A Complete Guide to Visiting Big Sur
Big Sur is one of those places that you truly have to see to believe. I know that sounds so cliché but the dramatic cliffs, eclectic vibe, and endless views of the Pacific Ocean speak for themselves. The scenery is truly unmatched. That’s why I’ve created this Complete Guide to Visiting Big Sur to ensure that you have the best information before traveling to Big Sur, California.
When to Visit Big Sur
For the best time to visit Big Sur, California consider a trip during late spring to early summer. Even though this is during peak tourism, nothing can take away from the beauty of Big Sur, not even tourists! September to November is a great time to visit Big Sur if you’re looking to save on hotels and beat the crowds.
Things to Know Before Traveling to Big Sur :
- There is hardly ANY cell phone service when driving on Highway 1 so make sure to download an offline map if you’re directionally challenged.
- You can spend one day here but it’s best to stretch it out to two or three days because the weather is so fickle. One minute it can be sunny the next you can’t see two feet in front of you.
- Big Sur is pricey so be prepared if you’re on a budget. Gas prices are roughly $2 higher than the norm so make sure to fuel up before traveling to Big Sur.
Things to do in Big Sur
This was our favorite stop in Big Sur. Located just outside of Julia Pfeiffer Burns Park, it’s a short 1/4 mile hike that will take you to an overlook of an 80-foot waterfall that cascades down into a turquoise-blue cove. I’m convinced this is where the Little Mermaid lives.
Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park
A great option when staying in Big Sur is to camp! This state park is located right smack in the middle of Big Sur and has the nickname of “Mini Yosemite”. Campgrounds tend to book up at least six months in advance so make sure to plan before you go. You can find all the information you’ll need here!
A beach located off the beaten path but is well worth the crazy 2 miles drive down to the beach! You can park here for $12 a day and it’s a short walk to the actual beach from the lot. You’ll be rewarded with a gorgeous coastline and a huge rock with a hole in the middle.
Garrapata State Park
Located in North Big Sur this 3,000-acre state park has two miles of beautiful beaches and many hiking trails. And as you can see above is beautiful in any season you visit!
Bixby Creek Bridge
The Bixby Creek bridge has become famous because of the hit HBO show “Big Little Lies”. But this bridge has been around for ages and is a must-see when visiting Big Sur. There is a small parking lot just north of the bridge to enjoy the beauty of this masterpiece.
17 Mile Drive
The starting point for 17 Mile Drive is the entrance of the Pebble Beach golf course. It costs $10.50 for the day to drive on this portion of the coast but it’s well worth it. The beaches are pristine and you won’t see many people here because of the cost. You can’t miss the Lone Cypress which is a California legend standing tall at 250 years old.
Lastly, Fan Shell Beach was our favorite quiet cove along the coast (pictured below).
Technically, Morro Bay is not located in Big Sur however, it’s a couple of hours south. If you’re driving from a southern city you might want to stop along the way. Morro Bay is a small coastal town that is best known for “Morro Rock” a large ancient volcanic mound in the middle of the bay. You can easily make this a quick put stop for lunch on your way to Big Sur!
Drive Down Highway 1
There are so many hidden corners of the Big Sur coast. Each unique corner of the Highway has it’s own perspective of the endless Pacific Ocean. So I encourage you to just drive along Highway 1 and stop when you see a beautiful spot!
What to Pack for Big Sur, California
- All the activewear. Most of the things to do in Big Sur are outdoor hiking, biking, and swimming. My favorite brands of activewear that have lasted me YEARS are Lululemon and Athleta. I’ve also found some great lululemon dupes on Amazon and you can shop those all HERE.
- Good quality hiking shoes or sneakers: I wore my Asics (click here for my fav pair) the entire time in Big Sur and did not have any issues when hiking however, it’s best to wear actual hiking shoes since the hikes can get pretty intense for the best hiking shoes CLICK HERE.
- A sturdy pair of flip-flops that you can also wear on a nice walk or to the beach. These Olukai Sandals are my go-to and have lasted me years and are the most comfortable.
- Chic sandals for dinner.
- A sun hat for the summer months.
- Bathing Suits: Being that Big Sur gets very warm in the summer months you’ll want to always be prepared by bringing bathing suits. I always find quality suits that last for a few seasons at aerie, revolve, amazon, and cupshe.
- Sunscreen: This GOOP FACE SUNSCREEN BRUSH is perfect for traveling because it adds SPF to your face all while not messing up your makeup. It’s my new holy grail product and you need to add this one to your packing list! Also, my daily moisturizer with SPF is incredible for traveling + every day!
- A light jacket for the evening.
- Shorts: Abercrombie has the best shorts for all sizes and shapes. Check out my favorite curve love shorts here and here.
- Basics: I always find the best basics at either Free People, Abercrombie, and HM. It’s nice to have some neutral tees and tanks handy during your stay. You can also shop my favorite Amazon Basics HERE.
Where to Stay in Big Sur, California
There are not many options when it comes to hotels in Big Sur. You either have to choose between a low star hotel or a 5-star resort that will set you back $700 a night and up. Below are some options if you are dead set on staying in Big Sur while visiting.
- Post Ranch Inn ($$$) This 5-star hotel is perched 1200 feet above the Pacific Ocean and is known best for relaxation.
- Ventana Big Sur ($$$$) 5-star secluded resort located in the midst of all that Big Sur has to offer.
- Glen Oaks Big Sur ($$$) Trendy retro style hotel with individual cabins.
- Big Sur Lodge ($$) Located in Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park this 3-star hotel that offers cottage-style rooms and cabins.
- Big Sur River Inn ($$) 3-star hotel with a rustic vibe.
Because we wanted to stay on a budget in Big Sur, we chose to stay in Carmel by the Sea. It’s roughly an hour’s drive from everything Big Sur has to offer and is the cutest little storybook town.
We stayed at the La Playa Carmel and highly recommend it. Not only was it affordable but we felt as though we were staying in Sorrento, Italy. A couple of other Carmel by the Sea hotels to check out are:
Restaurants in Big Sur
Nepenthe Big Sur ($$) – Ocean views and healthy eats, this restaurant is highly recommended!
Deetjens Restaurant ($$) – Located at the Big Sur Inn, this restaurant is great for breakfast and dinner.
Lucia Lodge Restaurant ($$) – Another Big Sur restaurant with a gorgeous view. This spot is great for lunch and has amazing service.
Sierra Mar ($$$$) – If you’re looking to splurge, this is your place. Located in the Post Ranch Inn, this Michelin star restaurant serves superb food. It’s quite literally perched on a cliff and has floor to ceiling windows overlooking the pacific ocean.
Thank you for reading my Complete Guide to Visiting Big Sur. I hope you’ve found some great tips to help you plan a visit to Big Sur! Please be sure to let me know if there is anything you think I’ve missed on this guide and head here for more of my California travel guides.
If you want to shop any of the items in this post click below!
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