The Sea to Sky Highway passes by Howe Sound

Getting From Vancouver to Whistler: A Complete Guide

Sitting high atop its perch in the Coast Mountains lies Whistler Village, the ski resort that all others seek to emulate.

But with a wide range of rental car, bus, private shuttle and even flight options waiting to transport you there, figuring out the best way to get to Whistler can get down-right confusing.

Luckily, we’re here to help you find the best transportation option available to suit your needs. So if you have any questions, don’t be afraid to ask in the comments below.

Now lets get started shall we!

Index

  1. Whistler
  2. How to Get From Vancouver to Whistler
  3. The Sea to Sky Highway
  4. Vancouver to Whistler Drive
  5. Car Rentals
  6. Directions
  7. Downtown to Whistler Shuttle
  8. YVR to Whistler Shuttle
  9. Private Transfers
  10. Train
  11. Flights
  12. FAQs

Whistler VillageA ski lodge in Whistler Village

Located a two hour drive North of Vancouver on the world famous Sea to Sky Highway, Whistler Village is the largest ski resort in North America.

As the host of the 2010 Winter Olympics, the resort is world renown for it’s massive skiable vertical drop, healthy snow fall and Austrian-style chalets.

But with so many things to do without skis on, Whistler is much more than simply a ski resort.

With a world-class aprés-ski scene featuring an endless array of shops, bars and restaurants, you can be assured that Whistler will be a hit with skiers and non-skiers alike.

How to Get from Vancouver to Whistler

The Sea to Sky Highway passes by Howe Sound

The Sea to Sky Highway

Highway 99, also known as the Sea to Sky Highway, is the main transportation corridor connecting Whistler and Greater Vancouver, and is universally regarded as one of the most beautiful drives in the world.

Once leaving Vancouver’s North Shore the 135 kilometre long highway teeters along between the jagged cliff sides of the Coast Mountains and the sparkling waters of Howe Sound until it reaches the town of Squamish.

The road then proceeds up into the mountains, providing travellers with glimpses of stunning alpine vistas, lush green rainforests and spectacular waterfalls before terminating in the number one ski resort in North America.

With spectacular viewpoints, outdoor destinations and cultural points of interest at almost every stop, the Sea to Sky Highway is a veritable destination in its own right.

You won’t want to forget your camera!

Sea to Sky Highlights

Most of the sights above are located within a short drive from the outdoor playground of Squamish. For lodging information head on over to booking.com.

Vancouver to Whistler Drive

Cars on the Sea to Sky Highway

If you have the time and resources, we’d highly recommend renting your own vehicle and making the journey through the Sea to Sky corridor yourself.

This will provide you with the highest degree of flexibility to enjoy all of the wondrous sights and attractions that the area has to offer.

However, before you begin planning your trip, there are a few critical things to take into consideration.

Sea to Sky Highway Conditions

It is important to remember that the Sea to Sky is a mountain highway where rapid changes in weather and elevation can have a significant impact on road conditions.

The winding roads and steep cliffs that provide for the area’s picture perfect views are also what have given the highway a dangerous reputation.

Thankfully improvements completed prior to the 2010 Vancouver/Whistler Olympics have served to significantly reduce the risks of travel on the Sea to Sky.

Despite this fact extreme caution is still advised, particularly when dealing with Winter conditions. Drivers should be prepared for inclement weather, poor visibility and rapid changes in elevation.

If you have any doubts about your driving ability in Winter conditions, it may be better to leave it to the pros and take one of the many shuttle or private transfer options on offer below.

If you do choose to drive, make sure to check the BC Ministry of Highways Highway 99 weather report before travelling, and continue to monitor weather conditions throughout the duration of your journey.

Winter Tires

British Columbia law requires Winter tires on most interior and mountain highways, including the Sea to Sky, between October 1st and March 31st. This includes either “all-season” or M&S tires or certified Winter tires with the alpine or mountain snowflake logo.

Most car rental agencies already provide cars with M&S tires, while others, such as Avis, Budget and Dollar Charge a small additional fee.

Be aware of the winter tire policy of your chosen provider before booking to be confident of a safe journey and to ensure you are compliant with provincial legislation.

Vancouver to Whistler Car Rental

A man receives his rental vehicle

When it comes to renting a vehicle in Vancouver for travel to Whistler, there are several important things to consider.

Should you rent a vehicle for the entire duration of your stay? Or should you opt for two one-way journeys?

Ask yourself the following three questions before making your decision:

1) Will I need a vehicle during my visit?

If you’re staying in Whistler Village everything from the chair lift to dining and nightlife options will likely be within a ten minute walk of your location.

This makes it quite unlikely that you’ll require the services of your vehicle.

However, if you intend to take full advantage of the Whistler area’s many outdoor activities, beyond simply hitting the slopes, then having a vehicle will prove invaluable.

2) How much will parking cost?

If you opt to keep your vehicle for the duration of your journey you’ll be confronted with the question of how much you’ll be required to pay for parking.

While some hotels and short term rentals do offer complimentary parking, it’s important to note that most do not.

So be warned, it can be very expensive.

Make sure to consult with your lodging location before booking a vehicle to avoid being greeted with a large parking bill.

3) What is the most cost effective option?

For most travellers, when it comes down to renting a vehicle, the total cost will undoubtedly be the number one consideration.

On first glance, booking two one-way journeys may sound like the most economical choice. But take the following into consideration:

  1. Avis is the only car rental agency in Whistler. Thus, you will be required to rent through them in order to rent two one-way journeys.
  2. The lack of competition means that prices tend to be much higher in Whistler, compared with Vancouver.
  3. The seasonal nature of business in Whistler means that Avis will be extremely busy during ski season, reducing the number of vehicles available.

As a result, many travellers find that it is often cheaper and more convenient to simply go with the single rental option, even if they are staying for 3-4 days and do not require the service of a vehicle.

Vancouver Car Rental Options

With over a dozen different car rental agencies, Vancouver provides travellers with a wealth of car rental options. So you can be assured that a wide variety of vehicles will be available at highly competitive rates.

Vancouver Airport Car Rentals

Travellers going directly to Whistler from YVR can choose from amongst 7 different providers located on the ground floor of the main parking garage.

Airport rentals can also be a convenient option for others, due to the convenient transit options that connect YVR with the city centre.

Check out our Vancouver Airport Transfer guide for more information.

Downtown Vancouver Car Rentals

There are also numerous options throughout the city centre, which may be more convenient for those who’re staying downtown.

The best way to secure the cheapest and most convenient option for you is to comparison shop. We recommend heading over to rental cars.com to find the best available rates.

Now that we’ve decided where to score some wheels, the next question is how do you get from Vancouver to Whistler?

Vancouver to Whistler Driving Directions

The driving directions from Downtown Vancouver to Whistler Village are quite straightforward. For your own custom directions from your place of lodging head on over to Google Maps.

Hopefully these directions will be all you need to find your way. But if you have any additional questions, make sure to leave them in the comments below, and I’ll get to them as soon as possible.

Whistler Village Parking

Upon you arrival in Whistler you will be faced with the conundrum of what to do with your vehicle. Make sure to check with your place of lodging before booking to make you are not greeted with an exorbitant parking bill.

For short-term visitors, there is parking available in day lots provided by the village, the prices can be found below:

Day Lots 1,2,3

  • $10 per day (standard vehicle)
  • $20 per day (oversized vehicle)
  • $2.50 per hour (standard)
  • $5 per hour (oversize)
  • *Free after 5pm

Day Lots 4,5

  • $5 per day (standard vehicle)
  • $2.50 per hour (standard vehicle)
  • *Free after 5pm

If you are looking for a budget transportation option, or after factoring in the road conditions and the cost of parking and renting a vehicle, driving to Whistler sounds like more trouble than it is worth, then don’t worry!

There are plenty of other options available.

Vancouver to Whistler Shuttle

Passengers on a shuttle bus

There are four different companies that provide coach service to Whistler from Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and Downtown Vancouver. The trip on all Downtown Vancouver services takes around 2 hours, with the coach from YVR taking about an hour longer.

While there is little differentiation between providers based upon time, there are variations based upon price, service and departure times. So lets evaluate the various options, and decide which company works best for you.

Vancouver to Whistler Shuttle Prices

You can find a brief overview of the prices offered by each company in the table below.

whistler shuttle price comparison

Skylynx

While most commonly known as a provider of coach service between YVR and Whistler, Skylynx also offers a variety of stops in the Downtown area.

Price (downtown)
  • $22.40 One way
  • $35.70 Return
Pick Up/Drop Off locations

Vancouver

  • YVR (at the bottom of the escalator in the international arrivals terminal)
  • Vancouver City Centre (outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Burrard and Melville

Whistler

  • Squamish (Squamish Station Mall)*
  • Creekside (outsidethe Legends Hotel)*
  • Whistler Village (Whistler Gateway Loop near the Visitor Centre)

*Denotes reservation only stop

Services and Amenities

  • Free wifi/charging stations
  • Washrooms
  • Individual climate control
  • Luggage allowance of one 50lb suitcase, 1 carryon and one set of skis/snowboard
  • Door-to-door minibus service in Whistler ($7.50 add on)

The Skylynx offers the highest level of services and amenities of all the coach providers coupled with high frequency year departures regardless of season.

Once you factor in the competitive rates it simply becomes a no brainer. Thus the Skylynx is our recommended service provider for the Vancouver to Whistler shuttle.

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Epic Rides

The Epic Rides shuttle enters Whistler
Instagram: @epicrides_whistler

This popular service offers year round service from Vancouver to Whistler along one route with several different stops in the Vancouver area.

Price
  • $24 One Way
  • $35 Round Trip
Pick Up/Drop Off Locations

Vancouver

  • UBC Campus*
  • Granville and Broadway*
  • Burrard and Comox (in front of the Sheraton Wall Centre)*
  • Burrard and Melville Street (outside Burrard Station)

*Denotes once daily service on the first trip of the day (leaving UBC at 5:30) during high season only (Nov 16-Apr 22)

All other services depart from outside Burrard Station that services the Skytrain’s Expo Line.

Whistler

All services terminate at the Gateway Bus Loop outside the Whistler Visitor Centre on the edge of Whistler Village.

Trip Frequency
  • 7x per day- High Season (Nov 15-Apr 22)
  • 6x per day- Shoulder Season (June 28-Sept 2)
  • 4x per day- Low Season (Apr 23-Jun 27)
Services and Amenities
  • No Wifi/device chargers
  • No washrooms onboard
  • Free luggage (including skis/snowboards/bicycles)

While Epic Rides offers frequent daily departures of any carrier and provides year round service, the lack of wifi and washrooms may discourage some travellers, even with the short duration of the journey.

Nevertheless, Epic Rides is cheap, efficient and officially sanctioned by both Tourism Whistler and Tourism Vancouver. This makes it our second favourite provider for Whistler transport..

For additional details visit the Epic Rides website.

Snow Bus

A girl stands in front of the Snowbus shuttle to Whistler
Instagram: @snowbus

Snow Bus operates twice daily from November to April along two different routes. The carrier offers pickup throughout Vancouver, Richmond, UBC, Burnaby and North Vancouver.

Since the first route services YVR and Downtown Vancouver, it will likely be of most use to travellers. However, those staying in Burnaby or North Vancouver will be better served by route two, though it only operates on  weekends.

Price
  • Vancouver/Burnaby- $25 one way, $36 return
  • Richmond- $35 one way, $59 return
  • YVR- $40 one way, $75 return
Pick Up/Drop Off Locations (Route 1)

Richmond/Vancouver

  • Richmond (Westminster at Minoru bus stop)*
  • YVR Airport (pick up at templeton Skytrain/drop off at YVR Gate)*
  • Granville Street & 41st Avenue (Northbound lane)*
  • Dunbar & 28th Avenue (Northbound lane)*
  • King Edward Avenue & Granville Street (Westbound lane)*
  • UBC (Alma and 10th Avenue Northbound lane)*
  • Kitsilano-West Broadway & Maple Street (Eastbound lane)
  • Granville Street & West Broadway (Northbound lane)*

Downtown Vancouver

  • Burrard Station(Burrard and Melville Street)
  • Waterfront Station (West Cordova & Granville Street)*
  • North Vancouver (Capilano Road and Curling Road Northbound lane)*

*Denotes reservation only stop. Service must be requested upon booking.

The main stop servicing Downtown Vancouver is located outside the Hyatt Hotel on Burrard Street. This is the only stop that doesn’t require a reservation.

Pick Up/Drop Off Locations (Route 2)

Richmond/Vancouver/Burnaby/North Shore

  • Richmond (River Rock Casino)*
  • South Vancouver (East 49th Avenue & Knight East bound lane)*
  • Burnaby-Willingdon Avenue & Kingsborough Street (Northbound lane)*
  • Willingdon Avenue & Canada Way (Northbound lane)*
  • Willingdon Avenue & Halifax Street (Northbound lane)*
  • West Hastings & Skeena Street (Westbound lane)*
  • North Vancouver-Phibbs Exchange Bus Loop Bay 11*
  • McDonalds on Westview Drive*
  • Denny’s on Marine Drive*

*Denotes reservation only stops. Buses will not stop if no passengers are booked.

Pick Up/Drop Off Locations in Whistler
  • Whistler Creekside (Legends)*
  • Whistler Village (Village Gateway)
Services and Amenities
  • Complimentary Wifi/device chargers
  • Washroom Onboard
  • No luggage fees (including skis/snowboards)
  • Movies
  • Free Cliff Bars

As you can see, the Snowbus is by far the most flexible carrier in terms of pick up locations, although most stops require reservations. Furthermore, with wifi, washrooms, movies and free Cliff Bars available at only a slight cost premium, they also provide a high degree of service.

However, with only two departures offered per day in the Winter and none at all in the off season, you’ll have much less selection in regards to departure time.

As a result, we’d only recommend Snow Bus for those looking for service from outside the downtown core at the peak of ski season.

For additional details or to book check out the  Snowbus website.

Whistler Rides

The Whistler Rides bus in Whistler
Facebook: WhistlerRides

Whistler Rides offers year round service between Vancouver’s City Centre and Whistler, with service to Squamish and Pemberton available on different routes.

Price
  • $17 One way
  • $32 Return
Pick Up/Drop Off Locations 

Vancouver

  • Granville Street and Broadway (Northbound lane)
  • Burrard and Melville Street (outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel)

Whistler

  • Creekside Village (in front of the Legends Hotel)
  • Whistler Village (Gondola transit exchange)
  • Whistler Hostel International
Services and Amenities
  • Free Wifi/charging stations
  • No washrooms
  • Free luggage (including skis/snowboards/bikes)
  • Free ticket exchanges/credits in the event of time changes

Whistler Rides offers year round service along with some of the best rates of any provider. Combine this with the most stops in the Whistler area and free wifi and you can’t go wrong.

For additional details or to book please visit the  website.

Vancouver Airport to Whistler Shuttle

The Skylynx bus in Whistler

Skylynx

As YVR’s official provider of coach service between Vancouver International Airport and Whistler, Skylynx is the only service that departs directly from the YVR arrivals terminal.

Price
  • $70.20 One Way
  • $117.80 Return

*Children 6-12 travel for half price while infants and toddlers are free.

Pick Up/Drop Off Locations

Vancouver

  • YVR (the kiosk is by the escalator outside the international arrivals terminal)
  • Vancouver City Centre (outside the Hyatt Regency Hotel on Burrard and Melville)

Whistler

  • Squamish (Squamish Station Mall 1170 Hunter Place, Squamish BC)*
  • Whistler Creekside (outside the Legends Hotel)*
  • Whistler Village (Whistler Gateway Loop near the Whistler Visitor Centre)

*Denotes reservation only stops

Services and Amenities
  • Free Wifi/charging stations
  • Washrooms
  • Individual climate control
  • Luggage allowance of one 50 lb suitcase, one carryon and one snowboard, set of skis or golf clubs per traveller
  • Door-to-door minibus service in Whistler Village ($7.50 additional fee)

The Skylynx is the only real shuttle option for travellers going between YVR and Whistler.

The competing Snowbus service does operate from the nearby Templeton Skytrain Station on a reservation only basis. However, with only two daily departures, it is highly unlikely to synchronize with your flight arrival time.

You will then need to factor in the time, money and inconvenience associated with jumping on the skytrain with your luggage and ski equipment all the way to Templeton station or Vancouver City Centre.

While the convenience of the direct airport departure of the Skylynx clearly comes at a price, in this instance it is clearly worth it.

As a result, the Skylynx is our clear recommendation for direct transport between YVR to Whistler for travellers who do not wish to spring for a private transfer or rental vehicle.

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Vancouver to Whistler Private Transfers

A private chartered van drives down the highway

Does lugging your skis through the streets of Vancouver at 6 or 7 o’clock in the morning in the heart of Winter with your kids in tow sound like a nightmare? Would the convenience of private door-to-door service while seated in the comfort of a luxury vehicle be more up your alley?

Well our partners at Viator offer a wide variety of private transfer options that connect Whistler Village to Vancouver. And the best part is that if you are travelling in a group or family you’ll find that the rates can often be competitive, or even superior to other transportation options!

So don’t hesitate, click the button below to compare the numerous private transfer options available from both YVR and Downtown Vancouver to Whistler Village. 

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Vancouver to Whistler Train

Passengers take pictures aboard the Rocky Mountaineer
Instagram: @rockymountaineer

At the end of 2015 the Rocky Mountaineer cancelled it’s Sea to Sky Climb service. As a result, there is unfortunately no longer a dedicated train service connecting Vancouver and Whistler.

However, travel to Whistler is still offered as part of the Rocky Mountaineer’s Rainforest to Gold-Rush Package.

This allows you to spend one night in Whistler on your way to the BC interior’s gold-rush country, before travelling through the Rocky Mountains to Jasper, Alberta.

The journey offers breathtaking views of BC’s varying landscapes, including; lush coastal rainforests, vast ranch lands and rugged snow capped peaks. All before you reach the stunning Rocky Mountain Trench and Rocky Mountain National parks.

The Rainforest to Gold-rush Package is available in 3 and 5 day packages.

For more information on this, and other Rocky Mountaineer packages, visit the Rocky Mountaineer website.

Vancouver to Whistler Flights

Planes sit at the Vancouver Floatplane Terminal

Whistler’s nearest major airport is Vancouver International (YVR), located 135 kilometres away in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond.

Since Whistler doesn’t have an airport capable of supporting jet aircraft, there are no flights offered between the resort town and YVR.

But this doesn’t mean flying in is impossible.

Vancouver to Whistler Floatplanes

Harbour Air offers floatplane service from the Vancouver Harbour Flight Centre and Victoria’s Inner Harbour to the Whistler Floatplane Terminal, located 3km North of Whistler Village on Green Lake.

The service runs seasonally from May to September and takes approximately 45 minutes from Vancouver and 1 hour from Victoria.

Price

Prices vary according to demand, but typically fall in the $150-200 range for Vancouver, and $250-300 range for Victoria for  one way flights.

There are two fare classes, the goFlex which offers a 25 lbs baggage allowance, and the goGold which offers a 50 lbs allowance at a slight cost premium.

*Children fly for half price.

Services and Amenities
  • Complimentary shuttle service in Downtown Vancouver and Whistler Village
  • Free Wifi
  • Complimentary coffee, pastries and fruit
  • Local and national newspapers
  • 50/25 lbs luggage allowance depending on fare class
  • Additional fees apply to skis/snowboards/sporting equipment

Let’s get the obvious out of the way…

The floatplane isn‘t cheap! It comes at a significant cost premium to other forms of transportation. However, travellers who are willing to bite the bullet will be rewarded with an unparalleled travel experience.

Take off from Vancouver’s Coal Harbour and receive breathtaking views of the Vancouver skyline, Howe Sound and the North Shore Mountains. Fly over majestic glaciers, rugged peaks and lush alpine meadows.

The views are simply stunning. While the drive up the Sea to Sky corridor is an experience in and of itself, the floatplane takes it to a whole other level.

Factor in the comfort and convenience of the complimentary shuttle service on both ends of the trip, and you’ll see why the floatplane service is highly recommended for travellers who are willing to pay a premium for this once in a lifetime travel experience.

Click the button below to compare the packages available, including daytrips, tours and thrilling glacial sightseeing experiences.

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FAQs

How far is Whistler from Vancouver?

Whistler is located 120 kilometres (75 miles) from Downtown Vancouver. The trip takes approximately an hour and a half depending on traffic and weather.

How do you get from Vancouver to Whistler?

If you are unable to drive there are a variety of options available; such as bus, private transfer, train and even Summer floatplane service.

How do you get from YVR to Whistler?

The only direct transport options available from YVR airport to Whistler Village are the Skylynx shuttle and private transfers.

If you’d prefer, there is a wide variety of car rental options available on site.

Can you fly from Vancouver to Whistler?

While Whistler does not have an airport, there is floatplane service available seasonally from Downtown Vancouver and Victoria between May and September.

Can you drive from Vancouver to Whistler?

Whistler is located 120 kilometres or a 1.5 hour drive up the Sea to Sky Highway-99 from Downtown Vancouver.

Hopefully we’ve managed to peak your interest with our Vancouver-Whistler travel guide.

But before we go, I’d like to encourage you to submit any more questions you have regarding Vancouver to Whistler transport.

Whether you hit me up in the comments below or on the Vancouver Planner Facebook page, I’m sure I’ll be able get them answered ASAP and get you on your way.

See you on the slopes!

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