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Last updated on May 15th, 2024 at 02:27 pm

A re you curious about visiting the increasingly popular destination of Tofino on Vancouver Island in Canada? Tofino is definitely worth visiting, with so many incredible things to do, including nature-based activities, ecotourism experiences, and cultural connections. But, as it becomes a more popular destination, it is important to visit mindfully both for a more enriching experience for yourself and the local community. So, as you’ve come to expect from me, this isn’t just another generic guide to Tofino. My immersive travel guide for Tofino goes beyond a simple list of things to do; it takes a deep dive into the wonderful activities centered around slow and sustainable tourism in this charming beach-side town. This responsible traveler’s guide to Tofino, featuring all the best things to do in Tofino, information about the cultural and natural ecology, best eco accommodations, and plant-based restaurants, will ensure you have everything you need to plan and enjoy a relaxing and rejuvenating itinerary, immersing yourself in nature and cultural ecotourism all while supporting local businesses and conservation efforts. 

Tofino Things to do and Sustainable Travel Guide

When I first moved to Vancouver, Canada, I kept hearing about this incredible place called Tofino. It seemed like everyone I met recommended going. As someone skeptical of places being overhyped and grappling with tourism booms, I was convinced it couldn’t be as good as everyone said. And, wow, I am so glad I gave myself the chance to be wrong. Tofino is absolutely worth visiting. After spending our 6th anniversary in Tofino, Ganesh and I fell in love with its raw and wild charm. Our memorable experience was partly because we discovered the perfect way to enjoy Tofino to the fullest—slow and sustainable travel.

Most people we talked to only visited Tofino for a day or two, skimming the surface and rushing through the highlights. While Tofino is truly great no matter how much time you have to dedicate to visiting, its charm comes when you embrace the mindset of slow travel. 

Tonquin Beach Trail Tofino Canada

Now, when I say the slow travel mindset, I don’t mean you need a full month to dedicate yourself to one place. For me, slow travel is mentally slowing down and connecting with a place’s culture, nature, and authenticity. Doing this with more time is certainly easier, but I’ve had slow travel experiences with a long weekend. Tofino is a place for sitting and watching the slow burn of a summer sunset for hours without the urgency to be anywhere or do anything. It is a place for forest bathing and soaking up the mental and physical benefits of green trees blowing in the wind. A place to sit and watch the waves crash endlessly. You can lose yourself in time, but finding an intimate connection to the people, culture, and natural landscape makes Tofino special.

This guide covers all the basics, like the best things to do in Tofino, but we will dig deeper and learn about the environment and culture. I hope to help you craft a sustainable itinerary in Tofino to enhance your experience and benefit the community in Tofino. We will start with Tofino’s culture and ecology and discuss responsible tourism to help connect you to the place. Then, we will cover ecotourism experiences, sustainable things to do, the best food, and where to stay. I’ll give you a sample itinerary at the end, but I always encourage you to go with the flow in a way that works for you.

Quick Look

  • Tofino is a charming seaside community on the western shores of Vancouver Island.
  • With laid-back surf vibes, incredible nature, and rich cultural history, Tofino is a great choice for slow travel.
  • There are many things to do for active ecotourism adventures, Indigenous culture and art, and taking it easy for a relaxing and rejuvenating stay.
  • This covers everything you need to know and things to do to plan a fun enriching time in Tofino.

Tofino Culture and Ecology

Tofino and the surrounding land is a truly remarkable place steeped in history, culture, and incredible nature. The connection between land and Indigenous peoples in Tofino is hard to separate. Tofino’s First Nations culture emphasizes nature, conservation, and responsible tourism principles. As you explore and learn about the people here, you will pick up invaluable tips on being mindful visitors to these lands. 

Land Acknowledgement 

For thousands of years and still today, Tofino has been home to the Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation, part of the Nuu-chah-nulth People. These nations are the traditional stewards of the land and thrived here as skilled fishers, carvers, and caretakers of the environment pre-colonization. 

During colonization, the Nuu-chah-nulth People suffered horrible cultural losses in residential schools where thousands of children died and a generation of culture forced from them. As this happened, almost all of Vancouver Island’s old-growth forest was being logged at an alarming pace. This catastrophic impact on culture and environment means many languages spoken in the area have been lost. 

Anchor Park Tofino Totem Pole

But one word from the Nuu-chah-nulth language remains strong and present: “Cawakniš,” which conveys the sentiment that we are all one and connected. Elders who remember their history teach this word that protecting biodiversity and the spirit of a place is healing. I think this embodies the principles of being a good traveler when we visit. 

Today, the Nuu-chah-nulth People have 14 individual nations, of which Tofino’s Tla-o-qui-aht is just one. I’ll share many opportunities to see art and engage in cultural tourism in Tofino to learn more. 

Tofino’s Ecology

The nature in and around Tofino is unlike anywhere else I’ve been, even in other parts of BC and Canada. Nuu-chah-nulth means “along the mountains and sea.” And Tofino is certainly a place where mountains, sea, and forest are so intimately intertwined that they are all parts of a whole.  

You’ll encounter several environments when visiting Tofino, each special and exciting. 

Temperate Rainforest 

Temperate rainforests are rich biodiverse havens that produce massive amounts of oxygen-storing carbon. The lavish green witch’s hair lichen has survived thousands of years, a testament to the excellent air quality. These damp forests are known for their tall cedar, hemlock, and fir trees, bears, wolves, cougars, deer, fungi, and ferns. 

Bogs and Wetlands

The shorepine bog system is like a stunted forest. The bog is full of acidic soil, and with minimal nutrients, the plants aren’t very large. But, the plants you find are cool, like carnivorous plants. The thick carpet of sphagnum moss is hundreds of years old and thick and an excellent carbon sink. 

Shorepine Bog Pacific Rim National Park

The area’s wetlands are globally recognized as critical habitats for migrating birds and marine animals. They support thousands of species, from wolves and bears to whales, crabs, and birds.

Ocean and Beaches

The coastal system near Tofino is one of the most alluring. Rocky shorelines and wind-swept trees cut smooth, sandy beaches. Hidden between the rocks are hundreds of tidal creatures, mussels, starfish, anemones, crabs, and more. Shorebirds migrate through the region as seals bark on rookeries and whales spout in the distance. 

Tofino viewpoint

National Park and UNESCO Status

With its rich culture and incredible nature, the area around Tofino is home to protected areas like the Pacific Rim National Park and the Clayoquot Sound UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. These areas aim to balance conservation, recreation, and subsistence use by the First Nations.

It wasn’t always this way; the War in the Woods took place in and around Tofino, as the First Nations battled extensive logging corporations that all but removed Canada’s old-growth forest, focusing on profit over conservation. It was an intense fight for environmental protection and Indigenous rights in Canada. Learn about this battle that made a lasting impact on modern-day Canada.

When is the Best Time to Visit Tofino?

Tofino and the Pacific Rim National Park can be visited at any time of the year. However, in winter and early or late shoulder season, your options for activities are slightly limited. I found the spring and autumn shoulder seasons just outside the peak season are perfect. I visited in May, and we dealt with very few crowds and enjoyed all the tours and amenities open for business.

Tofino beaches and rocky coastline

Summer, June – August: Peak Season. The best weather for hitting the beach and outdoor dining. However, it can be very busy, especially on weekends. Expect crowds, long waits for dining, and advanced bookings for activities. Peak summer rates apply.

Shoulder Season, April-May and September-October: Most places are starting to open or close, so double-check hours of operation before visiting. You can enjoy most restaurants, hotels, and attractions without many other people for a more relaxing stay. Weather can be temperamental, with more rain and a chill. But in May we had endless sun!

Winter, November – March: Low season rates at hotels, but many restaurants or attractions might be closed or operating with limited staff and hours. Expect rain and storms. Perfect for a cozy cabin getaway without many people at a lower cost.

How to Be a Responsible Traveler in Tofino

As is the case with many beautiful places touched by tourism, Tofino grapples with the negative impacts of tourism, especially overtourism. The tourism boom hit Tofino as social media spread the impacts of the alluring picturesque beaches and laid-back surf culture. But, as more people suddenly visited the region, Tofino, as a small community, lacked the money and resources to develop adequate infrastructure to support more tourism. 

One way this manifests is a lack of water and sewage management. Nearly every summer during peak tourism season, Tofino experiences drought and cannot support tourism and residents. The residents are often left paying the price, going into water-saving mode, while hotels monopolize water resources. 

Tofino Middle Beach slow sustainable travel

Waste water, particularly sewage, has become a bit of a problem. Without adequate facilities to manage sewage, many hotels, businesses, and others resorted to dumping sewage into the ocean. Gross factor aside, but is very bad for the environment. Your poo contains a lot of nutrients, and when that nutrient load (hehe) gets dumped (hehe) into the ocean, we have what is called eutrophication. Nutrients create a boom of organisms, and while that sounds great, they soak up all the oxygen and change the PH levels of the water, making it more acidic. This hurts shellfish, eating away at their shell and causing many other issues, like E.Coli outbreaks, which you can read about. 

Tofino is desperate for better infrastructure to manage tourism, so in response, the city implemented a new tourist tax. You might notice This small fee tacked onto your bill at a hotel. Many places do this, and the funds go toward Tofino’s new water facilities. Funding for the new wastewater treatment facility will combine this tourist tax, residential tax, and government funding. Participating actively in paying this tax helps ensure you are a responsible traveler and engaging in your destination. 

In addition, many people visit via large tour buses and only stay for a day. Spending more time at a destination has been determined to reduce negative impacts by ensuring you connect to a destination and can practice sustainable travel behaviors. 

Sustainable Travel Tips for Tofino

  • Stay longer than a night – we stayed a full week
  • Engage in cultural ecotourism
  • Book eco accommodation
  • Visit during the shoulder or off-season
  • Support Indigenous businesses and community development
  • Practice water conservation – reuse hotel towels, consider your shower length
  • Bring your reusables to help you reduce unnecessary waste
  • Rent a bike to get around Tofino to minimize carbon output

And engage in these slow and sustainable things in Tofino, BC, Canada.

Sustainable Things To Do in Tofino

Support Tribal Allies 

Part of regenerative tourism is ensuring the communities you visit are better than when you arrived. This can be done in many ways, but one such is funding Indigenous-led conservation and land management. Tofino is a network of delicate ecosystems that we learned about above. The traditional owners are the people who know how to protect the salmon watersheds, coastal dunes, rainforests, and bogs. 

The Tribal Park Allies is a voluntary program in which many hotels, businesses, and restaurants agree to pay a portion of their profits to the tribal council supporting Indigenous land management in Tofino at no extra cost to you. Simply support a participating business and buy goods and services as you would normally, and the company will make payments to the Tribal Park Allies.

Tofino snack board from Gaia Grocery

You can find a full list of participating businesses online. Whether you are looking for sundries, art, food, locally made gifts, or activity providers, there is an option for you to give back while enjoying the very best of Tofino. The above picture is the snackboard we put together from shopping at Tribal Park Ally Gaia Grocery!

Ride/Walk/Roll the New Multi-Use Trail

The last time I visited Tofino, we were fortunate enough to be among the first to bike the newly opened multi-use trail that runs through the entire Pacific Rim National Park. The trail is called ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (pronounced: ups-cheek ta-shee), and it means “going the right direction on the path. This new trail connects to the existing multi-use trail in Tofino, making it the perfect full-day adventure for people who love biking or long walks! The trail allows you to ride from Tofino and see Pacific Rim National Park’s major stops and highlights.

Riding Bikes in the Pacific Rim National Park

The trail was created in partnership with Tofino’s First Nations and was developed to maintain cultural and environmental integrity. As you ride, you’ll see plenty of First Nations signs and information. Boardwalks allow for rare amphibians to move about freely and protect salmon habitat. All these cultural and eco elements make this a great ecotourism experience in Tofino. 

Biking Pacific Rim National Park

You can bring your bike (highly recommended if you have bikes and a car carrier) or rent a bike. If you’re renting a bike, I suggest an E-Bike as it will allow you to ride the entire trail without wasting too much time and energy. If biking isn’t your thing, you can also walk, stroll, or roll down part of the trail.

Read my entire post dedicated to planning a full day biking through Pacific Rim National Park from start to finish!

Black Bear Kayaking

Imagine kayaking in the calm, sheltered waters of Clayoquot Sound, surrounded by forested Islands that still maintain their old-growth status – a true rarity on Vancouver Island. These old-growth forests are home to a myriad of incredible species, such as the industrious black bear. While kayaking, these bears will often emerge from the forest to lift rocks. Hidden under the rocks are crabs and fish stranded by the receding tides. You can sit, bobbin in the water, quietly watching the bears as they quickly demolish a seafood buffet. 

This experience is one of the few low-impact ecotourism experiences that allow you to observe the bears from a safe yet close distance without the loud and disruptive motor boats. TJ, the owner, has intimate knowledge of Tofino, the bears, conservation, and the surrounding Clayoquot Sound UNESCO biosphere reserve. 

Your day starts with a boating ride to the sound before you anchor and load up in kayaks. This is a small group excursion of only 6-8 people so as not to be disruptive and safe around the bears. Kayaking with TJ and watching these incredible bears was easily among my top 10 tourism or outdoor experiences. I highly recommend booking this in advance to ensure you can have the experience of a lifetime!

Go Forest Bathing

Forest bathing originated in Japan, but British Columbians fully embraced the practice. Many forested trails connecting Tofino were designed with this concept in mind. Forest bathing is simply walking through a forest, engaging all your senses for a mindful, restorative, and relaxing experience. 

Rainforest Trail Pacific Rim National Park

Doing so can boost your mental and physical benefits. While science backs this up, you only need to enjoy a slow walk through the forest to feel the rejuvenating aspects. If you stay at Middle Beach, they have created a network of trails on their property just for forest bathing. If you are staying elsewhere, just head into the woods on a nearby designated trail and slow down. As yourself,

  • “What do you see?” Is it the sunlight filtered through the swaying branches, giving energy to the sword fern underbrush? 
  • “What do you hear?” Are they the calls of songbirds flitting from branch to branch or the rustling leaves?
  • “What do you smell?” Can you smell the cedar trees wafting their rich earthen scent through the art or the salt from the ocean spray?
  • “What do you feel?” Is th moss growing on the trees as soft and supple as it looks? Check-in with yourself – what are you feeling emotionally and mentally?
  • Maybe skip the whole – “what do you taste?” unless you are 1000% certain what you are tasting will not kill you like the native and edible salal and thimble berries. 

Indigenous-led Wildlife Tours

Indigenous-led ecotourism experiences are inherently regenerative for the First Nations community and yourself. Clayoquot Wild is an Indigenous-owned and operated excursion company. They offer wildlife and whale-watching tours, including a 2-2.5-hour tour where, depending on the season and environment, you can see gray and humpback whales, orcas, otters, sea lions, porpoises, puffins, and more!

Black Bear Kayaking Tofino Ecotourism activity

You can opt for one of their longer tours if you want a more grounded connection to the forest and nature. On these tours, you can go forest bathing and soak in a natural hot spring after a scenic wildlife boating trip.

You will always have access to Indigenous guides, like elder Moses Martin, who will be knowledgeable about the surrounding ecology and culture.  

Read out to them to help you plan a custom tour as well!

Hit the Beach – Tide Pool Exploration

After a restorative walk through the forest, find your way to one of Tofino’s many beaches. A simple stroll from one end to the other is enjoyable enough, but if you visit during a lower tide, you can carefully enjoy the tide pools teaming with life. Without touching or taking anything, explore the tide pools and rocky shorelines. Enjoy the colorful red and green anemones, bright starfish, scuttling crabs, and layers of barnacles and mussels. During low tide, you can also access some unique and somewhat hidden areas of the beaches – though do be careful to monitor the oncoming tides so as not to get stuck.

Bring a zero-waste picnic and blanket and enjoy the sunset with a charcuterie board from Picnic Charcuterie. You can also select local cheeses, jams, crackers, and fruit from Gaia Grocery (Tribal Park Ally). You can also stroll barefoot, dipping your feet into the cool ocean. 

The best beaches in Tofino are:

  • Long Beach – great for surfing, long walks on the beach, picnics and sunbathing in the summer. 
  • Middle Beach – Perfect for a quiet sunset stroll. 
  • Cox Bay Beach – An incredible scenic beach that is also great for surfing and walks 
  • Tonquin Beach – An excellent beach closer to downtown with many nooks and crannies to explore. Great for swimming, picnics, and reading a book at the beach. 
  • Mackenzie Beach – A beach that dramatically changes with the tides, and is worth visiting at low and high tide (but this applies to most beaches).
  • Comber’s Beach – A secluded and natural beach with seabirds and seals. It is protected, so dogs are not allowed to protect wildlife. Access is a 1 km hike.

Tonquin Beach Tofino Eco Things to Do

Catch an Incredible Sunset

The western side of Tofino, Middle Beach, and Long Beach are the perfect places to watch the slow burn of the summer sunset. With nothing between you and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean, save for a few islands, and the long days of Canadian summers, the sunsets in Tofino are on another level. We saw some Indigenous art depicting the power of the sunsets here, and while the art itself moved us, it wasn’t until we saw one of those sunsets that we understood the emotion behind this experience. 

Sun set in Tofino Things to do watch the sunset

You can make it a nightly ritual to watch the sky turn red as the sun slowly descends below the horizon. At the very least, catch one sunset during your stay. 

Go Storm Watching

If you embrace sustainable travel practices to the fullest and visit during the off-season winter, then catching a slow sunset might not be in the books for you. With the sun setting early in winter and storms frequently in the weather forecast, storm watching is the perfect way to pass the time. The storms in Tofino are famous for their might and power, crafting a unique ecosystem along the coastal cliffs with krummholz trees – or trees stripped of their foliage and molded by extreme winds.

krummholz trees from Tofino storms

While you certainly don’t want to be caught outside in one of these storms, they are no reason to stay away from Tofino. Imagine sitting in your treehouse with a private bathtub overlooking the ocean. As the storm rolls in, you curl up with the fireplace and a good book, listening to the pitter-patter of rain. I find this type of weather perfect for creatives, so bust out that journal, travel paint kit, knitting needles, or whatever creative endeavor of yours that needs the rain as a muse. 

Cozy Bay Beach is one of the best places for storm watching as the waves are some of the largest and most dramatic. But practice safe behaviors if you head out into a storm and stay away from the water. 

Appreciate Roy Vickers’s Art

A traditional-style longhouse sits in the middle of downtown Tofino. With no doors or windows, you might wonder what’s inside. Follow your curiosity and venture in for an incredible art gallery by renowned First Nations (Tsimshian, Haida and Heiltsuk) Canadian artist Roy Vickers. Roy is not just a painter and a digital media artist but also an author, poet, and keeper of cultural stories. 

Roy Vicker's Art Gallery and Longhouse in Tofino

Many of his paintings are accompanied by a story from his life or a cultural story. As you enjoy his art, read the accompanying story to enhance the art and your cultural awareness of the region. Learn about eagles and their mating dance accompanying an art piece about love. See what the moon means as it rises over the Clayoquot Sound. Smile while enjoying a story from Roy about his adventures fishing. Once you’ve made your way around the entire Longhouse, visit the gift shop to take home your piece of art or book.

Hike the Tonquin Trail

If you are looking for a fun and easy way to get into nature and stretch your legs, walk the Tonquin Trail. The coastal trail winds through the forest and up along cliffs with scenic vistas overlooking secluded beaches. While not particularly challenging, there are quite a few stairs, and you should bring trail runners or sturdy shoes as this is a rocky and root-filled path. 

Tofino Forest Trail Forest Bathing

The trail has three trailheads that you can choose from. Middle Beach is perfect if you stay at the lodge, the Tofino Community Hall, Tonquin Parking, or closer to downtown. We started from Middle Beach and headed up into the forest. Along the trail are plenty of signs with information to help you learn about the Indigenous culture and history and the region’s natural ecology. Take time to hike down to Third Beach, a small, secluded beach. However, the beach view from the trail above is stunning for those who don’t want the extra elevation gain. 

Tofino Beaches on Tonquin Trail

The final point is Tonquin Beach, a fantastic sandy beach with caves and plenty of room for enjoying a picnic, a dip in the ocean, or a stroll. As you emerge into the downtown area, grab some food at the food truck park before returning.

Check out the Farmers Market 

If you visit Tofino in the summer, you don’t want to miss the Tofino Market. This Saturday market happens every Saturday downtown on the village green from 10 am – 2 pm starting in late May and lasts until October. Peruse more than 30 primarily local vendors, including eco-friendly pottery, kelp art, jewelry, Indigenous cedar baskets and art, and some local foods. Enjoy live music as you explore the market and pick up that perfect sustainable and one-of-a-kind souvenir or gift. 

Welcome to Tofino

Visit Visit Tofino

If you like a little personalization for your adventures, stop by Visit Tofino to say hello to their guest services. If Jess is working, Susanna says hello! The whole team at Visit Tofino is incredibly welcoming and knowledgeable. As a bonus, they are committed to sustainable tourism in Tofino. They will offer personalized recommendations based on your interests that ensure you support a regenerative tourism experience in Tofino. 

  Pacific Rim National Park Bike Trail Biking Tofino

Go or Try Surfing

Tofino is Canada’s surfing capital, so what better place to enjoy riding the surf? Long Beach is the most popular beach for surfing, with excellent waves catching the eye of surfers worldwide. The easy surf culture started here in Long Beach, and you will be among like-minded folks. Beach shacks constructed with driftwood line the shores as a shelter for the beach.

Tofino things to do - try surfing

If you are a surfer, make sure you bring your surfboard along. You can book a lesson if you don’t know how to surf. There are a handful of schools in the area. Tofino Surf School has been around for 15 years and has amazing reviews. 

Visit Pacific Rim National Park

Tofino is great as it is close to one of BC’s national parks, Pacific Rim. The national park is divided into three units, two of which are remote and largely inaccessible. The Long Beach unit is easy to access from Tofino. It is a unique national park with many incredible ecosystems, but it is different from the national parks I am used to, as there isn’t an extensive recreational infrastructure. Before visiting the park, stop by the Visitor Center to purchase a national park pass and get your bearings. From there, you can drive to the various stops or bike the multi-use path, which was my first thing to do in Tofino!

Pacific Rim National Park

Make sure you visit the best stops in the Pacific Rim National Park. 

Shorepine Bog—This 800m boardwalk takes you through the fascinating shorepine bog ecosystem I talked about earlier in the post. A flat, easy circuit takes you into the bog from a parking lot or bike lock area. Stay on the boardwalk, and you will see incredibly delicate and rare flora, from carnivorous sundew to Sphagnum moss, northern starflower, Western bog-laurel, and shorepine.

Rainforest Trail—The rainforest trail is split into two 1km trails that start on either side of Pacific Rim Highway. Park your car or bike and venture down trail one of two for an interpretative walk through the lush rainforest. Enjoy massive towering trees, the chattering of raves and other birds, incredible moss and lichen, and informative signs. The trail is short, but there are quite a few steep stairs. 

Radar Hill—This site was used as a radar station during WWII and now serves as a historic site, scenic viewpoint, and memorial for a battalion that fought during the Korean War. It is a must-visit for any modern history buffs and has one of the best views in the area. It is a short, accessible walk to the memorial, which overlooks the Pacific Ocean and Clayoquot Sound. 

Disconnect and Go Offline

This is your reminder to disconnect, relax, and recover from whatever stress exists. Some of our best moments in Tofino were sitting on our treehouse balcony with a blanket, a DIY cheese board from Gaia Grocery, a bottle of wine, and a good book – or taking a slow morning to drink our coffee. Ganesh and I would sit for hours, make sure we disconnected, and let the stress of our lives melt away. While I am giving you so many amazing things to do and see in Tofino, take time to relax, do nothing, and enjoy the slow life mentality, even if it means you skip a thing or two!

Middle Beach Lodge Treehouse

Join a Beach Clean Up

Tofino has some of the most pristine and well-kept beaches I’ve seen (other than Australia). However, ocean trash and some local waste end up on the beaches. 

The Surfrider Foundation and the Tla-o-qui-aht Nation partnered to support a beach clean-up challenge. If you do a 5-minute clean-up, post what you find to social media with #surfrider #5-minutebeachclean.

Tofino Beach - clean beaches

If you want something more social, join Washed Up Wednesdays hosted by Tourism Tofino from July to August. Walk, bike, or take the free Tofino shuttle to Chesterman, Mackenzie, or Cox Bay Beach to join a clean-up. By participating, you have a chance to win a stay at Wickaninnish Inn!

Support Small Businesses in Downtown

Downtown has so many amazing small businesses selling arts, crafts, and products from locals. Grab your reusable tote and meander the few streets downtown wherever you fancy. Some of our favorites that we visited were:

  • LoveCraft Art Gallery for art, including paintings, photos, homewares, and some jewelry and accessories.
  • Caravan Beach Shop is a small boutique with outdoor gear, candles, tea, books, hats, water bottles, and more. 
  • Two Trees Home and Gift has clothing, soaps, art, cards, candles, and other things that make thoughtful gifts and souvenirs. 
  • Selkies Coastal Creations is locally owned and offers local and imported ocean-friendly, eco-friendly products.  (Tribal Park Ally)
  • Mermaid Tales Bookshop is a cute bookstore downtown and a great opportunity to support a local small book dealer. (Tribal Park Ally)
  • Sea Wench Naturals is a fantastic shop for natural beauty products made with sustainable sourced local ingredients. (Trival Park Ally)

Tofino downtown small businesses

Visit Anchor Park 

Stop by Anchor Park for an incredible view of the Clayoquot Sound, informational signs, and a monumental pole. The area also has some fun art created with ocean trash. It is a small pack, but the view makes it worth stopping by if you are in the area.   

Elk Cedar

Not far from Anchor Park is the Elk Cedar tree. This ancient tree is over 800 years old and is one of the oldest standing trees in the region. It was marked to be removed due to rot, but the local community came together to save it. A brace might hold up the tree, but it still has foliage and is hanging there. It is worth seeing one of the ancients.  

Himwitsa Lodge

The Himwitsa Lodge is an accommodation if you are looking for an Indigenous-owned hotel in the area. However, you should stop by even if you aren’t staying there, as the lower section is a gift store primarily featuring First Nations art and gifts. The items here are on the higher end, so this is a great spot to get a new statement art piece for your home.

Downtown Tofino

Kayaking – Mears Island

If you want to try kayaking but don’t want to do a full Black Bear Kayaking excursion, you can rent kayaks from downtown Tofino. Tofino Sea Kayaking (Tribal Park Ally) has affordable rentals for $25 daily. You have the freedom to take the kayak out into a designated area directed by staff members.

Kayaking in Tofino

I also suggest checking out their day tours. The excursion to Mears Island is very popular. If you like hiking, you can combine this tour with a hike to the Big Tree on Mears Island. For those who love to get off the beaten path, they also offer a hidden places tour.

Tofino Clayoquot Heritage Museum

The community-run museum is small but well-curated. If you are a history buff keen to learn about Tofino’s natural and cultural heritage, stop by the bright blue building downtown. You’ll find Indigenous and colonial artifacts, stories, and more that give context to the surrounding area.

Tofino Mudflats

The Tofino Mudflats and Wetlands are one of the most important wetland communities in Western Canada. They are a critical habitat for migratory birds that travel across the Pacific. As a rich biodiversity haven and nursery for crabs, worms, and shrimp, they are a favorite place for birds, such as sandpipers, as they migrate across great distances.    

Tofino Tide pool things to see and do in Tofino

Nearly every species in and around Tofino relies on this mudflat and wetland in some way, including marine mammals like seals and porpoises, black bears, wolves, cougars, deer, mink, otters, and more. It shows the connectedness of these species and the critical food web network that starts in our wetlands. 

DO NOT WALK ON THE MUD. You will sink, but there is pedestrian infrastructure, like forest paths and boardwalks, to explore a small part of the area. Bring your binoculars and camera, practice bear and wildlife safety with a bear bell, bring a buddy, and don’t wear headphones. 

Naa’Waya’Sum Gardens & Cafe

The Naa’Waya’Sum Gardens is an exciting new spot in Tofino. Well, it isn’t new, new. This area is formerly the Tofino Botanical Gardens. Tofino is going through a transition period where many sights, land, and attractions are being handed over to the Indigenous council to manage. That means these gardens have been returned to the traditional owners. After several years of being closed partly due to the pandemic, ownership changes, and renovations, they are set to re-open in the summer of 2024. They were still closed when I was last in Tofino, but I am excited to return and visit.

Tofino Beach

The new gardens aim to be an Indigenous botanical garden with totem pole carvings, Indigenous knowledge, native plants, and wildlife viewing platforms. Much like the interconnectedness many First Nations value between humans and nature, you will see that woven into the gardens. Explore the 10-acre gardens and bask in the glory of native and some imported plants, looming cedars marked with Indigenous use, and get some of that forest bathing in the books. 

While at the gardens, don’t miss the newly opened Costa Rica Cafe, which will eventually be given a culturally appropriate name. The cafe will feature local and seasonal foods. 

Long Beach Nature Tours

If you are an active outdoor enthusiast but are a little nervous about setting out on a bike hike or forest trek yourself, hire the ethical, mindful, and local experts at Long Beach Nature Tours (Tribal Park Ally). Their conservation-based approach to wildlife tours, hiking treks, and cultural activities means you can see the best of Vancouver Island around Tofino with expert guides while giving back to the community and nature. 

Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park

Whether you hire them to take you on a full-day challenging hike at one of Vancouver Island’s most scenic climbs or you want to keep things simple by bird watching, Long Beach has you covered! Check out their conservation magazine to see the incredible work they are doing as well. 

Cox Bay Lookout

Cox Bay Look out is not an official hiking trail, and I hesitate to mention it. However, I chose to hike it, engaging in leave no trace and responsible hiking principles. If you choose to hike this trail, remember that it is not a designated trail and can be dangerous and muddy. This is a delicate ecosystem; do your best to stay on the trodden areas and not off the unofficial trail to avoid erosion. Do not leave any trash behind, and make sure you are a confident hiker. I hope to see Tofino develop this trail.

Cox Bay Lookout Tofino

Best Restaurants in Tofino

Now that you have sufficiently worked up an appetite let’s explore the Tofinos food scene. As a vegetarian, I only suggest the best restaurants in Togino that are vegetarian-friendly, with many plant-based options and responsibly sourced food.

Vegan Food – Bravacados

We ate Bravacados twice during our stay. This vegan-only restaurant serves to comfort and pub-style food, including vegan grilled cheese, bao buns, cauli wings, burgers, salads, and breakfast! They even have a vegan version of Canada’s classic Caesar drink, traditionally made with clam juice. Bravacados is relaxed and cozy; they are a small team, so be patient and kind when dining.

Bravacados Vegan Food in Tofino

Food Truck Park 

At the western end of Campbell Street, you will find a container park with food trucks and vendors. Several vegetarian options are here, from veggie poke-style bowls to vegan ice cream and salad stands. There is also food here for flexitarians, but the vegan options are great!

Food Truck vendors in Tofino

Nass Foods

Nass Foods is an Indigenous-owned seafood market and store. If you visit their harvest, you can get fresh kelp cubes to die for! Seriously, kelp is so good. They also have smoked kelp, smoked salmon, oysters, freshly caught fish, and crab. If you aren’t in the market for fresh seafood, grab some kelp-based seasonings and hot sauces to take home!

Naas Foods Tofino Indigenous Seafood

Harbourview Coffeehouse 

Some of the best coffee in Tofino is at Harbourview Coffeehouse and Giftstore. Order a flat while drinking on site and sit on the balcony with incredible views over the house and harbors. Take time to enjoy their little gift shop as well. Trust me, this is the best coffee in the area—we looked!

Harbourview Coffee in Tofino

Middle Beach Lodge

While the Middle Beach Lodge has one of the nicest restaurants in Tofino, it doesn’t appear vegetarian-friendly at first glance! But worry not—we had one of our best meals there, and the chefs created a three-course vegetarian meal for us, including a mushroom Wellington, beat salad, and cobbler. You must email or call them in advance, make a reservation, and inform them of your dietary restrictions. Otherwise, if you are a seafood lover, they have a set menu that changes with the day of the week (e.g., Monday—Halibut).

Middle Beach vegetarian food

Fog in the Wolf 

One of Tofino’s more fine dining establishments, Fog in the Wolf, is great for foodies. Unfortunately, their vegetarian menu isn’t great, as they specialize in seafood. So we joined them at the bar for several fancy cocktails and a fresh seaweed salad. 

Basic Goodness Pizzeria

We grabbed their pizzas to go one day and returned them to our room. They are solid pizzas by BC standards—how I feel about pizza in BC is worthy of a blog post (hint: it’s not great). But I liked basic goodness, plus they have a vegan and vegetarian pizza option! 

Tacofino

One of the biggest things to come out of Tofino is Tacofino! What started at this very location as a humble little food truck has spread across BC to Vancouver and beyond! Don’t miss these great tacos out of a fun food truck. They have vegan and vegetarian tacos available!

Tofino Brewery

We LOVE Tofino Brewery. Unfortunately, we just ran out of their Kelp Stout, so we must head back to Tofino to stock up. The Tofino Brewery is large, with plenty of indoor and outdoor seating. Make sure you order a sampler to try all their fantastic beers and don’t miss that kelp stout, made with Vancouver Island kelp, that I was talking about! Come for the beer; if you are lucky, they will have their Japanese-inspired food truck up and running. 

Tofino Brewery Best Things to do in Tofino

The Shed

This is another popular spot, and it’s decent. With casual, no-fuss pub food and great outdoor seating. It is a nice spot for a quick bite and a beer. They only have two main vegetarian options: a burger and crispy tofu. 

Common Loaf Bakery

If you want a simple but wholesome meal or baked good, stop by Common Loaf (Tribal Park Ally). This little bakery is also a bit of a social enterprise. It is women-owned and supports many First Nation staff. It is in an adorably colored heritage building with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free options. They are also a 

Where to Stay in Tofino

Tofino has dozens of hotels and accommodations to choose from. But, here are a few of Tofino’s best hotels and accommodation options for sustainable travel in Tofino, depending on your travel style and preferences. 

Middle Beach Lodge

The best place to stay in Tofino is Middle Beach Lodge. We booked an entire week in one of the newly opened treehouses at Middle Beach Lodge. I honestly can not recommend this place enough. We enjoyed the notable classic sea-side rustic luxury Middle Beach is known for but in our very own private eco treehouse. I woke up and fell asleep every day feeling utter and total peacefulness as we heard the waves lapping and crashing the rocky shore and beach just below the tree house. We would start the day with a slow morning enjoying coffee on the balcony and end each night with the fireplace roaring, a glass of wine, and the vibrant sun dipping below the horizon.

MIddle Beach Lodge Treehouse

The tree houses were designed and built with eco-friendly materials to reduce the impact on the forest. They are stilted to allow for minimal tree removal and wildlife impact. 

To get to the main lodge, we walked through a forested path designed to be minimally invasive to the forest and encourage forest bathing. The main lodge has a wonderful common room with cozy outdoor and indoor seating where you can order a cocktail or play a board game with friends. Breakfast was included, and their cinnamon rolls are to die for!

Middle Beach Lodge Treehouse

Dinner can be booked specially, and while it appears they only offer seafood specials nightly, upon request and with advanced notice, they cater to vegetarians – we had a fantastic vegetarian meal with them!

You are minutes away from an almost private beach, Middle Beach. 

Whether you get a treehouse or a room in their original lodge, you’ll love staying at Middle Beach.

BOOK MIDDLE BEACH LODGE 

Tofino Pacific Sands

Tofino Pacific Sands is probably one of the most popular hotels in Tofino, and for a good reason. The Pacific Sands is the best choice if you like inclusive packages combining accommodation and experiences. Pacific Sands has yoga, wellness, surf lessons, and bike rentals, and it is all tucked into a secluded forest escape and right on the beach. They meet my approval for eco-friendly and community-focused accommodation, and they have several types of rooms from which to choose. The Middle Beach Treehouse was hard to beat, but I would stay here when I returned to Tofino.

BOOK PACIFIC SANDS

Hotel Zed

Hotel Zed is a funky, flashy, and retro hotel that feels like you’ve returned to a hotel on the California coast in the 1970s but with all the modern conveniences. It is colorful, down-to-earth, and laid-back. Whether you choose them for their mini disco, ROAR happy hour, or their commitment to supporting the Tribal Park Allyship program, this is a great choice for the more social traveler, couple, or family group looking for a different kind of hotel. 

Our good friend stayed here during her solo trip to Tofino. She highly recommended Zed and loved dining at ROAR and the social aspect.

BOOK HOTEL ZED

Ocean Villa 

If you come to Tofino for a glamping or camping experience, Ocean Villa is for you. Right on the beach, these cute onion-dome-shaped wood cabins looked so fun when we walked past them on our beach walks. There are several cabin types, including a studio or one bedroom for a solo traveler, a couple, and two bedrooms for a family group. There is an on-site swimming pool for safe swimming, a wet suit station for the surfers, and community laundry. This spot looked like a great location for the laid-back traveler looking for a cozy, rustic camping experience but with a solid roof over their head. 

BOOK OCEAN VILLA

Duffin Cove Inn

Duffin Cove will be a great choice if you prefer to stay in downtown Tofino for the convenience of restaurants, bars, shopping, and more. This little slice of secluded luxury is downtown, but it feels like you are in your little world with ocean views and a natural setting. 

Choose a private room or cabin for couples and solo travelers or a condo for a large group.

BOOK DUFFIN COVE INN

Middle Beach Lodge Tofino Canada

Sample Sustainable Itinerary for Tofino

Need help putting all these incredible things to do in Tofino into a functional itinerary that makes sense? Then check out my detailed itinerary guide to help you plan a slow and relaxing time in Tofino, including details on how to get from Vancouver to Tofino using the ferry, road trip highlights along the way, and fun stops in Ucluelet on the return.

Coming soon on Thatch Travel

Discuss and Share

I hope I’ve inspired you to visit Tofino with a mindful approach. Spending time in Tofino is what I can only describe as good for the soul when you visit with a slow travel mindset. Whether you are looking for cultural ecotourism adventures or just laying about and watching slow sunsets dip over the horizon, Tofino is a great choice. Make sure you save this guide to help you plan your next sustainable adventure in Tofino!

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