Tofino, a small coastal town situated on the west coast of Vancouver Island, is a true gem of British Columbia, and one of the most incredible places in all of Canada, if not the world.
With its rugged beaches, old-growth rainforests, and world-class waves, Tofino is a must-visit destination for outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and anyone seeking a true escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
The town has a rich history, as it is located on the territory of the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation of the Nuu-chah-nulth peoples, who’ve lived in the area for thousands of years.
Today, Tofino is a vibrant community that celebrates its past while looking to the future, and it offers visitors an endless array of activities and experiences, with the majority enabling visitors to appreciate the incredible scenery, wildlife and outdoors of the Pacific Coast.
This blog post will cover 40 of the best things to do in Tofino to help you plan your visit. But I encourage you to walk around Tofino and explore it for yourself. It’s an amazing community with countless hidden adventures to be found. It’s the kind of place where you’ll discover new experiences by chatting with the locals and exploring on your own.
1. Go Surfing
It goes absolutely without saying that surfing is at the top of the list of things to do in Tofino. Tofino is located on the West side of Vancouver island, making the beaches an incredible place to catch some waves as they pile in from the Pacific ocean.
During our trip here, Louise and I had some lessons with Swell Tofino, and the beach was absolutely perfect for learning. I grew up surfing on the beaches of Cornwall in the UK, and I found the experience to be very similar. We happened to time our visit perfectly to allow us to have gentle waves for beginners, with some slightly harder green waves at the back once we’d built up a bit of confidence.
Depending on the time of year you come, the waves might be gentle or they might be massive, so there are adventures to be had for all abilities!
I’d absolutely recommend having a lesson with a surf company, so you don’t have to bring any equipment with you, but if you have your own gear, there are miles of perfect sandy beaches with waves that are just begging to be surfed.
Make sure you pack a wetsuit though, as the water here can be absolutely frigid. We visited in March, and although we wore 5mm wetsuits with hoods and gloves, it was still absolutely freezing!
2. Go for a stroll around Tofino
Tofino is a very small town, so there’s really one major road that runs through the town. We stayed slightly out of town, but walking in every day was the perfect way to explore all the quaint local businesses, cafes and restaurants.
Tofino is also located right on the coast, so the town seamlessly flows into many trails and coastal walks. It’s the kind of place you can start walking and suddenly realise you’ve been walking for miles.
There are plenty of lookout points, rainforest trails and beaches to explore, as well as many side streets and mini retail areas that you’d only find by exploring on foot.
3. Experience Whale watching
Tofino is home to a variety of whale species, including orcas, humpback whales, and gray whales. Visitors can take whale watching tours to get up close and personal with these magnificent creatures and learn about their behaviours and habitats.
Whale watching is a very seasonal endeavour, so planning your trip around the correct season is key to having a good experience. In Tofino, Whale watching season runs from March to October, but different whales have different peaks within that window.
Grey whales migrate through the area between March and June, and then again between September and December each year. Humpback Whales and Orcas tend to be more transient so you never know when you might get lucky and see one
Areas like Clayoquot sound are fantastic to see pods of Killer Whales hunting for food. Make sure you book your whale watching excursion in advance!
4. Relax on a floating sauna
The floating sauna is a very new experience offered by Tofino Resort + Marina, and we were fortunate enough to experience it on our last visit. The experience isn’t super cheap, but if you have a decent sized group it’s an amazing way to spend half a day.
The experience starts with a private boat charter to a secluded inlet, that’s about 45-1 hour boat ride. On the way out, you’ll drop crab pots, which you’ll check later on to see if you’ve caught any dinner!
Once you’re in the secret inlet, an amazing floating sauna will suddenly appear. Your boat captain will drop you off with some supplies and blankets, and will help you start a fire, and then he disappears for a few hours.
Suddenly, you’ll find yourself completely alone without a soul for miles, with nothing but the quiet of nature around you.
On the floating sauna, you’ll enjoy the fire and the wood burning sauna (which comes with plenty of pre-chopped wood), as well as some giant pillows and nets to lounge in.
You can also use their paddle boards and rope swings if you want to explore the cove or swim in the frigid waters!
It’s the most amazing escape from the world, and truly one of the most unique experiences we’ve ever had. I can 100% recommend giving it a try!
5. Take a kayaking Tour
Kayaking is a popular activity in Tofino, allowing visitors to explore the coastline and nearby islands. With rental options and guided tours available, visitors can enjoy a leisurely paddle or a more adventurous expedition.
Kayak tours can be in single or double sea kayaks and there are a number of different tours you can take. The shortest and easiest is a simple 2.5 hour harbour tour and the surrounding islands. You can also take a longer 4 hour tour that takes you on a 1 hour paddle to the Big Tree Trail in Meares Island Tribal Park.
There are 3 kayak companies in Tofino:
6. Visit the Tofino-Clayoquot Heritage Museum
The Tofino-Clayoquot Heritage Museum is a fascinating destination that offers visitors an insight into the rich cultural heritage of the region. The museum is home to an impressive collection of artefacts, photographs, and documents that showcase the area’s diverse history.
From the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations to the early European settlers, the Tofino-Clayoquot Heritage Museum tells the story of the people who have called this region home over the centuries. Exhibits explore the local fishing industry, the fur trade, and the region’s role in the world wars.
In addition to the permanent exhibits, the museum also hosts a range of special events and programs throughout the year, including guided tours, workshops, and educational activities for children. Whether you are a history buff, an art lover, or simply looking for an engaging way to spend an afternoon, the Tofino-Clayoquot Heritage Museum is not to be missed.
7. Dine in Tofino’s best restaurants
We were absolutely stunned by the quality of the food scene in Tofino. Through our conversations with various restaurants, it feels like there is almost an element of competition in Tofino, where chefs are constantly striving to create new innovative or exceptional dishes to set themselves apart.
There is an abundance of incredible ingredients here as well, and you don’t have to go far to get some of the freshest seafood in the world. We also experienced incredible new ingredients like kelp, which you would never find on the mainland.
Over the course of our stay, we ate at some truly spectacular restaurants, like the Wolf in the Fog and Shelter restaurants. Each dish was as beautiful as it was mind blowingly delicious. I had the mussels at Shelter, and it was honestly one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten in my life.
Tofino is a food lover’s paradise. From casual beachside cafes to fine dining establishments, there’s no shortage of delicious dining options in the area.
8. Cox Bay lookout Hike
The Cox Bay lookout offers stunning panoramic views of the surrounding coastline and is a popular spot for watching surfers catch waves.
The hike begins on the shores of Cox Bay, where you’ll have to walk along the beach until you reach a rocky perimeter and the start of the forest.
This trail is not super obvious, and was extremely muddy, so I would absolutely recommend bringing decent hiking boots. There is a lot of climbing over wet roots as well, so the entire hike is very slippery. Be fully prepared to be quite wet by the end of the hike if it’s rained at all recently, because you brush past virtually every leaf and branch on the way up.
BUT, if you can manage to work your way through the woods on the less than obvious trail, you will be rewarded with amazing views of the sea with potentially snow capped peaks in the distance.
I found the view to be absolutely breathtaking, as it’s so unusual to see mountains and coast in the same view. I absolutely recommend this hike, and if you can do it on a clear day, so much the better!
9. Try some local craft beer
10. Book a Fishing Tour
Tofino is a popular fishing destination, with opportunities for both saltwater and freshwater fishing. While out, you may be lucky enough to catch any number of fish types, including Chinook, Coho, and Sockeye salmon, halibut, lingcod, and rockfish.
Fishing trips cater to experienced and novice anglers, with tours ranging from half days to multi day excursions. You can also drop crab pots and come back for them later. This is a fishing paradise, and even better if you like to eat fish!
Many tours also provide a chance to observe local wildlife, such as whales, eagles, bears and sea otters, so there’s always something to see while you’re out.
Here are a few fishing tour companies you might try:
11. Visit the Pacific Rim National Park
Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is an area on Vancouver Island that has been protected since 1970. The Park was created to protect the coastal temperate rainforests and the abundant sealife next to it. It’s one of the most diverse National Parks in the entire country, boasting populations of black bears, cougars, wolves, bald eagles, seals, sea lions, orcas and whales.
You may have heard of the famous West Coast Trail, and this flows right through Pacific Rim National Park. It also includes the Broken Group Islands, which are popular for hiking, kayaking and camping.
The park is also home to several First Nations communities, and you can learn more about them by visiting the Kwisitis Visitor Centre, which has exhibits on the culture and traditions of the Nuu-chah-nulth people.
12. Go to the beach
Tofino has some absolutely world class beaches. There are miles and miles of sandy beaches bordered by northern rainforest. You don’t have to be a surfer to enjoy them, just head to any one of them and go for a stroll. You may be lucky enough to spot some wildlife on your walk as well!
When we were strolling along Cox Bay beach, there were signs to watch out for wolves, so maybe bring bear spray too!
13. Radar Hill
The Radar Hill hike is only 0.2km, so it’s well worth doing if you have a little bit of time on your hands and want to take in some views from a higher vantage point! The lookout point offers breathtaking views of Tofino, the surrounding islands, and the Pacific Ocean.
14. Walk the Rainforest Trail
There are two rainforest trails in Tofino (Rainforest Trail A and B), and they offer hikers an opportunity to walk under the lush canopy of Tofino’s ancient trees. There are convenient boardwalks to explore, and both trails are loops so you can’t get lost.
From Tofino, all you have to do is drive until you see a sign for the Rainforest Trail. What could be easier! If you’re looking for a peaceful escape to nature, this has absolutely got to go on your list.
15. Take a flightseeing tour around Tofino
There are two ways to explore Tofino and Vancouver Island by seaplane. Either fly in from the mainland (killing two birds with one stone), or take a sea plane tour of the area.
When we visited, we flew in with Harbour Air, and honestly it was one of the most spectacular flights of my life. You fly high above the snowy peaks of Vancouver Island, before dipping down over many of the incredible lagoons and inlets surrounding Tofino and Ucluelet. It’s truly an unforgettable experience, and it allows you to fly directly into Tofino without needing a car at all.
Overall, it’s probably only marginally more expensive than driving to Tofino if you factor in fuel and ferry costs (not to mention the extra time it takes to get there).
Alternatively, if you want to book a sightseeing tour of Tofino there are a number of tours available, including 15 minute “Long beach rip” heli tours with Atleo Air and 30 minute Coastal Explorer plane tours with Tofino Air
Seaplane tours offer a unique perspective on Tofino’s stunning natural beauty, with breathtaking views of the coastline and nearby islands. Make sure you check out this iconic activity in Tofino!
16. Visit Tofino’s Art Galleries
Tofino is home to numerous art galleries, featuring works by local, indigenous and international artists. Here are a couple of galleries worth visiting:
Roy Henry Vickers Gallery:
This gallery is home to the works of Roy Henry Vickers, an award winning First Nations artist whose artwork draws on the natural wonders of the Canadian Pacific North West and his cultural heritage. Roy’s work includes over 26 totem poles, and his work can be found around the world. Even the exterior of the gallery itself is beautiful. Definitely stop by and check out the exhibits.
Henry’s Carving Shed
This gallery is a unique destination where visitors can observe traditional West Coast Native carving techniques on the Wickaninnish Inn property. The shed was first created in the 1970’s by Henry Nolla, and although he has now passed, his carving tradition has been passed on to a new generation of carvers, who visitors can stop by and see working on new projects.
You can also try visiting some of the following galleries:
- Mark Hobson Gallery
- Jeremy Koreski Gallery:
- The fortyonehundred Art Gallery:
- Experiential Art Gallery:
- Tofino Gallery of Contemporary Art:
- House Of Himwitsa
17. Grab a coffee in Town
Tofino is home to a number of great coffee shops, serving up delicious locally roasted beans in cozy and welcoming spaces. Stop by Tofitian or head to Rhino Coffee House for a delicious cup of joe!
Rhino Coffee House also serves fantastic baked goods, and their breakfast wraps/bagels and dounts are the perfect way to start a day of adventures. This was always our breakfast of choice during our visit.
18. Craft cocktails
Many of Tofino’s restaurants and bars feature unique, handcrafted cocktails that use locally sourced ingredients. Check out Shelter Restaurant or Wolf in the Fog for some of the best. We had a number (probably too many) of cocktails at Wolf in the Fog from their enormous spirits collection, and they all perfectly suited our meal and were absolutely delicious.
I can definitely recommend Wolf in The Fog as one of Tofino’s top culinary and mixological destinations.
19. Visit hot springs cove
Hot Springs Cove is one of the most unique hot spring adventures in the world, and it’s a must visit attraction if you’re staying in Tofino.
While it’s not in Tofino itself (27 nautical miles away), it can be visited from Tofino by boat or plane. Typically visitors might book a sea to sky tour, where they arrive by boat and fly out on a seaplane.
Once you arrive, it’s a 1.5km hike that typically takes around 30 minutes, at which point you’ll find yourself in a hot springs oasis with 7 different hot pools! This is a totally natural, geothermally heated hotspring. Make sure you bring your bathing suit!
Tours generally take a total of 6 hours and have recently reopened again (accurate as of March, 2023). They are open year round normally, and generally cost around $220 per person. Check here for more tour information.
20. Walk the Tonquin trail:
he Tonquin Trail is a beautiful, 3km trail that begins just 1km from the town of Tofino. It’s an easy trail that winds through rainforest and beach, that’s suitable for almost all hikers and walkers. Beautiful views of the coastline and surrounding island.
It’s a closed loop trail so you can’t get lost, and there’s even a boardwalk with some viewpoints dotted along the way. The trail is 3km with an 800m boardwalk section. Make sure you stop for a moment at the Maze lookout and enjoy the views of Wickaninnish Island.
21. Visit Ucluelet
Ucluelet is a charming fishing village located just a short drive from Tofino. The village offers its own set of attractions, including hiking trails, beaches, and restaurants. There’s also an aquarium, where you can explore the marine life in coastal Vancouver Island.
Ucluelet is also a place you can go fishing, surfing, paddleboarding and beachcombing, with very similar vibes to Tofino. It’s an excuse to get out and explore some of the amazing Pacific coast of Vancouver Island!
While you’re there, you might also explore the Ancient Cedars & Rocky Bluffs trails, which are home to some of the oldest and biggest trees on the peninsula. A couple of the oldest giant red cedars are over 800 years old and almost 12m circumference at the base!
The Ancient Cedars Trail only takes about 15 minutes, and if you want to do the Rocky Bluffs trail as well, you’ll need to add another 1.5km on top (one way). The Rocky Bluffs Trail passes a protected sea lion pool, so you might get lucky and see some wildlife while you’re out.
Lastly, this is a great place to watch storms, but make sure you stay on the trail as the waves can be very violent!
22. Go for a bike ride around Tofino:
Tofino is home to a number of beautiful biking trails, from easy coastal paths to more challenging singletrack routes. Grab a bike rental from Tofino Bike Co. or Tofino Resort + Marina and explore the area on two wheels.
We rented bikes from Tofino Resort and Marina and peddled all the way to Cox Bay Beach. There is a fantastic paved bike trail that goes the entire way from town to the beach, and aside from a few rolling hills, it’s fairly easy and flat. It’s a great way to get some exercise and explore the area surrounding Tofino without using a car.
The town of Tofino itself is also very bikeable, and you can easily explore downtown on two wheels!
23. Go SCUBA diving
Did you know you can go SCUBA diving in the frigid waters off Tofino? Yes, you’ll need an extremely thick wetsuit, but it’s well worth it because the waters around Tofino are home to some incredible biodiversity. Under the waves, you’ll find a variety of fascinating marine life, from colourful nudibranchs to giant octopuses.
Book a dive with one of the local dive companies and explore the underwater world of Clayoquot Sound.
24. Go beachcombing
With such a large coastline, an endless supply of interesting and unusual items are constantly washing up on the beaches. Go for a wander and see what you can find. There are shells, driftwood, sea glass and all sorts of interesting debris.
Also check the numerous rock pools that you often find at low tide. You may find all sorts of fish, crustaceans and starfish.
Unless you’re picking up litter or discarded debris, remember to always practice leave no trace principles and leave the beach and wildlife exactly as you found it. Take nothing but photos!
25. Go storm watching at the Wickaninnish Inn
Being on the West coast of Vancouver Island, there is nothing protecting Tofino from the enormous waves and weather systems that brew in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. There is literally just hundreds of miles of ocean between Tofino and Japan, and that means one thing.. Tofino gets pounded by some incredible storms.
So much is the reputation for stormy weather in Tofino, that Tofino regularly hosts storm chases that are looking to experience an epic coastal maelstrom.
The Wickaninnish Inn is one spot that is particularly synonymous with storm watching. In fact, storm watching here was named as a signature Canadian experience by the Canadian Tourism Commission in 2011.
The hotel even offers complimentary rain gear and rubber boots to all guests!
26. Wildlife tour
One of the biggest reasons people visit Vancouver Island and Tofino is to see some wildlife. Fortunately, there is an abundance here, as well as an abundance of wildlife tours you can book.
Probably the best and safest way to experience wildlife is to book a boat tour that runs along the coast looking for both sea life and terrestrial life foraging for food along the shore line. The most popular tours are bear watching tours, where you can watch bears from the safety of your tour boat!
27. Visit Clayoquot Sound:
Located on the west coast of Vancouver Island, Clayoquot Sound is a beautiful area of protected land and water. In 2000, it was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, which essentially means it is a global laboratory for sustainable development. This is important as the kind of rainforest that exists here is one of the rarest in the world, comprising only 0.2% of the world’s surface.
The best way to explore Clayoquot Sound is either by boat or on foot. There are already dozens of kilometers of incredible hiking trails here, with options like the Big Cedar Trail, the Ahous Trail and the Walk the Wild Side Trail, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy. On Flores Island, there is also currently an ambitious project to create the Ahousaht Wild Side Heritage Trail, a 32km return trail that will connect the Nuu-chah-nulth community of Ahousaht (Marktosis) with some stunning unpopulated white sand beaches.
28. Visit the Naa’Waya’Sum Gardens aka the Clayoquot Campus
Formely the Tofino Botanical Gardens, these beautiful gardens were sold to a charity in 2021 that will now focus on supporting indigenous-led conservation. It is now known as the Clayoquot Campus.
With over 10 acres of gardens, trails, and art installations, these gardens are a must-visit for anyone interested in nature, the outdoors and learning about indigenous conservation. The gardens feature a variety of plants and wildlife, as well as an art gallery and gift shop.
29. Walk all the Totem’s in Tofino
There are 23 Totem Poles between Tofino and Ucluelet, and if you’re a fan of Indigenous Culture and artwork, you can explore the area looking for them. There are at least 8 in the downtown Tofino area, and thanks to the Carving on the Edge Festival (a festival devoted to Indigenous wood carving skills that takes place every two years), there’s a map of all the totems in the area!
30. Book a Spa day
Nothing beats a spa day, especially if you’ve been surfing hard or hiking all day. There are several spas in Tofino. Here are a few suggestions:
31. Cook your own catch:
If you’re a fan of seafood, why not try catching and cooking your own? Many companies offer guided fishing trips where you can catch your own fish and then have it cooked for you or take it home to prepare yourself.
One of the best experiences we’ve had was with the Tofino Marina and Resort, on our way to the floating sauna. On the way, we dropped crab pots to pick up on the way back.
We dropped 2 crab pots and in total, we caught 6 massive crabs when we dragged them up again. There are strict rules about size and sex of the crabs that you can eat, so in the end we could only keep 3 huge Dungeness crabs. Plenty of crab for two people!
We brought them back to the Tofino Marina and Resort’s 1909 restaurant (now Shelter) where the chef cooked them up with a delicious garlic butter. It was easily the best crab I’ve ever had in my life, and having some help preparing it is probably why.
This is an awesome way to really experience life on the coast and truly appreciate where your food comes from.
So there you have it, a massive list of the best things to do in Tofino! If you’re only visiting for a few days, then there’s no way you’ll have time to check everything off, but hopefully that’s just an excuse to come back again. I highly recommend Tofino to anyone looking for some solitude in nature, with a little adventure sprinkled in!