Must-Do Adventures and Activities in Tofino

By Alicia DCT | September 7, 2023
Think of Canada, and we bet surfing isn’t the first activity that springs to mind! And yet, nestled on the west coast of Vancouver Island, the small village of Tofino is famous for its world-class waves.

Facing the Pacific Ocean, its remote geographical position and untouched beauty also lends itself to a host of other exciting adventures and activities. From exhilarating whale watching tours to hiking through ancient rainforest, Tofino’s many charms always leave visitors wanting to come back. Find out more about what this unique destination has to offer below 👇

Whale Watching and Marine Magic

There are few experiences more awe-inspiring than watching wildlife in its natural habitat. And thanks to Tofino’s location within the Clayoquot Sound, it’s set along the migration route for not one – but two – different species of whale.

From February to May each year, thousands of Grey Whales pass through on their annual migration from Mexico to Alaska. This is followed by frequent sightings of Humpback Whales during the months of June to September.

Combined with the possibility of seeing orcas (killer whales), eagles and sea lions (as well as adorable sea otters!), a whale watching tour becomes an absolute must on any Tofino to-do list.

Thrilling Hikes and Coastal Trails

In contrast to the turquoise lakes and snow-capped mountains of the Canadian Rockies, Tofino’s rugged coastline and dramatic beaches hold a different kind of natural beauty.  And one that you should definitely explore on foot!

A 40-minute drive south of Tofino, the Wild Pacific Trail is a great starting point, with an easy 2.6 kilometre section known as the ‘Lighthouse Loop’ featuring several epic viewpoints.

Closer still, and set within the pristine Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, you’ll find the wooden boardwalk of the Rainforest Trail taking you to marvel at giant Cedar Trees. And if you’re looking for a more challenging route, you can’t beat a visit to Long Beach Lodge. The hiking trail from here up to the Cox Bay Lookout will reward your hard work with stunning views found nowhere else on the peninsula.

Coastal Excursions and Wildlife Encounters

If whale watching tours weren’t enough, a visit to Tofino also offers the opportunity to join a thrilling bear watching tour. From the safety of a boat, you’ll travel to protected inlets where iconic black bears forage along the shoreline in search of crabs, fish and more to feed on. Time your visit in May and you might even see cute bear cubs too!

For smaller wildlife encounters, Chesterman Beach is also famed for its tidal pools. Here the rocks reveal an underwater world of starfish, crabs, sea anemones, mussels, barnacles and much more. And if you turn your gaze upwards, you might even spot a bald eagle too!

Exploring Pacific Rim National Park Reserve

So beautiful its worthy of being mentioned twice in this article, the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is also home to the appropriately named Long Beach. Stretching for over 16 kilometres, you could easily spend a day here. Family-friendly activities include everything from sandcastle building and Frisbee throwing, to enjoying a picnic lunch and jumping in the waves. As evening draws closer, you can light a beach fire and wrap yourself in a blanket as the sunset colours the night sky.

Just above the reserve, you won’t find a hotel with a more impressive location than the Wickaninnish Inn. Offering unparalleled views of the pacific coastline, this boutique Inn is set on a rocky edge right where land meets sea. With an interior to match its stunning setting, this place is well-worth a visit – and an added bonus is that the Driftwood Café is open to everyone!©DCT-EltonHubner-Tofino-BearWatching.jpg©Benjamin_Egger_Tofino-4-scaled-e1657147532223.jpg

Storm Watching and Tranquil Retreats

During the colder months, you may wonder what Tofino could have to offer. And the answer? Storm watching! With no-landmass between Tofino and Japan, the uninterrupted winter winds can cause waves to roll in at a whopping 20 feet in height.

These giant waves, combined with driving rain and wild skies, demonstrate the true power of Mother Nature – and stand in direct contrast to the otherwise peaceful atmosphere of this corner of Vancouver Island.

Dance in the winds and afterwards you can find comfort and shelter in one of the area’s many chilled beach lodges. A perfect romantic getaway to consider during the winter season!

Indulging in Tofino’s Culinary Scene

A trip to Tofino is as much a feast for the eyes, as it is for the taste buds! The home of ‘Tacofino’, you’ll find the original orange truck closes to the beaches and still serving their ever-tasty tacos and burritos. And if you’re looking for a sweet treat afterwards, ‘Chocolate Tofino’ is just a short walk away selling chocolate delights and homemade gelato (with big portions too!)

Tofino’s eateries don’t stop there, with the village offering rustic vibes and creative cocktails at the ‘Wolf in the Fog’, the best fish and chips in town at ‘Big Daddies Fish Fry’ and mouth-watering donuts at ‘Rhino Coffee House’. What’s more, by eating out in Tofino you’ll be supporting independent local businesses that focus on being mindfully-sourced and authentic.©DCT-LisanneSmeele-Tofino-Beach.jpg©Tacofino.jpg

Beyond Tofino: Exploring Port Alberni

The journey to Tofino is as much a part of the experience as the place itself, with the wider area including stops like Port Alberni. Famous for its salmon fishing, the town is a great base to explore nearby attractions such as the ancient trees of Cathedral Grove and discover the scenic Sproat Lake.

The town itself also boasts a waterside park, weekly farmers market and great hiking trails. You could take an easy route to complete the Hole in the Wall hike, or opt to cover the entire Alberni Inlet Trail.

The journey across Vancouver Island to Tofino is packed with beautiful lakes, mountain vistas and crystal clear rivers, so whatever you do – don’t look away from the window for too long!

Crafting Your Tofino Adventure Itinerary

Tofino is truly a year-round destination and so planning your own Tofino adventure will largely depend on what activities you want to do. July and August are known as the best months for warm weather and sunshine, so if it’s hitting the beach and hiking trails that you’re after – you may wish to stick to the peak summer months. (Or opt for June or September for slightly fewer crowds!)

From March to October Tofino has its whale watching season. This is accompanied by black bears waking from hibernation in April and bear watching tours also continuing to run until early October. Time your visit during these months for the best wildlife viewing opportunities!

Alternatively, if it’s storm chasing that’s caught your eye, you’ll want to book your stay in Tofino between November and February. At this time you’ll also benefit from the cheapest prices and fewest other visitors.

To take the hassle out of planning your own itinerary, you could also book a guided adventure. Westrek’s Tofino Ultimate Camping Tour offers the opportunity to set up your tent right on the beachfront, while on the Tofino Pacific Rim Tour with Discover Canada Tours you’ll enjoy staying in a brand new resort!

Cherishing Tofino Memories

Ultimately, there can be no wrong time to visit Tofino. This town and all the activities and adventures it holds, serve to remind us of the immense sense of awe that being in nature can offer.

From watching a grey whale’s tail splash back down into the Pacific Ocean, to witnessing the crashing waves of a heavy storm, Tofino has the power to enchant you at any time.

And as that is the case, why not start planning your own Tofino Adventure today and experience the magic of this place for yourself?


Written by Hannah Lane.