Tofino, B.C. has a well-deserved reputation as one of Canada’s top outdoor adventure towns, with a laid-back vibe and easy access to world-class sea kayaking, surfing, hiking, camping and more. Paddle through the area’s sheltered waters, host to varied marine life and shorelines full of towering old growth trees. Along the way you can stay at amazing wild campsites on the stunning outer coast. From the surf beaches of Pacific Rim National Park to the haunting Big Tree Trail of Meares Island, there are enough things to do in Tofino to keep you busy for a week or more.Tofino is located on the west coast of Vancouver Island. Getting there involves a ferry ride from the mainland in Vancouver and a spectacular drive across the island on Highway 4. Plan on about a four-hour drive from Victoria or three hours from Nanaimo. Make Tofino your base for this itinerary of adventurous things to do.
[This article is part of our 7 Adventurous Things To Do On Vancouver Island Paddlers Will Love series. Read more about the varied attractions and stunning scenic beauty of Canada’s Pacific Coast.]
There’s no doubt that this is Canada’s surf capital. Here you’ll find great waves and surfing conditions from beginner to pro. You can surf year-round in Tofino, with the winter being best for big waves and the summer providing mellow breaks for beginners. Check out the Tofino surf report at Surfline. Beach cams are also viewable online. Here’s a list of Tofino surf shops offering surfboard rentals and lessons.
Tofino Surf School
Learn to surf with Tofino Surf School (381 Main St., 250-522-0189). The company offers beginner instruction with all the required equipment, and local instructors who know all the tricks (and waves) to get you started.
Storm Surf Shop
Storm Surf Shop (444 Campbell St., 250-725-3344) is a long-established surfing store offering retail sales of boards, apparel and gear.
The Surf Club at Long Beach Lodge Resort
Combine surf lessons with great accommodations at the Surf Club at Long Beach Lodge Resort (1441 Pacific Rim Highway, 250-725-2442). In addition to custom instruction for surf and SUP, the Surf Club features change rooms, saunas, hot tubs and showers.
Long Beach Surf Shop
This surf shop includes a range of rental surfboards for all levels. Long Beach Surf Shop (630 Campbell St., 250-725-3800) also arranges surf lessons. Reservations are available.
Live to Surf
Established in 1984, Live to Surf (1180 Pacific Rim Highway, 250-725-4464) is Tofino’s original surf shop. The company offers rentals, lessons and sales—with a wide range of surfboards suitable for novices to experts. Rental SUPs are available as well.
Pacific Surf School
This Tofino-based surf school has offered lessons since 1998. Pacific Surf School (441 Campbell St., 250-725-2155) maintains a ratio of five students to one instructor, making your first surfing experience a safe and successful one. Board rentals and SUP lessons are also available.
Tofino Paddle Surf
Located just south of Tofino on Mackenzie Beach, Tofino Paddle Surf (1119 Pacific Rim Highway, 250-244-6399) offers surfboard and SUP rentals, lessons and guided SUP tours. Wetsuit rentals are also available.
This surf school provides expert instruction to everyone. Surf Sister (625 Campbell St., 250-725-4456) provides comprehensive group lessons, private lessons and youth and adult surfing camps.
Tofino Surf Adventures
Check out Tofino Surf Adventures (511 Campbell St., 250-725-3119) for group, family and private surf lessons. The company offers three-hour lessons that focus on spending time in the water and learning to catch waves.
Swell Paddle and Surf
Swell Paddle and Surf (1101 Pacific Rim Highway, 250-266-3787) offers surfboard and SUP rentals at the Mackenzie Beach campground. The company specializes in guided SUP tours and surf lessons.
Tofino Hot Springs
If you’re looking to soak in natural hot springs, check out the soothing waters of Hot Springs Cove, located north of Tofino. This is a popular destination for advanced sea kayakers, requiring at least five days of paddling. One-day boat tours are also available from Ocean Outfitters and many others (including trips by seaplane).
Tofino is one of Canada’s best destinations for kayaking. 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 of this diverse region. Those looking for an overnight or multi-day trip to explore Clayoquot Sound can enjoy the all-inclusive comfort of a guided tour or make a DIY self-guided expedition. Tofino is also the starting point for more advanced kayak expeditions, as well as a great place to kayak surf on some of the West Coast’s best waves. Check out our Ultimate Kayaking Guide to Tofino.
Looking for a land-based adventure? The best hikes near Tofino include old-growth forests and spectacular ocean views, along with a popular hot spring hike and a plane crash site. Interested to learn more? Here’s a sample of great Tofino hiking options.
Big Tree Trail
This hike on Meares Island brings you up close and personal with veritable west coast giants: the old-growth cedars that make Clayoquot Sound famous. The 3-km trail follows a rainforest boardwalk through 1,500-year-old trees. Take a water taxi or sign up for a guided half-day kayak tour to access Meares Island.
Tofino Plane Crash Hike
You’ll discover the remains of a Canso Royal Canadian Air Force plane that crashed in 1945 on this 5-km hike, located just south of Tofino. Parking is available at Radar Hill Road. The trail ventures towards the coast; there’s minimal elevation gain on the way to the wreckage, but be prepared for lots of mud.
Hot Springs Cove
Take a 20-minute seaplane flight or a 1.5-hour boat excursion (or paddle there by kayak—if you’re truly adventurous and skilled) to follow the enchanting, 1.5-km boardwalk trail to Tofino’s natural hot springs. Don’t forget your bathing suit.
Best Beaches in Tofino
Tofino tourism is highlighted by great Pacific Ocean beaches. If you love surf and sand, this is the place for you! Parks Canada has produced a Tofino beaches map to give you a sense of five great beaches in Pacific Rim National Park. Of course, surfers are drawn to Tofino’s beaches and good swimming can be had at Wickaninnish Beach (in front of the visitor center) and Combers Beach, with relatively sheltered water (there are no lifeguards so be sure to be safe). MacKenzie Beach is a great destination for paddlers and those looking for a quieter beach experience. Want to capture the best sunset in Tofino? Make your way to 16-km Long Beach and take your pick of countless photo opportunities as the sun sinks into the Pacific horizon.
Whale Watching Tours
A visit to Tofino isn’t complete without an encounter with the majestic whales of Clayoquot Sound. From March to October, you may be lucky enough to see migrating gray whales (especially in the spring and fall), humpback whales or transitory Orcas. Sea lions and harbor seals are also frequently seen, along with black bears along the intertidal zone. Mostwhale watching tours are 2.5 to 3 hours long. Check out Adventure Tofino Wildlife Tours (250-725-2895), Jamie’s Whaling Station and Adventure Tours (250-725-3919), West Coast Aquatic Safaris (250-725-9227) and many more.
Don’t forget to pack your bike (or rent one from Tof Cycles or Tofino Bike Co). Cycling is a family-friendly activity, with great paths located in Pacific Rim National Park. The sweeping beaches of Tofino are perhaps the most unique cycle path as well, with dozens of kilometers of hard-packed sand to explore.
A remarkable 360 species of birds have been sighted in Tofino, making it a prime birding destination. You’ll encounter species unique to old-growth temperate rainforests; shorebirds; and, if you sign up for a boat tour, rare pelagic birds in offshore waters. There’s a birdwatching platform located adjacent to the Tofino Mudflats (a noted destination for viewing shorebirds in April and May) on Sharp Rd. Guided birding tours are available with the Raincoast Education Society (250-725-2560) and Long Beach Nature Tours (250-725-3320).
Best Tofino Restaurants
Looking for a bite to eat? Here are three iconic Tofino food and drink experiences that will appeal to paddlers and adventurers looking for local flavor.
Tacofino (1184 Pacific Rim Hwy, 250-726-8288) prides itself on “fast slow food” at great prices. You’ll find great Mexican food on the menu. The Tofino location at Outer Break is the original Tacofino location and one of the best restaurants in town; the brand has since become a West Coast staple.
The Tofino Brewery (691 Industrial Way, 250-725-2899) produces small batch beers with a tasting room that’s open daily. Check out the Tuff Session or the hard-hitting IPA. You’ll find great accompanying appetizers and snacks for dining at the brewery.
Common Loaf Bakery
This whimsical bakery and cafe (180 First St, 250-725-3915) has long been a Tofino mainstay for the simple reason that it’s a wonderful place for lunch.
From camping to glamping and luxury resorts, you’ll find local accommodations to suit every desire.
Camping is a great in the Tofino area, with countless options nearby. Some of the best sites are located at Parks Canada’s Green Point campground, set on the edge of magical Long Beach. Several private campgrounds are also available, including Surf Junction—a funky campground that’s popular with surfers and offers rentals and lessons. For a comprehensive overview check out our Tofino camping guide.
Tofino is a great destination for luxury camping, with two great options located right in town.
Clayoquot Wilderness Lodge
This luxurious resort offers bright and spacious glamping tents for adventurous travellers looking to blend cabins with camping. The canvas tents (with private washrooms and outdoor showers) are available for couples and families. Reserve online.
Six oceanfront geodesic domes are available for a luxury experience on the ocean’s edge. Fall asleep to the sound of the tide and wake up refreshed, ready for adventure.
Tofino Airbnbs + Cabin Rentals
A quick glance at AirBnB reveals many great waterfront cabin rental options for paddlers in the Tofino area. We’ve included two highlights below. Check out our story about the best cabin rentals on Vancouver Island for a comprehensive overview.
This cottage rental is set on nature’s edge—and literally perched on the rocky shore of the Pacific Ocean. Soak in a luxurious outdoor hot tub and gaze across saltwater to the stunning mountainous skyline of Clayoquot Sound. With three bedrooms and two baths, this gorgeous timber frame Vancouver Island cabin will accommodate up to six people.
60 Steps to the Beach
You can’t get much closer to the ocean than this Tofino cabin set on the famous Chesterman Beach. This cabin sleeps four—with a luxurious hot tub and a unique outdoor shower. World-class paddling and surfing is within steps (60, to be exact) from the door.
The best Tofino hotels are paddler-friendly. Here are two options for your vacation.
Tofino’s original hotel is now a quaint place that’s dedicated to paddlers. You’ll find B&B-style accommodations adjacent to the town’s only paddling shop and a unique bookstore and cafe. Inquire online.
Looking for upscale? The Wickaninnish Inn is one of the best hotels in Tofino, with waterfront property that’s perfect for launching your sea kayak or standup paddleboard. You’ll find great meals and some of the most spectacular scenery in all of Canada outside your door, as well as fine dining and luxury suites. Make your reservation online.
Map of Tofino
Long Beach Maps provides Tofino maps and maps of the Pacific Rim Highway, including beaches, campgrounds and trails—all available online.
Looking for a Tofino weather forecast? Check out Environment Canada for a detailed hourly forecast; get a five-day forecast (including detailed wind and wave conditions) from Windy.com; and click on the Weather Network for a 14-day trend.
Another ordinary day in Tofino. | Photo courtesy of: Destination BC // Graeme Owsianski