To celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary, we knocked off one of my Vancouver Island bucket list destinations and explored Hot Springs Cove.
Located in Maquinna Marine Provincial Park, Hot Springs Cove is approximately 30 km northwest of Tofino, and accessible only by water or air. The spring water bubbles up from deep in the earth and cascades down a small cliff into a series of natural layered rock pools. These geothermal pools range from temperatures of at least 109ºC (228ºF) to approximately 50°C (122ºF). So yes, they are hot! However, the lower pools are cooled by the incoming surf when the tide is high.
The two upper pools were just too hot for us, so we found a cozy spot in the second pool up from the ocean.
Getting to Hot Springs Cove
As mentioned above, Maquinna Marine Provincial Park is only accessible by sea or sky. There are several tour companies out of Tofino who will get you to and from Hot Springs Cove via boat (in a little over an hour) and/or float-plane (in approximately 20 minutes).
- Ocean Outfitters
- Atleo Air
- West Coast Aquatic Safaris
- The Whale Centre
- Remote Passages Marine Excursions
The great thing about the Hot Spring tours is that you get everything you would normally see on a whale watching or bear tour, but with the added bonus of the hot springs. It is not uncommon to see whales, otters, harbour seals, sea lions, or bears while on route to and from Maquinna Marine Provincial Park.
Be forewarned, the hot springs is a popular tour. I had heard through the grape-vine that once all the tour boats arrive the pools can get quite crowded. I was on a mission to get photos of the hot springs without a group of people in the way, so we decided to take a sea plane with Atleo Air in the morning. Our plan worked out great! When we arrived there were only two other couples, so we had a pool entirely to ourselves. It is also worth mentioning, the sea-plane ride offers a different vantage point, and we saw the most spectacular coastal scenery while flying.
On the way back we enjoyed a scenic 1.5 hour boat ride via Ocean Outfitters. The very informative tour guide stopped at several points along the way to allow us to photograph otters and bears.
No matter how you arrive at Maquinna Marine Provincial Park, you must walk along the 2 km board walk to get to the hot springs. This 20 – 30 minute walk (one way) consists of many stairs, so it may not be suitable for everyone. As well, while getting into the hot spring pools you must maneuver around large and small rocks (that can be very sharp and slippery), so it is advised to bring a pair of suitable sandals or water shoes.
The walk to the hot springs is part of the adventure, and provides an equal amount of photo opportunities as the pools do. The boardwalk itself offers a unique historic and artistic feel to the journey with hundreds of names of visiting groups and people, as well as boats, carved into the planks along the journey.
Something to note: the hot springs are located at the very end of the boardwalk. If you see a boardwalk in front of you, you have not yet reached your destination.
How to Avoid the Crowds
As mentioned, the hot springs can get very busy. This is especially true during the summer months. To truly enjoy this location, follow in our foot steps and get there before the boats do with a float plane ride, or consider staying overnight. There is a private campground, operated by the Hesquiaht First Nation, located just north of the government dock, as well as a vessel moored across from the dock, which operates as a bed and breakfast.
Contact the Hesquiaht First Nation
Phone: (250) 670-1100
Innchanter Bed & Breakfast
Located across from the Hot Springs trail head. They offer complimentary kayaks to get to and from the government dock.
Most of the tour companies allow ample time (several hours) at the hot springs, so take advantage of your time by exploring the area around you. If you are looking for a secluded place to enjoy a picnic lunch, follow the path left of Hot Springs Cove. Just below the wooden change rooms to your left, you will see a small trail that leads to some great coves with some fantastic views. We climbed along the shoreline to the top of the rocks and found the perfect spot to have our lunch. It was just us, the crashing surf, a vast blue sky, and a few soaring birds.
Items to Bring
- bathing suits
- good walking shoes
- sandals or water shoes for the hot springs
- food and water
- There are open-pit toilets available at both the start of the trail, as well as near the end near the hot springs.
- There are three wooden change rooms available for use.
- Camping or open fires are not allowed in the hot springs area or at the southern part of Openit Peninsula in the park. Use the private campground mentioned above.
- Dogs are not permitted on the boardwalk or in and around the pools.
- Alcoholic beverages are not permitted in the park.
- Glass containers are not permitted in and around the pools.
- Soap, shampoo and other cleaning materials are not permitted in or near the pools.
- There is no nudity allowed. Visitors must wear appropriate bathing apparel.
Have you adventured to Hot Springs Cove? I would love to hear about it in the comments below.