So, you’re considering checking out Tofino’s ninth-best tourist attraction (according to TripAdvisor). The hot springs are definitely worth the trip, I mean, it’s a natural hot tub surrounded by coastal rain forest. But because they’re in a natural environment, there are some challenges that will restrict some people from going – especially the mobile-impaired, elderly folk, or children that require a stroller. Read these five insider tips to make sure you know what to expect from your hot springs adventure.
- The hot springs are far.
The springs are in Clayoquot Sound, which is an hour and a half boat ride (26 nautical miles) north of Tofino; a trip to the Hot Springs will eat up a seven-hour day. That just means some basic planning is required, including finding a company that offers Hot Springs tours, and booking it in advance. You’ll be looking at about $120 plus tax, give or take, depending on if it’s high or low season. I used Remote Passages, but there are many service providers.
When booking, you’ll be asked if you want the zodiac tour, or the closed-vessel tour. The zodiac is less comfortable because wind will be whipping you in the face, but it lets you get closer to wildlife. If you have goggles, they’d be useful on the boat ride. Some providers supply them, Remote Passages did not.
If you’re short on time, many service providers offer a plane option instead of boat. This pricey option is convenient because it means there will be fewer people accessing the springs when you go (the plane holds fewer people than the boats), but it also means you miss out on the wildlife viewing opportunities that come with boating. When I went, we saw breaching grey whales, sea otters, sea lions and bald eagles.
2. You’ll be climbing over pointy rocks.
The hot springs are in a rocky outcrop. Like lots of BC trails, they’re not modified to be “people friendly.” You’re going to want to bring water shoes with you. They’re annoying to buy if you don’t have them already, but definitely worth the splurge. Flip-flops just don’t cut it.
3. Leave the jewelry at home.
The springs are naturally sulfurous, so they’ll tarnish jewelry. Higher grade metals like platinum will be fine, but if you’re wearing silver, it may turn gold (and not in a King Midus kind of way). You can always polish them back to their original colour, or bypass the nuisance altogether by leaving the jewelry at home.
4. The hot springs fit about 15 people.
It’s surprising how many people get dropped off for the springs compared to how many people can actually fit in them. For this reason, you’ll want to either beat the crowd, or go after the rush. Here are a few things you can do to beat the crowd:
- Wear your bathing suit under your clothes.
- Walk quickly on the boardwalk to the springs.
- Do not wait in line for the change rooms.
5. There are change rooms, but the line to use them is always big.
There is, however, a little shack on the path above the change room that is often available. Most people dismiss it, thinking it’s a bathroom, but not you! Go straight up to that shack to change after getting out of the pools. Oh, and don’t use the change room before getting into the pool, just wear your bathing suit under your clothes.
6. Bring food and water.
Come April 2018, the Ahousaht First Nation will manage the springs and begin offering food and spa services, but until then, there’s no access to food or water. Bring a litre of water and pack a lunch. The only luxury is one bathroom at the start of the walk – and it’s not very luxurious.
If your trip to Tofino is short, the hot springs are a big commitment, so you want to make sure you get the best experience possible. Being prepared makes for a more pleasurable experience.