I stare out at the waves breaking on this vast beach. The view (like Tofino’s weather) changes every few minutes as the tide moves closer to our beachfront chalet, and then as it moves out again leaving driftwood, mussel shells, kelp, and other treasures behind on the soft sand. The chef at the onsite Surfside Grill tells me he often looks out the window of his trailer kitchen and sees whales swimming by. This is Pacific Sands Beach Resort, in the British Columbia surf town of Tofino.
Pacific Sands is a beach hotel ideal for surfers and anyone who wants to be close to Tofino’s magnificent waves. There are a variety of accommodation options, and they all offer conveniences like places to hose the saltwater off your board and wetsuit — even your dog. And, of course, there are places to store your gear too. I’m visiting in April, and see many braver souls than I decked out in wetsuits enjoying the waves as they roll in across the Pacific, unimpeded more than 6000 km from southern Russia and Japan. I’m happier to walk the beach (Pacific Sands provides rain gear, just in case) as well as admire the ocean view from the hot tub in the bedroom.
Our stay is in one of Pacific Sands’ large and luxurious beach houses. They’re two-storey, with two bedrooms (both with ensuites) upstairs and, downstairs, a fully-equipped kitchen, small bathroom, dining room, and fire-placed living room. Both floors have a balcony with views of the ocean. The double soaker tub is in the master bedroom, and it’s raised so you can be sure to see the waves. Tofino is favoured not only by surfers but by storm watchers, and Pacific Sands is the perfect spot to feel cozy and warm while you watch the drama unfold outside. We leave the balcony door open all night and are soothed by the sounds of the waves.
Other room options are the surf-in-surf-out oceanside suites (up to three bedrooms), the one-bedroom lighthouse suites, lodge suites (studios, and one- and two-bedrooms), plus studio and two-bedroom signature suites. A favourite of some of Canada’s surf-loving celebrities is the private three-bedroom Sunset House at Rosie Bay. Whichever you choose, you’ll have the conveniences of a condo-type stay, rather than a more basic hotel room. Bringing a dog? Just let Pacific Sands know and they’ll set you up with doggie amenities too.
In addition to the delicious Surfside Grill, offering local foods like fish tacos and fish and chips (including several gluten-free options), also onsite are a surf school, bikes to rent, a complimentary seaside yoga class, plus several hammocks, picnic tables and a firepit. Pacific Sands’ lobby has a selection of gourmet groceries, plus complimentary coffee and hot chocolate, and, to borrow, DVDs, beach toys and board games. Be sure to stroll the boardwalk out to the point for spectacular views of waves crashing into the rocks.
You can get to Pacific Sands and Tofino via BC Ferries. Depart from Horseshoe Bay or Tsawwassen in Vancouver for a sail over to Nanaimo, and then drive across Vancouver Island. Tofino is near Clayoquot Sound, at the north end of the Esowista Peninsula, with Ucluelet to the south. Pacific Sands is just north of Pacific Rim National Park and Long Beach, and next door to Chesterman’s Beach. The drive to the town of Tofino takes about five minutes. There you’ll find top restaurants like 1909 Kitchen, shops and galleries, and adventure tours. Try whale or bear watching with Tofino Resort + Marina’s Adventure Centre (TofinoResortAndMarina.com). Or see Tofino from above with Point Break Skydiving (SkyDiveTofino.ca).
This boutique property has all the elements of the big city you’d want in a hotel, magically combined with a rural Quebec location just a short walk from the very charming town of Baie-Saint-Paul.
Charlevoix is a region of Quebec northeast of Quebec City and on the north side of the St. Laurence River. The area is famous for belugas and other whales swimming in the river, delicious local foods, and is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. Once the summer retreat for Quebec City’s riche, Charlevoix — especially Baie-Saint-Paul — is now where the artists and entrepreneurs from the big city are choosing to live.
Le Germain Charlevoix is an ideal place to stay if you’re combining a relaxation stay with a ski trip to Le Massif (a Club Med will open there in 2020), if you’re journeying further east to go whale watching, or if you want to enjoy small-town charms just an hour from Quebec City. The hotel is right next to the tiny train station in the town of Baie-Saint-Paul.
Le Spa Nordique Le Germain is a highlight of a stay here. It can be added to your stay for a fee of $27 Canadian or it’s included when you book a massage or body treatment. Heat up in the Finnish sauna or the eucalyptus steam bath; cool down in the Nordic shower, outdoor plunge pool or with the snow fountain; and rest in the relaxation area or in the outdoor warm and hot pools.
At the spa, gaze out at the lavender fields and grazing land, complete with long-horned Highland cattle, cute alpacas, and fluffy sheep. You can wander through the fields as well and also see the 15 honey bee hives, chickens, ducks, geese, and rabbits.
Dining is exceptional at Le Germain. The more casual restaurant is Le Bercail, which has a menu of gourmet pizzas and traditional Quebec dishes like tartare, confit and local cheese. Upstairs for breakfast and dinner is Les Labours. It has an open kitchen with a seasonal menu highlighting local products such as pheasant, lamb pancetta, and organic chicken. Try not to sleep in too late or you’ll miss the exceptional breakfast buffet with eggs cooked to order.
Rooms are in several buildings dotted throughout the grounds with different decor in each. Choose from family rooms with bunk beds, studios with barn door walls, lofts with floor-to-ceiling windows, and superior rooms with luxe bathtubs or a terrasse. They’re all as charmant as the hotel, the town, and the whole region of Charlevoix.
Elegant. If I had to pick just one word to describe the JW Marriott Parq Vancouver, one of two hotels located inside Parq Vancouver, it would be elegant.
Floor to ceiling windows throughout the hotel show off the views — False Creek on the south side and, on the north, the spikey crown that is the roof of BC Place with mountains in the distance. Admire it all from inside or from outside amongst the trees and a lake in the 30,000-square-foot sixth-floor rooftop park.
Pale taupes and creams brighten my room, despite the winter rainstorm outside. The king bed provides a luxe sleep with lots of elbow room and the suede chaise longue is the ideal spot to read my book, plus keep an eye on the boats in pretty False Creek making their way over to Science World’s geodesic dome.
I’m delighted that the bathroom amenities are by Molton Brown, and that they’re in refillable glass containers rather than regular hotel-size bottles. In-room coffees are by Illy and teas are by TWG Tea, so you know they’re excellent. The mini-bar is full of treats though note that if, like me, you move something to make room for an apple, a computer automatically notes it and it gets added to your bill (the front desk is lovely at resolving it though).
Guests and non-guests alike have an abundance of dining choices at Parq. I was amused to see some very Vancouver-y morning smoothies at the executive lounge and on the room service menu — vitamin-heavy drinks named for some of the city’s mountains and for the Grouse Grind, the steep hike known as nature’s stairmaster. The room service menu features lots of local products including Oyama ham in the eggs Benedict, Fraser Valley berries with the waffles and granola, Rossdown Farms chicken, and Oceanwise seafood. And there’s so much more.
Restaurants in the Parq complex include The Victor, where I enjoyed sublime tuna and a fun dessert topped with maple (yes!) cotton candy. Honey Salt, in the lobby, is ideal for breakfast, with beautiful avocado toast and a fine eggs Bennie. Hand-crafted whiskeys and loose-leaf teas are served in the Lotus Whiskey & Tea Lounge. MRKT EAST has selections from all over Asia. D/6 is the place for cocktails, especially on the rooftop lounge when the weather is nice.
You can keep busy at Parq without ever needing to leave the building, rain or shine, which was perfect during the early-January storm during my stay. It was no trouble to go to Parq’s well-equipped 24-hour fitness studio and watch the rain from the huge picture windows. I’ll have to go back to try the outdoor hot tub when the weather is better. Also on the 17th floor is The Spa by JW which offers the full range of treatments. The Parq complex also hosts a two-level casino with table games, slots and over 20 ultraluxe private gaming salons.
We arrived extremely early for check-in and were greeted with delicious flavored water and smiling faces. Our room was ready and waiting for us.
The room was more like an apartment than just a hotel room. It had so much storage space I didn’t even know what to do with it all — a bedroom with closets, hallway closets, and dressers throughout the bedroom, hall and bathroom.
The kitchenette was well appointed with everything you might need including a mini fridge, coffee maker, kettle, microwave and dishes.
The hotel was so comfortable, everywhere from the modern lobby to the room to the rooftop. Actually, I think the rooftop might be the best spot in the hotel. Even on cold winter days the pool, sauna, spa and gym should keep you warm inside. The hot tub is perfectly situated just outside the door so there’s minimal time out of the hot water. I really enjoyed the view of the park and rooftops. It was great for sunset watching.
Overall, this is a great place to stay if you want some separate space from your travel partner, a quiet place or just a lot of storage. It is about equal distance to walk to Old Montreal and to McGill University and Mount Royal Park. Both are great places to wander and enjoy the old architecture. Hotel Le Crystal staff are also very helpful to tell you about areas and restaurants to choose for whatever you are looking for including a healthy meal, which is something we asked for and they certainly delivered.