Kyla and I spent the November long weekend in Tofino, a surf town on western Vancouver Island. I’ve only heard amazing things about Tofino since moving out here, and it lived up to the hype!
Lots of people who visit the town choose to enjoy it the active way… surfing, hiking, that kind of thing. While it’s a fantastic place to do both of those things, and while I’ll definitely do more activities next time I go, we went the more…
lazy relaxed route this time! Not only did we need a break, but we were both sick, so you could say that taking it easy was what the doctor ordered. And I mean… it’s not really that hard to chill out in a surf town! Here are 5 relaxing ways to explore Tofino:
Head to Hot Springs Cove for a few hours’ dip in some natural, spring-fed hot pools right by the ocean! The hot springs are only reachable by boat and float plane, so booking a day tour was the best option for us (uncomplicated = relaxing). Plus, since it’s the off-season, rates were reduced! We went with Ocean Outfitters, and they were great.
The boat ride to the hot springs technically only takes about an hour, but the trip doubles as a wildlife viewing tour. In the fall/winter, there isn’t much in the way of whale-viewing, although we did see a grey whale! There are always plenty of seals and sea lions en route, but the big one for me was SEA OTTERS! We kept passing groups of blobs floating nearby. I thought it was bull kelp, but it was SO MUCH BETTER! (Btw the captain made it clear that they are *not* holding hands because they’re in love! </3) Depending on the season, you can also see whales, bears, and puffins.
The ride is rocky!! Bring meds if you’re prone to sea sickness, because you’ll probably go via the open ocean in at least one direction for better wildlife spotting.
The boats dock about 2 kms from the hot springs, which leaves you with about a half hour walk to bliss. This is all part of the trip! The mostly flat boardwalk leads you through one of those reliably magnificent Pacific Northwest rainforests. Kyla and I were inspired by NOT having to wear massive backpacks like we had on the Juan de Fuca Trail, so we raced along, eager to warm up!
You’ll know you’ve reached the cove once you smell the sulphur! There’s a covered area at the top of the hot springs where you can store your stuff, as well as two changing stalls. You’ll need to bring your own food and water for the day.
The rocks are slippery, so get low and go slow! Water shoes would work well, too. There are hotter pools near the top, and ask you get closer to the ocean, they start to feel more like a warm bath. We climbed past everyone else to the pièce de résistance: the closest pool to the ocean, where we had front row seats to waves crashing against the rocks just a few feet away! Kyla even climbed to a shallow spot that *she claimed* was warm, where she’d get a blast of cold every time the waves came in.
If you have a waterproof camera, I’d recommend bringing that down instead of a phone. (Like, we obviously shouldn’t have brought ours down, but pictures! They were fine but they had to dry out after 2 hours of rain and steam!)
Since we were there on a long weekend, it was busy. Despite all of the people there, it still felt romantic! We visited at the right time of year: hot pools and cool, rainy air were such a cozy combo. After a couple of hours soaking, we felt sooo relaxed (and sooo tired). We hurried back through the forest to meet our boat, and dozed on the way back.
There are multiple beaches to visit in Tofino, but Long Beach is arguably the most well-known. For good reason! See photo evidence.
Even in November, there were lots of surfers out. We managed to catch a sunset, but if it had been raining we would have gone storm-watching. I couldn’t stop smiling! It was also a perfectly romantic place to celebrate our 2 year anniversary.
Be a foodie Eat delicious food:
So… because we have a big trip coming up after Christmas, we were on a budget in Tofino, so we didn’t actually eat out much. That said, there are some great food options in Tofino, and we made room in our wallets to indulge a bit!
Tacofino: If you eat nothing else, go to Tacofino. They have several locations around BC now, but this is the original. Just off the Pacific Rim Highway, this permanently parked food truck sells stellar fish tacos and burritos (other options too). We braved the cold, pouring rain to eat here on our way back to Victoria, and it was worth it.
Common Loaf Bake Shop: delicious baked goods, breakfast pizza?!, good coffee, cozy atmosphere, vegetarian options… Can’t really go wrong here!
Tofino Brewing Co: Beer is an important food group. Stop by their tasting room, leave with a bottle or 4! I LOVE their kelp stout and recommend it to other dark beer drinkers – it only tastes *a little* like the ocean!
If you do choose to eat out and have a specific place in mind, make sure to make reservations for dinner, especially if you’re there on a long weekend.
What is more hygge than curling up with a cup of tea, reading a book or playing board games, while listening to the rain outside?
Our Airbnb* was cozy (read: small), but it was all we needed. It was right downtown, but a short, tree-lined boardwalk leading around to our little loft made it feel like our own private treehouse. Whether you snatch up a cabin on the beach or find a sweet spot in town, nothing beats the sound of rain on the roof during storm-watching season. We brought games, books, knitting, a computer for Netflix, and loooved being warm and dry!
Wander around town:
Even if Tofino weren’t a tiny town where it’s pretty much impossible to get lost… you should definitely wander around with no map or agenda!
Our only major goal one morning was to buy more Nyquil and cough drops (#goodtimes), but we ended up checking out cute touristy shops with beachy vibes, then strolling into a gallery.
The gallery, owned by First Nations artist Roy Henry Vickers, was in a beautiful long house. As we opened the door, we were whisked inside: “the storytelling is just starting!” It turned out the author was there, telling traditional stories to a quiet room full of people!
Tofino was magical, and I can’t wait to go back and discover what else it has to offer… and maybe get some beach time in the sun!
*(If you’ve still never used Airbnb, use this link and we will both get credit! <3)