Everything You Need to Know about Hot Springs Cove, Tofino29 June 2016
Our very favorite day in Tofino was spent at Hot Springs Cove across from Flores Island. We arrived by seaplane, an incredible experience in itself, and soaked the afternoon away in our very own hot springs pool. But upon arrival, we didn't know quite what to expect! We'd done as much research as we could, although a few questions remained unanswered. So, here's our attempt to share everything you need to know about traveling to Hot Springs Cove.
BEFORE YOU GO
The Boardwalk | Upon landing in Hot Springs Cove, our pilot taxied to the dock and then sent us on our merry way to the pools. Just after the dock you'll find a map, like a trailhead map, that gives you an idea of the island's geography. To the left of the map is a small trail that leads to a picnic shelter and restrooms and, if you continue farther, to a small campsite and a few old village icons (like a church). Immediately to the right of the map is the boardwalk that takes you directly to the pools. Just as everyone said, the boardwalk is well-made and easy to follow. And yes, it's a solid 20-minute walk to the springs, and we were booking it.
Sharing the Boardwalk | While on the boardwalk, I was watching my footing when suddenly a GIANT WOLF CAME BARRELING TOWARD US. OK, I lied. It wasn't a wolf. It was a giant shaggy dog, but it looked JUST LIKE A WOLF and I thought, for sure, we were donezo. Turns out, two or three dogs from the nearby First Nation reservation roam the island throughout the day and try to make friends with the visitors. They're mostly in search of food (and attention). But they can certainly take you by surprise. Without dog tags or collars, I wasn't quite sure if they were feral or family pets. Keep in mind, they may just pop out of the bushes as you're walking along the trail, wait for you outside the restrooms, or jump in next to you in the little pools. Have no fear, they're quite friendly. They'll nudge you to give them rocks from the pools, and they'll patiently wait for your sandwich leftovers--but don't oblige. Signs throughout the area encourage visitors to ignore the dogs so they don't return for later visits.
Changing Rooms & Restrooms | Toward the end of the boardwalk, you'll notice it begins to fork. To the left, you'll see two small latrines. Continue straight ahead and you'll find a shelter that overlooks the cove. It's equipped with two changing stalls, as well as a few hooks and cubbies to store your gear.
By Sea | In a full six-hour trip, you can board a boat in Tofino and cruise out to the cove. You'll have a few hours time to soak and relax before your return boat ride back to the main island. While most time-consuming, this option is typically the most economical. Keep in mind that since the price is low, many other travelers will be joining you, meaning the cove will be rather busy during your visit.
By Sky | Alternatively, catch a flight from Tofino and speed up your travel time. You'll reach the cove in just 20 minutes, giving yourself about three hours at the pools before needing to meet your pilot at the dock for your return flight. With less time time needed for travel, you end up optimizing your time at the springs. We also noticed that we arrived in between boat drop offs/pick ups, so there was a short period of time where we were two of maybe 10 people at the pools.
By Sea and Sky | Or, consider getting the best of both worlds. Though, we did find this option to be the priciest of all and it didn't seem so save much time. You can fly there and boat back, or vice versa. Take your pick.
WHAT TO PACK
Water shoes | I'm talking real, grippy water shoes. Not flip flops or Crocs. Think: Chacos or Tevas. The rocks are very slippery. You'll be glad you packed these.
Quick-dry towel | If you travel during the right time of year, you may not need a towel at all. But, even with warm weather, we found ourselves wishing we'd brought better towels.
Picnic lunch | We packed our own sandwiches for our visit since we knew there wouldn't be any dining options at the cove. It seemed most other visitors had the same idea. Though, you'll find there aren't any garbage cans to be found between the dock and the pools (or at the pools) so, like camping, be sure to pack out what you pack in.
Luggage locks | We ended up resting our personal items on the rocks near the pools so they were relatively in sight. We'd wished we'd brought luggage locks or a bike lock so we could string our bags together and keep them stored securely at the shelter above the pools without worry. I can't be certain theft is typical here, but a few forums made us cautious.
It goes without saying, but don't forget your swimwear, a change of clothes, sunscreen, and maybe your waterproof camera gear.
WHAT WE WISH WE WOULD'VE KNOWN
When we landed at Hot Springs Cove, our pilot pointed out a floating bed and breakfast, the InnChanter Hotel, that's situated just a few yards from the dock. It's a 1920s heritage vessel that's been transformed into a small, vintage hotel with just five guest rooms. Guests on the boat can access Hot Springs Cove at any time, day or night, which means they'll always beat the rush of travelers that arrive in the late morning, mid-day, and early afternoon waves. We also noticed a couple leave the InnChanter Hotel by kayak, cross the channel, and park their paddles on another island for explorations. Turns out the bed and breakfast offers free use of their kayaks and other rec equipment during your stay. Sounds like quite the getaway!
As mentioned earlier, campsites at Hot Springs Cove are available to the public. I'd assume the same perks apply to campers as they do to hotel guests--Hot Springs Cove is open to them at sunrise, sunset, and any time in between.
Our pilot also noted that the cove, formerly Refuge Cove, is home to the Hesquiaht First Nation community. I may be getting the dates wrong, but I believe he mentioned that the Hot Springs Cove region was the original village of the area residents through the 1960s. But when the 1963 tsunami hit, the community was forced to rebuild across the bay. However, parts of the original settlement still remain in tact. If you plan enough time into your visit, you can explore the area church, former roadways, and other dwellings that made up the former island village.