Tofino is a wonderful coastal town tucked away on the west side of Vancouver Island. Famous for its array of beautiful beaches and world-class surf breaks, Tofino is a land to get lost in. Spending 3 days in Tofino is the perfect amount of time to see much of what this unique beach destination has to offer.
I first visited Tofino way back in 2017 and immediately fell in love with its laidback lifestyle and rugged landscape. Tofino is truly an outdoor oasis whether you are spending time on the water, in the rainforests or walking on one of its many sandy beaches. A trip to Tofino can be as adventurous or as relaxing as you make it!
A City Girl Outside contains affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for reading!
How to Get to Tofino
Tofino is situated on the west coast of Vancouver Island on the traditional territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation. There is only one route in and out of the town.
Unless you already reside on Vancouver Island you’ll need to take a BC Ferries to either Sidney or Nanaimo. From Vancouver the drive to Tofino (including the ferry) will take approximately 6-7 hours without any stops.
Once you arrive on the island, there is only one way to get to Tofino and that is via Highway 4. I would recommend planning for a longer drive as the scenery is beautiful along the whole drive and you will definitely want to stop on the drive from Nanaimo to Tofino!
- Nanaimo to Tofino: 2 hours 50 minutes, 207 kilometres.
- Victoria to Tofino: 4 hours 10 minutes, 317 kilometres.
- Vancouver to Tofino: 6 hours 15 minutes, 283 kilometres. Includes 2 hour ferry ride.
- Seattle to Tofino: 7 hours 50 minutes, 316 kilometres. Includes 2 hour ferry ride + border crossing.
When is the Best Time to Visit Tofino?
Tofino is a year-round destination but most visitors opt to visit in the summer. The summer is naturally warmer with less rain but it also brings the crowds. Visiting in the shoulder seasons (May-June or Sept-Oct) can sometimes bring sunshine but also cheaper rates.
Since Tofino is in a temperate rainforest (as is much of BC) it can rain and be cold at any given time. I learned this the hard way on my first trip here thinking beach town = warm weather (obviously right?) Needless to say I ended up wearing my husbands hoodies because I didn’t bring anything warm to wear.
If you are visiting in the winter, this is Tofino’s storm watching season and can actually be just as interesting. This is the season when the waves become really big and and super fun to watch as they crash against the rocky shores.
The perks of visiting in winter is that prices are generally cheaper and it’s also quieter. Visiting in winter means getting the ultimate Pacific Northwest experience.
Where to stay in Tofino
Tofino has a variety of lodging options from camping to budget and luxury. With this area becoming more and more popular every year, it’s important to book your stay well ahead of time. Tofino is a small town and can only accommodate so many people so hotels sell out fast.
For a truly luxurious stay in Tofino, the Pacific Sands Resort is by far the best. Pacific Sands Beach Resort is located steps from the beautiful Cox Bay Beach and rooms feature fantastic views of the scenery.
They have their own walking trail called Pettinger Point, on-site bike rentals and surf lessons at the Surf Shack. Their beautiful rooms and holistic approach to service make them one of the top places to stay in Tofino.
Camping in Tofino is a more affordable option if you are wanting to save some money. Tofino is home to plenty of campgrounds but once again you’ll need to book well in advance to get a spot during the busy summer season.
There are different types of campgrounds in Tofino and some are more basic than others. Bella Pacifica is located on MacKenzie Beach and is one of the cheapest campgrounds in Tofino. This campground offers basic campsites with coin operated showers.
Surf Grove is another favourite in Tofino, located steps away from Cox Bay Beach this campground has a few more amenities than that of Bella Pacifica.
Day 1 of 3 days in Tofino
Coffee at Rhino
Rhino Coffee House is a staple in Tofino and no trip is complete without stopping by here for coffee or lunch. Besides their coffee, the donuts are very popular and some of the best I’ve had. I personally recommend the maple bacon donut – it’s so good!
You’ll more than likely encounter a line but don’t be put off by this – it moves really fast! A line is juts a good indication that this place is as good as everyone says.
Tonquin Beach Trail
The Tonquin Beach Trail is still one of my favourite walks in Tofino no matter the weather. This easy boardwalk trail takes you through a dense forest with lookout spots along the way. Keep an eye on the boardwalk as you get closer to the beach, you’ll notice the names of local business’s carved into the wood.
Once you reach the beach you’ll come to the beautiful Tonquin Islet. This is the small rocky island that sits on the waters edge.
Tonquin Beach is quieter than the other beaches in Tofino and I love that it feels tucked away from everything else. This beach is located a few minutes away from the town of Tofino.
Shopping & Walk around Tofino town
After a morning stroll along the beach it’s time to check out the town of Tofino and its shopping scene. There are no chain stores in Tofino. You won’t find a Starbucks in sight here – and that is something I’ve always admired about this town.
Tofino is full of bright and fun independent shops, so you know you are supporting local when you buy local. Some of my favourite stores include Caravan Beach Shop and SALT Tofino where you can purchase from local companies such as the Tofino Towel Company and Tofino Soap Company.
The Storm Surf Shop is an iconic brand in Tofino. Besides surfing gear and wetsuits, many visitors head here to purchase their branded clothing such as t-shirts, hoodies and caps.
One thing I’ve always loved about Tofino is it’s quirkiness. The zebra crossings/crosswalks are so fun and painted with sharks, others are painted like waves. Such a cute detail!
Take a surfing lesson
Surfing is the ultimate activity in Tofino. Visitors flock from all over just to surf its beaches. You don’t need to surf to enjoy the beauty of Tofino, but if you do want to give it a try there are plenty of places that offer lessons.
Some of the more popular places that offer lessons include Pacific Surf Co, Tofino Surf School and Surf Sister.
Dinner at Wolf in the Fog
If you are going to splurge on dinner during your trip to Tofino make it Wolf in the Fog.
Wolf in the Fog has been named one of the best restaurants on Canadas Best 100 list for several years. The menu is inspired by the local area, dishes feature fresh seafood and ingredients foraged from nearby forests.
Enjoy a walk along Chesterman Beach
Talking a slow walk along the beach to watch the sunset is the perfect after dinner activity. Spend some time beach combing as the slow slowly disappears behind the horizon.
Located between Cox Bay Beach & Mackenzie Beach, Chesterman Beach is great for an evening stroll. I really like Chesterman because the beach is wide and flat, and the waves slowly crawl up the shore. The sand is so flat and soft, it feels great underneath your feet!
Day 2 of 3 days in Tofino
Common Loaf Bake Shop
Located close to the town of Tofino, the Common Loaf Bake Shop is a cute little bakery and cafe that sells coffee, pastries, sandwiches and freshly baked bread.
You can either sit in or take-out. Keep in mind this store is closed on Sunday and Monday.
Water taxi to Meares Island or Hot Springs Cove Tour
There are a number of day trips from Tofino that you can only experience by boat or water taxi.
The most popular is the boat tour to Hot Springs Cove. Hotsprings Cove is located within Nismakqin ( formerly Maquinna Marine Provincial Park) which is part of Clayoquot Sound. Once you arrive at your destination you’ll need to walk the 1.5km boardwalk trail that leads to the hot pools.
The tour to Hot Springs Cove takes approximately 6 hours so will take up most of your morning. In summer months this tour often sells out and the hot springs can get vert busy so booking the first tour of the day is the best way to go.
Another option would be the water taxi to Meares Island. Once you reach Meares Island there are two hiking trails you choose from including Big Tree Boardwalk Trail (easy) or Lone Cone (hard).
Walk through the Roy Henry Vickers gallery
Matt and I love native art and we always stop by the Roy Henry Vickers gallery when we are in Tofino. This is a great place to stop before or after your chosen day trip.
Here you can purchase original paintings, prints and merchandise. Or simply stroll through admiring the wonderful artwork.
Lunch at the Wildside Grill
The Outside Break area in Tofino comprises a mix of local businesses from food trucks, ice cream shops, surfboard rentals and clothing stores. The Wildside Grill is one of the food trucks located here and is a great option of lunch.
The menu features local ingredients and features a mix of burgers and sandwiches. The fish and chips is really good! I love this place as everything is made fresh and it’s super affordable.
Hike the Cox Bay Lookout
The best views of Cox Bay Beach are from above and one of the ways to experience those views is by hiking the Cox Bay Lookout. This is an unofficial hike and there is no real “trail” per se, but the views are worth the climb.
This is a short steep hike and very muddy in places so good hiking boots are recommended. Many people will class this as an “easy” hike but in my opinion it isn’t. It’s a very rugged terrain and hard to navigate without any GPS. If you are not an experienced hiker and have no GPS it’s actually very easy to get lost.
I used my Alltrails app and downloaded the offline trail map in case I lost service and even then I veered off trail. You will encounter lots of roots and hard to navigate areas.
Most people will hike this trail at sunset – the views are spectacular at the time of day. I opted to hike this trail a little earlier in the day (around 2 hours before sunrise) for the simple fact that I want unfamiliar with the trail and area and didn’t want to get stuck coming down in the dark.
Watch The Sunset at Cox Bay Beach
If hiking the Cox Bay Lookout trail isn’t for you, watching the sunset from the beach is just as impressive. On a clear night the sunsets at Cox Bay are mesmerizing. The wet sand reflects the colours of the sky beautifully. The cotton candy sky is like something from a dream.
Cox Bay is one of the top places to see in Tofino and should be added to your Tofino itinerary.
Day 3 of 3 Days in Tofino
It’s time to enjoy the scenic outdoors by exploring nearby Pacific Rim National Park, one of the best things to do near Tofino.
Since this is a National Park you’ll need to purchase a Parks Pass. I have an annual pass so this would have covered me but if you forget to purchase ahead of time there are ticket machines at every parking lot.
Please remember to be honest when purchasing your National Parks Pass. I overheard a guy telling other visitors to “just buy for one person because they’ll never know” Parks Canada is already underfunded, please support our National Parks by purchasing the right amount of day passes.
Start Your Day at Tofitian Coffee
Start your day with a caffeine fix from Tofitian Coffee. Tofitian is by far my favourite coffee shop in Tofino, it’s a must on every trip. Besides their amazing coffee, the pastries are to die for. They also have a variety of merchandise on sale, I personally love the coffee mugs with their iconic skull logo!
Grab a snack or sandwich for the road as today you’ll be doing a lot of walking and hiking.
Walk to Radar Hill
The Radar Hill trail is located within Pacific Rim and is a short and easy hike that leads you to one of very few lookout points in the National Park.
Radar Hill used to be a radar station during World War II and features the Kap’Yong Memorial which honours the 2nd Battalion Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry.
You’ll start this trail directly from the parking lot.The trail is paved the whole way and is wheelchair accessible. Radar Hill is great for families and suitable for those with mobility issues.
Along the way you’ll encounter stunning panoramic vista’s of Clayoquot Sound and the Tofino Inlet.
Canso Plane Crash Hike
After the quick walk to Radar Hill, it’s time to venture further into Pacific Rim National Park. The Canso Plane Crash hike (Or Bomber trail) is an easy 5 kilometre trail with an elevation of 35 metres. This trail leads to the site of a Canso 11007 plane that crashed shortly after takeoff in 1945.
To get to the trailhead can be a bit confusing as there is little to no cell service in the area. You’ll want to follow the signs for Radar Hill and as you turn off the Highway you’ll see a small parking lot – this is where you’ll park.
From here the trail starts on a paved and level trail and then turns into the forest. You’ll encounter a freaky abandoned building on the trail but it isn’t necessary to actually walk through it. From here the trail gets a lot muddier. Most of the trail has a narrow boardwalk but you’ll encounter a lot more mud at the crash site.
I saw hikers wearing flip flops on this trail – this is definitely not recommended!
Take a Walk Along Long Beach
Since Long Beach is also situated inside Pacific Rim National Park, it’s a good idea to visit on the same day as Radar Hill and the Canso Plane Crash. This way you can make use of your National Parks day pass without purchasing an extra day.
Long Beach lives up to it’s name and is actually quite long! There are two parking lots that you access this beach from. If driving to Long Beach from Tofino, the first parking lot is very small and fills up very fast. Keeping driving for a few minutes and you’ll come to the main parking lot which usually has spaces available.
Lunch at Tacofino
The Tacofino food truck is a favourite in Tofino. Matt and I visited in 2017 before they opened their Vancouver locations and loved it!
Over the past few years, this eatery has really grown in popularity. We had maybe a 5-minute wait the first time around. However we waited 2 hours one our second trip and this has become the norm. So if you really want to try their famous tacos or burritos be prepared to wait.
I would skip breakfast and head here as soon as it opens if it is on your list of things to do in Tofino.
Rent a bike
If you are looking for an after lunch activity that’s not too strenuous, consider renting a bike from Tofino Bike Company. You’ll see plenty of people riding bikes in and around Tofino, and it’s a great way to enjoy the setting sun.
Some of the best places to ride a bike are in fact the many beaches of Tofino. With so many beautiful wide and flat beaches, it’s hard to choose, but Cox Bay is clearly a favourite among visitors.
Grab a Beer at Tofino Brewing
End your 3 days in Tofino with a beer flight at Tofino Brewing Company. Stop by the shop on your way out and grab some of their awesome merchandise or grab some craft brews to enjoy once you are back home.
I definitely recommend trying the Dimension Ascension and Wonders of Nature kettle sour beers!
Beaches in Tofino
- Cox Bay Beach – Great for watching the sunset or riding a bike along the flat sand.
- Mackenzie Beach – A cute smaller beach where you can legally have a campfire!
- Tonquin Beach – A Cute little beach tucked away close to the town of Tofino. You can walk a cute boardwalk through the forest to this beach.
- Chesterman Beach – I love Chesterman Beach as its flat wet sand feels so good to take an evening walk on.
- Long Beach – Located within Pacific Rim National Park and longest beach in Tofino. This beach is good for surfing or sitting and watch the surf.
Day Trips from Tofino
- Hot Springs Cove – 6 hour tour to a beautiful hot springs in the forest. A one-of-a-kind activity in Tofino.
- Meares Island – Book the water taxi and take a day trip to Meares Island. There are a few hikes raning from easy to hard on Meares Island and you can even stay overnight at the Meares Island Hostel.
- Pacific Rim National Park – Located on the very edge of Tofino, Pacific Rim is full of biking trails, hiking trails and camping.
- Ucluelet – Head out of Tofino to Ucluelet where you can walk the beautiful Pacific Rim Trail.
- Tofino Air Scenic Flight – See Tofino from above with Tofino Air. These scenic flights are one of the best things to do in Tofino.
Hikes in Tofino
- Cox Bay Lookout – An unofficial trail that’s quite steep and muddy. Not for beginner hikers.
- Tonquin Beach Trail – An easy boardwalk trail through the forest that leads to a quiet beach.
- Canso Plane Crash – A really interesting trail that leads to a Canso Bomber plane in the forest.
- Rainforest Trail Loops – A boardwalk trail through the rainforests of Pacific Rim National Park.
- Lone Cone – Located on Meares Island, the Lone Cone trail features phenomenal views of Clayoquot Sound. This trail is considered difficult and very steep and should only be attempted by seasoned hikers.
Tofino Surf Lessons
- Pacific Surf Co – Pacific Surf Co is located in the town in Tofino and offer surfing lessons, surfboard and SUP rentals. they also have a rental area at Surf Grove campground
- Surf Sister – Surf Sister is led by an all-female crew and is great for first-time surfers or those wanting to improve their skills.
Shopping in Tofino
- Storm Surf Shop – Storm is an iconic brand in Tofino and a stop here is a must. Their branded apparel is popular with visitors. Great for surfboard and west suit rentals.
- SALT Tofino – An amazing store selling local brands such as Tofino Towel Company and Tofino Soap Company. You can find everything here from candles to blankets and trinkets.
- Caravan Beach Shop – Your quintessential beach town store selling all kinds of local brands and cute trinkets.
- Mermaid Tails Book Shop – A really cute little independent book store – Matt buys a book here on every trip.
Best Restaurants in Tofino
- Wolf in the Fog – Tofino’s ultimate fine dining restaurant.
- Shelter – Shelter is a casual eatery featuring locally sourced ingredients. This place is popular so you may want to reserve ahead of time.
- The Hatch – Casual pub with incredible views of the Tofino Marina.
- Tacofino – The original food truck gets VERY busy. Come early if you want to try their tacos!
- Wildside Grill – Casual food truck eatery featuring casual fare.
- Chocolate Tofino – For anyone with a sweet tooth Chocolate Tofino is a must. They also sell the most amazing gelato which is great on a hot day.
- Big Daddy’s Fish Fry – Fun and casual spot for fish & chips.
Explore More of British Columbia
Want to explore more of British Columbia? Check out these other detailed travel guides to help you explore!
British Columbia Travel Guides:
Click A Pin Below To Save For Later!