3 Best Tide Pools to Explore in Tofino: A Quick Guide

Tide pools during high tie with many rocky outcops on a sunny day

Celebrated for its remarkable biodiversity, Tofino is a must-visit destination for tide pool explorers. Located on the stunning Pacific coast, this area offers an abundance of beaches, each with their unique selection of intertidal marine life. 

We’ll provide detailed information on each location’s notable wildlife, amenities, and special attractions, helping you plan an unforgettable, adventure-filled visit

1. Chesterman Beach

Chesterman Beach offers 3 kilometers of golden sands that are ranked as one of the top places in North America for surfing. You’ll likely see surfers of all ages and levels riding the waves. The water is cold, so you may need to bring a wetsuit. Whether to enjoy a summer sunset, a morning stroll, a family picnic, kayaking, or paddleboarding, there are many activities for everyone. The beach even has a private island! Visitors can explore the island as long as they respect the property.

There are two sections of the beach. The north side of the beach is quieter and has calmer water. It is perfect for those seeking tranquility or learning to surf. The south side of the beach is full of rocks. It offers an excellent opportunity for tidepooling! When the tide is out, the rock formations reveal massive sea anemones and other intertidal marine life.

Animals and plants you can spot here

  • Anemones
  • Starfish (Look out for rare sunflower starfish!)
  • Shellfish
  • Nudibranches
  • Sea urchins
  • Crabs
  • Barnacles
  • Etc

You will most likely see numerous birds as you walk along the beach. If you bring a pet, keep them on a leash. The birds would hate to be chased and disturbed.

Amenities

  • Ample parking
  • Restrooms available
  • Showers available
  • Trash bins
  • Rental shop
  • Free doggie bags

Additional info

  • Dogs are allowed but need to be on leash
  • Dress in layers, as it can get windy

Other recommended activities

  • Fly a kite on the beach
  • Explore the town
  • Check out the private island

Getting there

Chesterman Beach lies in the south of Tofino. Drive along the Pacific Rim Highway, then turn right on South Chesterman Road. There are no clear signs on the road, so look for the street sign. The parking lot, restrooms, and showers are located at the end of South Chesterman Road. The beach has easy access from the parking lot to the water.

2. Tonquin Beach


Tonquin Beach is a small, secluded beach with a peaceful and tropical setting. The beach is covered with plush white sand and protected by rock cliffs and small trees. It is not located directly facing the Pacific Ocean, so the water is much calmer than other beaches in the area. Swimming is safe; just watch out for occasional rip tides. You may need a wetsuit because the water can be cold, even during summer.

The beach becomes even more stunning during low tide. You can enter the small caves on the rocky hillside. Many tide pools are exposed, revealing abundant marine life waiting to be explored. Wear swimming shoes if necessary.

Animals and plants you can spot here

  • Anemones
  • Starfish
  • Small crabs
  • Mussels
  • Etc

If lucky, you may see migrating grey whales! Many people have reported seeing them on several occasions.

Amenities

  • Free parking for a few hours
  • Boardwalk access to the beach
  • Public toilet available
  • No picnic tables and benches

Additional info

  • Dogs are allowed but need to be on leash
  • Dress in layers; it can get windy
  • Some hiking trails connecting to the beach
  • Explore the small caves

Other recommended activities

  • Hike the rainforest trail
  • Explore the town
  • Check out some viewpoints along the way
  • Watching sunset

Getting there

Tonquin Beach is located in the heart of Tofino. The best way to get to the beach is by driving to the end of Tonquin Park Road. There is a short boardwalk that leads to the beach through the lush green forest. The hike would take around 7 minutes. However, watch your step as some sections are slippery and covered with moss. In addition, you can also hike from the town center to the beach. Start your way from the trailhead at Tofino Community Hall. It is a less than 1 km hike and will only take 15 minutes. 

3. MacKenzie Beach


MacKenzie Beach is a secluded beach resort surrounded by multiple hotels. It is a convenient beach to visit when you’re in the area. A short stroll from the beach brings you to the retail area off the main highway, where you can find shops, food trucks, cafes, etc. Many restaurants and hotels nearby provide surfboard rentals, lessons, and bike rentals. 

The rock outcroppings protect the beach from winds and storm waves. The water and the waves are calm – a good call for swimming, kayaking, SUP, or for kids to play in the water. The south end of the beach is where you can start your tide pool journey! During low tide, the rocky coastline exposed several tide pools that are inaccessible during high tide. Try to count how many sea stars you find on the water (you can’t!) These tidepools are home to hundreds of Patrick and other marine life.

Animals and plants you can spot here

  • Seastars
  • Shellfish
  • Small crabs
  • Sea anemones
  • Ghost shrimps

Amenities

  • Paid parking
  • Boardwalk access to the beach
  • Universal restrooms
  • Outdoor showers
  • Picnic tables with fire pit
  • Campground 
  • Airstream trailers
  • BBQ joint
  • Live music
  • Sauna
  • Childcare

Additional info

  • Dogs are allowed but need to be on leash
  • Many shops and restaurants nearby
  • Dress in layers; it could get windy and cold

Other recommended activities

  • Join the yoga class on the beach
  • Enjoy music from local musicians
  • Camp at the beach
  • Stay in one of the beachfront accommodations

Getting there

MacKenzie Beach is located just a few miles south of Tofino. You can access the beach easily by exiting through Hellesen Drive from Pacific Rim Highway. There is a short dirt path leading to the beach in the parking lot. The tidepools are located on the south end of the beach.

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