Our Tips for Visiting Tofino, Canada: Things to Do, Places to Eat, Hotels, and More!
Looking for an amazing place to visit in Canada that has a tendency to dazzle you with raw, rugged beauty? Yeah, Tofino, BC is the place for you then.
Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, this small surf town is anything but sleepy. But if you’re here, there’s a chance you already knew that.
We’ve had family and friends visit Tofino so we were eager to check it out. Needless to say, Tofino (and Ucluelet) did not disappoint.
So, this detailed guide covers everything you’d need to know if you’re planning a visit to Tofino. From what to expect weather-wise to things to do, where to stay, and much more, we’ve got you covered!
Table of Contents
Where is Tofino, BC?
Tofino is located on the western shores of Vancouver Island. Geographically, the small town of Tofino is located on the Esowista Peninsula with the town of Tofino sitting at the very top tip of it.
The area was named by Spanish explorers who came in 1791 (named after their mentor) and the settlement was “officially” named Tofino after the local post office adopted the name in 1909.
Land Acknowledgement: Tofino is situated within the traditional unceded territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation of the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples (includes the Hesquit and Ahousaht whose waters are appreciated by locals and visitors to Tofino).
The surrounding inlets and waters all the way down to Ucluelet and up to Hot Springs Cove are known as Clayoquot Sound.
Because of the important natural landscape of this unique watershed region, Tofino and the surrounding waters are protected as part of the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, established in the year 2000.
The small town of Ucluelet (on the traditional territory of the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ – Ucluelet First Nation) is about a 35-minute drive south of Tofino and is also a popular place to visit or stay in if you’re heading out that way.
Once you visit, you’ll understand why this area is special and why it absolutely should be protected and cherished.
Best Time to Visit Tofino, BC
To be fair, there isn’t really a “best” time to visit Tofino because it has a unique climate. The West Coast marine climate means that the winter months hover above freezing and the summer isn’t wildly hot.
Of course, the West Coast marine climate also means that there is a lot of precipitation all year round – but very heavy precipitation in the winter months.
They can/do get snow, but it’s usually in the form of rain. In fact, Tofino is known to be a storm watcher’s paradise in the wetter months.
So, the best time to visit Tofino really depends on your interests and purpose for visiting. If you want to chase storms and watch the wind, rain, and ocean create beauty, then the colder winter months are best for you.
If you want the best chance for sunshine, the late spring and summer months from May to September are your best shot. Of course, Tofino and the surrounding areas are the busiest in the summer months.
We visited in early-mid May and we honestly thought it was perfect. It wasn’t too crowded and the weather was mainly overcast while we were there.
One day it outright rained – which we were prepared for because it’s the West Coast. Another day it was clear and sunny with clouds rolling through. That was actually the day we rented bikes, so we were very lucky.
Another factor to keep in mind is that the community of Tofino is small – about 2500 year-round. When it’s off-season (the colder months from around October to April-ish), some of the local businesses temporarily close their doors.
You’ll still have places to eat. drink and stay… but it’ll be a little less than in the warmer months. Just something to think about.
How to Get to Tofino, BC
Due to the geography and distance, Tofino is somewhat off the beaten track. However, it’s actually very straightforward to get there – there’s only one road in and out (Highway 4).
The method you choose to get there will determine whether it takes a few hours of driving or 1 hour of flying to Tofino.
Below are all the options for getting to Tofino from various popular nearby destinations (mostly Victoria and Vancouver).
How to Get to Tofino from Victoria, BC
If you’re trying to get to Tofino from Victoria, this is a well-travelled route. It’s the one we did by car, so we can speak to it the best!
If you want to learn more about these options in greater detail, we have written a larger guide on how to get from Victoria to Tofino (all ways).
If you are driving, be sure to check on the Kennedy Lake Road Work Updates. This affects the only road in/out of Tofino.
Here are the few ways to get from Victoria to Tofino covered in brief:
- By Car: Driving from Victoria to Tofino takes about 4 hours and 30 minutes in good road/weather conditions and with no stops.
- By Bus: The TofinoBus – is a seasonal service – that takes 6.5 hours from Downtown Victoria.
- By Plane: Not ideal but possible. Fly Pacific Coastal from Victoria International Airport (YYJ) through Vancouver YVR then to Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ) (plane with wheels).
We rented a car in Victoria for our time on Vancouver Island (would do that again).
How to Get to Tofino from Vancouver
If you are in Vancouver and haven’t yet made it to Vancouver Island but want to get right to Tofino, you also have a few options – some short, some longer.
We also wrote a longer, more detailed guide on how to get from Vancouver to Tofino (all ways) but here are the quick details:
- By Car: Take the ferry from Vancouver to either Nanaimo or Victoria, then continue the drive to Tofino via BC Highway 4. The drive from Vancouver to Tofino via ferry to Nanaimo could be as short as 5.5/6 hours if you aligned all the ferry schedules right and had minimal traffic.
- By Bus: In the right season, you could take the BC Ferries Connector Bus from Vancouver to Victoria one day, then the seasonal TofinoBus from Downtown Victoria to Tofino (6.5 more hours).
- By Plane: Seaplane from Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre to Tofino Harbour or seaplane from YVR South (Richmond) Terminal to Tofino Harbour (both subject to seasonality), or fly with Pacific Coastal from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) to Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ) (wheeled plane). All flight options are no longer than one hour long.
Where to Stay in Tofino, BC
Before we dive into things to do in Tofino, you might need a place to sleep if you are staying a few days. Fortunately, there are loads of great Tofino accommodation options to choose from.
Tofino – both the town centre and the areas along the highway outside of town – has a really nice mix of hotels, cozy motels, seaside resorts, cabin rentals, campgrounds, bed and breakfasts, suites with kitchenettes, etc.
There really is an accommodation option to suit all styles and budgets.
During our time in Tofino, we stayed at Duffin Cove Resort located right in town but tucked away on a quiet dead-end road overlooking the rocky shoreline at Duffin Cove.
We’ve stayed in a lot of accommodations in different countries – and it’s still hard to put into words how incredible the view from Duffin Cove was.
Built only a few years ago, Duffin Cove offers beautiful, boutique rooms with some of the most amazing ocean views you’ve ever seen.
The elevation of the property up over the rocky cove makes for amazing balcony sits. We often sat out there and could see porpoises swimming in the water from our room.
As for amenities, the large, modern room with a beautiful bathroom is quite the sight. There’s a mini fridge and an espresso maker (which we love) as well as a TV (which we didn’t watch).
The staff members were so nice and helpful at check-in and parking is super easy just outside your door.
We really enjoyed our stay and would definitely recommend it. They have private seaside cabins as well as many rooms with views in the main buildings.
While we loved Duffin Cove Resort, there are many other places to stay that suit different styles. We wrote a complete guide on where to stay in Tofino but here is a short overview of some good options:
- Tofino Motel Harborview is right on the water just a short walk from the centre of town.
- Meares Vista Inn is a simple inn just outside of the town centre.
- Hotel Zed Tofino is a popular, boutique hotel with a restaurant a little way out of the town centre but easily accessible by car.
- Seafarers Bed and Breakfast would be an excellent example of a classic bed and breakfast in Tofino. It’s also outside the town centre close to Tacofino and Chesterman Beach.
- As for an oceanview resort, Long Beach Lodge Resort overlooks Cox Bay Beach with waves and sand to greet you while Ocean Village Resort has those classic rounded wooden cabins lining peaceful Mackenzie Beach.
- If you want a hostel or cheaper accommodation in Tofino, check out the HI Whalers On The Point Guesthouse right in town just off the water.
There are also lots of seasonal campgrounds around the Tofino area. Some are located in Pacific Rim National Park (like Green Point Campground at Long Beach) while others are nearby like Surf Grove Campground.
Accommodation Tip: Some places have a minimum night stay so keep that in mind as your filter search results. Also, book early if you are going in summer because places book up!
Getting Around Tofino, BC
Once you are in Tofino – the actual town centre – the best way to get around is on foot. The town is not very large – taking up only a few blocks – so you can see everything in a single day easily.
Of course, there are businesses and accommodations along the highway heading in and out of town. These can be reached by car or bike (if you have one or rent one).
Some of the closer businesses outside of Tofino (like Tofino Brewing Co., mentioned below) we walked to and it took about 25 minutes. It’s very doable – and all on the brand new M.U.P (Tofino Multi-Use Path) beside the Highway.
The path is great – it has distance markers so you know how far things (like beaches) are and it keeps you separate from the busy highway.
If you do need a cab because you are heading for the brewery or need a pickup from the airport, there are a few options:
Things to Do in Tofino, BC
Of course, those visiting Tofino aren’t just going to sit around and do nothing. There is so much to do and see in Tofino and the surrounding areas that we’ve written a much longer guide on just this topic: things to do in Tofino, BC.
As for this guide, we wanted to provide you with a snapshot of the highlights. This should give you a good sample of all the top things to check out – and leave you wanting to know more!
One thing to do before you begin exploring is to stop by the Tourism Tofino Centre (1426 BC-4, Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0) and pick up some information or ask any questions you may have.
Once you get into town, it’s best to explore it from top to bottom so that you know where everything is. From restaurants to shops, groceries, and local museums, there are lots of things to see, do, and eat!
If you want to learn about the history of the area and its importance in First Nation culture, check out the Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum.
The waterways around town are full of life so our first idea was to get out and explore them. Luckily, there are many ways to explore beautiful waters.
We went on a sea kayaking adventure with Tofino Sea Kayaking and had a guided walking tour of Meares Island. We saw lots of wildlife and our guides, Neal and Bryce, were just excellent.
Even though it was raining the whole time, it was the perfect way to explore and appreciate the land and water.
Their headquarters even has a small cafe so you can get a hot drink when you’re done!
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve
One of the big draws to the area is exploring Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
Established back in 1970, this large park actually has three main areas. The area between Tofino and Ucluelet is known as the “Long Beach Unit”.
A number of the following activities – surfing, hiking, biking, and beach walks – all take place in the Park. They also have seasonal campgrounds.
However, you can also do these activities in areas outside the park It’s important to know when you’re within the park boundaries and when you’re not so that you can buy a pass for day use/parking!
There is a Visitor Centre at the Highway 4 Junction closer to Ucluelet where you can ask questions and buy passes.
You can also pay for your visit at one of the pay stations at one of the many parking lots in the park.
A highlight of the Park – which you will hear about more below – is the ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (pronounced ups-cheek ta-shee) which means “going the right direction on the path.”
This brand new (completed 2022) 25-kilometre multi-use path snakes through the Park and was created in close consultation with the local First Nations groups.
Another highlight of the park is the Kwisitis Visitor Centre with exhibits covering elements of Indigenous culture, history, wildlife, and more.
Tofino (and the surrounding beaches/areas) are known for some of the best cold-water surfing in the world. In fact, with a long history as a surf town, Tofino has been called “the surf capital of Canada”.
So, it’s no surprise that there are lots of surf companies ready to take you out for a wet and wild day on the waves!
If you’re new to surfing, you’ll definitely want to go with a guide since the tides, currents, and cold water can be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Keep in mind that there is surfing at beaches in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and also outside the park. Know where you are surfing – the park has a surf guide on what to know, rip currents, etc.
We rented bikes from Tofino Bike Co. and had a great day utilizing the multi-use path (Tofino M.U.P) outside of Tofino.
This path then connects to the multi-use path through Pacific Rim National Park Reserve known as ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (pronounced ups-cheek ta-shee).
It’s 25 newly-paved kilometres that connect beaches, hiking trails, and much more throughout the park area.
It’s relatively flat, but there are certainly a few sharp turns, hills/inclines, and raised wooden sections through marshier areas.
If you do rent bikes, remember there are two types: mountain/hybrid bikes for paved and dirt paths and beach cruisers for riding on the beach.
You cannot ride on the beach with the mountain bike because the chain is not designed for it.
In any case, we had an amazing day biking along these paths. We stopped wherever we wanted in the Park at places like Combers Beach, the Rainforest Loop, Long Beach, and more.
The whole peninsula is also known for its trails. The trails do all sorts of things: some lead to secluded beaches, some take you to high-up lookouts and others snake you through dense rainforests.
We did a number of short hikes: like the Rainforest Trail (in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve) and we walked the trail to Tonquin Beach right from Tofino town centre.
Another one you might want to check out is the Radar Hill Trail which gives you views of the ocean below.
Located both in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and around the Tofino area on the peninsula – some just a short walk from Tofino – the beaches of the area are definitely worth a visit.
There are many beaches on the peninsula. Some are easily accessible right off the main highway while others require a short walk to the water from a parking area.
We had the chance to explore a few beaches like Chesterman Beach (with a cafe break nearby), Long Beach (with a long walk to explore the beach), Combers Beach (for a lovely lay down), and Tonquin Beach near town (where we enjoyed a peaceful sunset).
There are more beaches to explore – just keep the tides in mind when you visit. You can learn all about visiting the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve beaches here.
Ramsay Hot Springs
If you came to Tofino to relax, a trip to the Ramsay Hot Springs might be in order.
Located northwest of Tofino in the Maquinna Marine Provincial Park, you need a boat or a plane to get to the area – Hot Springs Cove (on the lands of Hesquiaht First Nation).
Once there, it’s a short wooden boardwalk hike to the springs. You can soak in the warm water while listening to the waves crashing nearby.
Whether you want to see some whales or beautiful birds (like bald eagles), or you’re in the area to spot black bears, there’s a wildlife tour for you.
There are quite a few companies that offer wildlife boat tours. Some are for going slow to catch a glimpse of black bears eating by the shore while other tours take you out with the intention of spotting whales in the area’s waters.
Jamie’s Whaling Station is an example of one company that offers different types of wildlife tours. They are located just off the main road into town, so you can’t miss them.
West Coast Aquatic Safaris also offers a number of wildlife-based tours and is located right in Tofino!
We went whale watching in Victoria and we’d recommend it as an experience to try at least once.
Support Indigenous Tourism/Communities
While in Tofino, it’s hard to miss the connection that the Nuu-chah-nulth communities have with the land, sea, and air.
You might want to learn about the people that have called the area home for millennia and do your part to support the local groups that work to preserve these lands for generations to come.
Of note, the Tofino Botanical Gardens are now the Naa’Waya’Sum Gardens – and a visit helps to support Indigenous-led conservation efforts.
They also have an onsite cafe – Little Costa Rica Cafe – which you can visit when you’re there.
Another way you can support Indigenous-led businesses is by buying local crafts and goods from the shops in the town or at the local galleries. The House Of Himwitsa is one such place.
The Kwisitis Visitor Centre in the park is also full of exhibits where you can learn about the people, the wildlife, and the area in general.
It would be rude not to include Ucluelet in a post about Tofino because the two towns are so closely linked together.
The small town to the south of Tofino (located on the traditional territory of the Yuułuʔiłʔatḥ – Ucluelet First Nation) forms the bottom of the peninsula. As mentioned above, they are about a 35-minute drive from each another.
We drove down for a quick visit but had little time to explore. We wanted to hike the Ancient Cedars Loop Trail (part of the Wild Pacific Trail), but honestly, we ran out of time.
There are several other things to do in Ucluelet such as walking the Lighthouse Loop trail to the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse, visiting Ucluelet Brewing Company, kayaking with Majestic Ocean Kayaking, or visiting the Ucluelet Aquarium.
Where to Eat in Tofino, BC
One of the best things about visiting Tofino is the amazing places to eat and grab a drink.
These places are everywhere: both in town and down the highway, in the last place you’d expect to find a culinary experience (like a food truck behind a surf shop…)
Here’s a brief breakdown of some of our favourite places to eat and drink in Tofino from restaurants to cafes, bakeries, and even the brewery!
Our Tip: For dinner at a Tofino restaurant, we’d highly recommend making a reservation if they take them. Places can get busy and while some welcome walk-ins, it’s not always the case.
Address: 1184 Pacific Rim Hwy, Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0
The one, the only: Tacofino. The classic food truck, tucked away in the back of the “Outside Break” outdoor mall area, is definitely something to be experienced.
Opened back in 2009, this Mexican-inspired menu is served to a constant line-up of hungry locals and visitors alike.
We had the fish tacos and the beef burrito – both were out of this world and definitely worth the wait.
The Schooner Restaurant
Address: 331 Campbell St, Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0
For an amazing seafood dinner, head to The Schooner Restaurant. This red building just off the main road is a local favourite and we can understand why.
Seated upstairs overlooking the harbour, we had the seafood boil which came with all different kinds of seafood and broth in a large pan.
They even gave us tools to crack open the Dungeness crab – which was from the local waters!
Paired with a glass of wine, it was the perfect seafood experience we wanted to have while in Tofino.
Al’oha Poke & Tostada
Address: 220 Campbell Street, Tofino BC
Located right next to our hotel – Duffin Cove – in a food market made out of old sea containers, Al’oha Poke was like our go-to meal in Tofino. If you’re a fan of poke bowls and/or sushi, you’ll want to check them out.
The best part is that you can completely customize your bowl: choose the grain, protein, veggies, sauce, and extras – it’s exactly how you want it.
The staff was super friendly and it was relatively quick to get our orders so we’d definitely recommend it.
Address: 120 Fourth St #101, Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0
One evening we thought we would try our hand at a new Korean restaurant in town called Jeju Restaurant. Located just off the main drag, this place was another winner.
We ordered shareable items (dumplings, fried chicken, and kimchi fried rice), and everything was great. Washed down with a local beer, it’s another place we’d recommend.
Tofino Brewing Company
Address: 691 Industrial Way, Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0
Located in the commercial area a short walk or drive from the town centre, Tofino Brewing Co. was an absolute hub of activity.
Known for their cool vibes and decent brews, they have a pretty good tap list which you can sample from or you can take home some beers from their shop.
We waited for a table and each tried a sampler flight (4 beers each) and came away with a few favourites like their Pilsner. They also had an onsite Japanese food truck in case you need a bite to eat!
Address: 220 Campbell Street, Tofino, BC
If you want to satisfy that sweet tooth, Tofino Licks will do that for you.
Also located in the small outdoor food market near Duffin Cove, they do some amazing soft serve, frozen yogurt, and some wild sundaes like Red Can Gourmet’s Fudge Brownie with raspberry sauce (but you can also just build your own).
We enjoyed our ice cream in the outdoor chairs that they have on-site. It was a nice warm evening so it was perfect for eating ice cream!
Common Loaf Bake Shop
Address: 180 First St, Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0
Located right in the town of Tofino, Common Loaf Bake Shop is the place for baked goods. You can’t miss the colourful building!
We went for fresh buns to eat our cold cuts and cheese with (we had a picnic one day) but they have baked goods (sweet and savoury), grilled sandwiches and wraps, and lots of other items to go.
They also do breakfast – hot sandwiches or cold muesli – and hot drinks, so you can sit in for a while or hit the road with your baked good!
Address: 500 Osprey Ln, Tofino, BC V0R 2Z0
We went to Driftwood Café which is actually part of the Wickaninnish Inn – a nice beachside hotel overlooking the north end of Chesterman Beach.
We had two hot drinks (coffees) to warm up but the highlight was sitting inside on a rainy day and watching the crashing waves on Chesterman through the cafe’s large windows.
We couldn’t possibly mention every good place to eat or drink in Tofino. So, here is a short list of a few honourable mentions for you: Roar, Wolf in the Fog, Bravocados, Shed, and Rhino Coffee House.
Packing List for Tofino, BC
Regardless of which season you are visiting during, there are some essential items for your Tofino packing list that you should just always have.
It’s better to be prepared than not be prepared – we are glad we packed the following items for a trip in May:
- The North Face Jacket
- Osprey Daylite Day Pack
- Hiking shoes (we like Merrell)
- A Fleece sweater/jacket (a good outer layer)
- Hiking pants (Woods brand) with plenty of pockets
- Re-usable water bottles
- Whistles and/or bells (for making noise)
- External Battery/Charger
If you’re travelling to Tofino – or exploring any part of Vancouver Island – here are some more posts that might interest you:
- Things to Do in Victoria, BC
- Where to Stay in Victoria: Accommodations & Areas
- One Perfect Day in Victoria, BC
- How to Get from Vancouver to Victoria (All Ways)
And there you have it – our guide on visiting Tofino, BC, Canada. In the end, there is so much to explore here and we cannot wait to return to experience more of what these beautiful lands and waters have to offer.
As always, Happy Waddlin’,