It’s no exaggeration to say Tofino is one of the most beautiful places in the British Columbia. Tucked away on the semi-remote west coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino totally rocks with that laid-back vibe that a natural paradise has to offer. But at the same time, Tofino still has a fair share of a lively feel where ardent surfers bring out their favourite boards to brace the waves and forest bathers head in the woods to hike and watch bears.
The long stretch of the rugged coastal landscape has earned Tofino the title “Canada’s surf capital”. Going beyond the surfing scene, Tofino is filled with plenty of outing ideas and awe-inspiring cuisine to give you an amazing time.
Look no further! Here come the seven best things to do in Tofino to complete your secluded getaway.
1. Go Surfing and Standup Paddleboarding with a View
Let’s put the surfing stuff on top of the list! The bustling surf culture in Tofino is attested by its world-class waves and extensive stretch of sandy beaches.
While the surf-appeal in Tofino lasts year-round, the locals prove that fall is the best time to have your wet suits and rubber boots at the ready. This is when the warmth of the summer months still lingers, winds switch to the southeast, and the crowds thin out – what a perfect combo to brace the waves and have the entire beach just for yourself!
Dotted along the 35-kilometer-long shoreline, there are many surf-able and SUP-able beaches to unleash your free spirit. Cox Bay, for example, is one of Canada’s most sought-after surf spots. It’s large enough to hold a surf contest, jutting out from the Pacific Sands Beach Resort. The flat, sandy beach of Cox Bay is so large that it’s broken down into three different areas. The middle one offers some decent wedge peaks brought by the north and south swell energy. Meanwhile, the two ends are where you’ll find some shifty beach-break walls.
Other than Cox Beach, we have Chesterman Beach, Long Beach, and Rosie’s Bay as some other stellar destinations to game up your skill. Meanwhile, SUP rentals and centers scatter along Mckenzie Beach, Ucluelet, and Clayoquot Sound.
Before setting out, learn to gauge the water condition by reading the surf report, watching the waves, and detecting rip current to make sure you have the most enjoyable time!
2. Take on Other Water Sports and Explore Everything Beach-Related
Set Sail on a Kayak or Go Canoeing
Tofino is the surf capital in Canada but it doesn’t mean you should be deterred from enjoying anything else outside of the surfboard.
Located at the edge of the pristine waters of Clayoquot Sound, Tofino is home to a heap of incredible bodies of water to launch your kayak and admire the old-growth forests and prosperous wildlife.
If there’s one place you cannot miss when it comes to kayaking and canoeing in Tofino, that would be Clayoquot Sound. If the abundant wildlife, white sand beaches, and hiking trails are where your heart’s after, this biosphere reserve will make you fall in love at first sight.
You don’t have to be a professional kayaker to enjoy the water of Tofino. Launch your self-propelled vessel any time of the year into the calm waters near the harbor or one of the islands.
Looking for something more extreme to test your skill? Clear up four hours on any day of your calendar to take on the Big Tree Trail in Meares Island Tribal Park!
Embark on a Fishing Journey
Fishing is a year-round thing to do in Tofino. It depends on which season you’re heading out, the amenities that Tofino waters have to offer can be either coho, needlefish, and even prawns.
The ending months of the year through April is when local fishermen head out to the fiord inlets of Clayoquot Sound to pull the prawn traps and wait on the coho. You can get some enormous coho salmon that weigh up to 20 pounds, battling in a fiery fight, jumping, and rushing ahead in this pristine scenery.
Wondering where to catch some needlefish? Bring your gear to the Father Charles Channel, Burgess Island in Calmus Passage, and Bartlett Island in Russell Channel!
Watch Whales from a Vessel
Whether it’s a gray whale, humpback whale, orca, or some sea lions hanging by the boulders, a full-on ‘seafari’ is everything you need to unveil Tofino’s beauty from a totally different angle.
The whale-watching season in Tofino runs all the way from March or late February through October. Springtime kicks off the immigration season when dozens of gray whales sail across the shores to arrive in the Bering Strait by Alaska. The peak of the migration comes in summer when those enormous mammals linger by the waters of Tofino before carrying on.
A typical whale-watching tour lasts for three hours. You can get on an open-deck vessel or book a covered cruise to stay away from the strong winds.
Spend All Day Beach Hopping
Get ready to be spoiled with choices! The oceanfront city of Tofino is no short of gorgeous beaches. But the question is: Which one?
Heavyweights such as Long Beach, Chesterman Beach, and Cox Bay have been taking Canada by storm with its rolling, world-class waves kissing the rugged coastline. Then we have MacKenzie Beach, a secluded getaway north of the crowded Chesterman Beach to paddleboard and swim in the pristine water.
Now if you’re asking for a place to spruce up the ‘Gram, go for Wickaninnish Beach. This lesser-known gem south of Long Beach is home to some of the best postcard-perfect corners.
And the winner of all is Tonquin Beach. If you’re not looking for anything extreme, Tonquin Beach is the top call. Why? It’s a beautiful place to chill, swim, be lazy, and engage on a gorgeous hike with a thriving rainforest shading from above.
3. Take on the Trails of Pacific Rim National Park
Here comes your forest bathing dream! If you ever get tired of the waters, head on land and immerse into the beautiful mashup of hiking trails in the Pacific Rim National Park. The park takes you closer to the mystical old-growth forest where over 1000-year-old trees call it home.
Get started on any trailhead near you and work your core on an easy trail like the Long Beach hike or game it up with the ankle-breaking rugged terrain like the Lone Cone Trail. Big Tree Trail, on the other hand, will walk you through some of the largest trees in the province.
Pacific Rim National Park Address: Ucluelet, BC V0R 3A0, Canada.
Looking for a place to stay in Tofino?
4. Spot Black Bears from a Boat
Ever seen black bears roaming on Highway 4 when you drive to Tofino? Yeah, those cute, furry, hungry Vancouver Island black bears are everywhere around Tofino, deep in the rainforest and foraging for Rock Crab on the shoreline.
If you’ve just signed up for a whale-watching tour, also note that some operators also offer bear-watching voyages around the scenic Meares Island. In about two to three hours, you’ll spot a bear swiping salmon out of the waters or ambling down the boulders to wait on other treats.
To increase your sighting success rate, make it in October when the bear-watching season winds up. Most roofless boats and covered cabin cruises are ready to set sail anytime from April through October.
Please note that Tofino may not be the best place to catch a sighting of Grizzly bears, though! Grizzly bears mostly habitat around Knight Inlet.
5. Wind Down at the Hot Springs Cove
Only accessible by a water taxi and floatplane, Hot Springs Cove adds a relaxing and joyful vibe to your Tofino getaway. Unplug from the digital buzzes and get back to your inner self at this pampering hot spring. Once you get off at the dock, keep going along a rocky entrance on a well-maintained boardwalk up the wooden stairs until you see the geothermal hot springs nestled at the end of the walkway.
You’ll love going out to Hot Springs Cove after a long hike at the Pacific Rim National Park. Getting to relieve the weary muscles after a long day surfing and hiking with only a 20-minute float plane ride away is such a relief.
Just make sure to have water shoes or anti-slipping flip flop at hand before checking in!
6. Watch the Roaring Storm in Winter
Storm watching? That may not sound so exciting for the faint-hearted. Social media and the news keep spooking us with footage of scary storms ripping through cities and tearing off houses, but storm-watching is indeed a big thing in Tofino.
Every year when winter is around the corner, the skies over the West Coast become livelier with giant waves and howling winds. The coastline in Tofino is awash with adventurers hunting for the power of the elements.
Wondering where to observe this amazing event of mother nature? Wickaninnish Inn provides everything you need to see how the waves broke, how high they crash onto the rocks and crawl into the forest.
The waves in Tofino can roll up to a mind-bending 20-feet in winter, turning the rugged West Coast of Vancouver Island into magnificent show-time with the whistling wind and rain.
7. Conquer the Best Food Spots
Whenever your stomach goes rumbling, remember that Tofino is chock full of stellar food spots to give you a feast all day long!
It may take you a while to soak up all the drool-worthy food pics from this curated list of 10 best places to eat and drink in Tofino. So let’s go over some honorable mentions first before consulting that epic eating guide!
After a wild ride on the waves, grab a hearty bite at the Tacofino food truck to refuel. Their tempura-fried ling cod with chipotle mayo, cabbage, and salsa fresca will have y’all marshal for.
Looking for a scenic restaurant to end your date on a high note? The award-winning Wolf in the Fog dishes up some of the most beautiful potato-crusted oysters and fried Humboldt squid using locally sourced ingredients.
Or maybe you’re in the mood for an extravagant outing day, don’t forget to celebrate the Tofino Food & Wine Festival when the first week of June is around the corner.
Now you’ve got all the tips and places to wrap up your Tofino trip, it’s time to find a comfy bed with a gorgeous view to spend the night. Here are the 10 best Airbnbs in Tofino for surfing and forest bathing you wanna check out.