We spent a relaxing anniversary weekend in Tofino a couple years ago, and top of our list was visiting Hot Springs Cove. It’s the place to go for a relaxing few hours’ dip in some natural, spring-fed hot pools right by the ocean! Considering how special they are, they’re a little tricky to get to. Here’s how to do it, and what to expect:
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 we visited in the off-season, rates were reduced! We went with Ocean Outfitters, and had a great experience.
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 as 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.