Tofino on a Budget

Every year, my friends and I drive the 4+ hours it takes to get from Victoria to Tofino. We usually try to go over a long weekend, so we get more time there, but we weren’t able to get the whole group up last weekend. So, this weekend it is! (I’m there right now.)

Growing up on Vancouver Island, going to Tofino is just… something you do. And even though you know it’s a special place – with only locally-owned businesses (no Starbucks or McDonald’s there) and the best surfing on the island, you forget that it’s a world-renowned vacation spot.

As such, you can imagine it’s not exactly cheap – to stay or to eat. But the prices you see on hotel rooms shouldn’t stop you from going there! If Tofino is on your travel bucket list, here’s how to do it on a budget:

Travel

The cheapest way to get to Tofino is to drive there. Yes, it’s a long drive (like I said, 4+ hours from Victoria) but the views once you get past Port Alberni are absolutely stunning. You can also fly there (from only a few nearby airports) but it’s expensive and you need a car when you get there – at least, if you want to get out of the little city and spend time at the beaches. So, don’t do that. Get some good road trip music (I’m currently obsessed with Junip, and the new Black Keys and Current Swell albums) or an audio book and just drive.

Accommodation

When I said don’t let the prices of hotels stop you from going to Tofino, I meant it! If you want to stay dry, rent a house from tofinovr.com instead. We usually try to rent one of the houses close to Chesterman Beach, and get 6 or 8 of us up there to split it, but there are plenty of smaller suites and homes for couples to rent too. I would also suggest you camp in Tofino, but if you’re travelling from across the world, I doubt you’re going to bring a tent and sleeping bag!

Food/Drink

The best way to save money on food/drink in Tofino is to just not buy anything there. If you’re camping or renting a house, go grocery shopping in Port Alberni and bring everything you need/want with you. The thing to remember about Tofino is that it’s a solid 90 min+ drive away from any other cities, so they can increase food/drink prices at their stores because they know it’s the only place to shop. I usually make one exception to grab lunch and a treat at Breakers, but I bring all other food up with me. (This year, I actually prepped meals in Victoria first.)

*Update: It looks like Breakers closed and reopened as Rhino Coffee House. We didn’t go in this time, but had lunch at Tacofino instead.

Activities

Finally, while whale watching is a popular activity for tourists, it’s also incredibly expensive. The best way to see Tofino is to hike some of the trails or walk along the never-ending beaches. Of course, it’s also home to some of the best surfing in the world, so I’d still suggest you save an extra $80 or so for a lesson + wetsuit/board rentals and hang out at Chesterman Beach after (or go watch the pros at Cox Bay). If you’d rather try paddle boarding, do that at MacKenzie Beach!

My trip, including gas, accommodation, food and drink should cost me about $200. Not bad for a weekend in paradise.

Do other frequent Tofino-goers have anything else to add?

avatarAuthor Bio ~ Cait (47 Posts)

Cait is a twenty-something personal finance blogger living just outside of Vancouver, B.C. At 25, she found herself completely maxed out with more than $28,000 of consumer and student debt. In less than two years, she paid it all off (and saved a little too!) by using some of Gail's techniques, as well as receiving continuous support from the personal finance blogging community. Cait is now saving for her future and is passionate about getting personal finance a bigger spot in B.C.'s Education IRPs. You can read more of her posts on her personal finance blog Blonde on a Budget.


4 Responses to “Tofino on a Budget”

  1. I love and agree with everything you said about Tofino, except for one thing…eating out. The restaurants in Tofino are some of the best in the Pacific Northwest, Sobo and Tough City Sushi in particular. I would almost drive 4 hours just to eat at either of those places. Yes, they are more expensive, but for me it’s worth cutting back in the month leading up to my Tofino trip or even forgoing a weekend in Vancouver. It’s a personal preference, but it’s also the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life. Ever.

    • Oh, I agree w/ that – and I’ve eaten at some places before. It’s just never really on our radar, since our group is usually 10 people (8 adults + 2 kids) and 2 dogs in size! Eating at our rental house just makes more sense, haha.

  2. avatar Samantha Says:
    May 26, 2014 at 7:56 am

    You lucky girl!

    I absolutely love Tofino! When we were backpacking across Canada we bought a month long Greyhound pass, which had some sort of reciprocal deal with “Tofino bus”. We brought a tent and sleeping bags and slept in a forest, washed ourselves and our clothes in the ocean, and hiked wherever we needed to go. As for food – we packed up in Victoria on dry cereal, nuts, hard fruits, carrots, peanut butter, trail mix, and a loaf of bread. Let’s just say that my husband and I have CHEAP travel on the lockdown.

    Enjoy Tofino! And you need to add Surfing in Tofino by The Plant Smashers onto your playlist!

    • You really have! If we still camped (which we did when we were like 18-22), it’d definitely be a lot cheaper… but even at 28-30, we all leave the house and the beds that aren’t our own complaining of sore backs, necks, etc. LOL! How sad.

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