the indigenous culture
As we mentioned earlier, Tofino is located within the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation of the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples. These peoples and their culture and heritage are still alive and well today. You’ll see many signs in their language as you drive around town and there are several places around the area where you can learn more about them.
Visit the Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum
At the Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum you will learn about the people and events that have shaped the area for centuries. It’s a small museum, but has a lot of information!
House of Himwitsa First Nations Art Gallery
The House of Himwitsa First Nations Art Gallery is a First Nations owned and operated art gallery which offers handcrafted art including woven baskets, Maquinna hats, carvings, and jewelry. This would be a great place to get some gifts to take home!
3 Day Tofino Itinerary
We spent two days in Tofino and were able to see and do a lot, but three days would’ve given us the chance to enjoy Tofino at a slower pace or go on a bigger adventure. Below is a sample three day itinerary to use as a starting point to plan your own time in Tofino. Make sure to consider the tides and adjust as needed!
- Enjoy coffee and breakfast at Rhino Coffee House.
- Explore Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. We especially suggest hiking the Nuu-chah-nulth and South Beach trail, plus hiking to the Canso Bomber Plane Crash.
- Grab a late lunch at Toki Doki or one of the other food spots we mentioned.
- Explore the town of Tofino, including the House of Himwitsa First Nations Art Gallery and other shops!
- Watch the sunset from Chesterman Beach.
- Have dinner at one of the many food spots we listed!
- Hike up to the Cox Bay Lookout! Depending on the tides, we’d suggest starting this hike by 8 AM at the latest to beat the crowds.
- Enjoy lunch at Tacofino! Try to get there right before they open (11 AM), as the wait can be crazy!
- Spend the rest of the morning and early afternoon either surfing or have a beach day and check out the different beaches in the area. If you have time, we suggest going on a sunset hike on the Ucluelet Lighthouse Loop as well.
- Have dinner at one of the many food spots we listed!
- Spend the day on either a Hot Springs Cove, wildlife watching, or kayaking excursion! This will likely take a good chunk of the day, so plan accordingly!
When to visit Tofino
While Tofino is known for its beaches and surfing, it’s not your typical tropical destination. Instead of palm trees and warm weather you’ll find cool temperatures year round (the average high in the summer is only around 18ºC/65ºF), a collection of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and giant red cedars, and often moody, gloomy days.
Summer is definitely the best time to visit in terms of the best weather, as this is when it’s the least rainy, but it will be the busiest and lodging will be more expensive or harder to find. If you’d like to experience some of the benefits of the summer, but with less crowds, we’d highly suggest going to Tofino in the shoulder seasons, like late May, early June, or mid to late September.
We visited in mid to late May and it was pretty perfect! Our first couple days were gloomy and rainy, but the two days we actually explored were very sunny. We visited on the weekdays right before Victoria Day, but before summer break, so the crowds weren’t too bad yet.
If visiting in the winter, be prepared for cold, wet weather, as the highs are only around 7ºC (45ºF) and the town receives a lot of rain, including many storms that are fun to watch. This may impact how much you can do, so we’d suggest against it if it’s your first visit.
How to get to & around Tofino
Tofino is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island and as you might imagine isn’t the easiest place to get to, but that’s part of what makes it so great!
Before we dive into how to get to Tofino, it’s first important to know how to even get to Vancouver Island!
Getting to Vancouver Island
Being an island, the only way to get to Vancouver Island is by ferry or plane, with a plane being the quickest option. The Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ), which is right by Tofino, does offer daily flights from Vancouver on Pacific Coastal Airlines, but for the majority of people, the best option will be to fly into the Nanaimo Airport (YCD) or Comox Valley Airport (YQQ), which are about a 3 hour drive from Tofino, or fly into the Victoria International Airport (YYJ), which is a 4.5 hour drive from Tofino.
The most common way to get to Vancouver Island is by ferry, which is operated by BC Ferries. We LOVE riding the ferry and it is still so cool to us that we can drive our van on a boat! The ferries we have been on have all been nice inside, with food to purchase and much more space to spread out than an airplane. But if you’re like us, you may spend the whole time outside enjoying the views!
There are three routes from mainland British Columbia to Vancouver Island:
- Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Victoria (Duke Point): 1 hour, 35 minute ride
- Vancouver (Horseshoe Bay) to Nanaimo (Departure Bay): 1 hour, 40 minute ride
- Vancouver (Tsawwassen) to Nanaimo (Duke Point): 2 hour ride
Any of these routes are a good option to get on the island, depending on where you’re going first. For the quickest drive to Tofino once on Vancouver Island, we’d suggest doing one of the Nanaimo routes.
The cost of the ferry varies depending on the number of people in your party, if you’re bringing a vehicle (and its size), and other factors. To see the price for your situation, search for a route on BC Ferries website. For two of us in our oversized Sprinter van, we paid $250 round trip, but it is much cheaper if you are in a smaller vehicle.
Dogs are also allowed on the ferry, but must remain in your vehicle or in a designated pet area.
Visiting from the US?
Besides the BC ferries, you can also take the Black Ball Ferry from Port Angeles, Washington (on the Olympic Peninsula) to Victoria, which is a 1.5 hour ride, but Port Angeles is about a 2.5 hour drive from Seattle (and may require a ferry), so it’s about the same to just drive or fly up to Vancouver and take a ferry from there.
Getting to Tofino once on the island
Once you get off the ferry or plane, you’ll have a pretty awesome drive ahead of you to get to Tofino!
From Nanaimo or Comox, it’s about a 3 hour drive to Tofino and from Victoria it’s about a 4.5 hour drive. And there is plenty to do along the way! Check out our Vancouver Island Road Trip Guide for some ideas on this stretch of the drive.
As for transportation options both to Tofino and while in Tofino, you have a couple options. You can either drive your own car or rent a car, which is what we’d recommend.
Or you can take the Vancouver Island Connector Bus (seasonal), which can take you from various destinations on the island to Tofino, and then take the free Tofino shuttle (summers only) to get around town. They allow surfboards on the shuttle too!
Make sure to look into road closures before you make the drive. Highway 4 is experiencing closures at Kennedy Hill and the delays can be a bit long. We waited for quite some time on our way to Tofino, but it was worth it because as we went through the construction, we spotted a black bear. It was awesome!
Where to Stay in Tofino
Tofino offers a variety of lodging options for any kind of budget! Here are some suggestions of where to stay, including where we stayed during our time.
Waterfront Condo (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom)
Cannery Loft (1 bedroom, 1 bathroom)
Tofino Surf Cabin (2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms)
5 Star Executive Rental (2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms)
Middle Beach Lodge – this looks like an epic stay! You can stay in one of the two lodges, a rustic cabin, or their new treehouses!
Surf Grove Campground
We stayed here during our stay in Tofino and it is one of our favorite campgrounds we’ve ever stayed at! All the campsites are tucked into the woods, just a few steps from Cox Bay Beach. Our only complaint is that it’s definitely not the cheapest campground and the spaces are pretty close together, but it is hard to beat the amenities here!
They have 135 full hookup sites and 64 half semi hookup sites, as well as new A Frame tent rentals and RVs you can rent, which are all open year round. The property also has a store, laundromat, a fire lounge, crate barrel saunas (up to 6 people and cost an extra fee) plus extremely nice restrooms and showers, as well as full outdoor showers by the beach! There is also wifi throughout the campground and it actually works, which is actually rarely the case at campgrounds!
And if you’re a surfer this is the perfect place for you! Not only is the campground right on Cox Bay Beach, but they also have an onsite surf shack where you can find all the gear you need or get lessons.
If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a geodesic dome, your dreams can come true at Wildpod Glamping. They have 6 geodesic domes that are all situated on the water and beautifully decorated. Each dome comes with everything you need for a comfortable glamping stay including an ensuite bathroom, kitchenette, propane fireplace, free wifi, and so much more!
Green Point Campground
The Green Point Campground is located in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. There are 93 sites, many with hookups, as well as showers, flush toilets, and a dump station. The campground is open early May to mid September and reservations are recommended.
Bella Pacifica Campground
Located just a few steps from Mackenzie Beach, the Bella Pacifica Campground offers waterfront campsites and full hookup sites for any size RV. Other amenities include 3 washrooms with flush toilets, pay showers, wifi, and on site laundry facilities. It is usually open from March to November.
Crystal Cove Beach Resort
At Crystal Cove Beach Resort they offer cabins, RV campsites, and a resort year round.
West Coast Campground
The West Coast Campground is located just a bit south of Tofino in Ucluelet at the West Coast Shapes Surf Shop. You can rent your surf needs from them and also grab a poke bowl and coffee…it’s a win win win!
What to bring with you to Tofino
If you’re doing any hiking, make sure to bring the appropriate hiking gear with you (see what all we take here!). We also always recommend having the 10 essentials on you, which can come in handy both for hiking or for your road trip to Tofino.
You will definitely want to bring a camera with you to Tofino! The best camera is the one you have at the moment, but if you’re curious what cameras and gear we use, check out our gear list.
Since it may be rainy, you’ll want to also bring protection for your camera. We just use a good ‘ol shower cap on our camera to keep it dry, which works pretty well.
Black bears do live in the Tofino area, as do wolves and cougars (although these are more rare). When hiking in bear country we always carry bear spray with us. While black bears are not as aggressive as grizzlies, mama bears can be unpredictable, so we’d rather be safe than sorry.
Good hiking shoes (+extra shoes)
With often wet and muddy trails, you’ll definitely want to bring some hiking shoes with good grip on this hike! You can see which shoes we use here. We’d also suggest bringing an extra pair of shoes (and socks) in case your shoes get soaked on a rainy day!
There is a very good chance it will rain for at least part of your trip, especially if visiting outside of the summer months, so make sure to bring a rain jacket!
The weather in Tofino can be cool in the mornings and evenings, with mild daytime temperatures that can feel a bit warmer when sunny, so you’ll want to pack some layers to ensure you’re always comfortable.
Cell service can be spotty on the way to Tofino and on the trails, so we highly suggest downloading the offline AllTrails map for any hikes you plan on enjoying. If you’re visiting from the US like we were, we also had very limited international cell phone data on Verizon (0.5 GB a day), so downloading AllTrails maps was crucial for us to save data.
If you plan on visiting a lot of beaches or hiking to the Cox Bay Lookout, it will be important to know when the high and low tides are, so you can not only explore them as you’d like, but also safely! You can find tide times at the NOAA Tides and Currents predictions site.
Ready to explore Tofino?
Pin this list of things to do in Tofino to help plan your adventure!