On the far west coast of Vancouver Island, the Canadian town of Tofino has become a popular getaway for surfers, kayakers, and anyone wanting time on the broad ocean beaches. Tofino has a range of accommodations, from established luxury properties like the Wickaninnish Inn, to adventure-focused lodgings like Tofino Resort & Marina, to funky newcomers like Hotel Zed Tofino.
But there’s another community on the island’s west coast, 25 miles (40 km) to the south, that’s coming into its own as a destination for outdoor-focused holidays: the town of Ucluelet. And helping to draw visitors to Ucluelet are a highly regarded chef and his business/life partner, Warren Barr and Lily Verney-Downey, who opened a boutique inn and restaurant on the main street of the village.
It’s called Pluvio Restaurant + Rooms, and it’s lovely. Here’s the scoop:
Pluvio Restaurant + Rooms
Barr and Verney-Downey had both worked for years at the Wickaninnish Inn, where he most recently was the restaurant’s executive chef. They’ve brought their well-honed hospitality skills to their new property, which they opened in 2019.
The duo revamped the restaurant space in front, which had previously been an eatery, and added the building that houses the guest rooms at the rear. The office, with an herb garden on the roof, separates the dining and lodging spaces.
Guest Rooms and Amenities
The inn has four guest rooms, two on the first floor — the garden level — and two upstairs. They’re spacious and bright, with white linens and contemporary wood furnishings. A panel of hand-printed wallpaper, different in each room, accents the white walls.
Verney-Downey and Barr have clearly thought through all the details that make a guest room convenient. There are coat hooks in the entryway, plenty of adjacent electrical outlets and small shelves next to the bed for your electronics, and reading lights that you can control from the bed. An open cabinet serves as a closet/shelf for your clothing and stores a mini-fridge.
Each room has a terrace with a table and chair, facing the garden behind the building. Wi-Fi is available throughout the inn and worked well out on the terrace.
My pet peeves in many hotel bathrooms are the lack of well-located hooks or towel rods and insufficient space to store your toiletries. Verney-Downey and Barr have thought about these details and more in the modern bathrooms. There are hooks just outside the spacious rainshowers and shelving units with ample space near the sink. They’ve provided robes for guests as well.
Breakfast and Coffee Service
Each room has a French press coffeemaker and electric teakettle. Staff provide fresh ground coffee, which they’ll replace daily, as well as a selection of teas. The mini-fridges are stocked with milk and cream.
The restaurant staff prepares breakfasts for guests, which they deliver — like kitchen elves — during the night, setting a sturdy, bright red metal cooler in front of each guest room door.
Inside the cooler, breakfast items are neatly packed in covered glass dishes: muffins, cornbread, fresh fruit, thick yogurt, housemade granola, and custard-like quiches, as well as a bottle of fresh juice. They also include lovely ceramic dishes in the cooler for you to lay out your breakfast.
Although Verney-Downey and Barr will tell you that they devised this breakfast system so that they wouldn’t have to get up early to provide a meal for guests after working in the restaurant until the wee hours, it also works extremely well as a “socially distant” meal service, where staff can deliver breakfast without entering guest rooms or having direct contact with guests.
The Restaurant at Pluvio
But a highlight of a stay at Pluvio — or of any visit to Ucluelet — is a meal in the restaurant. Barr and his staff craft wonderfully creative fixed price dinners highlighting local, west coast ingredients, from seafood like halibut, squid, and octopus, to foraged greens and mushrooms, to wild berries. Verney-Downey manages the dining room with the same attention to detail that she and Barr have lavished on the inn.
It’s a splurge, with options including a three-course dinner for CAD$78 per person or a five-course “chef’s tasting menu” for CAD$98, but it’s worth saving up for a special meal. Reservations are strongly recommended.
Ucluelet is a great spot for hiking, particularly along the scenic Wild Pacific Trail that hugs the coast or in the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve north of town. Several outfitters rent kayaks and lead guided paddles, and you can explore the area on an electric bike tour with Pacific Rim Eco Tours.
The town’s small aquarium has a unique catch-and-release philosophy, where it brings in marine creatures from local waters at the start of the season and releases them again later in the year. You can sample the craft spirits at Pacific Rim Distilling or enjoy a beer on the deck at Ucluelet Brewing Company, which opened this year in a former church.
Whatever adventures you choose in Ucluelet, it’s definitely worth turning south instead of north when you get to Vancouver Island’s far west coast, as long as you can book a stay and a meal at Pluvio Restaurant + Rooms.
Nightly double room rates at Pluvio start at CAD$180 during the quieter winter season and at about CAD$230 during the busier summer and fall. Rates include breakfast. You can make your reservations directly with the hotel or go through a booking site such as Hotels.com.
Hotel feature by Vancouver-based travel, food, and feature writer Carolyn B. Heller. Photos © Carolyn B. Heller. Destination British Columbia arranged my stay at Pluvio Restaurant + Rooms for review purposes.