Top Things to do in Tofino and Ucluelet on your Long Weekend
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Looking for things to do in Tofino and Ucluelet? Read this post for the best places to relax, surf, hike, and take in the beautiful West Coast nature. Find your inner peace when visiting the town of Tofino, kayaking to remote islands, walking the beaches, or taking in the sunset from the best hidden gem viewpoint! With the right plan and timing, you can fit all of the activities in a long weekend (3-day) trip to Tofino and Ucluelet. Mix and match for the activities that appeal to you most.
Want to visit all the hidden gems on Vancouver Island? Download our free Vancouver Island Bucket List. Complete with secret waterfalls, beaches, and hikes you've never heard of.
Surfing in Tofino: the best beginner spots
There are many surf spots along the coast of Tofino and towards Ucluelet. Being the surf capital of Canada means that there are some serious waves out there. Although the surf is great all-year-round, there are a few beaches that are particularly good for beginners. The surf rental shops will give you local tips for the days forecast when you rent from them. We recommend the below beaches (see pictures) to make the most out of your surf experience in Tofino if you're a beginner and just want to catch as many waves as you can without getting hurt and while having fun.
Make sure to visit Magic Seaweed to check the surf forecast before you head out. It's the best online surf forecast available and will give you a good sense of whether it's safe and/or worth it to go surfing that day. This website will also give you a breakdown of the best seasons for each Tofino surf beach. My top 3 beginner surf beaches are:
Visit the town of Tofino
The town of Tofino has one of the most relaxed "island vibes" we've encountered (and Zac has lived on west coast islands for 20+ years)! The locals have kept the town identity true to itself over the years and the shops, restaurants, and cafes all have a unique vibe and cozy atmosphere. The residents are friendly and welcoming as well, so if you need extra info past what is mentioned in this blog, just ask a local, and 9 times out of 10 they will help you out!
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Best Cafe in Tofino
Coffee is an essential part of a long weekend in Tofino. Waking up and strolling the town on your own time is definitely a relaxing moment in Tofino and you want the best atmosphere and taste for the moment. Many people think Rhino Coffee House is the best in town, but we think Tuff Beans Coffee Shop has the nicest atmosphere as it's not so crowded and has a more local vibe to it. It's located at the end of town on Schooner Landing (331 Campbell St.).
The Tofino Brewery is one of our all-time favorite breweries on Vancouver Island. The beer is brewed onsite and the tasting room is a large warehouse setting, adding to the rustic appeal. There is usually a good playlist going and lots of local surfers grabbing a beer after a long session in the waves. Relax and try out the Tuff Session Ale if you get a chance (our personal fav)!
Top Surf shops and gift shops
1. Wya Point Surf Shop - This is hands down the best surf rental spot in town. It's really easy for beginners as you can get a wetsuit, board, and car straps included and the service is extraordinary. The staff go above and beyond to make sure you're comfortable with the conditions and give you all the local tips of the best spots to go for the day's conditions. Besides that, the rental price is probably the best one you can get in town!
2. Storm the Tofino Surf Shop - This is the best surf shop located directly in town. They have many cool hats, shirts, and apparel perfect for the surf scene. It's a true west coast vibe in here.
3. Treehouse Gifts - If you're looking for a gift to remember your Tofino experience forever or get gifts for friends, this is the one! It's a cozy vibe with many small trinkets.
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Best places to eat in Tofino
Tacofino is a MUST when you're visiting Tofino. It's the original of now many restaurants on the West Coast of Canada. It's actually a food truck located right behind the "Live to Surf" shop. The lineups can be long, so if you're there on a holiday weekend, expect to wait up to 30 minutes before you eat. It's totally worth it though!
Sea Monster Noodle Bar has the best noodles in town. These are delicious after a long day of surfing, hiking, or adventuring in the surrounding area. The yellow fish curry is to die for!
Shed is the coolest new spot in town. It's a cheap option for a local burger or bowl and the quality is good. We really like it because the vibe is light and the generation is young inside with great music and many heaters on the deck for colder evenings.
Watch the Sunset in Tofino: Cox Bay Lookout
The Cox Bay lookout is by far the best sunset spot and viewpoint in all of Tofino! However, it is a bit tricky to find if it's your first time there. Since the trail is not officially marked anywhere or even maintained by any designated groups, it can be hard to navigate.
To start, find the Cox Bay Trail via Sakurai Lane map on AllTrails.com.
Now that you see the route overview, you will notice that it takes you along the Cox Bay beach from North all the way to the south end of the beach. From here, you will see a small path that winds into the forest. Keep your AllTrails app open as you enter the trail. There are many side-paths that can get overgrown, but as long as you're heading in the right general direction, it will lead you to the main trail. Navigate your way up through the bushes until you come to a clearing at the top. You will start to notice the sky opening up a bit with a view of the bay becoming visible below. Keep climbing until you get to the official lookout spot with no trees blocking your view.
From the top, you will see expansive views of Cox Bay, the surrounding mountains, and the islands in the distance. If you're just looking for the best view, then there's no need to go further than this as the very top is blocked by more trees. If you're able to time up your hike to end just before sunset, then you will get the best sunset view on all of Vancouver Island from here! Make sure to bring a flashlight though for the way down and be careful. This hike is somewhat difficult so I would only recommend doing it if you are in decent shape and have a bit of experience hiking. In total, it took us about 1.5 hours to do the full hike out and back (not including stopping for the sunset on top).
If you enjoy this viewpoint, you will LOVE the other hidden gem hikes we unveil in our full Vancouver Island Adventure Travel Guide.
Kayaking in Tofino
Going kayaking is another one of our favorite activities in Tofino. There's no feeling quite like exploring the open ocean between all of the small surrounding islands. You have the ability to hop out of your kayak and make an island your own personal holiday destination for the day! Since kayaking is technically on the open ocean, you do have to manage the tides accordingly. Thus, you will have to either pass a test showing you have the capabilities to get out of a bad tide situation or you can also go on a guided tour for an additional fee.
Where to rent your kayak and gear
We rented our kayaks, life jackets, and other equipment from Paddle West Kayaking. They are located right next to Jaimie's Whaling Station Tofino just on your way into town. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable. They definitely knew what they were talking about and put us through a whole test to ensure we would be prepared in any type of emergency as we were going out on our own for the day. They also offer guided tours which include a short hike on the Big Tree Trail on Meares Island. Call them at 1-877-479-3232 for booking information and time slots.
How long to go for
We recommend going for a half-day (4 hours). This will give you enough time to explore the best spots of the small surrounding islands near Tofino without being too rushed and exhausted. We find our arms get tired after kayaking for more than 4 hours, so we didn't see a need to rent for the full day. Half-day rates are $45 per person or $70 for a double kayak. Current rates and updates can also be found here.
To get the most out of your 4-hour rental, we recommend going out and straight between Stone Island and Neilsen Island (if the tide allows you to). Then follow straight through and to the left of Sloman Island. You will see a shipwreck on the left side of Sloman Island as you pass by. Then weave between the Arakun Islands where you will see shallow sandy bottoms and small trees scattered on either side of you. Finally, finish at Monas Island for a beautiful view of the mountain ahead of you and take a short break before heading back the same route to Paddle West Kayaking. Make sure to consult the staff at Paddle West Kayaking before confirming your route as they will have suggestions based on the weather that day.
Check out our Tofino travel video to see our route through the remote islands in our kayaks along with the Cox Bay viewpoint!
Hiking in Tofino and Ucluelet: top 5 hikes
There are many hikes along the coastline and forest area of Tofino. We have only listed our top 5 here, but there are many more options available at the Tofino Hiking website if you want more options! Some notable options not mentioned include the Hot Springs Cove, Long Cone, Big Tree Trail, and Canso Plane Crash site. We didn't include them in our top 5 for this blog as they are time-consuming and are at least a day trip each. If you want to make the most out of your time and do multiple activities, we recommend the following options:
1. Wild Pacific Trail
This is a relatively easy trail due to its flat landscape. It runs along the coast and has amazing views of Barkley Sound and the small islands dotting the coastline around Ucluelet. There are two options. One is the Wild Pacific Trail full route, which is nearly 9 kilometers total. The other is the Lighthouse Loop which is a small loop of about 2.6 kilometers and only has 56 meters (184 ft) of elevation gain. We recommend the lighthouse loop if you're looking for a small hike to combine with others on the same day or a quiet spot to enjoy the sunset near Tofino.
8.8 km (5.4 mi) total or 2.6 km (1.6 mi) for just lighthouse loop, 56 m (184 ft) of elevation gain
2. Cox Bay Lookout
As mentioned in the section above, this is the best viewpoint in all of Tofino. The route is rough and not very well maintained, but if you are ok with getting a little muddy and scrambling up some roots then you will enjoy this hike. Make sure to bring a flashlight if you do it for sunset as we did! Here is the map on AllTrails.
3 km (1.86 mi), 114 m (374 ft) elevation gain
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3. Rainforest Trail
This is a really nice and easy trail that lies between Ucluelet and Tofino. It features a boardwalk for the entire trail and weaves between giant Douglas fir trees and ferns. There are many signs along the route explaining the history of the forest as well as how old the trees are. We really enjoy this route for taking first-time Tofino tourists as a starter hike. Here is the map on AllTrails.
3.2 km (1.98 mi), 53 m (174 ft) elevation gain
4. Halfmoon Bay Trail
This route is one of our favorite short walks in the area due to its uniqueness and remote beach access! The route mainly goes downhill all the way to the beach with well-maintained boardwalks and half-moon designs scattered throughout the stairwells. There are many artistic and mystical touches on the path and at the bottom, you will be amazed by how perfect the shape of the bay is. It literally looks like a half-moon at night!
2 km (1.24 mi), 40 m (131 ft) elevation gain (on the way back up)
5. Schooner Cove Trail
This is a magical cove that feels off the beaten path. The entrance is about a 10-minute drive past the Rainforest Trail. It has good boardwalks along the top and going down as stairs as well. If you time it right with the tides, you can walk all the way out onto the exposed islands as and see starfish and muscles clinging to the rocks. It's spectacular on a sunny day! This trail was heavily damaged in recent years, so make sure to check the comments on AllTrails before going to make sure it's open.
2 km (1.24 mi), 47 m (154 ft) elevation gain (on the way back up)
We hope you enjoy your 3 days in Tofino! If you have been to Tofino already, what was your favorite spot? Comment below!
More Vancouver Island travel inspiration
Check out our Vancouver Island Travel Guide for more travel inspiration on the island! Also, check out our hiking gear guide and camping packing list if you are planning to hike and camp around Tofino!
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