A Trip to the Wild Pacific: The Best of Tofino in Three Days
Tofino: One word, three syllables and one of BC’s most breathtaking west coast destinations.
This past weekend I took a much needed three night trip to Tofino, BC. Not needed in the sense that I’m exhausted or worn out from work (because I’m still funemployed), but simply because the stress of being at home and feeling a bit useless started to get to me. It was time to escape the noise.
Tofino is one of those places that is far enough away that you feel a bit isolated (especially because there is minimal cell service), but close enough from Vancouver that you can still visit for a few nights and cram in a significant amount of activities and delicious food.
When you turn right at the highway junction toward Tofino, you’ll feel yourself relaxing in a way that no spa appointment can ever make you feel. And the best part is, you’ll leave with the feeling that maybe life is really a lot more simple that we make it out to be.
Besides beaches and eating out at award-winning restaurants, you might be wondering what to do in this fabulous west coast destination. Well, allow me to let you in on a little secret: A visit to Tofino isn’t solely about getting things done, it’s also about basking in the best of BC’s nature and enjoying your time in one of Canada’s most peaceful destinations. But that’s not to say this place doesn’t offer tons do to.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
You might assume that the summer is the best time to visit Tofino, but this isn’t necessarily true. Storm watching season (aka winter) brings in almost as many tourists to the area as the summer months. Why? Because you get to watch front and centre as some of the wildest and windiest storms roll though the coast and surface on Tofino’s beaches. And if you’re brave enough, you can even venture outside during these storms to get the full experience.
Travel tip: There is usually a lull in tourism in Tofino during January when many things close and shops/restaurants also shut down for renovations, vacations, etc. This happened to be exactly when we were visiting (Jan 17-20, 2017), so I would recommend visiting in February or December instead!
Have lunch at Tacofino:
Ah, the infamous Tacofino. You might recognize the name from one of their downtown Vancouver locations, but if you’re a fan of tacos (um, who isn’t?) you should know that this fabulous joint was born and raised in Tofino in the very truck that they still operate out of. If that doesn’t draw you in then the warm aroma of beans, tortillas and guacamole will. Attention vegans: They also serve a 100% vegan burrito.
Take cover at the Rainforest Trail:
When you drive along the Pacific Rim Highway toward Tofino, you’ll see a large, green sign on the right side of the road marking the Rainforest Trail (see the location on Google Maps here). You can take two different 1 km loops that meander along as relatively flat board walks through lush forest. This is a great place to escape the torrential rain and an even better opportunity to learn about the basics of BC’s temperate rainforest.
Have dinner at Kuma:
You may have heard of Wolf in the Fog, Shelter, or Sobo (all amazing restaurants in the centre of Tofino), but you may not have heard of Kuma before. Kuma is a cozy and quaint Asian fusion restaurant that serves seriously good food. It’s as simple as that. I would go as far as saying that it’s my favourite restaurant in the Tofino/Ucuelet area. They serve a one of a kind ramen and if you’re vegan they have a few options for you too (order the Vegetable Udon Noodles, Spicy Edamame or Miso Eggplant).
Take a day trip to Ucuelet:
Tofino’s equally beautiful and less touristy neighbour, Ucuelet, is also a must-see when you visit the area. During your time in Ucuelet you can walk the Wild Pacific Trail (see below), have a life-changing organic blended tea smoothie at Thay Tea, enjoy lunch at the Cedar Grill, or visit the many beaches that surround the town centre.
Take in Stellar Views Along the Wild Pacific Trail:
This is one of my favourite walks in the area simply because it’s one of the best places to catch stunning views of the coast. The trail is roughly 2 km long and is a large loop. This means that you can park your car in the designated parking lot in Ucuelet (see location on Google Maps here) and you’ll return to the same spot at the end of the walk.
During the walk, walls of trees will open up on your left side and you’ll have an upfront and personal view of the waves crashing against the rocks. The trail is well marked and covered in flat gravel, and is suited for all activity levels. This is also a great running trail in the summer.
Taste test a flight of Tofino Brewing Co. beer:
If you’re like every other North American, then I’m sure you already love craft beer. If you don’t, then it might be time to jump on the bandwagon.
Tofino Brewing Co. brews ten west coast inspired beers every day at their brewery and you can visit them in Tofino to taste test four (or more) of these in a flight. I can’t say for certain if they do brewery tours or not, but it’s worth asking (they were closed when we were there). If not, this is still a fun place to socialize with locals and talk all things Beautiful British Columbia over a nice cold one.
See a short snippet of our trip here.
Take a stroll on the beach(es):
Ah, Tofino beaches. They’re seriously one of a kind. And not because they have blinding white sand, a tropical feel, or even clear blue water. None of these things can be said about Tofino’s beaches, yet once you visit the area for the first time, you’ll know what I mean when I say that they’re really all that they’re cracked up to be: seemingly endless, eerie in the winter, mystical in the summer, and comforting in every season in between. In all honesty, that was probably a crummy way to describe a beach, so I guess you’ll just have to go and find out for yourself! Travel tip: Wear a rain jacket, rain pants and rain boots in the winter because the wind will destroy your umbrella and the rain will soak your clothes in these exposed areas!
My Favourite Tofino Beaches:
- Chesterman Beach
- Cox Bay Beach
- Long Beach
- Mackenzie Beach
Take a surf lesson:
Many places in Tofino offer small group or private surf lessons for a decent price. I highly recommend you sign up for a surf lesson if it’s your first time surfing and you’re keen on trying it out in Tofino (yes, you can even surf in the dead of winter in a full body wet suit!).
The company I went with was Surf Junction Campground (located just past the highway junction). They’re a fully operating campsite in the summer but they also offer small group surf lessons and board/wetsuit rentals. They’re only open in the spring and summer, however, so I would recommend Surf Sister for lessons if you’re visiting in the winter.
After you take a lesson, you’ll have the basics of surfing—and the best beaches for beginners—under your sleeve (plus a ton of cold, salty water!) and you’ll be able to go out on your own for the remainder of your visit.
Enjoy happy hour at Long Beach Lodge:
In addition to being one of Tofino’s top rated resorts, Long Beach Lodge also boasts one the best and most beautiful happy hour lounges in the area. Every weekday from 3-6 p.m. anyone can enjoy their $4 ginger beer cocktails ($6 doubles) or $6 champagne cocktails with a fantastic view of Cox Bay. See their full happy hour menu here.
Hike to the famous plane crash site:
In 1945, the Canadian Air Force Canso 11047 crashed shortly after take off only a few km from what is now the edge of the Pacific Rim Highway near Radar Hill. The hike is 5 km round trip and crosses through an abandoned house, a meandering forest trail, a very, very, muddy bog and eventually spits you out at the base of the mangled plane.
This is one of the most unique hikes I’ve ever done, but unfortunately, due to the intense mud and decently confusing trail, it’s not for everyone. Be prepared with waterproof boots (preferably tall ones or rain boots) and a willingness to get dirty. In the winter, some sections of mud are knee deep, which means that you’ll have to jump from log to log to avoid sinking. For an avid hiker or someone with good balance this is not a a difficult trail, but it is wise to be prepared regardless and set off well before sunset. See the complete trail guide here. This hike is best completed in the summer when the muddy sections are significantly drier.
Shop in the town centre:
There a couple of really neat shops in town that are certainly worth checking out. One of my favourites is called Piña and they have three locations throughout the Tofino/Ucuelet area. They sell really unique hand printed clothing and some very beautiful art and jewelry.
If you’re already dreaming of summer and this post is making you want to trip plan, make sure you also check out my post on the best places to visit in BC in the summer! Check it out here.