As travel slowly opens in other countries where the Bon Traveler readership is based, I’m very excited to bring in-destination experts to talk about their home country for those readers. Our first guest writer is the talented Megan from Darby & Co who is based in Toronto, Canada. Megan is a travel freelance writer with an appreciation for good design and thoughtful experiences. Please give her a warm welcome and find her adventures on Instagram @meghonan.
Hi All! I’m Megan from lifestyle blog Darby & Co. and I’m so excited to be introducing you to all the secret spots of my home country, Canada. We’re kicking it off today with one of my favorite little hideaways, the small surf town of Tofino in British Columbia, Canada.
This hippie-surfer town on the edge of Vancouver Island is enveloped by Clayoquot Sound (a UNESCO biosphere reserve), the 150,000-acre Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and some of North America’s best surfing spots— and now is the perfect time to visit. During the summer season, visitors will find bigger and better waves, plenty of patios for social distancing, and all-season hiking trails.
*All photography credit is by Megan of Darby & Co. unless stated otherwise.
A Travel Guide to Tofino, Canada
Travel Logistics For Tofino
Getting to Tofino: While there is an airport in Tofino, it can be incredibly expensive. Instead, fly into Vancouver Airport, grab a rental car, and take the ferry over to Vancouver Island. It’s a bit of a drive, but the views along the way make it all worth it!
Best Time to Go: While the fall season is particularly beautiful with amazing surf and mid-range temperatures, there is really no bad time to visit Tofino. The beach (and therefore surf) during the summer can be a bit crowded, so I’d recommend August-October and April-May for the best experience.
Transportation within Tofino: You’ll definitely want to grab a rental car for this trip! The area is relatively remote with no bus routes, but ridesharing app Whistle and bike rentals are available if you want to stop by the breweries in the evening—everything is relatively close.
Currency & Money | $ CAD: Credit cards are accepted everywhere. Cash can be good for tipping or small purchases. There are only a few ATMs on the island, so I’d recommend grabbing cash at the airport before heading out.
What To Know Before Visiting Tofino
Book in Advance: As Tofino is a smaller town, book everything online up to a month in advance of your trip. I would recommend making reservations for hotels, car rentals, and acclaimed restaurants.
Weather: The weather in Tofino can change rather quickly, even during the middle of summer. It’s also located on Vancouver Island, which is known for its rainy season, so I’d highly recommend packing a heavy-duty rain jacket and umbrella. Also, be sure to bring multiple options for layering that will fold down into a daypack.
Where To Stay In Tofino
Hotel Recommendation: Pacific Sands Beach Resort
The mantra of real estate is location is everything and Pacific Sands Beach Resort, located directly on Cox Bay beach, is the epitome of prime real estate. While this resort calls the laid-back town of Tofino home, it certainly doesn’t lack in luxury.
What started as a 17 cabin property, has grown into a 77-unit resort of beach houses, suites, and lodges. Every property is fully-equipped with kitchens, fireplaces, and private decks with direct beach access. But it’s so much more than that. With the glass doors wide open, you can be soothed to sleep by the sound of crashing waves or the soundtrack of surrounding nature.
The resort also offers complimentary morning yoga sessions, coffee and grocery delivery, bike rentals and childcare. But the real highlight? The onsite surfboard and paddleboard rentals — not to mention, lessons with Surf Sister — just steps from the beach and your front door.
Where to Eat & Drink in Tofino
Wolf in the Fog
This is a local favorite with food sourced sustainably from the ocean and foraged regionally. Menu highlights include potato crusted oysters, crispy Humboldt squid, and the Sugar Shack Style Pork Ribs. Plus, with a happy hour running from 3 pm to 5 pm, why not enjoy a half-priced cocktail?
The Pointe Restaurant
If you’re looking for the perfect brunch spot, look no further. This open-only-on-the-weekend spot is an upscale Canadiana restaurant serving farm-to-table fare. The space overlooks the water with wide windows and centers around a cozy wood-burning fireplace. Try their signature dish, the West Pacific Seafood Smoked Salmon Rösti, with crunchy potatoes, poached egg, fried capers, and fresh-from-the ocean salmon.
This spot is perfect for social distancing with a huge patio to be enjoyed in the rain or shine. One of Tofino’s premier dining spots, they specialize in oysters fresh from the ocean plated alongside vegetables grown from the on-site garden.
Tofino Brewing Co.
For a cold beer, this brewhouse has a great indoor/outdoor patio to enjoy the sunset from. Working off the ethos of being a positive addition to the town and operating in a sustainable manner, the brewhouse often hosts community events for local organizations such as CARE Network and the Pacific Rim Surfrider Foundation.
There is no better spot in Canada for seafood than the West Coast and that’s exactly what SoBo specializes in. Classically trained chef, Lisa Ahier, serves up fresh fish, like cedar-plank salmon, alongside locally foraged ingredients for a fresh take on dinner.
For a unique mix of California-meets-Mexican fare, Tacofino has the best beach food in town. With a wide variety of tacos, including options for vegetarians, this remains one of the top spots in town year after year. While you can eat outside on their picnic benches, I’d recommend calling ahead and placing a pick-up order to skip the long lines.
What to Do In Tofino
Take a Surf Lesson on Cox Bay
If you’re going to visit Tofino, you can’t leave without taking a surf lesson. Local company, Surf Sister, offers group lessons or private lessons if you want more one-on-one attention. They’ll get you up on a board in no time! If surfing is not your thing, you can definitely take a dip in the ocean.
Hike Pacific Rim National Park
This national park offers exceptional wildlife viewing and stunning coastline. Hike the South Beach Trail to discover the largest sand dune complex on Vancouver Island or explore the famous Rainforest Trail to stand next to some of the tallest Western Red Cedars.
Wildlife Viewing at Wild Pacific Trail
This trail is famous for its rugged coastline, but the Lighthouse Loop Trail is especially popular for spotting animal wildlife. During this quick 2.6-kilometer loop, we spotted otters, cranes, muskrats, and even a far off whale!
Other Things to Do (that I didn’t get to)
Hot Springs Cove
Sacred Stone Spa
Rent a kayak or paddleboard
Take a whale watching tour
Walkthrough the Tofino Botanical Gardens
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1. Book Your Flights
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Use Booking.com for hotels and guest houses. They have the biggest inventory and consistently offer the best rates.
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Use Discover Cars or Rentalcars.com to find the best car rental deals. I recommend comparing rental agency reviews on Google to ensure you are booking with the best company in that destination, as the reviews are often more accurate than the car rental search engines.
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Get a Priority Pass membership to gain access to 1,400+ VIP lounges and airport experiences worldwide. The Priority Pass app is the first thing I check when I have a layover. I’ve been a member for over a decade, and having a comfortable place to relax before and between flights makes air travel so much more enjoyable.
6. Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
I never leave the country without travel insurance. It provides comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong (ie. illness, injury, theft, and cancelations, etc.). I use it frequently for my travels to stay protected.
My favorite companies that offer the best coverage and rates are: