Trip and Wellness

9 Best Things to Do in Tofino, BC

9 Best Things to Do in Tofino, BC

Situated on the western coast of Vancouver Island, Tofino is a secluded destination that attracts tourists seeking a connection with nature, ocean activities, and relaxation at waterfront resorts. The town’s small size provides a sense of escape from urban hustle and bustle, while its developed amenities offer various attractions, excellent accommodations, and upscale dining options.

Tofino is an appealing destination throughout the year. In the summer, families and tourists gather to enjoy the beaches and various attractions, but in the winter, visitors seek refuge from crowds, partake in storm watching, indulge in surfing, and explore the tranquil, less frequented hiking trails. Many prefer to visit between fall and spring, avoiding the bustling summer tourist season.

The highlight of the area is the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, home to Long Beach, stretching from just north of the quaint town of Ucluelet to just south of Tofino. The park features scenic hiking trails and extensive, unspoiled beaches accessible at multiple points.

Activities popular in the region include ocean excursions, from boat trips to wildlife viewing and kayaking. For detailed information about specific tour providers, visit the new Tofino Visitor Centre just north of the park, and plan your visit with our curated list of the best things to do in Tofino.

1. Walk on Long Beach

Walk on Long Beach
Walk on Long Beach

The star attraction of Pacific Rim National Park and the Tofino area is the 16-kilometer Long Beach. This beautiful expanse of sand is an ideal location for walking, with hard-packed sand suitable even for stroller use. Long Beach is notably flat and exceptionally wide during low tide, extending seemingly endlessly as you gaze into the distance through the misty salt spray in the air.

On sunny days, the beach draws crowds of people walking or gazing out over the Pacific. It’s a captivating place that offers a sense of space not easily found in other areas of Vancouver Island.

The most iconic feature on Long Beach is Incinerator Rock, a sizable outcrop just offshore visible from a considerable distance, with the waves crashing around it. On most days, you’ll spot surfers enjoying the waves here.

This magnificent stretch of sand can be accessed from various points, either via hikes or simply from a parking area along the beach’s edge.

2. Hike through Old-Growth Forest to Beaches and Coves

Rainforest Hiking Trail
Rainforest Hiking Trail

The hiking trails in Tofino and nearby Ucluelet are relatively short but nothing short of spectacular. The old-growth forests in this area house some of the oldest documented trees in Canada. Towering Douglas fir, Sitka spruce, and western red cedar, many centuries old, line most of the trails, leading to secluded coves and unspoiled beaches.

Among the most popular short hikes is the Rainforest Trail, where you can stroll along raised boardwalks beneath towering trees, immersing yourself in the sights, sounds, and scents of this enchanting place. Two loop trails (loop A and loop B), each just over one kilometer in length, can be tackled independently or combined into one. Despite the ease provided by the boardwalks, the trail includes some elevation changes and several stairs.

For a blend of forest, beach, and cultural experience, take a walk on the Nuu-chah-nulth Trail to Florencia Bay Trail. Along the route, encounter a totem pole and information plaques explaining the traditions of the Nuu-chah-nulth culture. This trail opens to both Wackaninnish Beach and Florencia Bay, both boasting spectacular scenery.

The Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet offers a longer route through a more rugged landscape. Many hikers choose to explore only the 2.6-kilometer Lighthouse section of the trail, passing by breathtaking lookout points and a lighthouse. Another segment, from Brown’s Beach to Rocky Buffs, is a four-kilometer one-way hike.

Also, part of the Wild Pacific Trail but a standalone easy trail is the Ancient Cedars trail. This is another fantastic location to immerse yourself in the beauty of the rainforest, walking beneath the towering trees. Tofino offers several other stunning hikes within easy reach.

Unlike many parts of Canada that experience snow during a portion of the year, the hiking trails in Tofino are open year-round and are especially tranquil in the winter months when the main tourist season has subsided.

3. Whale Watching

Whale Watching
Whale Watching

To experience wildlife viewing and venture onto the ocean, participating in a whale-watching tour is essential. In the waters surrounding Tofino, gray whales are frequently spotted, with occasional sightings of orcas, and during the summer, humpback whales.

Numerous tour operators, visible as you explore the town, provide excursions in various vessels, including large Zodiac-style, semi-covered, or covered boats. These tours also present an excellent chance to witness the local area and its landscape, encompassing the picturesque Clayoquot Sound.

4. Bear-Watching

Mama bear and her two cubs
Mama bear and her two cubs

Abundant in the vicinity of Tofino, black bears, one of Canada’s most iconic animals, are frequently seen strolling along the shores during low tide in search of food. Bear-watching tours provide an opportunity for visitors to observe these magnificent creatures in the wild, maintaining a respectful distance.

Conducted from a boat, these tours offer a secure means to witness bears in their natural habitat. Tour schedules are contingent on the tides, and operations typically run from the beginning of April to the end of October, an optimal period for encountering bear cubs.

5. Go Surfing

Surfers on Long Beach
Surfers on Long Beach

Tofino stands out as the premier surfing destination in Canada, boasting miles of endless beaches and perpetual waves. Surfing is a year-round activity, albeit necessitating thick wetsuits. Even on sunny February days, reminiscent of midsummer, surfers flock to the beaches from morning until sundown.

For avid surfers, the optimal time to indulge in Tofino’s surfing delights is from September to November. However, for families and beginners, any time is suitable, with summer being the most popular period.

Within Pacific Rim National Park, Long Beach, particularly around Incinerator Rock, is a favored surfing spot. Conveniently, washrooms and showers are in the parking lot right off the beach. Wickaninnish Beach, at the far southern end of Long Beach, and Florencia Bay, just south of Wickaninnish, are also frequented by surfers.

Outside the park, many beaches are easily accessible for guests staying at oceanfront resorts or campgrounds. Cox Bay, arguably Tofino’s most popular surfing beach, is home to some of the best resorts, including Pacific Sands Beach Resort with its Surf Sister Surf Shack, Cox Bay Beach Resort, Long Beach Lodge, and the new Surf Grove Campground.

Chesterman Beach, just north of Cox Bay, is another expansive beach and a favored surfing spot. Backed by homes and bed and breakfasts, this beach offers a parking area with showers and basic facilities.

These are just a few of the surfing beaches in the Tofino area, not an exhaustive list. If you’re intrigued by surfing but not quite ready to hit the waves, you can enjoy watching surfers from the comfort of a restaurant or beach chair with a view of the action.

6. Kayak around Clayoquot Sound

Kayak on Clayoquot Sound
Kayak on Clayoquot Sound

Exploring nearby Clayoquot Sound through sea kayaking is a picturesque experience. Meares Island is a frequently chosen destination for kayaking tours, known for its old-growth forest and opportunities to hike trails and stroll along the boardwalk of the Big Tree Trail.

Several outfitters provide guided tours, and participation doesn’t require prior experience; beginners are warmly welcomed. All necessary equipment is provided as part of your tour, and a guide trained in first aid and rescue techniques accompanies you throughout the excursion.

7. Go Deep Sea Fishing

Fishing off Vancouver Island
Fishing off Vancouver Island

The waters surrounding Vancouver Island boast some of the finest fishing grounds in Canada. For a genuine open-ocean adventure, consider embarking on a full- or half-day fishing charter offered by one of the outfitters in Tofino.

In the Pacific waters, fish reach impressive sizes, and when you hook one, be prepared for a lengthy, intense battle. Available species include various types of salmon, halibut, and ling cod. The prime fishing season typically extends from mid-June to mid-September; however, halibut fishing is particularly fruitful during the herring run in March and April, especially near the full moon.

8. Wander around the Town, Shop, and Explore the Galleries

Waterfront in Tofino
Waterfront in Tofino

Although Tofino is a small community with only 3,000 full-time residents, it offers intriguing stores and numerous ways to spend your day. Downtown Tofino is home to souvenir shops, clothing boutiques, and art galleries, all situated within a block or two of each other. If you need a break, stop by a café or bakery for coffee and a snack.

The waterfront, just a couple of blocks from the main street, provides breathtaking views of Clayoquot Sound and Meares Island. Further up the street, you’ll discover a park with a picnic table, a totem pole, and more stunning vistas.

As you travel along the main road in Tofino, you can’t miss the intricately carved and painted facade of the Eagle Aerie Gallery, showcasing the colorful works of artist Roy Henry Vickers. Even if you’re not planning to make a purchase, the pieces by this renowned Canadian artist are worth admiring.

Vickers’ creations feature bright, vibrant colors and depict wildlife and scenes of nature related to the West Coast. Born in northern British Columbia, Vickers’ works are also showcased in several prominent Canadian museums.

9. See the Views from Radar Hill

Views from Radar Hill
Views from Radar Hill

Radar Hill, located near Tofino, is an easily accessible elevated area offering panoramic views. From the summit, you can gaze in both directions, overlooking the trees, mountains, and the ocean. While it doesn’t provide a complete 360-degree view, two distinct viewing areas offer perspectives that are unique to the Tofino area.

A road leads directly to the hilltop, and reaching the viewpoint involves a short walk along a well-graded pathway. Nearby lodges and bed-and-breakfasts often recommend Radar Hill to their guests, citing it as a designated location to head to in case of a tsunami. Once a radar station during the early years of the Cold War in the 1950s, there are few visible remnants today, except for some foundations.


Q: Is Tofino only for surfers and nature enthusiasts?

A: Not at all! Tofino welcomes all types of travelers, offering a blend of outdoor adventures, cultural experiences, and family-friendly activities.

Q: When is the best time to visit Tofino for whale watching?

A: The prime whale-watching season in Tofino is from March to October, with peak activity during the summer months.

Q: Are there budget-friendly dining options in Tofino?

A: Yes, Tofino offers a range of budget-friendly dining options, from food trucks to local eateries with affordable menus.

Q: Can I explore Tofino without a car?

A: Absolutely! Tofino has reliable public transportation, and many attractions are within walking or biking distance.

Q: How can I contribute to responsible tourism in Tofino?

A: Visitors can contribute by respecting local ecosystems, participating in organized clean-up events, and supporting businesses with eco-friendly practices.