Visiting Tofino, British Columbia on a budget is simple: go to Ucluelet.
All (or, at least, most) jokes aside, it can be possible to visit Tofino without spending a ton of money.
Where to Stay
The cheapest Tofino hotel or motel that I could find online was $200/night. I then checked AirBnB and found an awesome little guest house about a 15-minute walk from the main boardwalk for about $90/night (plus taxes the AirBnB fees).
Check both AirBnB and VRBO for options – they’re great resources for a cheaper stay.
(If you’re spending time in Victoria, I also can’t say enough good things about this place!)
Where to Eat
We bought groceries in Victoria (the Co-op Grocery Store in Tofino is expensive and doesn’t have a great selection) and ate most of our meals picnic-style on the beach or while hiking.
When we did eat out, we loved Redcan Gourmet for fancy picnic dinners (mac and cheese! pizza!), Wildside Grill for amazing burgers (and a 10% off voucher for Chocolate Tofino, which had incredible homemade ice cream), and the Tacofino Food Truck (and yes, it’s exactly the same food that you get from the Vancouver truck).
We also had daily doughnuts from Rhino Coffee House. They’re worth it.
If you’re on your way to or from the ferry, I highly recommend a stop at Bread & Honey Food Co. in Parksville. Their fried chicken sandwich was amazing.
What to Do
Surfing is the obvious choice in Tofino, and I saw a couple Social Shopper deals for gear rentals around Tofino.
Hiking is always a go-to, and the Wild Pacific Trail was beautiful (though technically in Ucluelet).
We did end up splurging on a nighttime kayak tour to see the bioluminescence with Paddle West Kayaking – though possible to see for free on your own, the Tofino light pollution makes it difficult unless you can get somewhere out of town that the right currents hit.
We saved on the bear watching tour by heading back to Ucluelet (I wasn’t kidding when I said visit Ucluelet instead) to go to Thornton Creek Hatchery. For a suggested $10-20 donation, we saw a bear almost immediately, and spent an hour learning about aquaculture from the super friendly guys working there. We also watched a seal herd a bunch of salmon from the lake up the creek (that’s the nice way of putting it).
If you’re set on bear (or whale) watching from a boat, keep an eye on the Tofino Times local newsletter, available in most coffee shops in the area. Jamie’s Whaling Station had coupons for $20 off all boat tours, and another company offered $10 off.
What to Bring
This section is mostly to remind myself if I ever go back. Tofino was colder in early September than I thought it would be, so next time I’d bring extra sweatpants, a toque, gloves, and a thermos.
Do you have suggestions for a budget-friendly trip to Tofino? Send me a note or leave a comment!