Tofino’s Famous Hot Springs Cove
An Island Adventure to Hot Springs Cove is truly an unforgettable West Coast experience. Breathtaking scenery and stunning wildlife, this trip has it all!
Have you ever experienced something that you were sure would be good, but when you looked back on it, you realized that it was better than you could have imagined?
We went to Hot Springs Cove in Maquinna Provincial Park, about 27 nautical miles north west of Tofino with our family knowing it would be something we would all enjoy together, but I never imagined it would be so unforgettable. Since the hot springs can only be reached by boat or float plane, we hopped on our favourite West Coast Aquatic Safaris and set off for Hot Springs Cove.
I understood it would take roughly an hour and a half to reach the hot springs, but I had no idea what we would experience on the way there.
It was an uncharacteristically warm sunny day in April so everywhere we looked was amazingly beautiful. Tofino is a stunning town. It’s happily situated at the end of the road and has such a laid-back, surfer/chill/beachy vibe that makes time slow down if not stop altogether. It’s friendly, inviting, and creates a longing to return as soon as you leave.
So we hopped on our boat…destination Hot Springs Cove. After donning our life jackets and listening to a safety talk, we untied from the dock and headed out into the blissful Pacific Ocean waters.
About 10 minutes into the journey, our captain slowed the boat down and told us all to keep our eyes open for whale spouts and grey surfacing that would look much like a rock while he trolled the waters for a few minutes.
Just 5 minutes later, the boat turned toward the sighting of a grey whale. We all waited with anticipation to see it again.
Our captain began telling us all about greys and how they feed, swim and live.
He let us know they are one of the more boring whales to watch because they really don’t show much of themselves. And he was right. For several minutes all we were privy to seeing was the occasional spout and tiny bit of their backs. Until the end….
That’s when we got the biggest surprise of our trip.
Not once, not twice, but THREE times (!) our grey whale friends decided to bless us with a full breach display, quite uncommon to this kind of whale. Our captain was himself quite shocked and we all squealed with great delight and could have called it a day at that, but we were actually just getting started.
From there we floated by an island sanctuary for migratory birds and california and stellar sea lions.
We learned how to differentiate between the different sea lions, how to know who the alpha sea lion is and understand why the california sea lions followed closely by our boat while we were near the island.
I could have stayed on that boat all day just watching the gorgeous wildlife display, but alas, we were headed for the hot springs. My family headed to the inside cabin for the rest of our boat ride as we hit full throttle and made way for the springs.
30 minutes later we entered Hot Springs Cove.
The springs themselves sit across the bay from the Hesquiaht First Nations community and are at the end of a 20-30 minute boardwalk trail (depending on your lightness of feet) through the ever-stunning Pacific Rim rainforest. As we hiked along this breathtaking trail, we talked about the beauty all around us, about the difference between First Nations and the early settlers.
We discussed the importance of caring for the land to keep it beautiful and we looked up close at nurse logs and discovered how the forest takes care of itself.
We walked up and down stairs along the path and were even joined by a friendly, local dog that the kids named “Smokey.” I wonder how many different names this dog has been called over the years as he confidently leads tourists to the springs.
As we rounded the corner, a slight sulphuric mineral smell permeated the air and we knew we had arrived. With breathtaking views of the cove and steam filling the air, we hurried to the change rooms to don our swimwear and head into the waters.
Now I love a good soak in the hot tub.
So do my children.
Keeping that in mind, our first dip into the water surprised us all and we learned why it’s call a “hot” springs not a “warm” springs.
The water is hotter than the average hot tub, so entering slowly is a must. There would be no quick splashes and dunking of heads, but there would be plenty of relaxing and taking in the scenery.
The hot springs goes all the way to the ocean water which provides a fantastic relief for those who like their springs a bit cooler.
My daughter found it refreshing to sit in the hot water and wait for a wave to splash up over the rocks and pour into her mini pool, giving an instant shock of cold amidst the hotness.
As the ocean water enters the channel of hot, it cools it down, making a cooler springs, a warm springs and finally a HOT springs.
The waterfall cascading down at the entrance is for the brave souls who like their showers nearly scalding. I gave it a go, but couldn’t get my head fully submerged…just my shoulders and down.
The pressure reminded me a bit of a deep tissue massage, given by nature herself.
For two hours we enjoyed Hot Springs Cove. We soaked, ate lunch, soaked, drank water, and soaked some more. As our time wrapped up, we changed back into our clothes for the walk back to the boat and drank in more of nature and the deep, lush green that grows so fervently in this part of the world.
Our West Coast Aquatic Safaris captain was waiting at the dock to take us back to Tofino and as we boarded the boat I was again in awe of how wonderful this day had been.
Every time we take the kids out of school for a traveling islanders trip, I wonder a little bit if we’re adding to or taking away from their education.
After this day, I was confident their education was only enhanced by our outing to the hot springs. We studied nature, wildlife, a bit of history and geography and had fun the entire time making memories as a family.
I’m confident that if you can only choose one tour to take on your visit to Tofino, Hot Springs Cove is the best bang for your buck. Especially during the warmer months.
It is all things Vancouver Island…it is ocean wildlife. It is time on the water. It is hiking. It is beautiful people. It is nature and family. It is fantastic.
1. Bring your own food and water. There is no fresh water or stores. Bring plenty for the day.
2. Good footwear for the hot springs is a must! There are slippery rocks and jaggedy rocks. Bring those water shoes or sturdy sandals. Trust me…you’ll be thankful.
3. This is a rugged natural hot springs excursion. The hot spring itself is a small waterfall that leads into a narrow passage in the rocks for the water to run into the ocean. Do not expect wide open ocean pool areas with modern facilities.