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A Complete Guide to Visiting Big Sur

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.

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

McWay Falls

mcway falls 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!

Pfeiffer Beach

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.

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

pebble beach golf course drone

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).

17 mile drive fan shell beach

Morro Bay

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’ll have to stop along the way and visit Morro Bay. It’s a small coastal town that is best known for Morro Rock which is a large ancient volcanic mound in the middle of the bay.

Drive Down Highway 1

big sur california

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!

Where to Stay in Big Sur

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:

  • The Cypress Inn
  • L’auberge Carmel
  • The Hotel Carmel

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.

big sur california

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.

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  • Reply Katherine

    We had planned to camp in Big Sur this summer, but that got scuppered (like everyone else’s travel plans). Thanks for the gorgeous pictures, I’m definitely living vicariously through you today!

    June 27, 2020 at 9:24 am
    • Reply Courtney Delfino

      Aw I’m sorry you aren’t able to camp! Hopefully you get there soon 💜

      June 27, 2020 at 2:58 pm
  • Reply Nat

    OM! The Big Sur has be on my list for a while, now I really want to go. I never knew there was so much to it though. That Creek Bridge looks incredible!

    June 27, 2020 at 9:28 am
    • Reply Courtney Delfino

      Yes so much to do! I hope you get there soon 💜

      June 27, 2020 at 2:59 pm
  • Reply elinamic

    Create guide for Big Sur and amazing photos! I want so much to visit the area, especially after my trip there in May got cancelled!

    June 27, 2020 at 9:34 am
    • Reply Courtney Delfino

      I hope you get to go back soon! It was so beautiful 💜

      June 27, 2020 at 2:59 pm
  • Reply Ruth

    I am looking forward to explore the Central Coast this summer. I am thinking about doing Big Sur again and visiting friends in the San Francisco area (not sure if this is going to be possible). I have not been to Pfeiffer Beach yet.

    June 27, 2020 at 11:01 am
    • Reply Courtney Delfino

      We didn’t get a chance to get there either! So now I have an excuse to drive up there again 😂

      June 27, 2020 at 2:59 pm
  • Reply Shelley Marmor

    Big Sur & Carmel look absolutely stunning. I’m pinning & saving this article for later, because I am dreaming of the exact trip you laid out in this blog… just waiting for everything to be absolutely safe for travel, which will hopefully be soon.

    June 27, 2020 at 11:12 am
    • Reply Courtney Delfino

      That makes me so happy Shelley! I hope you get to do everything on this list 💜

      June 27, 2020 at 3:00 pm
  • Reply Krystianna (@VolumesNVoyages)

    Great post! Your photos are amazing. I’d love to visit Big Sur one day. It really looks so beautiful. I’ve visited California before, but have only been to San Francisco and San Diego.

    June 27, 2020 at 11:55 am
    • Reply Courtney Delfino

      It’s just south of San Francisco! I hope
      You’re able to get there one day!

      June 27, 2020 at 3:01 pm
  • Reply Linn

    Great post! You definitely made me wanna travel to Big Sur once I can. Saved your post for future reference!

    June 27, 2020 at 6:08 pm
  • Reply KitCat

    This is such a great guide!!! Thank you so much!!! 🙂

    July 19, 2020 at 8:02 am
  • Reply Le Travel Style - A Weekend Guide to Carmel by The Sea, California · Le Travel Style

    […] A Complete Guide to Visiting Big Sur […]

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