I’m wrapped in a cozy blanket to ward off the early spring chill while I watch surfers master the waves from my balcony at the Long Beach Lodge Resort on Cox Bay in Tofino, BC. Tofino is Canada’s surf capital and holds a coveted rank on National Geographic’s world’s best surf spots. I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf and one of the top Tofino surfing schools is located right at our resort, so why not take a lesson? I had a moment of rational panic; I don’t swim that well. I am a master of the doggy paddle and the back float, mere survival skills in chlorinated pools with lifeguards and shallow ends, not the skill set required when getting ricocheted by waves in the open ocean. I reluctantly accepted that surfing is a spectator sport for me. At least for now.
What are those non-surfers among us to do in this surfing town? There are plenty of excursions: bear and whale-watching, sea planes and boat tours, hikes to hot springs and even stand up paddle boarding in the calmer inlet nearby. My husband and I decided we’d like this short getaway to be about recharging so we settled for three activities that were sure to heal the body and soothe the mind: long beach walks, a yoga class and an indulgent afternoon at Ancient Cedars Spa.
Beach Walks in Tofino
There is no stretch of beach in the world long enough to burn off all the scrumptious food you’ll find in Tofino but there are a number of hikes and beach walks that will take the edge off the guilt of your inevitable overindulgence.
Cox Bay, a 1.9 km cozy stretch of beach known for its perfect swells and is the home of the Long Beach Lodge Resort. Facing the ocean, head right and you’ll find the trail head to Pettinger Point. There are a number of picnic tables, a park bench and a boardwalk along the way. Tidal pools teaming with little seashell treasures are smattered along the rocks here but keep an eye on the water when poking around these tidal pools; the ocean surges are unpredictable.
A 2.5 km stretch of beach bordered by a smattering of residential homes, B&B’s, and the Wickaninnish Inn. Chesterman Beach is popular with surfers and it’s the perfect place for a beach walk. The retreating tide left a wake of sand dollars, mussels and busy crabs.
Aptly named, this is one long beach. At 16 kms long Long Beach is Vancouver Island’s longest stretch of sand. The beach is bordered by old growth forest and wildly strewn with large driftwood. Located in Pacific Rim National Park, this is as wild and rustic as it comes; there are no hotels, homes or development along the beach.
Coastal Bliss Yoga
Although there are several places to practice yoga in Tofino, Coastal Bliss Yoga is the only yoga studio in town. Every kind of yoga class is offered here with multiple classes daily. The bright post and beam-designed studio streams sunshine through its large windows and a waft of fragrant cedar fills the space. We went for an evening Yin class with Dede Monette, founder of TofinoYoga.com. Monette has been teaching yoga for over 10 years and her focus for the class was mental clarity and emotional growth as well as the physical benefits of long stretches. After the class ended, Monette went around the room, perfectly remembering each participant’s name and checked in with us one by one to see how we felt after the class. It was a holistically intimate experience and one of the highlights of our visit in Tofino. Monette’s company can organize yoga retreats for individuals and groups including summer programs for children ages three and up.
Ancient Cedars Spa
The Ancient Cedars Spa at the Wickaninnish Inn is the place to unwind and soothe the last bit of tension away. Spa treatments start from $130.00 and although not the least expensive place in town to get tired muscles massaged and knots kneaded, the ocean view from the outside lounge area and eucalyptus steam cave make it worth the premium. We spent four hours catching up on some reading and relaxing on the outside terrace, wrapped in cozy blankets while the sunshine worked its way through the clouds.
Where to Stay in Tofino
Long Beach Lodge Resort
The Long Beach Lodge Resort offers the utmost in comfort in the carefully appointed modern mountain chic suites. Floor to ceiling windows overlooking the ocean offer the perfect romantic place to cozy up with a glass of wine, a snuggly blanket and the book you’ve been meaning to finish for months. The soothing sounds of the waves were sometimes punctuated with a snore as my husband fell asleep in the sunbeam on the balcony during the day and fireside in the evenings.
If you are travelling with friends or family, there are 20 rainforest cottages nestled in the trees along the property offering comforts of home including full kitchen, a master bedroom and a second bedroom in the upstairs loft. Although the cottages don’t include ocean views, they do come with a private hot tub and the sounds of the ocean are still close by.
The great room has the most incredible ocean views and is the perfect vantage point to watch surfers or enjoy the sunset. Snuggle by the fire on a comfy couch to read, relax, or compete at one of the resort’s many boardgames available for guest use.
Where to Eat
I never ate a bad meal in Tofino, not even a meh meal. Tofino has a long standing reputation for insanely great food. I get the feeling mediocre just doesn’t last long in this town.
I was told I HAD TO EAT at Tacofino. Lindsay, our Vancouver editor and a frequent Tofino visitor told me to look for the sketchiest dankiest looking food truck and ignore the exterior because the food is to die for. I was half expecting a good taco but I was unprepared for how mouth-wateringly delicious it was. The Tacofino logo is Saint Mary holding a taco, a little unorthodox maybe, but that first bite felt like a religious experience.
Kuma- Japanese Comfort Food
What is Japanese comfort food? Fresh ramen noodles swirling in a steamy seafood broth and hot tea sweetened with simple sake syrup with mint leaves and lemon wedges served in homemade pottery made by the owners. Be sure to try the Okonamiyaki share plate. It’s an oskaka-style cabbage pancake with bacon, mayo, cheddar, tonkatsu sauce and bonito flakes. It’s Tokyo street-food with ingredients I had never heard of but one of those dishes you won’t quickly forget. And yes, it’s off the hook delicious.
Coffee in Tofino
Tofino has an extraordinary amount of coffee shops in comparison to its population. If you are looking for a quick grab and go coffee, the Tofitian and Tofino Coffee Roasting Co. both make a fantastic coffee with limited seating. Not the place you want to sit down with a friend over a cup of joe but where you’d grab a take away coffee for your walk along the beach.
Rhino Coffee House
For a sit-down coffee, I enjoyed Rhino Coffee House in town. There is ample seating indoors and outside and they make the best homemade fresh donuts daily. You’ll need two full beach walks after a visit to this place.
Tofino Brewing Company
What could best emulate the west coast lifestyle than having a craft brewery right in town? Served at all the best local restaurants, Tofino Brewing Co. makes tasty beer that will suit any palate. From lagers to stouts and everything in between, you may want to visit their brewery and sample a flight of of their impressive creations. Pick up a growler, it’s a west coast thing.
Getting to Tofino
Self-drive: Vancouver Island has scenic driving routes to Tofino from all major airports including Victoria, Nanaimo and Comox.
Bus: Tofino Bus provides daily service from Vancouver, Nanaimo and Victoria.
Fly: You can also fly into Tofino from Nanaimo, Vancouver or Victoria with Island Express Air, Tofino Air, Atleo Air, Orca Airways, and KD Air.