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Big Sur, California Road Trip Guide


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Aprilette Gilreath



Welcome to Big Sur, a breathtaking stretch of coastline in California that offers a unique and unforgettable road trip experience. Nestled between the majestic Santa Lucia Mountains and the sparkling Pacific Ocean, Big Sur is a haven for nature lovers and adventure seekers alike. Famous for its rugged cliffs, dramatic coastline, and pristine wilderness, this destination offers a perfect blend of outdoor activities, awe-inspiring scenery, and tranquility.


Embarking on a road trip to Big Sur is an opportunity to disconnect from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. As you wind along the iconic Highway 1, you’ll witness panoramic ocean views, cascading waterfalls, and towering redwoods that will take your breath away. Whether you’re planning a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or a solo adventure, Big Sur promises to be an unforgettable destination that will leave you rejuvenated and inspired.


With its stunning natural beauty and diverse array of attractions, Big Sur has something to offer for everyone. From hiking along scenic trails and exploring hidden beaches to indulging in mouthwatering cuisine and discovering unique shops, there is always something to see and do in this enchanting coastal paradise.


In this comprehensive road trip guide, we’ll take you on a journey through Big Sur, sharing insider tips, must-visit attractions, and practical advice to help you make the most of your trip. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, this guide will ensure that you have an unforgettable experience in one of the most picturesque destinations in the world.


Getting to Big Sur

Getting to Big Sur is an adventure in itself, as this stretch of coastline is known for its scenic and winding roads. The most common route to reach Big Sur is driving along Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. If you are flying into California, the nearest major airports to Big Sur are San Francisco International Airport (SFO) and Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).


If you are driving from San Francisco, the journey to Big Sur takes approximately 3-4 hours depending on traffic and road conditions. Leaving San Francisco, you will drive south on Highway 1, passing through charming coastal towns and enjoying picturesque views of the ocean along the way.


If you are coming from Los Angeles, the drive to Big Sur takes around 5-6 hours. Again, you will travel along Highway 1, enjoying stunning vistas of the California coast. Alternatively, you can choose to fly into Monterey Regional Airport (MRY) and rent a car to continue your journey to Big Sur.


It is important to note that due to the geography of the area, there are limited options for public transportation to Big Sur. While there is a bus service called the Big Sur Stage, it has a limited schedule and may not be the most convenient option for exploring the area. Having your own vehicle or renting a car gives you the freedom to explore at your own pace and take advantage of the many scenic viewpoints and hidden gems along the way.


As you drive into Big Sur, be prepared for narrow and winding roads, which may require extra caution, especially for inexperienced drivers. It is advisable to check current road conditions and closures before your trip, as weather events and maintenance work can sometimes impact access to certain areas.


Once you reach Big Sur, the journey itself becomes part of the experience. The breathtaking views, cliffside vistas, and raw natural beauty make the drive to Big Sur one of the most scenic road trips in the world.


Best Time to Visit

Big Sur can be enjoyed year-round, but the best time to visit depends on your preferences and what activities you plan to partake in. The region experiences a mild coastal climate, but it is important to note that weather conditions can vary throughout the year.


The summer months of June to August are the peak tourist season in Big Sur. The weather is generally sunny and warm, perfect for outdoor activities like hiking, beach visits, and exploring the scenic drives. However, it is important to anticipate larger crowds and higher accommodation prices during this time. It is advisable to make reservations well in advance if you plan to visit during the summer months.


If you prefer fewer crowds and milder temperatures, the spring months of April and May, as well as the fall months of September and October, are excellent times to visit Big Sur. During these shoulder seasons, the weather is still pleasant, and you can enjoy hiking, wildlife viewing, and coastal drives without the peak-season crowds. These months also offer an opportunity to witness beautiful wildflowers in bloom and potentially catch glimpses of migrating whales along the coast.


Winter, from November to March, is the off-peak season in Big Sur. The weather is cooler and there may be some rain, but if you enjoy a peaceful and serene atmosphere, this can be the perfect time to visit. You’ll have the opportunity to experience Big Sur’s dramatic landscapes shrouded in mist and enjoy the cozy ambiance of rustic accommodations. Just be sure to check for any road closures due to storms, and pack appropriate clothing for cooler temperatures.


Ultimately, the best time to visit Big Sur depends on your personal preferences and what experiences you are seeking. Each season offers its own unique beauty and charm, so plan accordingly and be prepared for different weather conditions depending on the time of year.


Where to Stay

Big Sur offers a range of accommodation options to suit every traveler’s needs and preferences. Whether you’re seeking a luxurious resort, a cozy cabin, or a campsite under the stars, Big Sur has it all.


One of the most iconic places to stay in Big Sur is the Post Ranch Inn, known for its stunning cliffside location and luxurious accommodations. This award-winning resort offers breathtaking views, spa facilities, and gourmet dining options. If you’re looking for a truly exceptional experience, the Post Ranch Inn is a top choice.


If you prefer a rustic and intimate setting, consider staying at one of the many charming bed and breakfast inns in Big Sur. These cozy establishments offer comfortable rooms, personalized service, and a cozy atmosphere. Some popular options include Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn and Glen Oaks Big Sur.


For those who enjoy the great outdoors, camping in Big Sur is a must-experience. There are several campgrounds in the area, offering a chance to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Big Sur. Popular campgrounds include Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Andrew Molera State Park, and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. It is important to note that camping reservations are highly recommended, especially during peak season.


If you’re on a budget or looking for a more unique experience, consider booking a yurt or a cabin through sites like Airbnb or VRBO. These accommodations offer a blend of comfort and nature, allowing you to have a truly immersive and memorable stay.


When choosing your accommodations, consider the location and proximity to attractions and activities that interest you. Whether you prefer breathtaking ocean views, serene forest retreats, or being steps away from hiking trails, there is an ideal place to stay in Big Sur for everyone.


It is important to book your accommodations well in advance, especially if you plan to visit during the peak summer season. Big Sur is a popular destination, and availability can fill up quickly. Additionally, be prepared for limited cell phone reception in certain areas of Big Sur, as the wilderness setting makes it a perfect place to disconnect and unwind.


Wherever you decide to stay in Big Sur, you’ll be surrounded by the stunning natural beauty that has drawn visitors from all over the world. Take your time to research and choose the accommodation that will make your Big Sur experience truly unforgettable.


Camping in Big Sur

Camping in Big Sur is an incredible way to fully immerse yourself in the stunning natural beauty of the area. With its rugged coastline, towering redwoods, and breathtaking views, camping allows you to connect with nature and experience the tranquility that Big Sur has to offer.


There are several campgrounds in Big Sur that cater to different preferences and levels of comfort. Here are a few popular options:

  1. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground: This campground offers both tent and RV sites nestled among majestic redwoods. It provides easy access to popular hiking trails and the Big Sur River, where you can cool off with a swim or relax by the water.
  2. Andrew Molera State Park: Located near the mouth of the Big Sur River, this campground offers stunning ocean and mountain views. It provides tent camping sites and has hiking trails that lead to beautiful beaches and coastal vistas.
  3. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: Known for its iconic McWay Falls, this park offers primitive hike-in camping. The campsites are situated on a bluff overlooking the ocean, providing a truly unique camping experience.

It is important to note that camping in Big Sur requires planning in advance. Campground reservations fill up quickly, especially during the peak summer months. It is recommended to book your campsite as early as possible to secure your spot.


When camping in Big Sur, it is essential to practice Leave No Trace principles to help preserve the natural environment. This includes properly disposing of waste, respecting wildlife and vegetation, and minimizing your impact on the surroundings.


Additionally, be aware that there are limited facilities at some campgrounds in Big Sur. Most campgrounds offer basic amenities such as restrooms, picnic tables, and fire pits, but it is always a good idea to come prepared with your own camping essentials, including food, water, and camping gear.


Lastly, be prepared for varying weather conditions while camping in Big Sur. The coastal climate can bring fog, chilly evenings, and occasional rain even during the summer months. Pack layers of clothing to stay comfortable and be prepared for changes in temperature.


Camping in Big Sur is a unique opportunity to disconnect from the modern world and connect with nature. Falling asleep under a canopy of stars and waking up to the sounds of birds singing is an experience like no other. So, grab your tent, camping gear, and sense of adventure, and get ready for an unforgettable camping experience in Big Sur.


Things to Do in Big Sur

Big Sur offers an array of activities and attractions that cater to outdoor enthusiasts, nature lovers, and those seeking relaxation and tranquility. From hiking along scenic trails to soaking in natural hot springs, here are some of the top things to do in Big Sur:

  1. Explore the Stunning Beaches: Big Sur is home to numerous picturesque beaches, each with its own unique charm. Whether you want to relax on the sandy shores, go tide-pooling, or watch the crashing waves, popular beaches in Big Sur include Pfeiffer Beach, Sand Dollar Beach, and Jade Cove.
  2. Hike the Trails: Big Sur is a hiker’s paradise, offering a variety of trails for all skill levels. Some must-visit hiking trails in the area include the iconic McWay Falls Overlook Trail, Ewoldsen Trail in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and the scenic trail at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
  3. Visit Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park: This expansive state park offers a multitude of outdoor activities. Explore the park’s diverse ecosystems, hike through redwood groves, and witness breathtaking views from the Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View trails.
  4. Take a Scenic Drive: Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) is an experience in itself. Enjoy the stunning coastal views as you wind along the cliffs and take in the beauty of the coastline. Be sure to stop at Bixby Creek Bridge and Nepenthe for incredible vistas.
  5. Relax in Hot Springs: Big Sur is home to several natural hot springs that offer a unique and rejuvenating experience. Sykes Hot Springs and Esalen Institute’s hot springs are popular options for soaking in mineral-rich waters surrounded by nature.
  6. Embark on Whale Watching: Big Sur is a prime location for whale watching, especially during the migration seasons. Take a whale watching tour or find a scenic overlook to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures as they make their journey along the coast.
  7. Enjoy Wildlife Viewing: Big Sur is teeming with wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled for California condors, sea otters, gray whales, and a variety of bird species. Pfeiffer Beach and Andrew Molera State Park are great spots for birdwatching and wildlife spotting.
  8. Indulge in Local Cuisine: Big Sur boasts a vibrant culinary scene with a range of dining options. From farm-to-table restaurants to charming cafes, savor the fresh flavors of locally sourced ingredients while enjoying stunning views of the ocean.
  9. Photograph the Iconic Landmarks: Capture the beauty of Big Sur with your camera. From the dramatic Bixby Creek Bridge to the turquoise waters of McWay Falls, there are numerous iconic landmarks that make for breathtaking photographs.

Remember to plan your activities according to the time you have and your personal interests. Whether you’re seeking adventure, natural beauty, or a chance to unwind, Big Sur offers an abundance of attractions and activities to make your trip truly memorable.


Hiking Trails in Big Sur

Big Sur is a paradise for hikers, offering a plethora of scenic trails that showcase the region’s natural beauty. From jaw-dropping ocean views to towering redwood forests, there is a trail for every skill level and preference. Here are some of the top hiking trails to explore in Big Sur:

  1. McWay Falls Overlook Trail: This short and easy trail in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park offers breathtaking views of McWay Falls, one of the most iconic landmarks in Big Sur. The trail leads to an overlook where you can marvel at the majestic waterfall cascading onto a pristine beach.
  2. Ewoldsen Trail: Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, this moderate loop trail takes you through towering redwood groves and offers panoramic coastal views. The trail is approximately 4 miles long and is known for its stunning natural beauty.
  3. Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View Trails: Located in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, these trails are perfect for exploring the region’s redwood forests. The Pfeiffer Falls trail is a moderate 1.4-mile hike that leads you to a picturesque waterfall. The Valley View trail offers stunning vistas of the Big Sur River and the surrounding mountains.
  4. Tanbark Trail to Tin House: This challenging hike is a local favorite that rewards hikers with sweeping views of the coastline. The trail begins at Andrew Molera State Park and winds through lush forests before ascending to the Tin House, an abandoned structure offering panoramic views.
  5. Partington Cove Trail: Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, this short but moderately steep trail takes you down to Partington Cove, a hidden gem with stunning ocean views. Explore the cove and discover an old tunnel that leads to a secluded beach area.
  6. Highway 1 to Salmon Creek Falls: This easy trail is perfect for all skill levels and offers the reward of cascading waterfalls. Park along Highway 1 near Salmon Creek and follow the trail to the falls, enjoying the serene atmosphere and the beauty of the surrounding landscapes.
  7. Limekiln State Park: This state park offers multiple hiking trails that meander through towering redwoods and along the banks of Limekiln Creek. Explore the Limekiln Falls trail and the historic limekilns while being surrounded by ancient forest.

Before embarking on a hike, it is important to come prepared with proper gear, including sturdy hiking shoes, sun protection, water, and snacks. Check trail conditions and any necessary permits or restrictions before heading out.


Remember to practice Leave No Trace principles while hiking in Big Sur, respecting the environment and taking care to leave trails and natural areas as you found them. Be cautious of poison oak and local wildlife, and stay on designated trails to minimize your impact on the fragile ecosystem.


Whether you’re seeking a leisurely stroll or a challenging trek, Big Sur’s hiking trails offer an opportunity to get up close and personal with the area’s stunning natural landscapes. Lace up your boots, hit the trails, and prepare to be amazed by the beauty that awaits you at every turn.


Scenic Drives in Big Sur

One of the highlights of visiting Big Sur is the opportunity to embark on breathtaking scenic drives along the iconic Highway 1. As you wind along the coastal cliffs, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean, rugged mountains, and picturesque landscapes. Here are some of the must-see drives in Big Sur:

  1. Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1): The crown jewel of Big Sur is the Pacific Coast Highway, also known as Highway 1. This famous stretch of road winds its way along the cliffside, offering awe-inspiring views at every turn. Take your time to explore the numerous viewpoints and pull-offs, including Bixby Creek Bridge, Ragged Point, and the stunning coastal vistas.
  2. Point Sur State Historic Park: For a unique driving experience, head to Point Sur State Historic Park. Here, you can drive right up to the base of a historic lighthouse perched on top of a volcanic rock. The drive offers stunning views of the coastline, and guided tours of the lighthouse are also available.
  3. Old Coast Road: For those seeking a more adventurous drive, the Old Coast Road is an unpaved route that takes you through the heart of Big Sur’s wilderness. This scenic drive offers a glimpse into the rugged and untouched beauty of the area, with stunning views of the Santa Lucia Mountains and the coastline.
  4. Nacimiento-Fergusson Road: This winding mountain road offers a unique perspective of Big Sur’s rugged landscapes. The drive takes you through dense forests and offers panoramic views of the coast and surrounding mountains. Be prepared for steep grades and sharp turns along this scenic route.
  5. Garrapata State Park: Located just south of Carmel, Garrapata State Park offers a picturesque drive along Highway 1. Enjoy the coastal views, dramatic cliffs, and beautiful stretches of sandy beach. The park also offers several hiking trails that can be combined with the drive for a full day of exploration.

As you embark on these scenic drives, be sure to pull over at the designated turnouts and viewpoints to fully appreciate the beauty of Big Sur. Take your time to soak in the sights, capture memorable photos, and appreciate the raw and untamed landscapes that make this destination truly special.


It’s important to note that road conditions and closures can occur, especially during winter months or after heavy rainfall. Check for any road advisories before setting out on your drive, and drive carefully, as some stretches of Highway 1 can be narrow and winding.


Whether you’re driving along the famous Pacific Coast Highway or exploring the lesser-known backroads, the scenic drives of Big Sur offer a truly unforgettable experience. Prepare to be captivated by the beauty of the coastline, mountains, and forests as you navigate the winding roads of this coastal paradise.


Beaches in Big Sur

Big Sur is home to a variety of stunning and secluded beaches that showcase the region’s natural beauty. From rugged cliffs to pristine stretches of sand, these beaches offer a serene and picturesque escape. Here are some of the top beaches to visit in Big Sur:

  1. Pfeiffer Beach: Known for its iconic rock formations and purple-hued sands, Pfeiffer Beach is a must-visit destination. Located within Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, this beach offers breathtaking views of the ocean and the famous Keyhole Rock. It is a popular spot for sunset viewing and exploring the tide pools.
  2. Sand Dollar Beach: The largest sandy beach in Big Sur, Sand Dollar Beach is a favorite among beachgoers. It is aptly named for the abundance of sand dollars that can be found along the shore. This beach is perfect for long walks, picnics, and enjoying the crashing waves.
  3. Garrapata State Beach: A picturesque beach nestled between cliffs, Garrapata State Beach offers panoramic views of the coastline and rocky outcrops. It is a great spot for beachcombing, tide-pooling, and photography. The beach also has a few hiking trails that lead to hidden coves and stunning viewpoints.
  4. Jade Cove: Located south of Sand Dollar Beach, Jade Cove is a hidden gem for beach enthusiasts. This rocky beach is known for its abundance of jade stones, which can be found among the pebbles. It is a popular spot for rock hounding and enjoying the tranquility of the coast.
  5. Pfieffer Beach: This picturesque and secluded beach can be reached by a short hike from the parking area. With its sandy shores, unique rock formations, and stunning ocean views, Pfieffer Beach offers a serene and off-the-beaten-path experience.

When visiting Big Sur’s beaches, it is important to be mindful of the rugged and often unpredictable nature of the coastline. Be aware of tide changes and potential sneaker waves, and exercise caution when swimming or exploring the tide pools. It is also important to pack out any trash and respect the natural environment.


Keep in mind that some beaches require a day-use fee or parking fee, so be prepared to pay a small fee for access. Additionally, facilities at the beaches may be limited, so come prepared with food, water, sunscreen, and any other essentials you may need for a day at the beach.


Big Sur’s beaches offer a peaceful retreat and an opportunity to connect with the raw beauty of the California coast. Whether you’re seeking relaxation, nature exploration, or simply a quiet place to take in the breathtaking views, the beaches of Big Sur will not disappoint.


Wildlife Viewing

Big Sur is not only known for its stunning landscapes and pristine beaches but also for its rich wildlife diversity. From majestic marine creatures to magnificent birds and elusive mammals, there are plenty of opportunities for wildlife viewing in this coastal paradise. Here are some of the fascinating species you might encounter while exploring Big Sur:

  1. California Sea Otters: Keep an eye out for these charismatic creatures while visiting Big Sur’s coastline. Sea otters can often be spotted floating on their backs or foraging for food in the kelp forests offshore.
  2. California Condors: Big Sur is one of the few places in the world where you can still see California condors in the wild. These endangered birds have an impressive wingspan and can often be seen soaring high above the cliffs along the coast.
  3. Gray Whales: Big Sur is a popular spot for whale watching, particularly during the annual gray whale migration. Keep your eyes peeled for these magnificent creatures as they traverse the coastal waters, often coming close to the shore.
  4. Harbor Seals: Harbor seals can often be spotted basking on the rocks along the shoreline. Look for these adorable animals as they rest and occasionally swim in the coves and tidal pools of Big Sur.
  5. Birds of Prey: Big Sur is home to a variety of birds of prey, including red-tailed hawks, ospreys, and peregrine falcons. Look to the skies and you may spot these majestic avian hunters soaring above the cliffs and valleys.
  6. Land Mammals: While exploring Big Sur, you may encounter land mammals such as black-tailed deer, bobcats, and coyotes. These elusive creatures can sometimes be spotted in the early morning or evening hours.

When wildlife viewing in Big Sur, it is important to remember that these animals are wild and should be observed from a safe distance. Respect their habitat and refrain from feeding or approaching them. Binoculars or a camera with a telephoto lens can be useful for observing wildlife up close without disturbing them.


For the best chance of spotting wildlife, consider visiting during the early morning or late afternoon when animals tend to be more active. Be patient, observe silently, and blend into your surroundings to increase your chances of wildlife sightings.


Remember that Big Sur is their home, and by practicing responsible wildlife viewing, you can help protect and preserve these remarkable creatures for generations to come.


Dining and Restaurants

When it comes to dining, Big Sur offers a diverse range of options that will tantalize your taste buds. From fine dining establishments to charming cafes and roadside eateries, there is something to please every palate. Here are some must-visit dining spots in Big Sur:

  1. Post Ranch Inn: The restaurant at Post Ranch Inn is known for its exquisite cuisine and breathtaking views. Enjoy a romantic dinner with a backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and indulge in a menu that features locally sourced ingredients and creative dishes.
  2. Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn: This renowned restaurant offers a unique dining experience, perched on the cliffs with panoramic ocean vistas. Enjoy a multi-course meal featuring seasonal and sustainable ingredients while savoring the spectacular views.
  3. Big Sur Bakery: A local favorite, Big Sur Bakery offers freshly baked bread, pastries, and a delicious menu featuring organic and locally sourced ingredients. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast or lunch on the outdoor patio, surrounded by the peaceful beauty of Big Sur.
  4. Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn: This historic inn boasts a charming and rustic restaurant that serves up comforting and hearty meals. Enjoy dishes such as wild mushroom risotto or fresh local seafood, while savoring the cozy atmosphere and timeless charm.
  5. Nepenthe: Known for its stunning views of the coast, Nepenthe is a legendary restaurant that offers a unique dining experience. Enjoy a meal on the outdoor terrace, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and savor dishes inspired by local ingredients and flavors.
  6. Ragged Point Restaurant: Located at the southern end of Big Sur, Ragged Point Restaurant offers panoramic views of the rugged coastline. Stop here for a meal and enjoy dishes such as fresh seafood, sandwiches, and salads while taking in the breathtaking scenery.

In addition to these notable dining spots, you’ll also find charming cafes, roadside stands, and local eateries serving up delicious meals and quick bites. From seafood to farm-to-table fare, Big Sur’s dining scene is a delight for food enthusiasts.


Keep in mind that some restaurants in Big Sur may have limited hours or require reservations, especially during the peak summer season. It is always a good idea to check ahead and make a reservation, especially if you have a particular dining experience in mind.


Whether you’re enjoying a romantic dinner at a luxury resort or savoring a homemade pastry from a local bakery, dining in Big Sur is as much about the stunning surroundings as it is about the delicious food. So, take your time, embrace the slow pace of Big Sur, and enjoy a memorable culinary experience in this coastal paradise.


Shopping in Big Sur

Shopping in Big Sur is a unique and eclectic experience, with a focus on local artisans, handmade goods, and treasures inspired by the region’s natural beauty. From art galleries and boutiques to charming roadside stands, here are some of the shopping destinations you can explore in Big Sur:

  1. Treebones Resort Wild Coast Store: Located at the Treebones Resort, the Wild Coast Store offers a curated selection of local artisan goods, including jewelry, ceramics, and clothing. Browse through their collection and take home a unique piece of Big Sur.
  2. Coast Gallery Big Sur: Coast Gallery is a renowned art gallery that showcases the work of local artists. Explore the diverse collection of paintings, sculptures, photography, and ceramics that capture the essence of Big Sur’s natural landscapes.
  3. Phoenix Shop at Nepenthe: Nestled within Nepenthe, the Phoenix Shop offers a selection of unique gifts, clothing, and home decor. Discover treasures inspired by the natural beauty of Big Sur and take home a memento of your visit.
  4. Big Sur River Inn Gift Shop: Located at the Big Sur River Inn, this gift shop offers a variety of products, including outdoor gear, books, apparel, and local crafts. Explore the shop and find a perfect souvenir to remember your time in Big Sur.
  5. Big Sur Deli and General Store: This quaint store is a great place to stock up on snacks, picnic essentials, and camping supplies. They also offer a selection of locally made goods, including jams, honey, and other artisanal products.
  6. Bixby Bridge Gift Shop: Located near the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge, this gift shop offers a variety of souvenirs, including postcards, apparel, and local artwork. Take a break from your drive and browse through their collection.

As you explore the various shops and boutiques in Big Sur, you’ll discover a wide range of locally made products, including handcrafted jewelry, pottery, clothing, and artwork inspired by the natural landscape. These unique items make for wonderful reminders of your journey through Big Sur.


It is worth mentioning that Big Sur embraces a rustic and natural atmosphere, and the focus is more on handmade and artisanal goods rather than traditional shopping malls or commercial outlets. As you venture out to shop, be sure to check the opening hours, as some stores may have limited schedules, particularly during off-peak seasons.


Shopping in Big Sur is not just about the act of buying, but also about supporting local artisans and experiencing the authenticity of the region. So, take your time, explore the shops, and find unique treasures that capture the spirit of Big Sur.


Day Trips from Big Sur

While Big Sur offers a wealth of natural beauty and attractions to explore, the surrounding area is also filled with captivating destinations that are perfect for day trips. Here are some recommended day trips from Big Sur:

  1. Carmel-by-the-Sea: Just a short drive north of Big Sur, Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming coastal town known for its picturesque streets, art galleries, and beautiful white sand beach. Explore the boutique shops, enjoy a leisurely lunch at one of the many restaurants, or stroll along the beach.
  2. Monterey: Located less than an hour’s drive north of Big Sur, Monterey offers a wealth of attractions. Visit the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium, take a scenic boat tour, or explore historic Cannery Row. Don’t miss the chance to indulge in fresh seafood at one of the renowned restaurants in the area.
  3. Pinnacles National Park: If you are seeking adventure and unique geological formations, Pinnacles National Park is worth a visit. Approximately an hour’s drive inland from Big Sur, this park offers opportunities for hiking, rock climbing, and exploring caves, all amidst towering rock spires and scenic landscapes.
  4. San Simeon and Hearst Castle: Journey south of Big Sur and visit the opulent Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Marvel at the grand architecture and extensive art collection within this historic mansion, followed by a stroll along the nearby beaches and a glimpse of the resident elephant seals.
  5. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve: Located just north of Big Sur, Point Lobos offers stunning coastal views, beautiful hiking trails, and abundant wildlife. Explore the coves, keep an eye out for sea otters and seals, and enjoy the tranquility of this coastal gem.
  6. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: While technically within Big Sur, a day trip to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park can offer a chance to explore its many hiking trails, visit the iconic McWay Falls, and immerse yourself in the majestic beauty of the redwood forest.

These are just a few of the many day trip options from Big Sur. Other nearby attractions include the charming town of Pacific Grove, the stunning landscapes of Point Lobos State Reserve, and the scenic drives along the 17-Mile Drive. Whether you’re seeking cultural experiences, outdoor adventures, or simply a change of scenery, the surrounding area offers a wealth of options to enhance your Big Sur journey.


Plan ahead, check opening hours and availability, and allow yourself plenty of time to fully immerse yourself in the beauty and attractions of these nearby destinations. Set out on your day trip and be prepared to create memorable experiences that complement your Big Sur adventure.


Safety Tips

While exploring the natural wonders of Big Sur, it’s important to prioritize your safety and be mindful of potential hazards. Here are some essential safety tips to keep in mind during your visit:

  1. Be Prepared: Before heading out for any outdoor activities, be sure to research the area, check weather conditions, and understand the difficulty level of the trails you plan to hike. Pack essential items such as water, snacks, appropriate clothing, and navigation tools like maps or GPS.
  2. Stay on Designated Trails: Stick to established trails to minimize your impact on the environment and avoid accidents. Venturing off-trail can lead to dangerous situations, including getting lost or encountering hazardous terrain.
  3. Watch Your Step: The terrain in Big Sur can be uneven and rocky, especially along trails and beaches. Pay attention to your footing to avoid slips, trips, and falls. Use caution near cliffs and be mindful of unstable or slippery surfaces.
  4. Check for Road Closures: Prior to your journey, check for any road closures or construction along Highway 1. Unpredictable weather events or maintenance work can lead to temporary road closures or delays. Stay updated through reliable sources to ensure a smooth and safe journey.
  5. Be Aware of Wildlife: Big Sur is home to a variety of wildlife, some of which may be unfamiliar or potentially dangerous. Maintain a safe distance from animals and do not approach or feed them. Be especially cautious around marine mammals, as they can be protective and behave unpredictably.
  6. Stay Hydrated and Use Sun Protection: The coastal climate in Big Sur can be deceiving, and it’s important to stay hydrated, even on cooler days. Bring plenty of water and apply sunscreen regularly to protect yourself from the sun’s rays, as even overcast days can result in sunburn.
  7. Respect the Ocean: If you plan to swim or engage in water activities, be aware of the ocean’s powerful currents and undertows. Only swim in designated areas, follow any posted safety signs, and be cautious of changing tide conditions.
  8. Leave No Trace: Help preserve the natural beauty of Big Sur by practicing Leave No Trace principles. Pack out all trash, avoid littering, and respect the fragile ecosystems. Leave the environment as you found it for future generations to enjoy.
  9. Stay Connected: While Big Sur’s natural landscapes may provide an escape from the modern world, it’s crucial to stay connected and informed. Carry a fully charged mobile phone and have a backup power source. However, be aware that cell phone reception may be limited in certain areas.

By following these safety tips and using common sense, you can have an enjoyable and safe experience while exploring the stunning landscapes of Big Sur. Remember that nature can be unpredictable, so always prioritize your well-being and take precautions to ensure a memorable and safe trip.



Big Sur, California offers a road trip experience like no other, where breathtaking views, fascinating wildlife, and outdoor adventures await at every turn. Whether you’re driving along the iconic Highway 1, hiking through majestic redwood forests, or relaxing on pristine beaches, Big Sur’s natural beauty will leave you awestruck.


In this comprehensive road trip guide, we’ve covered everything you need to know to make the most of your Big Sur adventure. From the best time to visit and where to stay to the top hiking trails and must-see attractions, you now have the knowledge to plan an unforgettable trip.


Remember to prioritize safety, stay prepared with essential gear, and respect the environment as you embark on your Big Sur journey. Be open to immersing yourself in the tranquility of nature, and take the time to truly appreciate the awe-inspiring vistas and unique experiences that Big Sur offers.


Whether you’re seeking a romantic escape, an outdoor adventure, or a peaceful retreat, Big Sur promises to fulfill your road trip dreams. So, grab your bags, hop in the car, and get ready to create cherished memories in one of California’s most breathtaking destinations.


Experience the magic of Big Sur, and let this road trip be the start of your lifelong love affair with this picturesque coastal paradise.