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The Nami Project: Ucluelet’s Sleek New Digs is Turning Heads

Sailun Tires

By Jeff Silverstein

Sometimes a hotel just manages to get everything right.

The linens are perfect. The bed is incredibly comfy. The location and setting is amazing. And the architecture, design and quality of the furnishings are top drawer. 

The Nami Project which opened its doors last summer in stunning Ucluelet on Vancouver Island’s wild Pacific coast ticks off all those boxes, and then some. We bookended a trip we made to Tofino by spending three nights at The Nami Project and we were totally smitten. 

Ucluelet is only 30 minutes down the road from Tofino at the southern end of the Esowista Peninsula, and until recently it was overshadowed by its big brother to the north. But make no mistake, this place is just as stunning as Tofino, without the crowds. And if you are looking for some stylish digs in a ruggedly beautiful location with tons of outdoor activities that has taken relaxation to the next level, look no further. 

Throw in a world-class restaurant aptly named Pluvio (Pluviophile means “someone who finds peace of mind during rainy days”) that is also turning heads and you have all the makings of destination that should be at the top of everyone’s bucket list.

Photo: Jordyn Giesbrecht

The Nami Project isn’t your typical boutique hotel. In fact, there is no lobby or restaurant, but in the short time it has been open, it has quickly become one of the most sought after stays in Ucluelet. 

After making your booking online, when you arrive on site with your designated code to unlock your suite, the moment you open the door the whole vibe of the place simply takes your breath away. 

Those in the design world call this new minimalist style Japandi – a mashup of Japanese interiors and Scandinavian design that puts the emphasis on calm, casual and organic.  And like any design, where it sits on the land and how it’s oriented is crucial.

Perched on Ucluelet’s rugged coast – something that sets it apart from Tofino which is known for its wide open beaches – everything about The Nami Project is geared toward the kinetic energy of the water which is only metres away. But it’s inside the four suites located in the main building and the four stand-alone cabins where the functional yet minimalist design helps to imbue the rooms with a feeling of tranquility.

Fans of this latest design trend say it’s meant to teach us how to find beauty in imperfection, and to invite us to form deep connections to the earth and nature, and enjoy the simple pleasures in life. 

But there is nothing imperfect about this place.

Steps away from the famous Wild Pacific Trail, easily one of the most extraordinary coastal hikes in all of Canada, the location is perfect. It’s rare these days to find a private sauna with an ocean view  – easily the best view from any sauna and every suite has incorporated one into the design along with big lift and slide glass doors that seamlessly connect the outdoors to the rest of the suite. The cabins also come with their own private Japanese red cedar hot tubs to help round out the hydrotherapy experience.

The brains behind this project are Ruben and Nancy Dias. Both serial entrepreneurs, they have a number of small scale, boutique hospitality projects on the go around the world, including Costa Rica and Uruguay. I caught up with them after our stay to find out more about their inspiration and what drew them to Ucluelet.

Nancy begins by confessing that she isn’t a trained designer, but her husband insisted that after taking the lead on decorating their home in Whistler and other properties they have developed around the world, that she oversee the design of The Nami Project.

She says it was love at first sight when she and Ruben first laid eyes on the property. “It’s the strength of the ocean and the beautiful shape of the trees that have to endure countless storms that takes your breath away. At first I wasn’t sure I was up to the challenge. But once I dug into the project, I set about giving guests that feeling of comfort I strive for in all my projects. In the case of The Nami Project, it’s the view that takes centre stage. But I also wanted  the interior design to be soft.”

Nancy already had a longstanding love affair for all things Japanese – particularly their gardens and interior designs – a style she describes as very intentional.  “They don’t over-decorate,” Nancy says. “So the idea was to create a light, bright space on the inside to contrast with the dark exterior siding of the buildings and the forest that envelopes the property. So I wanted to use a lot of natural materials like oak and natural linens.”

Good design is all about context, and given its location, with Ucluelet directly facing Japan more than 10,000 kilometres away, the design of The Nami Project is a nod to bridging those two world. 

It’s this magical combination of natural light, epic views, and soft interiors that imbues all of the rooms including the Hijiki Suite where we stayed. And because there are no common spaces apart from the three Japanese cedar soaker tubs facing the Pacific Ocean  – two are hot tubs and one is a cold plunge – it feels more like a private home than a bustling hotel.

Indeed, it’s more than just a place, it’s an experience. And like everything else that is intentional about The Nami Project, names matter. And so the suites are all named after different kinds of Japanese seaweed, and Nami, in Japanese, means wave but can also mean beauty – a duality characterized by clean, simple lines that are used throughout the property.

Nancy’s husband Ruben says the design of The Nami Project fits with their overall philosophy of seeking out places that are a bit more remote, where you don’t bump into many people, and where there’s a soft touch. “We wanted to make it more of a slow living experience,” says Ruben. “We have a property manager on site all the time and there is of course somebody that can be reached 24/7 by phone but the idea is to offer more of a discreet experience.”

It’s been a great addition to Ucluelet which it must be said is more of a low-key working town than Tofino, yet it has all the majesty and beauty and easy access to Clayoquot Sound and everything that Tofino has to offer.  Affectionately known by locals as Ukee, the fishing industry is still very active here, and it is considerably less crowded than Tofino which is more famous for its big expansive beaches but doesn’t have the rugged and rocky shoreline that characterizes Ucluelet.

The two towns are roughly the same size – each with about 2,000 full-time residents – and are separated by one of the country’s most stunning parks – the Pacific Rim National Park. But it’s this rocky shoreline that makes the place so distinctive, and the best way to take it all in is to take the eight-kilometre hike along the Wild Pacific Trail, one of the most scenic coastal hikes in the world. The trail can be accessed from The Nami Project and don’t be fooled by the name  -it’s actually a gentle hike with numerous places to stop and rest along the way.

There are other notable hikes, like the Lighthouse Loop which is also part of the Wild Pacific Trail. It’s a shorter hike that traces the edge of rocky headlands past dramatic views of Barkley Sound and the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse, the only active lighthouse in the area. 

In fact, the coast here is so rocky and treacherous that it has been dubbed the Graveyard of the Pacific. It’s estimated that over the years a staggering 484 shipwrecks have occurred between Oregon and the northern tip of Vancouver Island. 

While Ucluelet’s mostly rocky outcroppings stand in stark contrast to Tofino’s sandy beaches, there are some hidden sandy gems. Our favourite is Halfmoon Bay Beach which is accessed by driving to the end of the road to Wya Point and then hiking through the rainforest till you get to a set of stairs. Halfmoon Bay Beach is to the left, and Florencia Bay is to the right.

If all of this hiking and fresh air leaves you feeling famished, Ucluelet has got that covered. For the past five years, Chef Warren Barr and his wife Lily Verney-Downey have been running a little gem of a restaurant called Pluvio. The restaurant has garnered a number of awards in recent years. It was included in Maclean’s 20 Best Places to Eat in Canada, and was recently named Canada’s 33rd best restaurant by Canada’s 100 Best Restaurants.

Photo: Jordyn Giesbrecht

Warren has been running various kitchens across the country since he was 26, including an eight year stint at The Pointe Restaurant at The Wickaninnish Inn. He and Lily have knocked it out of the park with Pluvio which offers a tasting menu as well as a three course option that leans heavily toward a multi-cultural take on Canadian cuisine. 

“The restaurant has seen a few iterations but we mainly draw our inspiration from the Pacific Rim and execute our dishes with uniquely Canadian ingredients,” says Warren. “But the Nordic movement has helped us as well find this culinary identity.”

Everything from the vinegars to the miso is made in-house, and where and when he can, Warren has found a number of local farms to partner with. When we were there for dinner, among the many spectacular dishes we had was a tuna crudo starter made with toasted white beans (toasted before cooking to give them a nutty flavour) and tortillas and peppers from Mission, B.C.

Photo: Jordyn Giesbrecht

“I love the flavours that go along with South East Asian and Mexican food,” says Warren. “And dried chillies are a big part of that culture. So I managed to find a farm a few years ago with dried ancho chillies.”

Warren and Lily have installed a shipping container out of sight behind the restaurant with temperature and humidity control so that they can use these unique Canadian ingredients like his vinegars and miso, and it’s these homemade sauces and marinades that make everything pop.

“Even our teriyaki sauce which is made with our own vinegar and soy sauce – something basic like that just tastes different. On top of that it guarantees our guests will not find anything else quite like it in the world.”

In 2019, Warren and Lily expanded their operation and opened a boutique hotel behind the restaurant and beside their backyard kitchen garden. Right in the heart of town, the four rooms are spacious, modern and comfortable and you are guaranteed an awesome breakfast.

Photo: Jordyn Giesbrecht

When I was chatting with Warren he said that in many ways, Ucluelet and Tofino are like two sides of the same coin. And he’s right. Having spent time in both, while the communities are quite different, I kind of think of them like sister communities with an incredible national park separating the two towns. Indeed, if you are lucky enough to spend a few nights in both it’s a pretty awesome combination.

Places to Stay:

  • The Nami Project – a stunning  addition to Ucluelet with private saunas and amazing views

Places To Eat:

  • Pluvio Restaurant + Rooms- one of the best restaurants on Vancouver Island, this is a high-end dining experience that is a must-visit for foodies. Reserve well in advance.
  • The Break Café & Bistro– a local favorites for breads, pastries, sweets, and lattes.
  • Yayu Cafe – a great plant-based restaurant; opening times differ so check ahead.

Places To See:

  1. Wild Pacific Trail: This scenic trail offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged coastline. A great place for hiking, birdwatching, and wildlife viewing.
  2. Big Beach: This beautiful beach is located within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. A popular spot for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
  3. Florencia Bay: This secluded beach is a great place for a peaceful stroll and a picnic. It’s also a popular spot for surfers.
  4. Halfmoon Bay Beach: Located within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, it’s a great place for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
  5. Amphitrite Point Lighthouse Trail: This easy hike offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, including the Amphitrite Point Lighthouse. 
  6. Wickaninnish Beach: This beach is located at the southern end of Pacific Rim National Park Reserve and is a popular spot.
  7. Terrace Beach: This beach is also located within Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. 
  8. Black Rock Trail: This scenic trail offers stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
  9. Combers Beach: Another great place for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking. It’s also a popular spot for surfers.
  10. Schooner Cove Trail: This popular trail offers beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and the rugged coastline. It’s a great place for hiking and birdwatching.


  1. Surfing: Enjoy world-class waves on the Pacific Ocean. Tofino is renowned for its surf culture and offers lessons for all skill levels.
  2. Wildlife Watching: Take a guided whale-watching tour to spot orcas, gray whales, humpbacks, and more. You can also see bears, sea lions, and eagles.
  3. Hiking: Explore the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve with stunning trails like the Rainforest Trail and the Wild Pacific Trail, offering spectacular coastal views.
  4. Hot Springs Cove: Take a boat ride to these natural geothermal hot springs located in Maquinna Provincial Park. Soak in the pools while enjoying the breathtaking surroundings.
  5. Kayaking: Paddle through calm waters, fjords, and coastal inlets, getting up close to the natural beauty and diverse marine life.


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