The Surf–Lover’s Guide to Tofino

With year–round waves, 35 kilometres of surfable coastline, sand–bottom beaches and 11 surf schools, Tofino is a great place to take up surfing. We’ve rounded up the best places to stay, eat and ride (or watch) waves in Canada’s surf capital.

Where to stay in Tofino

Pacific Sands Beach Resort Whether you are in a three–floor Beach House or a cozy studio suite, each of the 122 units on this 41–acre waterfront property has a fireplace and full kitchen. Put the latter to use by picking up eggs, bacon and other essentials in the lobby shop – plus complimentary chives or dill at the herb garden outside – for breakfast before hitting the surf. Cox Bay is on your doorstep (making it the perfect home base during Queen of the Peak), and with an outpost of Surf Sister on–site, so are board rentals and lessons.

December 20, 2019
The exterior view of the Pacific Sands Beach Resort
   Photo: Pacific Sands Beach Resort

Wickaninnish Inn Tofino’s iconic family–owned and operated Relais & Châteaux property sits on a rocky outcrop that juts into the ocean on the north end of North Chesterman Beach – leave your balcony door open to hear the waves crashing through the night. Soothe sore muscles following a day catching waves (or attempting to) at the Ancient Cedars Spa with a visit to the Steam Cave, complete with whimsical star–shaped lights.

Wickaninnish Inn sits at the edge of the waterfront
   Photo: Michael Becker

Where to eat in Tofino

Wolf in the Fog This two–storey spot in downtown Tofino hasn’t skipped a beat in the five years since it was crowned Canada’s Best New Restaurant. The shoestring potato–wrapped oysters that we raved about then are as crisp and smoky today, but a feature sablefish dish with tart julienned apples and pillowy gnocchi shows that the kitchen is always riffing. Sit at the bar for a double–whammy view: bartenders shake up cocktails worthy of big–city menus in front of you and, to your right, chefs work hard in between cheers whenever a table orders the “Six pack for the kitchen.”

Fried oysters in a skillet at restaurant Wolf in the Fog
   Photo: Jordie Hennigar

Tofitian Don’t let the skull and crossbones on the sign out front fool you: this coffee shop is bright, welcoming and full of smiling Tofitians. Located in the same plaza as many other must–visit spots (like Chocolate Tofino, Wildside Grill and the famous Tacofino truck), locals come here to fuel up before suiting up. Everything in the pastry case is baked daily, from butter croissants to the breakfast scones, bursting with ingredients like eggs, brie, tomatoes and basil.

Coffee and breakfast scones at Tofitian
   Photo: Christ Pouget

Where to surf in Tofino

Surf Sister There’s no shortage of surf schools in Tofino, but Surf Sister offers something a little different. As one of the largest all–female surf schools in the world, it’s a major reason why Tofino has become such a haven for women’s surfing. You will meet at the HQ in town to get fitted for a board and wetsuit, then head to a nearby beach, likely Cox Bay or North Chesterman. Your lesson will kick off with a comprehensive tutorial on land (sand drawings and diagrams, included), before hitting the waves, with tons of smiles, high–fives and cheers guaranteed, regardless if you stand up or not.

Two students of the all female Surf Sister school head out on the water
   Photo: Bryanna Bradley