Located in the heart of the wild Pacific Ocean coast, the town of Tofino is the launching point for some of the best kayak trips on Vancouver Island. This vibrant town is a three-hour drive on Highway 4 from the BC Ferries terminal in Nanaimo, making it a great destination for a weekend or a weeklong paddling vacation.
Beginner kayakers and families can launch from town and explore sheltered waters with professional naturalist guides, learning more about the unique marine and rainforest ecology. If you’re looking for an overnight or multi-day trip you’ll find kayaking options to explore the open waters of Clayoquot Sound—self-guided or with the expertise and all-inclusive comfort of a guided tour. Tofino is also the starting point for more advanced kayak expeditions, as well as a great place to kayak surf in some of the best waves on the West Coast. Here’s your guide to the best kayaking in Tofino.
[This article is part of our 9 Adventurous Things To Do In Tofino series. Read more to experience all the best of this West Coast playground.]
Where to Kayak in Tofino
Kayaking in Tofino is focused on amazing Clayoquot Sound, whose waters transition from island-sheltered passages where old-growth rainforests meet tidal flats to rocky headlands and surf-swept open coast. This magical seascape has something for everyone.
Meares Island Half-day Trip
This all-inclusive, beginner-friendly, four-hour Tofino kayak tour includes encounters with marine life and a visit to the towering old-growth cedar forest of Meares Island. Local guides will share their knowledge of the area and provide an immersive experience in one of Canada’s wildest destinations. Want to do it yourself? Tofino Sea Kayaking also provides rentals, route planning and accommodations for paddlers.
Discover Clayoquot Sound Day Trip
Venture into the Pacific Ocean waters off of Tofino with Paddle West Kayaking to explore the islands and inlets of Clayoquot Sound on a six-hour, all-inclusive day tour. Depending on conditions, you’ll visit the immense sand beaches of Vargas Island or trace the intimate, rainforest-clad waters of Lemmens Inlet, with spectacular views of the mountains. Suitable for all levels of paddlers, this is a Vancouver Island kayak tour you’ll never forget.
Tofino Bear Watching by Kayak Day Trip
On this unique guided Tofino kayak tour you’ll travel aboard a mothership to the tidal beaches of Clayoquot Sound. Then you’ll launch in kayaks along with a naturalist guide to have intimate encounters with black bears feeding along the shoreline. The half-day tour will leave you mesmerized with the wild nature of Vancouver Island.
Vargas Island Overnight
This amazing Tofino kayak tour focuses on Vargas Island, located on the edge of Clayoquot Sound. There’s some open water, tidal currents and the potential for wind and swell, so as a do-it-yourself adventure this overnight, 16-km tour is best for intermediate paddlers. Beware of boat traffic and seaplanes when crossing from Tofino to the southern shore of Vargas. From there you can circumnavigate the islands clockwise or counterclockwise, depending on the wind. You’ll find outstanding sand beach campsites at Ahous Bay.
Beaches and Rainforests: The Best of Clayoquot Sound
This three-day Vancouver Island kayak tour, organized and guided by the experts at Hello Nature, explores magical Clayoquot Sound. You’ll encounter towering Sitka spruce forests and some of the finest beaches on the West Coast, while enjoying expert leadership from trained naturalist sea kayak guides. Meals and kayak rentals are included; the tour starts and ends in the town of Tofino.
Clayoquot Sound 4-day and 6-day tours
Majestic Ocean Kayaking offers four- and six-day guided kayak tours of Clayoquot Sound, departing from Tofino. You have the potential to see humpback, grey and Orca whales, as well as bears, wolves and a variety of shorebirds. The all-inclusive tours feature professional guides and gourmet meals, as well as instruction and nature interpretation to provide a more intimate kayaking experience.
Hot Springs Cove Expedition
Another great Vancouver Island kayak route heads north from Tofino, through the islands of Clayoquot Sound to Hot Springs Cove. There are several variants to this trip, depending on your skill and experience in paddling the open coast. Expert paddlers will revel in testing their skills on the open coast of Flores Island, which features tidal currents and exposure to large swells; intermediates can follow the more sheltered channels on the inside of the island. Regardless, your reward is a soak in a natural hot spring. Plan on a seven-day tour.
Long Beach Surf Kayak
Tofino is Canada’s surf capital and it’s a bucket list destination for rough water kayakers. You’ll find great waves for whitewater and sea kayaks at Chesterman’s Beach and Cox Bay, as well as numerous spots along the 16-km expanse of Long Beach. Parks Canada provides an overview of hazards; always paddle within your limits and be aware of other surfers and rip currents.
Tofino Kayak Guides
There are plenty of options for Tofino kayak guides. Here’s a comprehensive overview of outfitters in Tofino and nearby Ucluelet.
Tofino Sea Kayaking
This kayak guide has been leading tours in the Clayoquot Sound area since 1988. Tofino Sea Kayaking is based on the waterfront (320 Main St, 250-725-4222) and offers half-day, full-day and multi-day tours, as well as instructional courses. Accommodations are available through the Tofino Paddler’s Inn.
Paddle West Kayaking
Paddle West Kayaking has offered guided day trips and multi-day kayak tours from locations in Tofino (606 Campbell St, 250-725-3232) and Ucluelet (168 Fraser Lane, 250-726-7444) since 2001. Tours range from a 2.5-hour night kayak tour to a 3-day tour that takes in all the highlights of Clayoquot Sound.
Hello Nature Adventure Tours
Ucluelet kayak guide Hello Nature (200 Hemlock St, 250-726-2035) offers a wide variety of Vancouver Island kayak tours in the Broken Group Islands of Pacific Rim National Park. Suitable for paddlers of all levels, some unique options include kayak and yoga half-day tours, bioluminescence tours and overnight and multi-day glamping kayak trips.
Black Bear Kayak
Tofino’s Black Bear Kayak (390 Main St) provides kayak tours ranging from 2.5 to 8 hours long for all levels of paddlers, including families and beginners. You’ll encounter stunning seascapes and remarkable biodiversity. Black Bear also offers mothership-supported day trips and wildlife viewing excursions to unique locations.
Remote Passages Marine Excursions
Remote Passages offers daily sea kayak tours April through October, departing from their waterfront location in Tofino (51 Wharf St, 250-725-3330). You’ll float beyond the busy harbour and into the wilderness of Clayoquot Sound, experiencing some of the most spectacular rainforest on the West Coast and a variety of marine life.
Kayak tours are among the many nature-based programs offered by Tofino’s Ocean Outfitters (368 Main St, 250-725-2866). The company offers half-day and full-day tours, exploring secluded passageways where you may see black bears and bald eagles, among other wildlife.
Majestic Ocean Kayaking
Ucluelet-based Majestic Ocean Kayaking (1167 Helen Rd, 250-726-2868) offers kayak trips and guided tours to the Broken Group Islands of Pacific Rim National Park. One-day tours and multi-day expeditions are available throughout the summer, as well as unique glamping kayak trips. Broken Group boat shuttles can also be arranged for self-guided groups.
Kayak Rental Tofino
You have several options for renting sea kayaks and recreational equipment in Tofino and the nearby town of Ucluelet.
Paddle West Kayaking
Paddle West Kayaking provides high quality rental kayaks in two West Coast locations: Tofino (606 Campbell St, 250-725-3232) and Ucluelet (168 Fraser Lane, 250-726-7444). Experienced paddlers can rent a kayak and set off on their own adventure.
Tofino Sea Kayaking
Tofino Sea Kayaking (320 Main St, 250-725-4222) offers rental single and tandem kayaks for day trips, overnight and multi-day tours from its location on the town’s waterfront.
Tofino Paddle Surf
Located just south of town on MacKenzie Beach, Tofino Paddle Surf (1119 Pacific Rim Hwy, 250-244-6399) rents single and tandem inflatable kayaks with reservations available online. Standup paddleboards are also available.
Great Pacific Ocean Charters
This Ucluelet business (180 Main St, 250-920-9020) maintains a fleet of rental single and tandem kayaks, in conjunction with a boat shuttle service to the Broken Group Islands of Pacific Rim National Park.
Kayak Shop Tofino
Tofino Paddler’s Inn
Check out the small yet well-equipped retail shop at the Tofino Paddler’s Inn (320 Main St, 250-725-4222) if you’re looking for kayak and standup paddleboard gear and accessories. Operating in conjunction with Tofino Sea Kayaking, you’ll find all the guide-recommended gear for your Tofino kayak camping trip.
Kayaking Near Tofino
Besides Clayoquot Sound, there are plenty of other outstanding places to kayak near Tofino (and all across Vancouver Island for that matter—check out our Ultimate Guide to the Best Kayaking on Vancouver Island). Discover great spots to paddle close to Tofino, including the town of Ucluelet (located less than an hour to the south) and the Broken Group Islands.
Ucluelet Harbour Half-Day Trip
Sign up for this guided half-day tour with Majestic Ocean Kayaking to experience the quaint West Coast town of Ucluelet from its sheltered harbour. The tour includes all gear and expert guides, and it’s suitable for all levels of paddlers and families.
Five Days in the Broken Group
Experience a stunning collection of wilderness islands with rich cultural heritage and amazing marine life on this five-day guided kayak tour with the professionals at Hello Nature Adventures. The Broken Group is one of the best spots to kayak on Vancouver Island, and you’ll enjoy experienced guides and great backcountry meals on this tour, which includes a water taxi to start and finish. You may encounter a wide range of wildlife, including gray whales, sea lions and over 200 species of shorebirds.
Broken Group Glamping
Looking for a more luxurious kayak camping experience? Check out this four-day lodge-based guided kayak tour in the Broken Group Islands. Your Majestic Ocean guides organize all the details and supply expert leadership, with a keen eye on safety. Aside from great paddling you’ll enjoy the luxury of soft beds and hot showers on this all-inclusive wilderness trip.
Tofino Canoe Tours
Clayoquot Sound is the traditional homeland and spiritual centre of the Indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth, with the canoe being a central piece of their cultural identity. To learn more about coastal canoeing check out Tashii Paddle School (250-725-2169), which offers canoe tours of Meares Island and Clayoquot Sound. Their beautiful, 22-foot cedar dugout canoe was crafted by a master carver, and the company is owned and operated by members of a local First Nation.
If you’re visiting Ucluelet, consider the Canuck Canoe Company (250-266-8727) for guided big-canoe tours of scenic Ucluelet Inlet.
Kayak Tofino with the experts or plan a trip of your own. | Photo courtesy of: Tourism Vancouver Island // Jordan Dyck