Natural, long sandy beaches; oceanfront lodges; a chilled-out surfer culture; abundant fitness options; memorable sunsets, spiritual and foodie friendly — these are some of the shared attributes you’ll fine in both Tofino, B.C. and San Diego, Calif. Separated by 2,530 kilometres of Pacific coastline, the two cities have become go-to destinations for beach-seeking North Americans.

But if you step into the waters, you will feel just one of the many differences that set them apart, and some unique offerings that make both worth visiting.

Take a refresh with nature

Tofino: Landing on Vancouver Island is powerful. It’s a green-filled, spiritual place that can’t help but revive you. On the road to Tofino, a stop at Cathedral Grove, a preserve of massive 600-year-old trees, reveals an atmosphere that exudes a fresh, uplifting and sacred patch of air. Sitting on one of the downed trees, each with enough wood for more than 50 homes, is a perfect roadside picnic to get warm surges of goodness under your bark. Moving on to Long Beach, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, is a beautiful place shrouded in a misty veil like a sea maiden hiding her beauty. The drive offers a quick view of one of the best beaches in Canada, complete with toe-worthy sand, out-of-this world rock outcroppings and big-surf views that are wow-worthy enough to make even a 12 year old turn off the Xbox.

San Diego: Venture north of San Diego, along the surfer’s highway, for pockets of wild among the developments. Try wild beach gem Torrey Pines, or venture down the trail etched in weathered cliffs to Blacks Beach. For pure sand-in-your-toes pleasure, the beaches of Catalina Island rank right up there.

Fun and Fit

Tofino: Tofino is still one of the best places in Canada to surf, and one of the best places to learn. Sure, the water is cold, but you can stay (slightly) warm with a wetsuit, and when you catch a wave with the green water your guide, you may be instantly addicted. Cox Bay is the perfect place for beginners.

San Diego: In San Diego, you can ride a beach bike through the myriad of paved trails for just about everything, from getting java in the morning to your afternoon freshly squeezed juice. Take the inside track around Mission Bay, a paved path the circles the bay, and be entertained by the abundant boat traffic, standup paddleboarders and beachgoers. For coffee lovers don’t miss a stop at The Mission for espresso. To get out on the water, see Captain Fred at Action Sports Rental at the Loews Coronado Bay Resort, a world-class sailing teacher who can show you the ropes or take you for a day-long-cruiser out on Mission Bay.


Tofino: Is it possible to perfectly combine a foodie’s dream meal, magical sunsets and a perfect surf spot? Maybe not, but Long Beach Lodge Resort gets pretty close, so rest here. Try one of the private cottages and don’t forget to sign up for surf camp early, as spots fill up quickly.

San Diego: Good rest and romance will happen here, almost by accident. Sleeping to the sound of the ocean crashing is simply magical at the Hotel del Coronado. Celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, this historic hotel has long been heralded as one of America’s most beautiful beachfront resorts. For a great value try the other historic landmark, the Glorietta Bay Inn, which combines turn-of-the-century charm with over-the-top friendly staff, and a complimentary breakfast. For real charm try one of the 11 mansion rooms. Nearby Paradise Point Resort, surrounded by Mission Bay, feels like your own private arboretum. It features nearly 18 hectares covered with more than 600 types of plants, as many as 10 to 20 are edible, but you better take the tour before taking a bite. Stay waterfront on the bay in the cool southwest-influenced cabanas.

Eat and Drink

Tofino: Try Sobo for sit-down, healthy sea-to-plate goodness. Food truck lovers will enjoy Tacofino, where you will find the best fish taco of the north. Make sure you prepare for a picnic for those awe-inspiring sunsets or beach fires by stuffing your bag with baked goodies and soup from Sobo.

San Diego: Baleen at Paradise Point Resort, a New York Times-recommended stop did not disappoint. Also don’t miss local breakfast favourites The Mission in Mission Beach, which delivers a great southwest-influenced local favourite huevos rancheros. You can head just up the street for dinner by bike at Isabel’s Cantina, a casual-diner’s delight. Start cold, with the chopped kale salad, and then heat up with pepita-crusted local sea bass with jalapeno lime sauce. Ummm good! On nearby Coronado Island, don’t miss 1500 Ocean for spectacular views and a California coastal menu that features hand-picked herbs and vegetables from the garden in front of you. In town, walk to Leroy’s Kitchen, a lively local spot that has one of the best fish tacos you’ll ever eat, and great farm-to-table fare. For those California sunsets and food to match, visit chef Adam Cho at Mistral.

If you go

Tofino is best accessed by WestJet direct flights into Comox, B.C. and renting a car. San Diego is served by daily non-stop service provided by WestJet. Check and try the bid option for your rental car to get the best deal.

For San Diego, various lodging packages available so best to check directly on each hotel website and then do price shopping or to make sure you get the best rate.




Updated Highway 4 Road Closure Schedule at Kennedy Hill