I would use this to get around: a bike with a surfboard rack on the side. There is a bike/walking trail that runs beside the main road into/out of town and there are always really beautiful people riding their bikes to/from the beach wearing a wetsuit/bikini/boardshorts with a surfboard in tow. If I were you, I’d want to be like them. Otherwise, you’ll probably need a motorized vehicle of some sort to get you from town to the beaches and back again (or vice versa).
I would stay here: The best way to enjoy Tofino is to rent a house on the beach with a bunch of friends. Campgrounds are grossly overpriced and grossly undermaintained, so I am telling you right here on this very blog NOT to do it. There are some hostels and guesthouses for the shorter pursestrings, of which Whalers on the Point is a good option. At the high end of the spectrum, The Wickaninnish is really, really, really beautiful and if I were you and we had big bags of cash, this is for sure where we’d stay.
I would eat here: The last time I was in Tofino, I was there for 10 days and ate fish tacos 6 times. This is the fish taco capital of Canada, so if you don’t get one while you’re there I don’t think we can ever be real-life friends. The best place to go is a little courtyard on the way into town – you’ll see a small little grocery store (Beaches) and a large surf shop (Live to Surf) as you pull in. Tucked way in the back is an orange bus that sells Mexican food, called Tacofino. This is the original and the best. For sure. I promise. You can even sit at the long picnic tables out front and drink your own beer or wine (probably not officially, but we did and I bet you could too). If they’re closed, all is not lost. A good close second is the Wildside Grill, located in the same courtyard across from the surf shop and sort of hidden under a canopy of trees. Of course, one cannot live on fish tacos alone (allegedly) and so, for lighter fare and a more sophisticated meal, head to Sobo in the heart of Tofino. It’s won a bajillion awards and is kind of a big deal in town. (Don’t worry: they do have fish tacos on the menu, and they’re tasty as all get-out). At the highest of the high end, again, the Wick has a restaurant called the Pointe. Their food is relentlessly top-notch and they’ve got the kind of view that inspires marriage proposals.
I would drink here: The only real waterfront patio in town is at a place called Jack’s Pub. It’s fine and they get some good live music, so if the weather is nice and there’s something going on down there, you’d be wise to give it a shot. The other show in town is a place called Shelter. It’s a bit classy/trendy inside, which is probably awesome if you are also classy/trendy, but a bit weird because it’s usually populated by drunk and sandy locals. The food is great (they’ll dunk your chicken burger in Frank’s hot sauce before grilling it if you ask them nicely) and the drinks are even better, probably because they have alcohol in them and the food does not. The best place to drink, though, is around a campfire on the beach. Call up some buds, gather up some driftwood and create your own little beer commercial on Chesterman’s.
I would do this: Surf. If you’re a rookie, take a lesson from Surf Sister or Live to Surf. Both are great and the lesson will be so much more enjoyable than paying $75 to rent a bunch of gear on your own and get tossed around in the whitewash like a dummy. If you’re not a rookie, you already know that Tofino is known for it’s surf and you’ll check the appropriate websites and bulletins for swells and tides. (Tip: make friends with a local. They all have boats and know the secret access points for virtually every wave/weather combination. Also, they’re really great people and you should make friends instead of being such a snob.) Other stuff to do includes taking a trip to Hot Springs Cove, whale watching and hiking among some of the biggest, bad-assest red cedars in the whole wide world.
I wouldn’t do this: Go to Tofino on a budget. It’s really a bit shocking how expensive it is to make the trip out there to the far west coast of Canada. By the time you factor in flights or ferries from the mainland, bus or gas to cross the Island and the high price of food/drinks/accommodations, you might as well go to Mexico for a week. And you should. Mexico is really great. But it’s no Tofino. This place is one-of-a-kind magical and, if I were you, I’d start feeding the piggy bank ASAP.
*Check out the beautiful blog June July Fogust at http://keldalarsen.wordpress.com for a taste of local adventure and the spirit of Vancouver Island.