This coastal city has beaches, mountains and modern architecture to explore by foot, wheels or water in addition to urban oases for resting and recharging.
In 2010, when Vancouver hosted the Olympics, the world saw the wonders of its nearby alpine peaks and other winter sports havens. Yet it’s an outdoor adventure hub year-round thanks to its mild four-season weather that never (not even during spring showers) keeps locals off its trails, paths, beaches and neighborhood blocks. Explore them on a getaway that delivers plenty of creature comforts for rest and recovery between adventures.
Vancouver’s Green Heart
Start with Stanley Park, a massive oceanside urban park created in 1888, where you can walk, jog, bike or rollerblade sections of the 10-kilometer seawall (more than 13,000 steps) or hike rainforest paths and trails. You’ll discover everything from a local craft brewery and an elegant tea house to the Vancouver Aquarium and a vintage cannon that fires nightly at 9 p.m. You can even play a short golf game at the Pitch & Putt. Vancouver also has dozens of acclaimed public courses for serious golfers, including Fraserview, often called the best public course in Canada. Dip a toe in the saltwater swimming pool or rent a paddleboard or kayak in English Bay, just outside the park.
Carved First Nations totem poles are a Stanley Park highlight. Each carving has a meaning, as does their location in Brockton Point, which was First Nations land. For an immersive eco-tourism experience, book a Talking Trees Package with a First Nations guide. You’ll hear about the storied past of Stanley Park, the people, and how the flora and fauna of the area were used by indigenous people. Then you’ll dine on indigenous cuisine with a modern riff at Salmon n’ Bannock restaurant. To recharge from your day’s adventure, unwind in one of Vancouver’s few rooftop pools at Fairmont Waterfront.
Other local favorites include biking and hiking the 55 kilometers of trails in Pacific Spirit Park near the University of British Columbia. The grueling Grouse Grind Trail in North Vancouver will test your strength and endurance. The 1.8-mile trail climbs 2,800 feet via 2,830 stairs, which is why you’ll be thankful there is a Skyride lift to take you back down. But the views from the top are worth it as you gaze out over Vancouver and the ocean. It’s the best reward for all the climbing. Thrill-seekers might want to test their nerves on the 450-foot Capilano Suspension Bridge. Since it’s 230 feet above the forest floor, you’ll see what the squirrels see as you cross the Capilano River.
A Whale of a Good Time
From March to October, you don’t have to go far out in the Pacific Ocean to see migrating whales. Gear up (waterproof floatation suits are typically supplied) and keep your camera handy aboard expedition boats you can catch right in Vancouver’s downtown harbor.
Just steps from Jack Pool Plaza, recharge at the urban resort Fairmont Pacific Rim. Refreshed after washing off the day’s ocean spray, immerse yourself in a cosmopolitan cultural environment. There’s global art and fashion on display, plus live music and some of the city’s best cocktails and sushi available in the hotel’s seductive Lobby Lounge and RawBar. To be ready for your next waterfront excursion, enjoy elegant, locally inspired cuisine and cocktails crafted by award-winning bartenders at Botanist.
Vancouver is a cyclist’s dream city, with more than 450 kilometers of bike lanes and routes incorporated into city streets and parks. Look for bike rental shops at park and trail gateways. Bloom-lovers and gardeners shouldn’t miss the VanDusen Botanical Garden and the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden, stunning landscapes for strolling that are easily reached by bike.
Bike routes run through charming, residential neighborhoods like beachside Kitsilano and the lively, LGBTQ-friendly West End. Those also happen to be some of the dog-friendliest spots in the city, and are some of the favorite stomping grounds of Ella and Elly, Fairmont canine ambassadors (and trained guide dogs) of Fairmont Hotel Vancouver. Ella and Elly are one reason to choose this vintage, classic hotel downtown with an unforgettable afternoon tea. Another is that the city’s most luxurious shopping is in the building, including Omega, Louis Vuitton, Chanel, Gucci and Dior in the nearby Alberni Street shopping district.
West Coast Modern
Architects have long had a special perspective on Vancouver’s natural beauty, making the city a hotbed of West Coast Modern architectural design that makes the most of stunning views, natural light and indoor-outdoor living. Explore the city’s history by taking a self-guided walking tour of the historic districts by following maps created by Vancouver Heritage Foundation.
Get into the Modernist mindset at Hotel Belmont Vancouver MGallery, which calls a downtown heritage building home. It has recently been renovated with pops of mid-century pink and teal. After a day of walking, hiking, or climbing, unwind with retro arcade games, dancing and drinks in The Basement. You’ll also love the Instagram-ready private spaces (think: neon signs, flamingo wallpaper and blackboard walls) like The Den or The Kitchen.
No matter where you stay or play, be sure to share your adventures on social media with the #veryvancouver hashtag. We know your followers will love that beach sunset, mountain summit, blooming garden or pristine waterside moment that captures this naturally beautiful city at its stunning best.
Long layover at Vancouver International Airport? Consider a stay at Fairmont Vancouver Airport Hotel and the time is sure to fly by.