Squamish is where Canada's coast and mountains meet. The former logging town nestles between steep purple peaks at the top end of Howe Sound, a short drive from both Vancouver and Whistler. In the bustling downtown area, you'll have the pick of independent boutiques and local coffee roasters while you watch kitesurfers making their best moves right off Squamish waterfront. Plus a sprinkling of national and provincial parks mark out the surrounding mountains for mountain bikers, hikers and rock climbers.
Stay in a Squamish hostel in a traditional Canadian timber house with an outdoor terrace overlooking the mountains or stay in town and make the most of hostel-run meditation sessions. You could have free breakfast in some Squamish hostels or dig into vegetarian home cooking. Most places have free Wi-Fi for guests, as well as communal kitchens if you're saving your budget for the popular Saturday farmers' market.
Downtown Squamish sits on a peninsula where the Howe Sound and Squamish Rivers meet. Here you can shop and dine on the main street of Cleveland Avenue or set off hiking down the waterfront trails. Garibaldi Estates in the flat area of Central Squamish is a mix of residential and vibrant new commercial developments, while Brackendale on the river has a rural feel and good access to the outdoors despite only being a 10-minute drive from downtown. You can stroll around the mountain community of Ring Creek (a 15-minute drive from downtown) to see how an entirely off-grid neighbourhood functions.
Summer activities in Squamish are all about the mountains, such as rock climbing or hiking Stawamus Chief (one of the world's biggest Granite monoliths), but in winter head to Garibaldi Provincial Park for cross-country skiing. You could take the Sea & Sky Gondola up to Summit Lodge for lunch with a view or explore the high-altitude trails up there. Down in the valley, there's the atmospheric underground train at Britannia Mine Museum and close to the waterfront, you can sample British Columbia's award-winning beer on the outdoor patio of Howe Sound Brewery.
The closest airport is Vancouver International Airport, and from there you can take the Skylynx shuttle bus to Squamish (2 hours). The Chieftain Centre (main bus station) is in central downtown, with connections also running to Whistler (70 minutes). To get around the town or up to outlying neighbourhoods, use the local bus service and for remote trailhead, there are several companies that run adventure shuttles to places such as Garibaldi Provincial Park.