From Vancouver to Whistler: 7 Best Ways to Get There

Written by Magee Walker and Michael Law
Updated May 3, 2023
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It couldn't be easier to go from the hustle and bustle of downtown Vancouver to the snowy slopes of Whistler — and it will typically take you less than two hours to make the pilgrimage.

Whether you're looking to swap the rain for some snow, or you simply want to explore more of British Columbia's beautiful landscapes, there are several ways to get from Whistler to Vancouver. From once-in-a-lifetime, scenic adventures to private tours that let you customize your trip, we've summarized our favorite transportation methods below.

1. From Vancouver to Whistler by Seaplane

Seaplane on Green Lake in Whistler
Seaplane on Green Lake in Whistler

Without a doubt, the most dramatic way to experience a trip from Vancouver to Whistler is to fly in by seaplane with Harbour Air or Whistler Air. The excitement starts the moment you board the small plane from Vancouver Harbour and doesn't stop until you come to a floating stop in Whistler's Green Lake.

A seaplane flight offers the opportunity to take in the Coastal Mountains from above, revealing mountain peaks, glaciers, lush high meadows, and alpine lakes that you wouldn't get to see any other way. At about 35 minutes each way, the journey is short — but the memories will last a lifetime.

Whistler Air and Harbour Air floatplane trips from Vancouver are only offered from late spring to mid-autumn, so if you're heading up for a ski trip, then unfortunately this option isn't for you. Of the transportation methods on this list, flying in by seaplane is among the most expensive — but also the most breathtaking. In this case, the journey is just as epic as the destination itself.

The short travel times mean that you can easily make a trip out to Whistler and back to Vancouver in a single day, while still having plenty of time to explore Whistler's attractions. Transport from most downtown Vancouver area hotels to Vancouver Harbour is included, as is the shuttle from the seaplane base to Whistler.

2. From Vancouver to Whistler with a Small-Group Tour

Snowcapped mountains outside of Vancouver
Snowcapped mountains outside of Vancouver

When you're short on time but eager to experience as much as possible, consider booking a guided small-group day trip up to Whistler. This is a good option for those who would rather leave the planning and logistics to the pros.

The small-group day trips include the trip up and down the Sea to Sky Highway on a comfortable coach bus, but they're more than just a way of getting from the city to the mountains. Trips include an experienced guide who will fill you in on what to look out for on the journey. The coach stops at the most picturesque spots along the route, and you have the opportunity to sign up for optional excursions and activities to enjoy while you're in Whistler.

If you've only got a day to spare but you want to see what Whistler is all about, consider booking a small-group day tour to make the most of your time.

3. From Vancouver to Whistler by Bus

Aerial view of the Sea to Sky Highway
Aerial view of the Sea to Sky Highway

The Sea to Sky Highway, extending from West Vancouver to Whistler, is one of the most scenic trips to take in Canada. When you opt to ride the bus up to Whistler, you don't have to worry about navigating the twisting highway or possibly snowy conditions yourself — you simply get to sit back, relax, and take in the sights.

Whether you're starting from the Vancouver International Airport or downtown Vancouver, the bus is a low-stress and easy way to get to Whistler. Roomy and comfortable, buses offer Wi-Fi access — though you're definitely going to want to put down your phone to take in the scenery on the way up.

It's generally a good idea to book your bus trip in advance to guarantee a spot, especially if you're traveling during the busy winter and summer seasons. If you can, try to board the bus early and grab a seat on the left side (or, if you're coming down from Whistler to Vancouver, on the right side), as this will offer the best views of Howe Sound along the way.

If you are traveling to Whistler directly upon your arrival by air, a shuttle right from the airport will be more convenient than the downtown pickup points of the regular bus service. Whistler Shuttle leaves from Vancouver International Airport, maintaining a regular schedule or offering meet-and-greet service from the airport, with arrival directly to your hotel in Whistler.

4. From Vancouver to Whistler with a Private Tour

View of Howe Sound and the road from Vancouver to Whistler
View of Howe Sound and the road from Vancouver to Whistler

If you prefer to do things at your own speed but still want to sit back and enjoy the ride, a private tour from Vancouver to Whistler might be just what you're after.

A private tour allows you the opportunity to create a trip customized to your interests, with the convenience and benefits of having a local guide to show you the way. No need to worry about traffic, weather, or navigating the route — the driver of your private car or van will take care of that while offering you the insider info you can only get on a guided tour.

The tour passes through Stanley Park as you leave Vancouver over the Lion's Gate Bridge. At stops along the way, your guide explains the history of a copper mine at Britannia Beach, leads you up the trails to 335-meter (1,105-foot) Shannon Falls, and walks you to horseshoe-shaped Brandywine Falls (summer only). Admission to these parks is included, although a ride on the Peak2Peak Gondola at Whistler is not.

The tour provides ample time to take a ride to the top and soak in the awe-inspiring views. The tour also stops in Squamish where you'll be able to see climbers testing their skills on the imposing Stawamus Chief.

A private tour is another great way to experience Whistler in a day. It costs more than a small-group day tour, but if you value flexibility and individual attention, this might be your preferred way to get from Vancouver to Whistler and back.

5. From Vancouver to Whistler by Car

Alta Lake, Whistler
Alta Lake, Whistler

There's nothing like a good old-fashioned road trip, and many people opt to rent a car from the city to drive themselves up to Whistler along Highway 99.

The obvious advantage here is that you can do exactly what you want when you want: you can leave when you want, make stops and detours as you see fit, and hop in your car at any time once you're in Whistler to make side trips.

However, there are some drawbacks to consider. First, if you're going to be traveling from October to April, make sure your rental car has winter tires — it's the law, and you definitely won't want to be caught without them in winter conditions.

Second, parking in Whistler can get pricey. Free parking in peak season is virtually non-existent, and finding an available spot on the weekends can be a challenge.

Finally, a lot of people find that once they're in Whistler, they don't actually need a car, especially if they are staying in Whistler Village. Everything in and around the Village is very walkable, including access to the gondolas up Whistler and Blackcomb Mountains. Most attractions that take place outside the village offer easy transportation options, so you probably won't need a car for those either.

6. From Vancouver to Whistler by Taxi

Lions Gate Bridge en route to Whistler from downtown Vancouver
Lions Gate Bridge en route to Whistler from downtown Vancouver

Whistler's taxi companies are generally happy to pick you up in Vancouver and take you up to Whistler, as long as you book your trip well in advance. This is a good option if your flight arrives at an unusual time that doesn't fit with the regular bus timetable, or if you're leaving from somewhere in Vancouver that isn't downtown and would prefer not to take multiple modes of transportation. If you're lugging lots of gear, the convenience of getting in a car at Point A and having someone drive you to Point B is unparalleled.

The con? Taxis can get pricey — so be prepared to pay a little extra for the convenience.

7. From Vancouver to Whistler by Helicopter

Aerial view of Whistler, BC
Aerial view of Whistler, BC

For dramatic views from the air and the convenience of flying straight from Vancouver Harbor, you can opt for a Whistler Helicopter Charter with Blackcomb Helicopters.

Travel time is only 30 minutes, and unlike seaplanes, the helicopter service operates year-round (weather permitting), making it the only air service for skiers in the winter. Or, If you're planning a fly-in, fly-out vacation, you can leave directly from Landmark South Terminal at the airport.