Getting to Tofino is an adventure in itself, given its remote yet breathtaking location on the island. Here’s a brief guide:

By Air:

The most convenient way is to fly into Vancouver International Airport (YVR) if you’re coming from outside Vancouver Island or flying directly to Victoria (YYJ) on the southernmost tip of the island.  It’s around a 4.5 -6 hour drive from Victoria depending upon traffic and weather conditions.

From Vancouver, you can then take a connecting flight to Tofino-Long Beach Airport (YAZ) with several seasonal daily flights available. Pacific Coastal Air offers seasonal service to Tofino daily from YVR, Victoria (YYC), Nanaimo and Penticton in the Okanagan Valley of BC.  Harbour Air, also offers seasonal sea plane service from the sea plane terminal near YVR.  They fly to Tofino harbour vs the Tofino airport. The Tofino/Long Beach Airport (YAZ) is situated 11 km south of Tofino and 30 km north of Ucluelet on the Pacific Rim Highway.

From Seattle, WA, Kenmore Air sometimes offers seasonal service on specific days of the week from SEA to Tofino (YAZ) and/or Nanaimo (YCD).

Note that Budget Rental Car does have a very small fleet of rental cars available during high season only.  If you think you may need one, contact Budget well before you leave home to check availability if you’re flying directly in to Tofino.

An alternative during the off season is to take the BC Ferries (more below) to Nanaimo;  a flight from YVR to Nanaimo (YCD) on Air Canada or a sea plane flight on Harbour Air or Seair.

Special note: Because we visit in the off season, we usually fly Harbour Air from the Downtown Vancouver seaplane terminal to Nanaimo harbor.  We have taken Air Canada to the Nanaimo airport, however, the Nanaimo airport sits south of Nanaimo in a valley that is prone to fog conditions outside of the summer season which often delays or cancels flights.

Car rental services are available in Nanaimo.  Note that the rental agencies are located at the airport, so if you’re arriving by seaplane into the harbour, call a day in advance so they’ll have your car ready at the seaplane terminal.

By Car:

The drive from Nanaimo to Tofino is approximately a 2 to 4-hour drive on Hwy 4.  It is the only land route to the west side of the island to access Tofino or Ucluelet. The route takes you through diverse landscapes, offering picturesque views along the way. There’s plenty of places you may want to stop along the way.

Special Note: Before embarking on your journey, it’s always a good idea to check for any road updates or closures.  Rock slides, road washouts, heavy snow, etc can be an issue along Hwy 4.

To get to Tofino from Nanaimo, you’ll primarily be using BC Highway 4, also known as the Pacific Rim Highway. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

From Nanaimo start by heading west on Highway 19, which is also known as the Inland Island Highway.  After approximately 20-30 minutes on Highway 19, take the Parksville exit to Highway 4 West.  The next major town you’ll pass through is Port Alberni.

Port Alberni is your last place for services until you reach Tofino or Ucluelet.  There are no gas stations or other services along the way, so it’s the perfect stop for snacks, restrooms and to fuel up.  Drive through the town, following the signs for Tofino. You’ll continue on Highway 4 towards the Pacific Rim.  While Hwy 4 has been continually improved over the years, be aware the a majority of the highway is two lanes, one in each direction.

Since this is the only way in and out of the west side of the island, it is heavily traveled by large trucks and semis making deliveries to this side of the island.  While there are pullouts for slow moving vehicles along the route, be aware that during times of heavy traffic (summer), your travel time may be significantly impacted.  When you reach the “T” intersection near the ocean, you can turn south towards Ucluelet, or north where the highway will lead you through the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and to Tofino.

By Ferry:

if you’re coming from the BC mainland, you can take a BC Ferry from Tsawwassen (near Vancouver) to Duke Point (just a few kilometers south of Nanaimo) and then drive to Tofino.  The Tsawwassen ferry port is about a 30-40 minute drive south of the YVR airport, depending upon traffic.  Sailing time is 2 to 2.5 hours.

Another option is the BC Ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Departure Bay which is in central Nanaimo,  Horseshoe Bay is about 30-35 minutes north of Downtown Vancouver.  Note that this ferry line has less frequency than the Tsawassen ferries. Sailing time is 1.5-2 hours, but you do end up in downtown Nanaimo vs south of town.

BC Ferries transport people, cars, trucks and semi-trucks on it’s ferries from Vancouver to the island.

Hullo is a new private ferry service between Downtown Vancouver and downtown Nanaimo.  Both arrive and depart from the seaplane terminal in the respective cities.  Hullo operates high speed ferry boats, which takes approximately 1.5 hours vs the longer times on BC Ferries.  Reservations are highly recommended.  One advantage of Hullo is that it offers on-board wifi, where  BC Ferries does not.  Hullo is a passenger only ferry service.

Once you’ve reached Tofino, the town itself is relatively small and easy to navigate. Plan your transportation based on your starting point, and be prepared to enjoy the stunning scenery along the way. Keep in mind that road conditions may vary, especially during the winter months, so it’s a good idea to check for updates before embarking on your journey.

Once in Tofino, you have several options to get around the area if you don’t have or want to drive your car.  Tofino has its own ride share service, Whistle.  There is no Uber of Lyft.  There’s also Tofino Taxi (250-725-3333), as well as the Tiki Shuttle Bus and IslandLink Bus for longer trips.