Tofino is known for its world-class surfing and beautiful beaches — but what if you’re looking to try something different for a change?
There’s so much more to Tofino than just the popular tourist activities. You don’t have to go surfing to have fun in Tofino!
For those who like to travel off the beaten path or have done all the best activities around Tofino and want to try something new, we cover some of the more unique and unusual things to do around Tofino. Enjoy!
Unique (Off the Beaten Path) Things to Do in Tofino, BC
1. Find the Sea Caves by Chesterman Beach
An often missed highlight of Chesterman Beach are the sea caves. Found on the southern edge of the beach in Rosie Bay, these coastal caves are breathtaking and fun to explore.
Walk inside the picturesque caves to find walls of ocean-eroded rock surrounding you. Sand carpets the bottom of the caves. And outside the entrance of the caves, the beautiful ocean scenery unfolds.
This hidden gem is one of our favourite spots to visit in Tofino. Keep in mind that the caves are submerged at high tide. You’ll only be able to access them at low tide so check the tide tables before you head out!
2. Spot Salmon and Bears at the Thornton Creek Hatchery
Want to learn about salmon and have the chance to spot some black bears fishing? Head to the Thornton Creek Hatchery, about 35 minutes from Tofino near Port Albion!
The hatchery is one of the best places to see and learn about salmon around Tofino and Ucluelet. You’ll be able to see the salmon fry (young salmon) growing in the spring, and the salmon spawn in the fall.
In mid-September to the end of October, the salmon return to Thornton Creek to spawn. The black bears also arrive to feed upon the fish, offering some excellent bear watching right from the hatchery. Bring your camera!
The non-profit Thornton Creek Enhancement Society runs the hatchery. They work hard to sustain the chinook, coho, and chum salmon populations that live in the waters of the Barkley and Clayoquot Sounds. They collect valuable data on the fish, raise young salmon, provide education to the public and more.
Hatchery tours are free, but donations to the society are greatly appreciated!
3. Hike to the Canso Bomber Plane Crash Site
Visiting the Canso Bomber Plane Crash Site is one of the most unique things to do in Tofino, even though the trail is getting quite popular.
The crash site is home to a Royal Canadian Air Force Canso 11007 plane, which malfunctioned on a nighttime flight in February 1945 and crashed into the woods southeast of Radar Hill. Despite carrying explosives in the airplane, all of the 12 crew members survived, leaving behind the plane wreck as a memory of the events that unfolded.
To visit the Canso plane wreck, you need to follow a 5-km out-and-back hiking trail that starts at the Radar Hill Road parking lot near the Pacific Rim Highway. The trail follows beside the highway briefly, before heading down an old unmarked service road and taking you through coastal woods and bogs. You’ll even pass a creepy abandon communications building along the way!
Once at the crash site, you’ll find pieces of the plane scattered through the woods. Don’t climb on any of them to prevent the plane from deteriorating further.
The hiking trail is muddy and has lots of roots, so make sure to wear good hiking boots!
4. Walk the Wild Side Trail on Flores Island
Everybody knows about Tofino hiking trails like the Cox Bay Lookout Trail or Wild Pacific Trail, but what about the Wild Side Trail on Flores Island?
The Wild Side Trail is a 22-km round-trip hiking and backpacking trail that follows the coast of the gorgeous Flores Island. To get to Flores Island, you’ll need to take a 30-minute water taxi or 10-minute seaplane flight from Tofino to Ahousaht.
Starting at the Ahousaht First Nations village of Maaqtusiis, the trail takes you on a journey through the Sitka trees of Gibson Marine Provincial Park and Flores Island Provincial Park to some incredibly beautiful beaches.
Both of the beaches at Cow Bay and Whitesand Cove are breathtaking. The best part? You’ll have the trail and beaches mostly to yourself!
There are several campsites along the Wild Side Trail, including at the sand dunes, Kutcous River, and Cow Bay. Ideally, the trail is done in two or three days, but can also be done as a day hike with a boat drop-off at Cow Bay.
5. Go Tide Pooling
Tide pools hold a multitude of marine treasures, waiting to be discovered. Ochre starfish, green urchins, sea cucumbers… you never know what you’ll find!
The tide pools around Tofino hold a diversity of intertidal creatures. Clinging to the rocks, you’ll find species like blue mussels, goose neck barnacles, and plate limpets. In the small pools of water, you’ll spot hermit crabs, snails, chitons, and even small fish like tidepool sculpins.
Don’t know what species you’re looking at? Learn more about the local intertidal species at the Ucluelet Aquarium or by picking up a seashore field guide for BC.
6. Lone Cone Hike
To the north of Tofino, you’ll spot a single cone-shaped mountain across the water on a nearby island — Lone Cone. Rising above the Clayoquot Sound, this mountain peak on Meares Island offers some of the best, most spectacular views of Tofino and the surrounded islands.
There is a hiking trail to the peak of Lone Cone, but getting to the peak is not easy. You’ll need to take a water taxi to Meares Island from Tofino and then the trail itself is fairly strenuous — especially as you near the peak — with an ascent of 700-meters in about 1.5km.
Expect a scramble to get up the mountain, with lots of roots and mud. Make sure to do the trail on a clear day, for the best views!
NOTE: The Lone Cone Trail is currently closed for the 2022 season.
7. Visit the Carving Shed on Chesterman Beach
The Carving Shed is a local Tofino landmark that was once home to an incredible wood carver: Henry Nolla. Many of the beautiful carvings around Tofino are attributed to Nolla, from the intricate architectural details on the Wickaninnish Inn to the face of the Roy Henry Vickers Gallery.
For over 30 years, the building has stood beside north Chesterman Beach, once serving as a residence and carving shop to the late Henry Nolla. Now, the weathered carving shed is home to his legacy of carvers, like the talented Feather George.
Stop by and check out the carving shed if the door is open or the welcome sign is hanging up. You’ll get to see some of the most recent carving projects and experience a part of Tofino’s artistic charm.
8. Enjoy the Naa’Waya’Sum Gardens
The Naa’Waya’Sum Coastal Indigenous Gardens (previously known as the Tofino Botanical Gardens) is a small botanical garden and Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area (IPCA) Innovation Centre in Tofino, BC.
The word Naa’Waya’Summ in the garden’s name is from the Nuu-chah-nulth language, meaning to pass knowledge from one generation to the next.
The garden features 10 acres of West Coast temperate rainforest beside the Tofino mudflats, with a beautiful trail system through the woods. There is also a manicured garden and art exhibits, with wood carvers working onsite on projects like totem poles.
9. Bike on the Beaches
Did you know that you can bike on the sandy beaches around Tofino? At low tide, the hard-packed sand is perfect for cruising along on a bicycle, allowing you to explore much more of the beach than you would on foot.
In the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, you’re able to access the beach easily from the Wickaninnish Beach and Long Beach parking lots. With 16 km of beach, there’s lots to explore!
You can also bike along the ʔapsčiik t̓ašii (pronounced ups-cheek ta-shee) multi-use pathway than runs through the park, as well as the Tofino MUP that connects the park to town.
Chesterman Beach also offers 2.7 km of beach to bike on at low tide. Be sure to check the tide tables for low tide times before heading out!
Don’t have a beach-appropriate bicycle? Rent one from the bike shop in Tofino!
10. Visit Virgin Falls
At the end of the Tofino Inlet, you’ll find a beautiful waterfall — Virgin Falls. An impressive 53 meters tall, this is one of the most beautiful waterfalls around Tofino.
Getting to Virgin Falls is an adventure though, which is why this is one of the more unique things to do around Tofino. The waterfall is located at the end of a poorly maintained logging road that starts just after the Kennedy River bridge.
Accessing the waterfall requires a 4×4 vehicle. There are lots of potholes, and the overgrown trees will brush the sides of your vehicle. But, the journey is worth it!
At the end of the drive, the impressive waterfall is only a short minute-long walk from the trailhead. There are some spots to camp and a public cabin right by the waterfall, in case you want to spend the night.
Top Travel Tips & Resources for Tofino, BC
- Travel Insurance – If you’re travelling internationally, travel insurance is a must for any trip. Being covered by insurance is especially important when you’re going to an adventure-filled place like British Columbia. If you injure yourself while adventuring, you want to have insurance! We recommend using SafetyWing for international travel insurance. They are affordable and have great policies for travellers, digital nomads, and remote workers. Also, SafetyWing provides COVID-19 coverage, which many other insurance companies don’t cover.
- Car Rental – We find the best deal on vehicle rental prices using RentalCars.com. They compare the prices for different car rental companies so you can find the best deals.
- Accommodations – We prefer booking all of our hotels, hostels, and other accommodations through Booking.com because they have a flexible cancellation policy. Also, there are lots of different options on their platform, from hotels to vacation homes. Alternatively, Expedia and Hotels.com are good for booking accommodations. For vacation home rentals, VRBO is an excellent choice (they have lower fees than Airbnb, many of the same properties, and are more ethical).
- Flights – You’ll find many good flight deals on Skyscanner or Google Flights. You can book flights through these websites and they’ll help you find the best prices and flight times. If you fly at less popular times (e.g. mid-week or red-eye flights), you can also save some money.
- Tours – Get the most out of your vacation by taking a guided tour! This is a great way to see the city, adventure to exciting new locations, and learn about the local culture. Viator or GetYourGuide are great options for booking tours.