A steaming current makes its way through the forest, bubbling up under mulch and rocks, finally cascading from the roots of a western red cedar and splashing down into a series of tidal pools. There between the craggy hillside of Maquinna Marine Provincial Park, Hot Springs Cove spills out into the Pacific Ocean, and visitors sit in every puddle of warmth they can find as splashing waves refresh their blushing faces.
Warm Up at Hot Springs Cove, a Truly West Coast Experience
Tofino is known for its surfing and storm watching, and Tofino Resort & Marina is known for its adventures and day trips. During my recent visit (where I also went Stand Up Paddleboarding) I got to head out on a half day trip to Hot Springs Cove, a place I had only heard of by word of mouth, and recently in celebrity Instagram stories.
From Tofino Resort & Marina’s Adventure Centre, you can book a trip to Hot Springs Cove by boat, which will include a scenic tour and even a few detours for whale watching — we spotted a few otters, seals, and several grey whales during our tour.
It’s 30 nautical miles to reach the edge of Maquinna Marine Provincial Park, which is on the edge of Vancouver Island. Cruising along the shore to wharf, you’ll catch a glimpse of the hot springs and a wooden shelter with change rooms that have been built into the edge of the cliff.
Once at the wharf you’ll hop onto land and begin a 2km boardwalk stroll to the site of the springs. Lichen and moss drip and drape all around this pristine rainforest setting and you’ll want to stretch your arms around each behemoth of a western red cedar or sitka spruce you pass – these trees are massive! An endearing part of the walk to the cove is that most of the planks on the boardwalk are engraved with the names of ships, boats, sailors and their loved ones. You can see the love and appreciation people have for this natural wonder.
The boardwalk will eventually turn into a set of stairs that leads down to the entrance point to the cove. The cushy mulch of the forest floor gives way to rocks and boulders, which are slippery from the steam of the geothermal springs (and rain, since it is the west coast after all), so you’ll want to bring some sturdy water shoes.
Drop off your bags and your towel — be careful if you bring a picnic lunch, there are some hungry Stellar’s Jays fluttering about — and clamber into the warm mist of the springs starting from the waterfall. There are a series of natural pools which are hotter closer to the source (the forest/waterfall) and slowly cool off as you reach the ocean.
Conveniently, there is a naturally carved out tidal pool right above the high tide line that gets splashed with salty waves – a welcome and refreshing blast for those who have been melting into the warmth of the springs for a while. It’s the best (and most authentic) seaside hot tub experience you’ll have.
Up on dry land, there are pit toilets for comfort, and change rooms so you can dry off for your trek back to your boat. It’s all so very civilized, yet so rugged and wild.
If you’re fortunate enough to get Jeff from Tofino Resort & Marina as your guide, you’ll enjoy the boat ride to and from the cove even more. He’ll regale you with animated nautical tales and folklore that will keep you entertained for hours. You’ll hear about the wolves on Vargas Island, you could spot grey whales by Flores Island, and you’ll learn how Cow Bay got its name!
The Hot Springs Cove tour can be booked year-round from Tofino Resort & Marina. Rain or shine, they have covered boats that can get you there as well — and it’s so lovely in the rain so don’t let that stop you!