Tofino on a Budget
Posted by Cait | Filed under Cait
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:
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.
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!
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.)
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?