Cox Bay Lookout: The Best Viewpoint Over Tofino (Local Guide)

If you’re looking for a beautiful panoramic hike near Tofino and an adventurous activity to spice up your day, look no further than Cox Bay Lookout.

Cox bay lookout is one of those not to be missed Tofino hikes as it offers spectacular views of the Vancouver Island coastline over the Pacific Ocean.

The hiking trail can be a bit confusing to find because it’s unmarked, but I’ll do my best to explain how to get there and all you should know.

Cox Bay Lookout is a hidden West Coast gem that few people know about, making it even more special and enjoyable.

Although it’s a muddy and a bit steep trail, the incredible view is well worth your extra effort!

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Cox Bay Lookout Trail Info

Length 2.6km (round trip)

Elevation 115m

Time 50 min

Difficulty Moderately challenging

Cox Bay Lookout Starting Point & Directions

To get to Cox Bay, hit the Pacific Rim Highway. It’s only about a 10-minute drive from downtown Tofino BC. 

  • Park in the Maltby road parking lot beside Surf Grove Campground (After the turnoff at Maltby road, just past Pacific Sands Beach Resort. Side note: If you reach the visitors center, you’ve gone too far.)
  • Walk the path leading to the beach.
  • Turn left and continue walking towards the south end of the beach until you find what looks like the starting point of the Cox bay trail, with a lot of cool tide pools and a small stream leading to the forest.
  • Download All Trails map to make it easier to locate the trail and stay on the right track.
  • Follow your GPS if you have one, or rely on your natural instinct to get to the top.

Cox Bay Tofino Map

map of cox bay lookout trail in tofino
Image Credit: All Trails.

Cox Bay Lookout Tips

  • Plan your trip at low tide to make it easier to locate the trail.
  • Wear easy-to-wash clothes and comfortable, sturdy hiking boots. If you have gaiters, they might help prevent the muddy water from getting in your shoes.
  • Download All Trails map for navigation
  • Arrive early as the small beach parking lot gets packed with surfers, especially on weekends or holidays.
  • Watch your step for roots and mud.
  • Choose a sunny and clear day to enjoy the panoramic views to the fullest.
  • If you don’t have a car, you can use Tofino’s own Uber – Whistle to get to Cox Bay lookout, hop on a Tikkibus or rent a bike
  • Be prepared for rain. Even during the summer months, you may encounter bad weather on the West Coast of Vancouver Island.  

Cox Bay lookout is one of my favorite off-the-beaten-path hikes near Tofino. Yes, it’s messy, and you’ll get dirty, but the spectacular coastal views will sweep you off your feet and make up for a little extra effort.

The Cox bay lookout hike isn’t particularly difficult because of the elevation gain, but it’s the terrain that makes it challenging. Think wet, muddy soil, fallen trees, and overgrown tree roots.

The fact that the trail isn’t marked and that there are multiple trails leading towards Cox Bay lookout doesn’t make it any easier. Although the hike is no walk in the park, it’s all part of the adventure.

Before climbing the hill, you can enjoy a stroll on Cox Bay beach and observe the surfers catching the waves, happy dogs running around and other people chilling on the sandy beach.

Cox Bay is not only one of the most popular surfing beaches in Tofino but also an excellent spot for storm-watching. 

The easiest path to locate towards the viewpoint is along the small stream with interesting rock formations and tide pools leading to the forest. If you have GPS and follow the All Trails map, you’ll be fine.

Walking uphill towards Cox Bay lookout will make you feel like you’re on an expedition through Jurassic park.

Vancouver Island in British Columbia is one of the areas with the most rainfall in Canada, and it shows. Thanks to the abundance of water, you’ll find lush rainforest here and tons of mud all year round. When I say mud, I mean it. You’ll often have to step into deep puddles as there are no ways to bypass them. So get ready for a big mud puddle party!

After you walk for about 20 mins depending on your pace, you’ll reach a rock face with a rope that you’ll need to climb. 

After the rock face, it’s only a few more minutes to the Cox bay lookout.

Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded by the awe-inspiring view of Chesterman Beach and Clayoquot Sound with Lone Cone mountain in the background. 

If you plan to hike around the sunrise or sunset, you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of the golden hour over the open ocean and snap some epic photos.

If you go to Cox Bay Lookout at sunset, be mindful of walking back down before it gets fully dark. It’ll take you only around 20 minutes to return, so you should be fine.

The best part about this hike is that it’s not very well known outside the local crowd, so you’ll only bump into a handful of hikers or locals along your way.

The views are the most spectacular facing towards Tofino, but you can also continue the walk further to get a beautiful view of Ucluelet. It takes only a few extra minutes to reach both viewpoints.

After your adventure, you’ll probably want to get a bite somewhere. The good news is there’re also some really great places to eat and drink in Tofino.

The closest restaurant is a simple walk down the beach to Long Beach Lodge. You will also get some incredible views from The Great Room while enjoying exceptional food and drinks. Or, for more casual fare, walk a little farther to Pacific Sands Beach Resort and enjoy a meal outdoors at Surfside Grill. 

Other Hiking Trails Near Tofino

  • Rainforest Trail
  • Wild Pacific Trail
  • South Beach Trail
  • Pettinger Point Trail
  • Schooner Cove Trail
  • Nuu-chah-nulth Trail
  • The Willowbrae & Halfmoon Bay Trail
  • Tonquin Trail
  • Shorepine Bog Trail
  • Lighthouse Loop + Ancient Cedars Trail
  • Big Tree Trail Trail on Meares Island
  • Combers Beach Trail
  • Canso Plane Crash Site
  • Hot Springs Cove Trail
  • Wild Side Trail
  • Telegraph Trail at Vargas Island

If you’re passionate about the outdoors and want to explore more of Vancouver Island’s hidden gems, check out these 17 stunning Tofino hikes, where I go into more detail.

Places to Stay Near Cox Bay

With its evergreen old-growth forest, sandy beaches, and rugged coastline, Tofino is a one-of-a-kind destination.

Many Canadians consider Tofino a surfing hub of Canada, specifically Cox Bay Beach.

If one of the reasons for your Vancouver Island visit is surfing, then staying at Cox Bay is a super convenient option, with many surfing schools right at the beach.

Whether you’re looking for a luxurious resort with beach oceanfront views, a cozy cottage, or a budget-friendly campsite, there is a place to stay in Tofino to suit your style and budget.

Besides surfing, there are plenty of other activities to keep you entertained, including kayaking, biking, beach yoga, stand-up paddleboarding, hiking in the nearby Pacific Rim National Park, and whale watching.

Pacific Sands Beach Resort

living room with view of ocean
Image Credit: Karpiak Caravan.

Pacific Sands Beach Resort is located right on Cox Bay beach and offers stunning oceanfront suites and villas.

The villas are equipped with full kitchens, fireplaces, and private ocean-view patios only a few steps from the beach. 

The luxury signature suites come with their own private hot tubs. 

The resort is surrounded by lush forest and is one of my favorite places to stay when I am in Tofino. My family has been staying here for close to a decade, and we personally love the beachfront suites. 

The resort also offers amazing amenities like private surfing lessons and surf rentals at Surf Sister school, massage therapy, and an oceanfront sauna for Pacific Sands Beach Resort guests. 

The resort is family-friendly and, during summer, even provides an incredible Kid’s camp. 

If you want to be close to all the action and have all the amenities of a resort at your fingertips, Pacific Sands Beach Resort is a great choice.

Long Beach Lodge

Another great place to stay on Cox Bay beach is Long Beach Lodge, which offers stunning ocean views, beach access, and a variety of exceptional amenities.

You can book one of 20 two-bedroom Rainforest Cottages or choose from 41 luxurious rooms overlooking the ocean.

They even have the Surf Club, which offers luxurious spa-like facilities, surf school, paddleboard (SUP) school, & Marine Adventures.

Surf Club is a one-of-a-kind facility in Canada, and it has set a new standard for the surfing world.

The club offers professional surf and stand-up paddleboard (SUP) lessons and surf rentals.

After your day surfing in cold ocean waters, you can enjoy a sauna or hot tub or sip on a latte or cappuccino at their coffee shop.

Cox Bay Beach Resort

Cox Bay Beach Resort is a popular destination for surfers and beach lovers. The resort offers direct access to Cox Bay beach and amazing views of the Pacific Ocean.

The resort is also a great refuge to just relax, enjoy the incredible natural beauty of the area and listen to the sound of crashing waves on your beach walks. There are multiple Beachfront House Suites to choose from.

They offer on-site yoga classes, surf packages, an outdoor hot tub, sauna, fitness center, fireplace and more.

Surf Grove Campground

surf grove tofino camping entry in the forest
Image Credit: Karpiak Caravan.

Surf Grove Camp is a perfect place to stay if you want to catch some waves. There’s no better way to connect with nature and experience Tofino’s Wild West than to camp. Whether you’re a surfer or not, you’re going to love it here.

The camp is located right on Cox Bay.

There are over 100 fully serviced RV campsites, unique barrel cedar sauna, firepits, surf rentals and lessons.

Surf Grove has a partnership with Pacific Surf Company which has a surf shack right on Cox Bay and a long history of teaching surfing classes (since 1998). So even if you’re new to surfing, you will surely be in good hands. 

Budget Friendly Accommodations

Surf Grove Camp is the only Tofino campground at Cox Bay. But if you’re looking for more budget-friendly accommodation options in Tofino, you can also stay at Tofino Hostel or Bella Pacifica Campground.

FAQ

How do I access Cox Bay Lookout?

To access the parking lot for the Cox Bay Lookout from Tofino, drive southeast on Pacific Rim Highway and make a right turn onto Maltby Road. The parking area is beside Surf Grove Campground. It’s only a 10 min drive from Tofino. The starting point for the trail is at Cox Bay beach.

Or, if you are a guest at Pacific Sands Beach Resort, Long Beach Lodge, Cox Bay Resort or Surf Grove Campground, you can simply walk out your front door and down the beach to the trail entrance. 

How long is Cox Bay Lookout trail?

The Cox Bay Lookout Trail is 1.6 mi or around 2.6 km long (round trip) and can take up to 50 minutes to finish as some sections are steep, muddy, and overgrown with roots and fallen trees. It’s an unmarked trail, so it’s recommended to follow GPS to stay on the right track.

Where is Cox Bay?

Cox Bay is located on the West Coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It’s a short 10 min drive from Tofino and is one of the most popular surfing beaches in the area.

How do I get to Cox Bay Tofino?

There are a few ways to get to Cox Bay in Tofino, BC.

The easiest way is by car, and the drive only takes around 10 minutes. However, if you don’t have a car, you can also use Tofino’s own Uber called Whistle, hop on a Tikkibus or rent a bike. The bike ride will take you roughly 20 mins.

Where do you park at Cox Bay Lookout?

If you drive from Tofino on Pacific Rim highway, the parking area for Cox Bay Lookout is at the Maltby road turnoff just passed Pacific Sands Beach Resort on the right-hand side beside Surf Grove Campsite. There are public restrooms located at access points.

Is the Cox Bay Lookout trail dog-friendly?

Yes, dogs are allowed on Cox Bay beach.

What’s the best time to visit Cox Bay Lookout?

The best time to visit Cox Bay Lookout is on a clear sunny day between May to September. The off-season period on Vancouver Island is generally regarded as the time between October and April, but you can visit Vancouver Island all year round.