Canada borders three oceans – the Atlantic, Pacific and the Arctic – yet there’s only one place you can surf year-round: Tofino. Perched on the west coast of Vancouver Island, this small, under-the-radar resort town is home to some of North America’s best beaches.

Enclosed by Clayoquot Sound, a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve, the nearby 150,000-acre Pacific Rim National Park Reserve is an outdoor enthusiast’s wonderland; visitors are often hooked from their first lungful of woodland-scented air. Natural beauty manifests here in hideaway hot springs, abundant wildlife and all-season hiking trails.

Tofino and its surrounds can get crowded in summer, but visit during off-season – especially spring – and you’ll be rewarded with quiet beaches, better waves, unspoiled wilderness and queueless restaurants. We won’t tell if you don’t.

To Stay:

Pacific Sands Beach Resort
Those in search of luxury can find it in the wilderness. Pacific Sands Beach Resort is a beachfront heaven, neighbouring its personal surf school, Surf Sister Cedar-Hemlock Trail. Located in Cox Bay, it’s the place to soak up unparalleled ocean views and a few rays in peace. The resort is the starting point for a private hiking trail, so guests can traverse to Pettinger Point to spot wildlife including orcas, sea otters and whales. Visitors are encouraged to retire on the back patio of their private beach house – glass of wine in hand – or cosy up beside the fire as 12ft-windows frame the coastline.

To Eat:

Sobo
Tofino is known for seafood, and nowhere does it better than SoBo. Classically trained chef Lisa Ahier serves up sophisticated dishes in this boho-themed restaurant. It’s a local favourite thanks to the fresh fish – try the cedar-plank salmon – and locally foraged ingredients. Ahier’s signature scallop dish is reason enough to visit Tofino.

Shelter Restaurant
Rain or shine, the patio at Shelter Restaurant is never not bustling. Known as one of Tofino’s premier dining spots, this California-style heaven serves locally sourced oysters dressed up with fresh herbs and vegetables from the aromatic garden located behind the restaurant. As a member of the Tofino Ucluelet Culinary Guild, Shelter is a master of sustainably sourced dishes. Not-to-be-missed meals include: chargrilled albacore tuna, the Tofino Surf Bowl and crispy calamari.

During the height of summer, hundreds of Tofitians (to-fee-shuns) – as townsfolk like to call themselves – can be found in a line swirling around this bright-orange taco truck. Since 2009, Tacofino has achieved icon status in the Live to Surf parking lot, from which it fuels surfers and beach goers alike. Mexican cuisine is given Canadian and Asian twists – try the tuna taco loaded with wasabi mayo, pickled ginger and wakame. Hot tip: call ahead for pick-up and skip the line.

To Do:

Surf Sister
Sporty folk can try their hand at catching a wave with Surf Sister, an all-female-staffed surf school for newbies and professionals alike. Group lessons are available, with a student-instructor ratio of five to one, as are private lessons, which are ideal for families or those who want one-on-one attention. It’s located on Cox Bay, where waves are gentle enough to have you standing in no time, but consistent enough to catch another one if you need to try (and try) again.

Hot Springs Cove
Perhaps the best secret hideaway in Tofino is the Hot Springs Cove. It’s a little off the beaten path, but a short boat ride will bring you to Maquinna Marine Provincial Park where natural geothermal waters cascade into half a dozen rocky pools. After a refreshing springtime dip, navigate the boardwalk through the rainforest and stop for picturesque viewpoints along the way.

Sacred Stone Spa
Just west of Tofino, the Sacred Stone Spa is the place to relax overworked muscles after a day on the waves. The boutique spa offers a range of holistic massage therapies, but its specialty is the Sacred Hot Stone Massage, which uses water-heated stones to promote deep muscle relaxation. Enjoy treatment overlooking Tofino’s waterfront, and leave feeling like a brand-new person.

Pacific Rim National Park
The Pacific Rim region is considered the wild west of Vancouver. The Unesco World Biosphere Reserve can be accessed from Long Beach and is popular among surfers for the weathered waves, as well as among kayakers who weave through the inlets. Hike the South Beach Trail to discover the most extensive sand dune complex on Vancouver Island or explore Rainforest Trail, a spectacular woodland known for its Western Red Cedar.

Bulletin Effective: January 23 - January 27

⚠️Highway 4 at Kennedy Hill is re-opened with a single-lane bridge. Expect delays and drive with care.

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