The Wild West Coast

Tofino: An Insider’s Guide

The Ultimate Tofino Travel Guide

Tofino is quite simply the essence of the West Coast and the ultimate coastal wilderness destination in Nroth America.  Sorry other destinations!  This Tofino travel guide will help you plan not only the ultimate trip to the West Coast of Vancuouver Island, but the best trip of your life!

If you dig deep and think about pristine nature, go ahead picture it…. you’re likely picturing Tofino.  With it’s lush rain forests, dripping in ocean dew, to the untamed peaks that tower in all directions, to the rugged rocky coastlines, Tofino is by rights an inhospitable place for humans to be.  It’s colder than many places on the Island, there’s more rain, and the forest is so wild that it can be hard to walk through, unless you are on a trail.

With that out of the way, there are a stout few who have made this place a reality to visit and now you can reap the rewards.  Picture yourself walking down endless sandy beaches, toes in the sand, or walking through ancient rain forests on winding boardwalks.  You can speed through the inlets to remote hot springs, or try your luck at surf- or fishing! 

One thing is for certain- Tofino is the ultimate West Coast destination.  Check out our Tofino travel tips to plan your trip.  We’ve outlined the best things to do in Tofino, and listed some of the top activities in Tofino.  Enjoy!

Things To Do In Tofino

Tofino Travel Tips

Getting To/ From Tofino:

Getting to Tofino isn’t as hard as it seems and the reward is more than worth it!  Here are some of the ways you can travel to Tofino.

Driving To Tofino/ Ucluelet:

You can drive to Tofino along Highway 4.  The drive is long, but very scenic, dubbed “The Highway of Waterfalls”.  Plan on roughly a 2.5 hour drive from Nanaimo, which you can access via BC Ferries from Vancouver and beyond.  You can also drive up to Tofino from Victoria, which takes roughly 4 hours. 

The highway to access Tofno is a single lane in each direction for the most part.  Watch out for slow moving campers (and if you’re driving a camper, please pull off to let others pass!).  There is no reception for the most part between Port Alberni and Tofino.

Flying To Tofino

 You can fly to Tofino on some select flights from Vancouver Airport.  The Tofino Airport is about 20 minutes south of town and there are services to get you from the airport to town, including local taxis.  Tofino Airport’s code is YAZ. 

You can also fly to Tofino Harbour with Harbour Air from Vancouver for a really cool sea plane experience. 

Getting To Tofino By Bus:

You can take a bus to Tofino from the North Island, Victoria or Vancouver via Nanaimo.  Tofino Bus offers a daily service to and from Tofino. 

Surfing In Tofino

Chesterman's Beach

Chesterman’s Beach is one of the best places to surf in Tofino.  With two options between South Chesterman and North Chesterman, there is a variety of exposure to dial in the perfect wave size for a range of swell.  Chesterman’s Beach works best on a west to south-west swell.  Chesterman’s Beach is generally smaller than Cox Bay, so it works best when Cox Bay is slightly too big to paddle out. 

Park at the north end of North Chesterman’s Beach or the south end of South Chesterman’s Beach in the designated lots.  Parking along the road leads to problems, like tipping your car in the ditch or blocking local traffic. 

Cox Bay

Cox Bay is my favourite surf spot in Tofino and usually the beach with the largest waves.  Cox Bay works best on a west swell and can hold a fairly large swell.  This is also the best place to go surfing in Tofino when the swell is itty bitty.  If you are looking for one of the top things to do in Tofino, surfing at Cox Bay is one of them!  Make sure you park at the designated lot, across from the Tofino Visitor Center south of town. 

Long Beach

Long Beach is one of the most popular places to go surfing in Tofino, but that doesn’t make it crowded.  In fact, Long Beach is the longest beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island, stretching over 10 km, so there is plenty of room to spread out.  If you have to fight for a wave in Tofino, you are doing something wrong. 

Park in the Incinerator Rock or Long Beach parking lots and walk out to the beach from there.  The surf tends to be best just north of Incinerator Rock.  This Tofino surf spot seems to work best on a west to south swell.  Beware, long beach is one of the first Tofino surf spots to get sloppy on a windy day.  Surf’s up!

Wickaninnish Beach

Despite being the toughest name to pronounce, Wickaninnish Beach pumps out some of the best surf in Tofino.  Facing southwest means it picks up the most common swell directions, and it seems to amplify the swell in a magical “Wick” kind of way.  Beware of changing tides and strong currents, which have been putting surfers on a seemingly endless treadmill for decades.  You can park in the Wickaninnish Beach parking lot and walk as far north along the beach as you want. 

Hiking In Tofino

Best Places To Hike In Tofino

Tonquin Trail

Tonquin Beach is one of the best sunset viewing spots in Tofino, and an easy walk from downtown Tofino.  You can park at the end of Tonquin Park Road, or access the trail system from the Tofino Community Hall too.  The trail is roughly 3 km long and involves close to 100 wooden stairs.  The beach is beautiful and the forest is a lush paradise too!

Big Tree Trail

The Big Tree Trail is a spectacular hiking trail in Tofino and a great way to escape the crowds (tiny as they are) for the day.  To access the trail, hop on the water taxi for a short ride to Meares Island.  You will immediately be immersed in a tranquil trail, leading you between giant cedars that tower overhead and picking your way over the huge root systems that dominate the forest floor.  The largest tree here is over 1000 years old and is known as the Hanging Garden.  The trail is just over 3.5 km long and is definitely one of the best things to do in Tofino!

Lone Cone Trail

The Lone Cone Trail is arguably the best hike in Tofino for ambitious and fit hikers.  The trail winds its way steeply through old growth forest, without much of a view until you reach the dazzling panoramic at the top.  The Lone Cone hike is not for the faint of heart, or lung.  The trail gains 700 meters in just 1.5 km, which means it’s just about straight up.  You will be climbing over and shimmying under slippery logs and grabbing roots and rocks to make your way to the top.  Once you reach the peak you are rewarded with unbelievable views of Tofino and the surrounding expanse of ocean.  To access this trail you need to take a water taxi from Tofino harbour to Meares Island.  There is cell service on this hike, which you will need to call for a pick up at the end.  Don’t forget your camera!

Radar Lookout

Radar Hill lookout is an essential thing to do in Tofino during your visit.  Drive south from Tofino and look for signs for Radar Hill.  Drive up the road and park in the designated parking lot, then hike roughly 200 m up a gentle and wheelchair accessible hill to the lookkout.  From here you can see some of the best panoramic views in the Tofino area. 

Long Beach Hike

Long Beach is a mainstay on any trip to Tofino and one of the most popular places to see in Tofino.  Long Beach is the longest beach on Vancouver Island.  In fact, when combined with the connected beaches to the north and south, Long Beach is 16 km long!  You can park and walk down the beach, and if you have two vehicles you could park at either end and do a one way hike.  You can access Long Beach from Schooner Cove, Long Beach, Combers Beach, Wickaninnish and Florencia Bay.  Don’t forget to stop in at the Kwisitis Visitor Center for some education!

Nuu Chah Nulth/ South Beach Trail

The Nuu Chah Nulth hiking trail is an amazing thing to do in Tofino, during your visit and an amazing hiking option in this Tofino travel guide.  You can hike north or south, starting from either the Kwisitis Visitor Center parking lot or the Florencia Bay parking lot.  The trail features some beautiful views of Long Beach and passes right by South Beach, which is a calm and prtected beach with great sun exposure.  The Nuu Chah Nulth trail is roughly 3.5 km long and have close to 300 stairs, making for a fairly easy one way hike or a slightly longer there and back hike.

Rainforest Loop Trails

The Rainforest Loop trail is one of the best things to do in Tofino.  To access this trail, park at the Rainforest Loop trailhead parking lot and choose between hiking Loop A or B, or both!  Loop A is across the highway.  You will find well maintained trails, mostly on a boardwalk, which wanders through a lush rain forest environment, far below the forest canopy.  You are instantly surrounded by a world of thick mosses and lichens, old and young life, working together in a rich forest system.  Halfway along loop A, you will find a pair of the Parks Canada famous red chairs, sitting beside a gargantuan cedar tree. 

Schooner Cove Trail

Schooner Cove Trail is one of the best hikes in Tofino and one of the ways to access Long Beach.  Park in the Schooner Cove parking lots and find the trailhead, where you start your journey winding through ancient cedars, along a system of trails, boardwalks and stairs.  The trail is 2 km long and has a surprising amount of up and down to get through the gulleys in the middle of the trail.  Schooner Cove is beautiful and a great place to find little seasheels and molusks at low tide. 

Wild Pacific Trail

The Wild Pacific Trail is the best hiking trail in Ucluelet and one of the best hiking trails near Tofino.  The trail wins along the rugged, rocky shores of Ucluelet and is a great place to watch the giant waves crashing against the shore.  The trail offers a short loop ( just over 2 km) or a full 8.8 km hike (one way).  You follow the oceanside the whole way until you reach the highway and then you can either retrace your steps or walk along the highway to return.  This is one of the best things to do during your visit to Tofino on Vancouver Island.  Make sure you take in the views of the lighthouse where the trail starts at the south end!

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