3 Days in Tofino | Canada’s Surfer’s Paradise

The town of Tofino situates itself on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It’s nestled at the base of the Clayoquot Sound and opens up to the vast pacific. Not only is Tofino known for it’s great surf, but it offers other recreation such as hiking, paddle boarding, whale watching, storm watching and eating tacos from Tacofino. My sense of adventure was dwindling, and this trip sure filled the gap! The last trip I did was backpacking Joffre Lakes. It was a nice change being able to throw all your shit in the back of your car and drive to your destination instead of a 40L pack.

The town only houses about 2000 residents which keeps the city so original and special. Tofino is definitely becoming more and more of a tourist hub – especially during the peak seasons. I was lucky enough to have had the incredible chance to try surfing for the first time.

To get to Tofino, there are a few options you can consider. The first option is to drive. From Vancouver you’ll need to take a ferry to either Nanaimo or Victoria. From there, it’s about a 3-3.5 hour drive. Some friends I rendezvoused with were driving up from California so they caught the ferry from Port Angeles, Washington. That boat will take you to Victoria.

ferry 1
On the Ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay, Nanaimo.

I took a few days off work, which was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made all summer. I can already tell you that surfing is going to be a new hobby of mine. I honestly had no idea how great the surf was on the west coast of BC. It was a whirlwind of 3 days, but I seemed like I was gone for much longer. I piled in as much as I could before I had to head back home.

Experiencing Englishman Falls

Before the 4 of us left Nanaimo, we were contemplating which potential places we should stop and see en route to Tofino. Before we knew it, we were on the road and parked at the trail head to the Englishman Falls. The hike is a seriously easy walk in the park. There are multiple trail loops you can do, and it’s hard to get lost because they all end up back at the parking lot.

englishman falls

The falls were pretty big considering. The water rushed down into this deep, narrow trench. After getting a few snapshots, we positioned ourselves towards the car and continued the drive to Tofino.

Surfing at Cox Bay

There are multiple beaches along your route towards Tofino. To name a few, you’ve got Long Beach, Mackenzie Beach, Chesterman Beach, and Cox Bay. The four of us stuck to Cox Bay (at least for the three days I was there). Cox bay is super accessible and easy to reach. Having never surfed before, let alone snowboarded much; I knew the whole “surf thing” would take a few days. Well folks, I’m proud to say on my last day I managed to stay on my board and catch a wave for a whole 13 seconds! Holy cow, right?!

Catching the waves at 6am and finishing with some oatmeal on the beach along side "pepper" the dog.
Catching the waves at 6am and finishing up with some oatmeal on the beach along side “pepper” the dog.

On our first day we met up with two French Canadians who had travelled across the country from the east coast. I surfed with them for my first and second day before they had to part for home. The morning of their departure, the three of us woke up at 5:45 to hit the water for 6 am. Despite how absolutely awful it was to put on a cold and damp wetsuit, the surf was amazing that early. looking out onto the horizon was nothing but white cloud. Other than a few locals catching some waves before work, we were the only ones there. I had so much fun with them. They were so accommodating and kind. Thank you Charles and Alfonso!

Running the Tonquin Trail

Before I left for Tofino, I actually spent some time researching decent hikes that we could possibly do around the city. Turns out there’s a bunch to do. Lone Cone, Rainforest Trail, Schooner Cove, Comber Beach and Tonquin Trail are all somewhat easy to access from Tofino. I discovered the Tonquin Trail randomly driving through town. I got to the trail head, check out the map, and decided to throw on my runners. The trail itself is not strenuous. there are only 91 or so stairs throughout. The first route I ran took me directly to Tonquin Beach. It was so secluded – I was the only one there.

tofino 1

Making my way back to my car was a different story. I got lost – majorly (and I’m one to hike). I kept running in circles and getting caught up in the loop trail instead of the one that takes you back to the parking lot. 50 minutes later I made it back to my car – yea..

tofino 2

Moseying Around Town

I think what also makes Tofino so admirable is how small it is. The town if definitely walkable. The main strip is lined with coffee shops, cafes, and of course – surf shops (so many surf shops!) For every 5 cars that passes you from the sidewalk, at least 3 of them have boards strapped to their roof racks.

This town is full of backpackers and avid adventure seekers. Everyone is so nice here. I’m Canadian, and I even noticed how more kind the people are here compared to the mainland. I grew up near Victoria, and coming back to Tofino 15 years later made me realize how much I miss living on the Island.

At night, Tofino comes alive (at least on Wednesday’s I know for sure). Jack’s Bar is the only pub open during the summer months, which means all of Tofino piles on in this smallish pub. The 6 of us headed there on “Karaoke Night” unknowingly – twas a good night indeed. Delicious craft beer from the Tofino Brewing Company and killer music. I was pretty impressed..Tofino can get wild.

Cox Bay at Sunset
Cox Bay at Sunset

Chowing Down on Some Tacofino

I honestly grabbed some Tacofino on a whim. I was about to leave Tofino for home, when all of a sudden I felt like I couldn’t leave this place without grabbing a good’ol taco from it’s motherland. The Tacofino food truck is located in a strip mall-like area just before you enter the city centre. I still waited 25 minutes for my back bean taco, even though I was already running behind on time. Was I ever glad I did – it was so delicious; well worth the painstakingly long wait. Before experiencing this Tacofino, I actually went to the Vancouver location one a few months ago with my friend and fellow blogger lttltox. Check out her blog review here!


So 25 minutes went by, and my name was finally called. I quickly snapped a picture and trekked back to my car to eat it. Little did I know it would be the messiest thing I’d eaten all trip (probably because I asked for guac). I inhaled the taco in 2 minutes, cleaned off my hands and headed for Nanaimo.

People’s Reactions During my Ferry Ride Home

I couldn’t decide if it was my salty ocean fro that I hadn’t been washed/brushed in 4 days or my lobster beet-red face; but they sure grabbed the attention of some folks. A potential dread lock was starting to form at the crown of my head. I was so exhausted from the driving and lack of sleep I could care less. When I went to order some food, the lady looked up to ask my order and I could see her eyes drift to the bun on top of my head.

Tofino was amazing. I’m still missing it. When I got home, I realized just how close I was to this place. My return has already been decided. Thank you Jake for convincing me to come and join you guys (and making me realize just how much I suck at surfing compared to all of you!) Check out his up and running blog The Goldfish Escapades – It’s amazing. :)

Stay adventurous, keep exploring.

Charlotte xo

Have you ever been to Tofino? Recommend any other good places to surf along the west coast of Vancouver Island?

~ All Ideas and Shenanigans are property of hiatushunnie.com ~ 

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