How to Spend 72 Hours in Tofino, British Columbia

Tofino harbour and marina is situated on Vancouver Island in British Columbia
Tofino harbour and marina is situated on Vancouver Island in British Columbia | © Antje Schulte / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Megan Honan
7 February 2020

Discover why Tofino should be your next vacation and what to do for 72 hours on Vancouver’s tucked-away island. From conquering icy waves to unwinding in natural hot springs and dining at sustainable restaurants, Canada’s only surf town has got it all.

Tofino, a surfer town on the edge of Vancouver Island, is enveloped by Clayoquot Sound (a UNESCO biosphere reserve) – the 150,000-acre (60,703-hectare) Pacific Rim National Park Reserve – and some of North America’s best surfing spots. And now is the perfect time to visit. While the beaches near Tofino can be overcrowded in the summer, during the winter season, visitors will find bigger and better waves, all-season hiking trails and easy access to famed restaurants.

Situated off the Pacific Coast Highway and only 10 minutes away from Tofino, Cox Bay Beach is a particularly popular spot with surfers | © Helen Suk / Alamy Stock Photo

Day 1

For relaxed luxury, you will find Tofino is the perfect place to enjoy the Canadian wilderness. Pacific Sands Beach Resort is a 77-unit beachfront oasis, bordering their own personal surf school, Surf Sister. Every accommodation is fully equipped with a kitchen, fireplace, and private deck with direct beach access. With the glass doors wide open, you can be soothed to sleep by the sound of crashing waves and the soundtrack of the surrounding nature.

Fulfill your surfer dreams with the on-site Surf Sister school, where beginners can take things slow with a three-hour group lesson, learning everything from surfing techniques to spotting the perfect wave. Hit the water with a five-to-one small-group instructor session and you’ll be up on your board in no time.

Even if you are a complete beginner, try your hand at surfing on Chesterman Beach | © Marc Bruxelle / Alamy Stock Photo

For dinner, travellers are rewarded for visiting during the off-season with a better chance of snagging a table at a lauded restaurant. Wolf in the Fog is a local favourite with food sourced sustainably from the ocean and foraged regionally. Menu highlights include potato crusted oysters, crispy humboldt squid and the Sugar Shack Style Pork Ribs. Plus, with a happy hour running from 3pm to 5pm, why not enjoy a half-price cocktail? The Cedar Sour is a classic with a twist, made up of cedar-infused rye, lemon, egg white and lemon thyme.

Day 2

Rise early for a sunrise walk along Cox Bay Beach, one of the most beautiful coves in the area, where you can spot surfers getting in an early morning session. If you’re brave enough, make a run for the icy waves for a polar bear dip. Also be sure to have your camera ready, as the lighting is perfect here in the mornings for some beautiful landscape shots.

If you’re lucky enough to be visiting on a Sunday, make your way into town for brunch at The Pointe Restaurant, an upscale Canadiana restaurant serving up farm-to-table fare. The space overlooks the water with wide windows, and centres around a cozy wood-burning fireplace. Try their signature dish, the West Pacific Seafood Smoked Salmon Rösti, with crunchy potatoes, poached egg, fried capers and fresh-from-the ocean salmon. If you’re visiting on a weekday, 1909 Kitchen dishes up high-quality family-style brunch.

Get active with a long hike at Pacific Rim National Park. This area is known for its rugged coasts and verdant rainforests. Long Beach, nestled within the park, is popular for a range of outdoor activities. Try your hand at beachcombing or rent a kayak to glide in and around the surrounding 100 islands and islets. After, follow the West Coast Trail Unit for an up-close look at the famous Tofino Redwood trees that tower over the boardwalk.

For outdoor activities, hike through the Pacific Rim National Park’s old-growth and verdant rainforest | © Ken Gillespie Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

Winter time offers a unique natural attraction that visitors often miss in the warmer months – storm watching. Snuggle up inside at Pacific Sands Beach Resort, as the waves roll in directly outside your window, often up to 10 to 12 meters (33 to 39 feet) in height. This season only lasts from November to March and is an unmissable experience.

Day 3

For your final day, focus on rest and relaxation. For the ultimate British Columbia adventure, head to Maquinna Marine Provincial Park to experience the famed Hot Springs Cove. These geothermal springs naturally cool as you descend towards pools at ocean level. Visitors should note that the hot springs are only accessible by boat or plane, so plan ahead accordingly.

Situated in northwest of Tofino, visit Maquinna Marine Provincial Park’s Hot Springs Cove for the ultimate adventure | © Rolf Hicker Photography / Alamy Stock Photo

For tired muscles after all your surfing and hiking, head to Sacred Stone Spa. This boutique relaxation centre is the perfect space to unwind with the Sacred Hot Stone Massage or to relive the deepest levels of tissue, opt for the Deep Pressure Signature Massage. Afterwards, rest in your own private infrared sauna, known to increase circulation and eliminate toxins.

For a final hurrah, pop into Tofino Brewing Co for a cold beer. Working off the ethos of being a positive addition to the town and operating in a sustainable manner, the brew house often hosts community events for local organizations such as CARE Network and the Pacific Rim Surfrider Foundation. Plus, the brews are unique, with sour notes in the Wonder of Nature or citrusy hops in the Cosmic Wave.

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