Tofino is a small village on the West side of Vancouver Island along the Pacific Ocean in the area known as Clayoquot Sound and on Tla-o-qui-aht tribal territory. The area boasts of temperate rainforests that meet the ocean and is home to an abundance of wildlife and marine life, making it a great place to visit to experience nature.

Totem in Tofino
Totem in Tofino

Tofino is special to us because it was the trip we took together in British Columbia in 2004 and we also shared the experience with Maxine’s mom and sister. Maxine found her mom and sister “loonie fares” on Jetsgo (was a Canadian low-cost carrier up until 2005) from YYZ – Toronto Pearson to YVR – Vancouver and so they joined us on the trip to Tofino.

Enjoying a beer on the patio at The Shoreline
Enjoying a beer on the patio at The Shoreline

The population of Tofino is approximately 1,900 and approximately 600,000 tourists visited in 2018. In 2018, 73% were Canadian, 18.2% were International (mostly from Europe: UK and Germany) and 8.8% American. We prefer to visit in the summer but some people enjoying visiting during the winter storm season.

In this post, we share tips and information to enjoy a long weekend in Tofino!

Getting Here:

As mentioned in our Pros and Cons: Tofino vs. Ucluelet post , it is not easy to get to Tofino and so you need to plan in advance. We also don’t recommend just showing up expecting to find a campground or place to stay last minute because it gets sold out during much of the summer.

Where to Stay:

There are campgrounds, Airbnbs, bed and breakfasts, resorts, and vacation rentals in Tofino for various price points but you should expect to pay about $250 a night unless you’re camping. We don’t camp and prefer boutique and luxury hotels so here are our top picks.

  • Using points: The one thing to know though is that there aren’t any chain hotels in the area other than the Best Western Tin Wis located on MacKenzie Beach. Considering the going rate is $400 ++ during peak times, it might be a good place to use up any Best Western points you have. Spoiler Alert: We now have top tier status with Best Western Rewards (Diamond Select) and are considering staying here to use points and free night certificates!
A photo of the Best Western Tin Wis courtesy of their website
  • The Aspirational Property: If you have lots of money and want to splurge, the Relais and Chateaux affiliated Wickaninnish Inn is the place to do so and is the most renowned hotel in the area. Rates for summer of 2021 start at $750 per night.
A photo of the Wickaninnish Inn courtesy of their website
  • For Glamping: We really wanted to stay at Wildpod but found it was sold out and we did find it a little too expensive but think that it is interesting option and hence why we are mentioning it.
Photo courtesy of Wildpod Tofino’s website
  • For a Boutique Hotel Experience: Duffin Cove is located in town but in a quieter area near the Tonquin Trail. This hotel has recently been renovated and looks like a really nice boutique hotel. It is on our list of places to stay for our next visit.
  • For Camping Shabby-Chic: We stayed at The Shoreline. The Shoreline has a great location in Tofino. It is close enough to town but also far enough from it to get a more peaceful and serene atmosphere. You also get lovely views of the bay and mountains in the background. We very much enjoyed sitting on our patio and watching the scenery.

We stayed in cabin 2, which is a small 1 bedroom style unit on the 2nd floor (cabin suite 1 is below). We really liked the esthetic of the room overall; it had camping vibes with some touches of luxury, so camping shabby chic if we had to define it. The bed was very comfortable but felt smaller than a standard queen, the soaker tub and bath salts were lovely and the bathroom was clean and functional. They also had nice touches like a diffuser with a calming scent, local products like blankets, and upscale toiletries. We also really enjoyed the well-stocked kitchen that enabled us to go to the Crab Lady, buy some crab and boil them for dinner.

The thing about The Shoreline is the soundproofing. We did expect to hear some nose based on the age of the A-frames and other reviews and why we chose to stay on the upper floor but the there is no sound-proofing and you are truly at the mercy of the other guests and how considerate they are. It was a little too noisy for us and unless we were renting the entire A-frame, we would not stay again.

  • The Shoreline: Bedroom and tub
  • The Shoreline: the upper unit of the A-frame we stayed in
  • The Shoreline in Tofino
  • The Shoreline: kitchen accessories. Yes, that's a single burner for cooking.
  • The Shoreline: view outwards
  • The Shoreline: Bathroom
  • For a Condo: On our first trip to Tofino, we stayed at Fred Tibbs condo. You can rent these units on a number of sites, like VRBO. The location is great and its quite convenient to have a kitchen and the large living space makes it perfect for a family trip.

What to Do:

Being in Tofino is about experiencing nature and so we spent most of our time going for drives and walks.

  • Tonquin Beach Hike: We don’t surf and so we prefer to hike down to Tonquin Beach and hang out there. The trail is very easy and the beach has lots of space for a picnic (we usually grab food from The Shed).  
  • Visit Ucluelet: It is about a 30 minute drive to Ucluelet. Make sure to walk the Wild Pacific Trail, check out Ucluelet Brewing, and have some food and drinks from the restaurants and cafes in Ukee!
  • Tours/Activities: There a number of tours available, like going to the hot springs, whale watching, bear watching, surfing, kayaking, fishing, stand-up paddle boarding, etc.

Where to Eat:

Tofino is a small town but there are lots of great places to eat here and we haven’t had the chance to try them all yet but here are some of our favorites.

  • The Shed: The Shed is our go-to for takeout; they have good salads, poke bowls, burgers and fries and pizza all at reasonable prices. Make sure to order online for takeut though or you can end up waiting a long time.
  • Tacofino:  You can’t really go to Tofino without having tacos from Tacofino’s food truck: our favorites are the fish and tuna…but the lineups at the food truck are painfully long so we went to the Long Beach golf course location and had our tacos within 10 minutes. Thank you to Jason for the friendly service!
  • Tofino Brewing: If you like craft beer, we recommend checking out Tofino Brewing to sample their beers. They have light snacks and a nice patio but it is always busy so be prepared to wait or show up for opening!
  • Lil Ronnie’s BBQ: Lil Ronnies isn’t in Tofino town but a quick drive down the road my MacKenzie Beach. We really enjoyed having margaritas and barbecue because they have great outdoor seating, live music, really good margaritas and the barbecue was some of the best we’ve had in BC.

    The meats were smoked well and we appreciated Ronnie’s signature of adding mustard seed and all the pickled veggies. Reminded us of visiting barbecue spots in Texas and Arizona!

    That being said, consistency can be spotty as the first time, we had a great mix of lean and fattier brisket but the second time, the brisket was mostly fat and not sliced as it should.

    There is a COVID fee to use the patio and the default gratuity is high but we are willing to accept this due to the circumstances. We felt the price of the food was in line with what you pay in this area and good value compared to other spots.
  • Picnic Charcuterie: As mentioned in our post, there is only one grocery store in both Tofino and Ucluelet, the Co-Op and the options tend to be limited. We found Picnic Charcuterie to be a good option to get items to create a charcuterie board.  
  • Wolf in The Fog: Wolf in the Fog is a bistro style restaurant with creative dishes that showcase local seafood and produce. We consider it upscale casual and enjoyed going for happy hour.  
  • The Crab Lady: The Crab Lady is a small family owned seafood market just outside of town. The Crab Lady’s sons are fisherman and bring her crab to sell. You will read about the Crab Lady in many travel guides about Tofino. We boiled our crab at The Shoreline where we were staying but some people like to do a crab boil on the beach which sounds amazing but very messy and impractical in our opinion.  We will file our crab boil adventure as “a very fun thing we will never do again!”.
  • KUMA: Kuma has ramen to warm you up on a cold rainy day or even on a sunny day!
  • Wildside Grill: We decided to eat here because the wait at Tacofino was too long. The fish and chips and the gumbo were good but we do not recommend the fish tacos.
  • Basic Goodness Pizzeria: The pizza is good here but does not travel well as takeout. We also found it very expensive based on the quality and quantity but a good option for a nice sit down meal.   

Summary:

There is enough to do and see in Tofino for a long weekend or to make it your home base to explore Clayoquot Sound. Don’t forget to pack very warm clothing and layer up because the weather is quite unpredictable and even in the peak of summer, temperatures can drop down to 10 Degrees Celsius.

Have you been to Tofino? Do you have any other places to stay, activities, and places to eat to recommend?

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