Sombrio Beach Waterfall: Ultimate Guide

The Sombrio Beach Waterfall is a hidden gem located in the South-West of Vancouver Island. The unique rock formations and the fact it’s in a canyon/cave make this a must-see destination on your Vancouver Island road trip. I’ve prepared an in depth guide that will cover everything you need to know about this epic spot, and I’ve also included lots of information about nearby sights and Vancouver Island. Enjoy!

Green cave with a waterfall at the end.
Secret Sombrio Beach Waterfall

Table of Contents:

Where is the Sombrio Beach Waterfall Located?

The Sombrio Beach Waterfall is located in Juan De Fuca Provincial Park on the South-West end of Vancouver Island. This waterfall is located directly on the shore of Sombrio Beach and is also part of the 47km/29mi long Juan De Fuca Marine Trail. It is not necessary to hike this entire trail to access this waterfall, there are plenty of drive-in access points to this trail!

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If you’re traveling around Vancouver Island, specifically in the Sooke & Victoria area, it’s worth it to stop and check out this hidden waterfall and beach! This is great spot to stop on your British Columbia itinerary, especially if you’re already visiting Sooke or the Juan De Fuca Provincial Park.

How to Get to Sombrio Beach

Beautiful Canadian beach with small waves.
East Sombrio Beach

Getting to Sombrio Beach is fairly straightforward, depending where you’re coming from. The closest town is Port Renfrew but most people depart from Sooke, Victoria or Nanaimo. Below I’ll cover how to get to Sombrio Beach from each of these locations. The best way from these locations is to drive your own car or rent one. This way you’ll be able to stop at even more of the awesome spots!

Sombrio Beach from Victoria:

Driving to Sombrio Beach from Victoria involves a scenic, 1h44min (95km/59mi) drive in each direction. Being along the rugged British Colombian coastline, this drive will pass many parks, beaches, and sights so plan for some extra time to stop and enjoy!

From downtown Victoria head East on the Trans Canada HWY 1 and follow it past Langford. Shortly after Langford take a left onto West Shore Parkway. This road will come to a T-junction on Sooke Rd / HWY 14. Hang a right at this T-junction. From this point you essentially stay on HWY 14 all the way to Sombrio! After this junction is where the scenic section of the drive soon begins. Be sure to stop by Sooke for lunch or dinner!

Sun setting over the ocean.
Coastline in Victoria, BC

It is possible to take a bus from Victoria to Sooke or Port Renfrew, although I do not suggest doing this. You’ll have to take a taxi or hitchhike from there to get to Sombrio Beach. You could theoretically take the bus to Port Renfrew and ask the driver to let you off at the Sombrio Beach turnoff. But again, that is a pretty big hassle.

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Sombrio Beach from Sooke:

If you’ve made it to Sooke, congratulations because between Sooke and Sombrio is the best portion of the drive from Victoria. From the roundabout in Sooke continue West on HWY 14 for 54-minutes (56km/34mi) and you will reach the Sombrio Beach turnoff lot on your left. From the Highway it’s a 2km/1mi drive that won’t take more than 5 minutes to the parking lot.

You’ll likely see plenty of campervans and hippies! At the end of this article, I’ve listed some of the best places to stop between Sooke and Sombrio.

Waterfall flowing into the ocean.
Sandcut Beach near Sooke, BC

Sombrio Beach from Nanaimo:

Nanaimo is the furthest location on this list from Sombrio Beach. It’s a 2hr10min (148km/91mi) drive in each direction. From downtown Nanaimo head West on the Trans Canada HWY 1 towards Victoria and after approx. 34-minutes (46km/29mi) hang a right onto HWY 18. From here follow the signs to Port Renfrew and it should be another 1h20min (89km/55mi) until you reach Port Renfrew.

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Sombrio Beach from Port Renfrew:

Port Renfrew is the closest town to Sombrio Beach. From the Port Renfrew Marina head East towards Sooke/Victoria on HWY 14 and you will reach the Sombrio Beach turnoff on your right after 17-minutes (16km/10mi). From here it’s a 2km/1mi drive that won’t take more than 5-minutes until you reach the parking lot.

Vancouver Island Road Conditions

Cars driving down divided highway.
Vancouver Island Highway #1

The roads on Vancouver Island, and BC in general are very well maintained for the most part. It will be paved the whole way except the brief road from the highway to the parking area. If you’re going the HWY 18 route from Nanaimo, take care as this is a winding road with not much infrastructure. While if you’re coming from Victoria there will be more traffic on HWY 14.

How do you Get to the Secret Waterfall in Sombrio Beach?

Cave with a waterfall at the back.
Sombrio Beach Waterfall

Finding the secret Sombrio Beach Waterfall is quite easy once you know what to look for. From the parking lot, find the Sombrio Beach trailhead and head down the main trail towards the beach. The hiking time from the parking lot to Sombrio Beach is approx. 10 minutes (400m) and is mainly downhill but not very steep.

Around half way, the trail will split right, you’re going to want to stay on the main trail instead of turning right. Turning right will bring you to West Sombrio Beach and the waterfall is on East Sombrio Beach. If you end up at a suspension bridge, you’ve gone down the wrong trail.

Driftwood on a rocky beach.
Driftwood at Sombrio Beach

Once you get to the Beach head left (East) and continue walking for another 830m (Approx. 12-minutes). You’ll pass many tents, surfers, bonfires and hippies on the way. Keep an eye on your left as you hike and you’ll see an opening in the cliff. You can also watch on the beach for a small stream that runs from the forest into the ocean.

Going at low tide will make this hike on the beach far easier. There will be way more of the Sombrio Beach trail exposed. Once you arrive at the canyon/cave entrance, head in and you’ll arrive at the base of this awesome waterfall within a couple of minutes!

What to Expect at the Sombrio Beach Waterfall

Woman standing next to waterfall.
You can go right up to the waterfall

Sombrio Beach Waterfall is undoubtedly one of the coolest waterfalls I’ve ever been to. The way the cave is shaped makes for some awesome photos. Be prepared to get your feet wet if it’s rained recently as you have to walk up a small creek a little bit to access this hidden gem.

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Creek inside a green canyon.
You’ll have to walk up this creek

Sombrio Beach as a whole is a really nice. It’s a natural, rugged beach filled with brown sand and drift wood. This location has become a popular destination for surfers, and other free spirits to camp out and enjoy the BC coastline. The waterfall is an added bonus but you could spend a whole day here exploring the Juan De Fuca Trail and the unique sights in the area.

Man and a dog inside a cave.
My dog enjoyed it

Can you Swim at Sombrio Beach?

Yes, of course! Be cautious of rip-tides as this is a problem here. Remember that if you get stuck in a rip current, swim parallel to the beach until you’re out if the current. Being on the Pacific Ocean in Canada, the water is quite cold as well, so don’t expect to stay in the water for too long! All surfers here wear wetsuits no matter the season.

Can you Surf at Sombrio Beach?

Person surfing during sunset.
Surfing at Sombrio Beach

Absolutely! Sombrio Beach is known amongst locals as the less-crowded Tofino! It has a great surf break that’s rideable year-round and attracts surfers from all over the world! Check the surf forecast here. If you’re a die-hard surfer, you should consider Sombrio Beach instead of Tofino if you want to avoid the tourists.

Sombrio Beach Camping

A tent set up on a beach.
Camping at Sombrio Beach

Sombrio Beach has 3 camping areas: West, East and Main. All of them are open year round and feature multiple cleared areas for tents. The Sombrio Beach camping fee is $10CAD per person per night. They do not take reservations so you can either pay exact cash at the fee box in the parking lot, or pay online. There are rangers that regularly patrol this beach so I would recommend paying.

Is Sombrio Beach Sandy?

Being located on the South-West coast of Vancouver Island, Sombrio Beach is a mix of rock and sand. There are plenty of areas of Sombrio Beach that are sandy, and usually as you get closer to the tree line it becomes small rocks. You can certainly find your own patch of sandy paradise here.

Rocky beach with a dog.
Rocky section at Sombrio Beach

Sombrio Beach Weather & Best Time to Visit

The best time to visit the waterfall is in the spring between April & June. During this timeframe the waterflow will be at its peak. With that being said, this waterfall is accessible year round and is a great destination to check out in the summer & fall as well. For reference, the photos on this post were taken in October after a few days of heavy rain.

The best time of year to surf at Sombrio Beach is the fall & winter, as that’s when the winter tides roll in, so if surfing is your main priority then this time will be optimal. Check the surf forecast here.

If you plan on camping or suntanning, you’re going to want to come here in the summer months of July & August as they have the best weather overall. You can camp earlier or later in the year but you will not be guaranteed good weather.

Nearby Sights & Tourist Spots

Tidal cave revealing the ocean.
Ocean cave at Mystic Beach

Being on the Juan De Fuca Trail, there are lots of other scenic beaches and natural sites to check out in the Sombrio Beach area. The best nearby beaches are Mystic Beach, China Beach, and Sandcut Beach. Mystic Beach & Sandcut Beach also have waterfalls right on the shore. Check out my guide for the best beaches in Sooke here.

If you’re sick of all of these beaches and waterfalls and would rather be in civilization you can head to Sooke and explore this little hipster town. Check out the brewery, shop for souvenirs, and get some food. If you’re into seafood I’d recommend West Coast Grill.

Vancouver Island Tips & Suggestions

  • Pack Accordingly: The weather on Vancouver Island is unpredictable, even more so in the Sombrio Beach area. It can start raining quickly and the temperatures can drop fast.
  • Rent a Car or Drive Yourself: There are endless locations to stop at around Vancouver Island, so you’re going to want to have your own vehicle so you can stop as you please!
  • Bring Snacks: Definitely pack a lunch and snacks during your trip, There is nowhere to get food between Sooke & Port Renfrew, so keep that in mind and bring extra snacks and water.
  • Use Maps.Me: This is an offline maps app that has helped me tremendously during my travels. If there’s no cell service during your trip you’ll still always have access to your maps and custom pins. Maps.Me currently shows the location of the Sombrio Beach Waterfall, so you can pin it and easily find it.

Sombrio Beach Packing List

Final Thoughts

I hope this guide helps you on your trip to Vancouver Island & the Sooke area. This is a truly unique part of Canada that should not be missed on a Vancouver Island road trip or a trip to Canada in general. Check out my latest posts here for more info on some off the beaten path destinations.

If you have any questions about anything mentioned in this post drop me a comment below and I’d be happy to help! If you enjoyed this article please share it!

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