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Tips On Surfing In Tofino, B.C.

Surfing in Tofino

If you're a surfer in PNW, "surfing in Tofino" should be on your Bucket List ! While surfing itself is pretty mediocre, just the road trip from Seattle to Tofino is an adventure of its own worth adding to your list !

In this post, I want to share a few tips that will hopefully help you plan your epic road trip.

Getting there

Port Angeles to Victoria ferry

Definitely book your round trip ferry tickets online in advance ! First time, we were leaving from Port Angeles, we arrived at 9am for 1:45pm ferry, and couldn't board b/c 75% of tickets were sold online, and the ferry was full with just a few cars before us on a "first come/first served basis". 

Tofino Accommodations


Tofino resorts

Victoria-Tofino destinations are very popular which makes them very expensive. Last minute deals on accommodations will range between $150-$300+ per night. Booked in advance, you can find great deals on Booking.com, and Airbnb for $50-70 a night just minutes away in Victoria downtown, or Tofino.


Tofino camping

Tofino camping free

camping ucluelet

Our second trip to Tofino was a bit spontaneous, so we had to "rough it up" a bit by sleeping in our car.

In Victoria, you can pass out in your car on a public parking lot near Fisherman's Wharf Park just 5 min away from the ferry lending.

Between Victoria and Tofino there are 3 designated rest areas where you can also spend a night.

There is also a Walmart in Port Alberni, and a few pullouts along the shores of Kennedy Lake.

Tofino camping

In Tofino, during surfing season, it's almost impossible to find ANY available camping... so, make reservations ahead of time... or "dirtbagging it".

Tofino hostels are another affordable option for budget conscious surfers/travellers... BUT not during Tofino surfing season. Most Tofino hostels are booked for months in advance by out-of-town dirtbags, and seasonal surf instructors, but even when there are vacancies, prices range from $65-$100+ per night.  

The road trip and things to see/to do

Tofino road trip

As I stated in the beginning, the road trip from Victoria to Tofino is the best part !

Because we were pressed on time, we only stopped at a few spots. 

Our two highlights of the trip were visiting Horne Lake Caves Provincial Park ( a bit out of the way, but totally worth extra time ! ), and swimming in Wally Creek !

Not worth your time - Radar Hill

Tofino radar hill hiking

We love learning about the history of places we visit, and we were looking forward to visiting Radar Hill near Tofino to learn about its history. To our disappointment, there was literally nothing to see ! On the top of the hill there was an observation deck with a small monument. And when it's rainy and foggy, there is literally nothing you can see...

Best surf beaches in Tofino

Tofino surfing and paddleboarding

While you can find a few options, best Tofino surf spots ( in my humble opinion ) are Cox Bay Beach, and ( our favorite ) Long Beach.

Cox Bay beach is considered to be "Tofino’s main surfing destination". B/c it's so popular, it gets really overcrowded, with very limited parking ( well, al least it's FREE ). Plus the walk from the parking lot to the beach is ... a bitch ( especially if you're carrying 11' SUP ).

Cox Bay has the most consistent year-round surf, especially in summer when other beaches may be “flat”. Surfing here is best with a small swell of no more than 2.5 or 3 metres. There are strong rip currents at both ends of the beach.

Long Beach stretches for 16 kilometers, and is situated within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve.
Best part - you can enjoy the views of the ocean right from your car !!

If you’re looking to get up close with beach and van culture, this is where you’re likely to meet surfers of all ages as they change, relax and refuel in their surf vehicle of choice.

Best time to surf Tofino

Tofino surfing and paddleboarding

Surfing Vancouver Island is just like anywhere along the Pacific Coast... Summer is nice, and sunny with mellow surf, while the rest of the year it's pretty miserable, and stormy. But... even in the summer, the weather is often "PNW-ty" - cloudy, rainy, and chilly.

The official Tofino surfing season is May - September.

The best thing about surfing during "off-season"/"bad weather" ? No crowds...

Best Tofino surf shops

Tofino best surf shops

Now I know why the locals call Tofino "the Surf Capital of Canada"... I don't think I saw that many surf shops tucked in one tiny area even in U.S. "surfing capitals" ( California/Hawaii )...

Whether you're thinking about taking surf lessons in Tofino, or need surf rentals, finding a surf shop in Tofino is one thing you won't have to worry about ! There are 9 surf shops/schools to choose from that offer surf lessons for riders of all levels from first timers to intermediate. 

And if you've ever wanted to try SUP surfing, I'd definitely recommend Tofino Paddle Surf ! Even if you're still intimidated by getting into the waves, Tofino Paddle Surf offers several guided tours for paddlers of all levels for the perfect chance to experience the wildlife, scenery and excitement of paddle boarding in this unique and inspiring ecosystem.

Tofino surf report

PNW weather is unpredictable... so are surfing conditions, and Tofino is no exception. But if you're a beginner, you shouldn't worry too much. During Tofino surfing season ( May - September ) you can always count on decent waves, and a few sun rays. 

Things to do in Tofino after surfing

What to do in Tofino

Ahmm... not a whole lot... I expected Tofino to be a combination of Westport & Ocean Shores : great to hang out after surfing with fun things to do and to see around town. In reality, the town looked..."authentic" ( let's leave it at that ), and the walk around town took us about 30 min. Here is a short video that will literally take you through the entire town:

Other Tofino adventures

Tofino whale watching

Tofino bear watching

In both Victoria and Tofino whale watching tours are super popular. We went whale watching in Victoria, and it was... quite boring ( the boats are not allowed to approach the whales closer than 200 feet... so, basically, for half an hour you're staring in the distance hoping to catch a glimpse of a whale's fin ).

In Tofino you'll get a chance to go bear watching, but I think it will be cheaper just to go to a zoo.

TIP: Skip whale/bear watching, and instead, opt in for an amazing adventure to Hot Springs Cove !
Hot Springs Cove is a natural hot spring located in Maquinna Provincial Park in the remote north end of Clayoquot Sound. Hot Springs Cove is reached by walking a 2 kilometre-long wooden boardwalk trail from the dock. The springs are open year round and accessible by taking the Hot Springs Explorer from Tofino.
Speed up through waves in an inflatable zodiac boat while enjoying sensational scenery, and your chance to spot orcas, bears, and other wildlife ! Then soak in steaming-hot natural hot springs !

Bucket List Adventure -  kayak bear watching tour !

Black bear kayak

Black Bear Kayak is the only Tofino operator that offers exciting day, and multi day sea kayaking tours. From their site:
When the tide withdraws in Clayoquot Sound, the black bears step out from the tree line and scour the rocky shore for their next meal. You and your guide will set out from Tofino harbour at this time with kayaks secured to the roof of your shuttle boat.
Once a bear is spotted, it's time to get in the water!
With you in your kayak, and a paddle in your hand, your group will move along the shore, keeping a respectful and safe distance from the bear. You will never forget the time you kayaked with the bears !
In conclusion - while the goal of "surfing in Tofino" might not be "Bucket List worthy", the road trip from Victoria to Tofino will definitely create amazing, unforgettable memories !

Surfing Vancouver Island

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