girl riding bike into the sunset on cox bay tofino

3 Days in Tofino: Our Weekend Trip-Planning Itinerary

Tofino is the most-visited part of Vancouver Island and we can see why! The laid-back, hippie culture of Tofino attracts people from all over Canada (including us) and all over the world. It is the ultimate weekend getaway and we’re here to share our itinerary on how to spend the perfect 3 days in Tofino!

Located on the Western side of the island, Tofino is well known for its temperate rainforests, the best surfing in the country, and Canada’s best beaches. Tofino is a really special part of the world that many people have made great memories in. Jake and I have visited Tofino 5 times in the past year and always leave with a longing to come back!

If you don’t have a planned itinerary or know what you’re doing, it can be extremely easy to just enjoy the ease of Tofino life and spend your time lounging and being lazy. You’re more than welcomed to do so (we sure have), but if you’re planning to get the most out of your Tofino 3-day weekend continue reading for our itinerary!

Directions to Tofino for your 3 Days in Tofino Itinerary

Click HERE to open this map on Google Maps!

You have plenty of options when it comes to travelling to Tofino, but there’s only one route and that’s driving down Highway 4. You could also fly directly into Tofino but I believe that the drive is worth it because of all of the stops along the way! Check out our Nanaimo to Tofino Road-Trip blog (coming soon) for more details!

Here is the distance from the closest major cities to Tofino:

  • Nanaimo to Tofino: 3 hour drive, 207 kilometres.
  • Victoria to Tofino: 4 hour and 15 minute drive, 317 kilometres.
  • Vancouver to Tofino: 2 hour ferry ride, 3 hour drive from Nanaimo, 283 kilometres. Click here for BC Ferries. Choose Vancouver to Nanaimo for the fastest route.
  • Seattle to Tofino: 2 hour and 30 minutes drive to Port Angeles, 1 hour 20 minute ferry, 4 hour 15 minute drive from Victoria. Click here for Black Ball Ferry Line to Victoria.

It would be a shame for me not to note the construction causing delays as of 2022 on Highway 4 heading to Tofino. I’ll link the current updates and schedule for vehicle passing here. We’ve waited 30 minutes, and also 3 hours before. Plan your trip accordingly!

When is the Best time to Visit & Plan your 3 Days in Tofino?

We’ve experience Tofino in almost all seasons. We spent the majority of our visits to Tofino in the summer, and it’s obvious why summer-time is the best time to visit Tofino. The weather will be much more in your favour, meaning you’ll experience less rain and more sunshine. However, Tofino is located in a temperate rainforest so it is always a good idea to bring warm clothes and a jacket.

I would recommend to plan your trip for June & July for the ultimate experience. We’ve recently spent time in Tofino in May, and while it was quieter than peak-summer season it was also still cold and we experienced 2 rainy days out of our 3-day visit. I was able to bring out my bike shorts on the sunny day, though!

August to October is slower as well, though we noticed that by the time August arrived there was smoke in the air from recent forest fires. It is always still enjoyable to be in Tofino in the warm weather, but temperatures begin to get extremely hot in August from our experience. September and October begin to get windy in Tofino.

Storm Season in Tofino

Another fantastic way to experience Tofino is to visit during storm-season. We’ve had the pleasure of visiting during storm-season twice in Tofino so far and it’s incredible to see just how massive these waves can get. One of our most incredible views was directly after a storm, we climbed up to Cox Bay Lookout and watched the massive waves rolling in from above.

You will notice that Tofino is much less busy in the storm season months, and you will experience a quieter trip if you plan your visit during storm season from October-April. Our visit was in April, and we caught the tail-end of storm season.

Where to Stay for your 3 Days in Tofino

As a very tourist-friendly town, Tofino has plenty of options for your stay ranging from luxury, to budget accommodations to camping. You’ll find plenty of people camping in their cars or vans, but you MUST know that it is 100% illegal sleep overnight in Tofino or Pacific Rim National Park Reserve without proper accommodations. You will 100% be caught by the RCMP because they are patrolling the area constantly.

You’re also very likely to run into RIDE programs where the RCMP are positioned right outside of Tofino and pulling over each & every car to ask you if you’ve had anything to drink. I completely agree with their efforts, and I’m telling you this to be prepared and so that you don’t make silly mistakes. Taxis are hard to come by in Tofino, so if you’re drinking make sure you have a safe way home. I would suggest renting a bike at Tofino Bike.

Luxury Accommodations in Tofino

Our #1 recommendation for luxury accommodations in Tofino will always be Pacific Sands Beach Resort. We stayed in their 2-bedroom beach house and it was a dream come true. It was the most romantic and enjoyable stay we’ve ever had in Tofino, and they offer plenty of room options to fit a range of budgets.

They are located directly on Cox Bay, and have their own sunset trail available on-site called Pettinger Point. They have bike rentals at their Tofino Bike shop located on the resort, as well as surf lessons + rentals at the Surf Shack. Finally, they have food & drinks available at the Surfside Grill with a nice patio and picnic tables.

We also recommend The Shoreline Tofino, and Long Beach Lodge for additional luxury stays. Finally, the Wickanannish Inn is where celebrities stay on their vacations to Tofino.

Camping & Best Value Accommodations

There are a handful of accommodations in Tofino where you will get your best bang for your buck, and some pretty epic campgrounds as well. For the best value stays, you should check out Tofino Resort & Marina, Cox Bay Resort, and Long Beach Lodge. Another option for budget accommodations would be to stay at Tofino Hostel.

If you’re interested in camping, check out Surf Grove and Bella Pacifica Campground. You’ll find Surf Grove on Cox Bay Beach and Bella Pacifica is located on Mackenzie beach. These are two fantastic options that have been highly recommended to us and the close proximity to these beaches is so worth it!

Finally, I’ve got a personal story to share with you from our first night in Tofino. We were looking for a place to free-camp in our camper-van and were pulled over by the RCMP for looking lost. He gave us some advice that car camping is illegal everywhere in Tofino & Ucluelet, but there is ONE spot just outside of the park that locals and surfers are legally allowed to park for the night. He gave us the directions and we’ve stayed here with plenty of other campers before. For full details on this spot, read our Ultimate Vancouver Island Road-Trip Guide (coming soon) for directions and a map.


Arrive in Tofino & grab a Rhino Coffee for Lunch

Rhino Coffee is a fan-favourite and well-known cafe located directly in Tofino. They have the BEST doughnuts around, and their coffee is really fantastic too. They also offer breakfast sandwiches and plenty of other delicious options at lunch. Make sure you get here early, as the best & freshest doughnuts sell out quickly! Try the cinnamon sugar (our favourite), triple chocolate, maple bacon, sour cream and cookie dough. You’ll probably be waiting in line, but trust me, it’s worth it.

Walk around Tofino & do Some Shopping

With your fresh coffee in your hand, take a walk around town to some local shops and pick up some gift items. Our favourites include Treehouse Gifts, Caravan Beach Shop, SALT TOFINO, and Merge. I’ve listed more shopping options for you at the end of this blog! Pick up a classic Tofino sweater, stickers, jewelry and a Tofino Towel.

Take a Hike at Tonquin Trail & Beaches

Located directly in the city, you’ll find Tonquin Trail. This is a very easy, 3.2KM trail that will take you about 50 minutes to walk to the end of the trail and back. However, I recommend you spend some time exploring the beaches along the way! Our favourites are Middle Beach, and Tonquin Beach. You’ll often see families and dogs on this trail, it’s very well-kept and has bathrooms at the trailhead. There are multiple good lookouts on the trail, and make sure to pay for parking!

Go Out for Dinner in Tofino

Since you’ll be in town, you can end your day with dinner at a restaurant before going back to your accommodations for the night. We recommend getting a table at The Shelter as it’s one of the best restaurants in Tofino. If you’re looking for patio drinks, try The Shed for some classic burgers and fries.

Enjoy a Sunset Walk at Mackenzie Beach

We chose to enjoy sunset at Mackenzie beach on your first day, since it is the closest beach to Tofino. You’ll enjoy a beautiful sunset, and take a pleasant walk along the beach to work off your dinner & drinks. If you’re feeling up to it, you can also organize a beach fire for your first night in Tofino. Make sure to account for fire-bans and purchase firewood.


Start your day with Tofitian Coffee

Treat yourself to a latte, cappuccino, or whatever kind of coffee you prefer! Tofitian Cafe’s menu includes breakfast sandwiches, pastries, and sausage rolls. Make sure to fuel yourself here, because day two is going to be full of hiking & adventures! Check out the cool skull and pirate-themed decor and get ready for your big day of exploring Tofino.

Walk along Long Beach

Tofino’s longest beach is ironically named Long Beach, and we often bring our coffee & breakfast here to enjoy with a walk. It’s a really enjoyable and easily accessible beach that’s only steps away from the parking lot. There are washrooms here and even a bit of cell-service. Check out the surf & the camper-vans that typically spend all day parked at this beach. Finish up your breakfast, and head to the next hiking adventure.

Hike the Rainforest Trail Loops

Your next adventure will be further down the highway and you’ll arrive at the Rainforest Trails. Read our blog post on Hiking in Tofino for full details on these hikes! (COMING SOON). You’ll have to get here early, because this hike gets pretty packed during the day with tourists. There are 2 loop options for this trail, Loop A and Loop B. Both trails are approximately 2KM long and will take you about 20-30 minutes to complete each loop. Both are fantastic, but our favourite is Loop B.

Drive into Ucluelet to Hike the Wild Pacific Trail

From the rainforest trails, the Wild Pacific Trail in Ucluelet is about a 15 minute drive away. It’s nice to drive through Ucluelet and experience this small town too, and the views are extremely beautiful on the Wild Pacific Trail. We typically hike The Lighthouse Loop, which is a 2.6KM loop and about 30-45 minute walk. You’ll be walking beside the coast and catch views of the large lighthouse, the coastal beaches and a rugged rocky shoreline. There are plenty of viewpoints on this trail and multiple benches to sit and enjoy the view (look out for whales)!

Head to Tacofino for Lunch

You HAVE to make sure to try the iconic Tacofino truck, as the Tofino location was the original. This is a very-well known spot in Tofino and I guarantee you’ll be waiting in a line, however, it’s fun to chat with others in the line and it goes by quickly. Our favourite recommendations are the fish tacos (order 2 or 3), and the Krispy chicken burrito! We’re not big fans of the gringas. If you’re still hungry after Tacofino, walk through the same plaza over to Chocolate Tofino for ice cream dessert.

While you’re in the Tacofino plaza, I recommend renting your bikes here. Tofino Bike closes at 4PM and you’re going to want to rent a beach cruiser for the rest of the day. It will cost $45 per bike for 24 hours, but it’s very much worth it to bring to your next destination.

Spend the Rest of the Day at Cox Bay Beach Until Sunset

sunset view of the waves from cox bay lookout tofino

Cox bay is hands-down our favourite beach in Tofino, and there is PLENTY to do on this beach. You’re going to want to stay here until sunset, because Cox Bay has the best sunset views. The waves crawl so far up the shore that a beach reflection is guaranteed. You’ll want to bring your beach cruiser bike here that you rented earlier in the day because it’s extremely fun to ride across the beach.

If you surf, you should spend some time surfing here at Cox Bay or sign up for surfing lessons (I’ve linked recommendations at the bottom of this blog). If you’re feeling up to more hiking, go for a bike ride while the sun goes down to the end of Cox Bay and climb the secret trails on the rocks. If you’re staying at Pacific Sands you have another sunset hike option at Pettinger Point.

Our absolute favourite recommendation for spending the sunset at Cox Bay would be to climb up to Cox Bay Lookout and make sure to check out our full hiking instructions as this is not an official trail. It is a local’s favourite spot, and it’s extremely important to respect this lookout. It will be extremely muddy, and a short but steep 0.6KM hike up to the lookout. Make sure to keep hiking up & to the right if you get lost! The view overlooking Cox Bay is an absolute must and you’ll score a fantastic sunset from up here.

Grab Some Take-out Food for Dinner

After your long, busy day of hiking I would recommend taking it easy on dinner and picking up some take-out. Some of our favourite spots for take-out food include Big Daddy’s Fish Fry for fantastic light and fluffy fish & chips, or head over to Basic Goodness Pizza and try out their flavours. If these aren’t what you’re looking for, try Gary’s Kitchen for a local favourite Chinese food spot.


Start your day with Common Loaf Bake Shop

The Common Loaf Bake Shop is not only an adorable store, but they also offer fantastic pastries, desserts, and coffee. You’ll find breakfast sandwiches and lunch options here too. It’s important to note that they’re closed on Sundays and Mondays and if that’s the case, head back to Rhino Coffee House.

Take a Day-Trip out of Tofino by Boat

A few of the coolest adventures in Tofino require you to book a Tofino Water-Taxi in advance. The two day-trip adventures I would recommend here will likely take up your last day in Tofino, so plan accordingly. You can take the water-taxi to Meares Island and choose from 2 really cool trails. The first is the Big Tree Boardwalk, or choose to do the 6.5KM Lone Cone Hike where you’ll catch an epic view of Tofino & the surrounding islands from above.

Another incredible option would be to take a 1.5 hour boat ride to the Hot Springs, and as a bonus this boat ride doubles as a whale watching tour! As of 2022 the Hot Springs are closed, but keep and eye out because this is a must-see on your trip to Tofino and a uniquely remote way to enjoy a Tofino adventure.

Enjoy some Lunch & Brews at Tofino Brewery

Before you leave Tofino, you have to check out Tofino Brewery. There’s a massive patio waiting for you with plenty of craft beer options and bar snacks. Dogs are allowed on the patio, and if you’re hungry you’re more than welcome to bring outside food with you (Tacofino Food Truck pictured above). This is a great spot to end your Tofino trip before heading back to the ferry, and to celebrate what a great trip you’ve had.

If you have more time in Tofino, here is a list of beaches, day-trip adventures, surf lessons, shopping & must-try restaurants in Tofino!

Beaches in Tofino

  • Long Beach: 16KM stretch of beach in Pacific Rim National Park. Check out the surfers & van-lifers here, and walk down the longest beach in the park.
  • Chesterman Beach: Another great option for a beach fire as they are permitted here, good for bike rides & long walks.
  • Cox Bay Beach: Our absolute favourite beach in Tofino with plenty of hiking trails and epic sunsets.
  • Mackenzie Beach: Great for sunsets and beach fires are they’re permitted here.
  • Tonquin Beach: Located directly in Tofino on the Tonquin Trail and is the best beach on the trail.

Surf Lessons in Tofino

  • Surf Sisters: Our first and favourite option for surf lessons, rentals, and boogie boards in Tofino would be the all-female crew at Surf Sisters Surf School. Located in Tofino and also a location at our favourite resort Pacific Sands Surf Shack.
  • Pacific Surf CO: Located in Tofino & offering surf lessons, surf rentals, SUPs, and cool apparel at Pacific Surf CO.

Day-Trip Adventures in Tofino

  • Tofino Air: For the coolest view of Tofino from above, choose to catch a Sunset Coastal Tour with Tofino Air.
  • Take the Water-Taxi to Meares Island: to hike the Big Tree boardwalk, or hike the 6.5KM Lone Cone hike for fantastic views of Tofino & the surrounding islands from above. For more information, check out Tofino Water Taxi.
  • Boat Trip to the Hot Springs: For the ultimate 6-hour adventure and a tourist favourite, you’ll take the 1.5 hour boat ride (which doubles as a whale watching tour), and take a 30-minute hike from the dock to the Hot Springs. Currently closed as of 2022.
  • Beach Yoga at Mackenzie Beach: Not exactly a beach trip, but a fantastic way to start your morning. Click here for details!

Must-Try Restaurants in Tofino

  • Chocolate Tofino: Ice cream, truffles and fudge!
  • Common Loaf Bake Shop: Breakfast sandwiches & pastries, really cute building too!
  • Rhino Coffee: Already mentioned but literally the best doughnuts, breakfast sandwiches, lunch sandwiches and coffee.
  • Tacofino: Already mentioned, but make sure to try the fish tacos and Krispy chicken burrito! OR Basic Goodness Pizza: Best option for an easy take-out dinner
  • The Shelter: Arguably the best high-end restaurant in Tofino. OR The Shed: Best spot for patio drinks!
  • Big Daddy’s Fish Fry: Our favourite fish and chips spot in Tofino OR Gary’s Kitchen: Locals favourite spot for buffet style Chinese food.

Shopping in Tofino

  • Treehouse Gifts: I bought my favourite Tofino sweater here, along with stickers and other small gift-shop items. OR Driftwood Gifts: More gift-shop items and clothes.
  • Caravan Beach Shop: Super pretty blue building, I bought jewelry, tarot cards, and a patch. Lots of small gifts & clothes. OR Love Craft Art Gallery: The Caravan Beach Shop and Love Craft Art Gallery are right next to each other.
  • Mermaid Tails Book Shop: Another pretty building, with a nice selection of books & I bought a deck of cards here.
  • Storm the Tofino Surf Shop: Surfing gear, wetsuits and surfing clothes here.
  • SALT TOFINO: Super cute shop with blankets, candles, clothes, crystals, and a ton of local goodies. OR Merge: Pink building with lots of home & lifestyle items, clothes, books, ect. Love this one.

Final Thoughts

I hope our 3-day itinerary inspires you for your upcoming Tofino trip, or motivates you to book it now! Tofino is an absolute gem of Vancouver Island, BC, and Canada. I will always recommend stopping in Tofino on your Vancouver Island Road-trip and make sure you check out our Ultimate Guide and Vancouver Island Road-trip Itinerary.

Tofino is the perfect weekend getaway and let me know if you’ve used our 3-day itinerary in your own trip-planning! As always, make sure to respect the local communities & the outdoors, dispose of your trash properly, and support local businesses! Please feel free to leave me a comment if you’ve been to Tofino and any thoughts + questions you may have!

Looking for more from Tofino & Vancouver Island? Check out:

  • Vancouver Island Adventure: Cox Bay Lookout
  • 10 Hikes to do in Tofino (COMING SOON)
  • Top 20 Things to do in Tofino (COMING SOON)
  • Nanaimo to Tofino Road-Trip (COMING SOON)
  • Ultimate Guide: Vancouver Island Road-Trip Itinerary (COMING SOON)

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