The Question: For Mother's Day, I was given a summer escape. I want to swim on the West Coast, people-watch, read, and eat a good meal on a patio. I'm also game for a bike tour, surf lesson or sea-kayak jaunt. I can't make a mistake in my choice: This is a once-in-a-decade event! Suggestions?
Lucky mama. You have raised your offspring well. For now, I must make do with painted flower pots until my kids' lemonade stand really takes off.
For your escape, Tofino, B.C., springs to mind. This artsy outpost on Vancouver Island's wild west coast has much to offer: unique eateries from the Beaches Parking Lot (with its fish tacos) to SoBo (featuring seared spot prawns), plenty of outdoorsy activity and a rain forest-mountain-ocean-protected-biosphere backdrop to draw your eye from your book.
From Vancouver, Tofino is a 3½-hour drive from the BC Ferries hub of Nanaimo or a 35-minute flight with Orca Air ( flyorcaair.com). You can max out the carte blanche with the splurge-worthy Wickaninnish Resort ( wickinn.com), Long Beach Lodge Resort ( longbeachlodgeresort.com) or Pacific Sands Beach Resort ( pacificsands.com). (For less-pricey options, e-mail Tourism Tofino - firstname.lastname@example.org - and it will seek out matches.)
Wherever you sleep in, the Pacific surf will be calling. Join a kayak tour where the guide whips up chocolate fondue en route or head for Surf Sister ( surfsister.com), the all-women surf school. "Many other schools have women instructors as well," notes Christine Edwards of Tourism Tofino ( tourismtofino.com). "And sometimes it's also nice to have a nice young handsome fellow to show you the ropes."
If you're looking for warmer waters and a busier scene, consider Huntington Beach ( surfcityusa.com) in Southern California, 60 kilometres south of Los Angeles.
"Huntington Beach is referred to as 'Surf City USA' because, while Northern Cali has more rugged waves, there's nowhere easier or better for soft adventure," says Jennifer Miner, one of the founders of The Vacation Gals ( thevacationgals.com). This is a popular destination so there's plenty of activity, restaurants and accommodation ranging from the Hyatt Regency, with its ocean-access pedestrian bridge, to the mural-walled rooms of the Huntington Surf Inn.
And the beach city offers a unique venue for people watching. Driven by L.A.-area out-of-work actors and directors that haven't made it big yet, the Huntington Beach Playhouse ( hbplayhouse.com) puts on quality shows, says Miner, a California resident. You never know: You might spot the next big star.
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