Vancouver Island has hot springs, and Hot Springs Cove is the best place to go if you are hankering for a soothing dip.
The spring water bubbles up deep in the earth and cascades down a small cliff into a series of naturally layered rock pools. These geothermal pools range from temperatures of at least 109ºC (228ºF) to approximately 50°C (122ºF). So yes, they are hot! The lower pools are cooled by the incoming surf when the tide is high, so these pools are more manageable.
Where is Hot Springs Cove located?
Located in Maquinna Marine Provincial Park, Hot Springs Cove is approximately 30 km northwest of Tofino and accessible only by water or air.
How do you get to Hot Springs Cove?
As mentioned above, Maquinna Marine Provincial Park is only accessible by sea or sky. Several tour companies out of Tofino 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
What to Expect on a Tour to Hot Springs Cove?
The great thing about the Hot Spring tours is that you get everything you would typically see on a whale watching or bear tour, but with the bonus of the hot springs. It is not uncommon to see whales, otters, harbour seals, sea lions, or bears en route to and from Maquinna Marine Provincial Park.
Be forewarned; this tour is a popular one. Once all the tour boats arrive at the dock, the pools can get quite crowded.
The fastest way to get to Hot Springs Cove is by seaplane. And if you take the morning flight, you will beat the boats there and may just be the first to arrive! It is also worth mentioning the seaplane offers a different vantage point, and you see the most spectacular coastal scenery while flying.
Once you arrive
No matter how you arrive at the park, you walk along a 2 km boardwalk 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.
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 offers a unique historic and artistic feel to the journey.
And please note that you will find the hot springs at the very end of the boardwalk. Although there are several points along the way where the ground is steaming, if you see a boardwalk in front of you, you have not yet reached your destination.
While getting into the hot spring pools, you must maneuver around large and small rocks (that can be very sharp and slippery), so bring a pair of suitable sandals or water shoes.
How to Avoid the Crowds
As mentioned, the hot springs can get very busy, especially during the summer months. To truly enjoy this location, follow in our footsteps and get there before the boats do with a float plane ride, or consider staying overnight. A private campground operated by the Hesquiaht First Nation is located just north of the government dock.
Contact the Hesquiaht First Nation
Phone: (250) 670-1100
Most 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 want 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 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 prohibited 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.
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Thanks for the information! I am looking to plan a trip with 3 other people up here in August. I noticed that you went with one company by float plain then returned by boat with another. From checking out the companies you listed, I noticed that a lot of companies actualyl offer a “sea-to-sky” tour where you can do just that. I am wondering if there are any advantages to booking with separate companies each way?
Great question! We decided to do that to beat the rush of the tours. The float plane got us there before any of the tours arrived, which allowed us to have the place to ourselves (other than one other couple). And then in order to stay longer (as well as cut down on a bit of the cost), we opted to go home with a tour company. I hope that helps!
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Hot Springs Cove is one of my favourite places in the world. We camped on Maquinna for 3 days, so once the day tours emptied out again, we had the pools to ourselves. One of the rare things about these natural hot springs: they are filled up and emptied out with the changing tides. The sulfur Creek falls into the top pool and meanders into the lower tide pools, down into the ocean. The top pool is my favourite (I like burning hot water). Then it gets slightly colder in temp until you reach the ocean and are in the Pacific.
Although we lucked out with only having to share with a few other couples while we were there, I can only imagine how amazing it would be to have the pools to yourself. And yes, I love how the pools are ‘self-cleaning’. We’ve been to a few other Hot Springs around BC, and these are the only ones so far that haven’t left me feeling a squeamish.