Whether you are a road tripper or a luxury traveler, the picturesque town of Big Sur, has something to offer for you. This world-renowned destination has both stunning coastline and mountains to explore. Enjoy this Ultimate Travel Guide to Big Sur, California to help you plan your next trip up the Big Sur coastline.
Contents of this Blog:
Where is Big Sur?
Big Sur is located 150 miles south of San Francisco and 300 miles north of Los Angeles along Scenic Highway 1. Between Carmel and San Simeon, the rugged and picturesque Big Sur coastline stretches over 90 miles which is only accessible by driving.
What is Big Sur Known For?
Other than its iconic intro on the hit HBO television show "Big Little Lies," Big Sur attracts all types of travelers eager to see the magnificent coastline, towering redwoods, Santa Lucia mountains, epic hiking trails and luxury boutique hotels. Some of the most popular destinations include McWay Falls, Bixby Bridge and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
Best Places to Stay, Eat & Visit
When you visit Big Sur for the first time, you may come to discover just how remote this location is. In retrospect, it's a small town with limited dining and accommodation options, but those limits don't take away from the elegance and attention to detail of the service that you will receive.
Best Hotels & Stays in Big Sur:
This renowned destination on California's Central Coast has everything from camping and glamping to boutique hotels and some of the world's most luxurious hotels. What I like best about staying in Big Sur is that the surrounding beauty of nature is constantly at the forefront of your experience, no matter where you stay.
When deciding how long to stay in Big Sur, consider everything you want to do during your visit. If you plan on staying solely in the Big Sur region, a weekend will suffice, but if you want to see Monterey, Carmel, and the neighboring areas, I recommend 3-5 days.
Luxury Hotels ($300+ / night) :
Alila Ventana Big Sur (Highest Rated Luxury Hotel)
Big Sur River Inn (My Favorite Choice!)
Budget Friendly - Mid Range Hotels (Up to $300/night):
Camping & Glamping:
Prefer to Stay in Monterey? Check out my Monterey Travel Guide for more lodging options! It's about a 40 minute scenic drive up the coast!
Best Restaurants in Big Sur:
Big Sur's restaurant scene is a mash-up of farm-to-table perfection, local artisanal bakers and smokehouses. You can anticipate organic, healthy cuisine options and ingredients sourced from local suppliers and farmers.
Do note that dining out in Big Sur is not cheap and expect to shell out anything in the mid price range or higher at establishments.
Big Sur Bakery (Best Bakery & Overall Dining)
Nepenthe (Best Views)
COAST Big Sur (Best Coffeeshop)
Sierra Mar (Best Fine Dining)
We particularly loved Big Sur Bakery for breakfast and lunch, their bacon croissant twist is absolutely to die for! Plus, it is located near the beautiful Loma Vista Gardens venue and has a few shops in the center if you like to shop around for gifts to take home.
Top Attractions & Best Beaches:
Luckily Big Sur's weather is beautiful pretty much year round, which makes planning for your adventures a little bit easier. We visited in early November and it was almost 80 degrees! May-November are going to be the best times to visit Big Sur if you want to luck out on gorgeous sunny weather.
When looking for things to do in Big Sur, you may find that the natural landscape is what really attract visitors. Big Sur offers a great deal of beaches, photography spots, and beautiful state parks for your visit.
Tip: You'll want to factor in any possible traffic on Highway 1. It's a curvy one-way road, and any construction or accidents could cause delays in your plans. Aside from that, while in Big Sur, taking it calm and easy is the way to go anyways!
Visit Pfeiffer Beach for Sunset
9100 Sycamore Canyon Rd Big Sur, CA 93920
With its famed rock arch that lets in light at sunset, Pfeiffer Beach is a photographer's paradise, with the most magical glowing ray coming through the keyhole is a sight to see. This is a dog-friendly beach and costs $12 to enter and park here.
Someone asked if we had found the purple sand when we went to Pfeiffer Beach, and I was perplexed by the question, so I decided to try to find some myself! We did, in fact, find some purple sand! You can try to locate some around where the creek flows into the ocean.
Tip: Please remember to bring cash and arrive early! It's a small parking lot, and only a specific number of cars are allowed in. We went twice, and one of the times their card reader was broken, so bring cash!
Big Sur Packing Essentials:
Visit McWay Falls
McWay Falls, is an 80-foot waterfall tumbling onto a pristine sandy beach, and is undoubtedly one of Big Sur's most amazing sights. The beach itself is so immaculate because it is off limits to the public due to preservation. Although you may visit Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and walk 0.6 miles to get magnificent views of the waterfall.
Because the trails are not dog-friendly, you can pull over to the side of HWY 1 just before the Julia Pfeiffer Burns entry and take photos. Here are the coordinates to where we pulled over to snap some shots of Mcway Falls.
Visit Henry Miller Library
48603 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
The Henry Miller Memorial Library in Big Sur, California, is a non-profit arts center, bookstore, and performance venue dedicated to the late writer, artist, and Henry Miller. There's something to admire around every corner, whether it's eclectic art, or enjoying the small book shop nestled away in the forest.
Tip: The back deck has a beautiful redwood forest! Check the Library's event page for any events or music happening on site.
Take Photos of the Bixby Creek Bridge
The renowned Bixby Creek Bridge is one of Big Sur's most photographed sights. With the ocean on one side and the mountains on the other, this 714-foot long bridge spans over Bixby Creek.
See the Redwoods
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is located in the Big Sur valley, nestled between the Santa Lucia Mountains, at the core of Big Sur. A calm, crystal-clear river traverses the old-growth redwood forest at the Redwood Deck near the entrance of the park. The park has been extensively developed, with nice campgrounds, lodges, and picnic spots occupying the majority of the accessible sections.
Visit State Parks
Big Sur has a handful of State Parks worth visiting. See the list of all State Parks here:
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