Where to find tide pools in Tofino, Vancouver Island, BC

Every tide pool we saw in Tofino, BC on Vancouver Island’s west coast was more amazing than the last. After a while, we stopped exclaiming about it and learned to expect to be stunned by the intertidal beauty of this area. Where to find the best tide pools in Tofino? Below are our top picks:

Tofino tide pool

1. MacKenzie Beach: Just a few miles south of Tofino, MacKenzie Beach stretches widely in low tide, allowing visitors to explore not only the rocky coastline at the south end, but several small islands that are not accessible in high tide. Start down near Ocean Village turn left for the rocky outcroppings. While we visited this beach, Calvin decided to try to count 100 sea stars: he stopped at over 300! In addition, you’ll find sea anemomes and lots of crabs and small fish. Most amazing (to us) were the abundance of ghost shrimp just under the sand in low tide. You can identify their burrows by the tiny ‘volcano’ shaped holes in the wet sand. If you dig, you’ll uncover one, but be warned: they’re squirmy, big, and a bit scary!

sea stars in Tofino BC

2. Chesterman Beach: Even more impressive than MacKenzie Beach, Chesterman Beach is larger, wilder, and features an amazing fissure in the rock where families can walk through in low tide. In the center of the Chesterman Beach is a private island; it’s permissible to walk to it and on it, but respect the private property signs on each end. We found it fun to reach this island, but the best tide pools are on the south side of the main beach, where the rocks reveal massive sea anemones and other intertidal wildlife. (At this beach, Calvin’s sea star count rose to over 600!) Go through the rock fissure and climb over the larger rocks with muscles and barnacles, and check in the large pools for crabs and hermit crabs. We even found a rare sunflower sea star, known as the biggest predator of the intertidal pool area. The colors and size of the tidal pool inhabitants on Chesterman are truly jaw-dropping. If you only visit one tidal pool area in Tofino, make it this one!

Chesterman beach

BC tide pools

3. Lismer Beach: Lismer Beach is located next to more well-known Wickaninnish Beach (famous for its surfing and sand dunes), and is accessible by South Beach Trail (1.5 km round trip). Kids will love the chorus of ‘music’ the many pebbles on the beach make in the rolling surf, but caution should be exerted: only attempt the tide pools along the bluffs at extreme low tide. The trailhead is located near Pacific Rim National Park Reserve’s visitor’s center (a must-do): at the center, turn south.

sunflower star

Note: be sure to plan your visits to tide pools during low tide. Tidal information is available in the local paper, at every visitor center in Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, and from any local.

Tofino on Dwellable