Big Sur California has one of the world’s most unforgettable stretches of coastline. This 90-mile-long stretch of redwood trimmed waterfront between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Hearst Castle draws you in with it’s allure and beauty. This is, quite simply, enchanting – bluffs, sea, and sky.
The classic drive through Big Sur, along Highway 1, offers plenty of pullovers at places like Bixby Bridge. Stop at parks along the coastline and look up to see endangered California condors, North America’s largest birds, or look down to scan the swells for migrating whales or sea otters floating among dense beds of kelp, California’s signature seaweed. There are plenty of campgrounds to include Big Sur Campground, Fernwood Resort, Riverside Campground, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The region’s beauty also makes it a magnet for exclusive, upscale hotels like the cliff-hugging Post Ranch Inn, or luxurious Ventana Big Sur. For a list of all the area beaches << Click Here >>.
A Big Sur California Vacation will give you a sense of well-being, with the cliffs, rocks, redwoods and bubbly surf that create an epic backdrop for recreation, romance and relaxed exploration.
Big Sur Weather (When to Visit)
The best time to visit Big Sur is from September to November. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, Big Sur’s peak season runs long, from April to October. However, once August passes, crowds start to disperse and high temperatures inland start to drop, leaving more room for visitors to wander on the coast and the mountains. Winter, especially December, is considered the best time to visit Big Sur if you’re looking for a deal on lodging. But these cheaper prices do coincide with the rainy season and often even road closures. Spring ushers in cooler temperatures and the bloom of the area’s beautiful wildflowers. Summer is the busiest season, offering visitors pleasant temperatures and plenty of activities and programs offered by the region’s parks and educational societies. But along with heavy crowds, coastal fog is another downside; it can hang around as late as midday. It’s important to note that temperatures in Big Sur vary by geography. Temperatures on the coast tend to be cooler than the mountains, especially during the summer, so be sure to pack a jacket any time of year.
Best Big Sur Area Beaches
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park on the Big Sur Coast is home to iconic McWay Falls. It’s just a short walk out on a trail to an overlook where many visitors take stunning photographs of the waterfall where McWay Creek crashes down on the sandy beach below.
Andrew Molera State Park Beach
Andrew Molera State Park Beach is a long sandy, rocky, and driftwood-covered beach along the base of the Big Sur headlands. It has open meadows, high ridges, groves of sycamore and redwood trees, a river, many trails, and one of the best beaches to explore in the area.
Waves crash hard all around and the beach north of here invites exploration at lower tides. Tide pools can be found here at low tide too. The focal point of the beach is Keyhole Rock which has an amazing natural arch at the base where salt water, and even the last rays of daylight, can pass through. This beach is beautiful at sunset and frequently professionally photographed.
The park has two miles of beach front, with coastal hiking and a 50-foot climb to a beautiful view of the Pacific. The park offers diverse coastal vegetation with trails running from ocean beaches into dense redwood groves. Sea lions, harbor seals and sea otters frequent the coastal waters and California gray whales pass close by during their yearly migration.
Sand Dollar Beach is the largest unbroken stretch of sand in Big Sur. This crescent-shaped shoreline is considered to be one of the best surfing spots in Big Sur, and is also a hot spot for fishing. The most popular activity, however, is beachcombing. This shoreline gets its name for a reason, as its often graced with washed-up sand dollars. There are also a plethora of rocks located at the southern end of the beach, which are known to contain minerals like serpentine and jade.
Best Big Sur Area Tours & Activities
Half-Day Whale Watching Tour From Monterey
Look for whales as they migrate through the waters of the Pacific Ocean off of California on this half-day whale-watching cruise from Monterey. Your naturalist guide shares commentary about the whales and their habitat as you search for gray whales (most common), humpback and blue whales, and other marine life such as dolphins and sea lions during your cruise. Get tips for great photo ops and learn all about the mighty creatures at one of California’s most famous whale-watching destinations. Learn more about the Half-Day Whale Watching Tour.
Carmel Small-Group Food and Wine Walking Tour
Explore the culinary delights of Carmel, just down the coast from Monterey, on this food and wine walking tour. With a knowledgeable foodie guide, you’ll learn about the history and gourmet culture of Carmel, an upscale enclave known for its charming architecture and cozy, small-town vibe, as you visit local eateries to sample locavore and ethnic dishes, chocolate, and wine. Limited to 16 people, this tour provides a small-group experience with personalized attention. Learn more about the Food & Wine Walking Tour.
3-hour Electric Bike tour, 17-Mile Drive, Monterey Bay Coastal Rec Trail
Discover the natural and manmade beauty of 17-Mile Drive on a 3-hour electric bike tour from Pacific Grove. The eBike allows you to cover more ground without getting worn out. The tour is great for the whole family, with the option to ride tandem with children weighing up to 120 lbs (54 kgs). Along the way, learn about the area from your guide and make stops at impressive viewpoints. Learn more about the Electric Bike Tour.
Los Angeles Highlights Tour
The best personalized rout in the Greater Los Angeles. From historic Downtown to our beautiful beaches, you’ll visit moviemaking landmarks, lifestyle playgrouunds of the rich and famous, trend-setting art scenes, architectural masterworks, and historic treasures scattered throughout Los Angeles. Search for your favorite stars on the Walk of Fame and take the best memories of Los Angeles with you! Learn more about the Los Angeles Highlights Tour.
Private Hollywood and Los Angeles in a Day Tour
Get the true celebrity treatment in L.A. during this 8-hour, fully-customizable, private sightseeing tour. Ever wanted to explore L.A. on your own terms, but skip the driving? You call the shots on this flexible excursion, sampling top attractions like Hollywood Boulevard, the Sunset Strip, Beverly Hills, the famous Chinese Theatre and much more. Round-trip hotel transport by private vehicle from select Los Angeles hotels, along with bottled water and beverages, are all included. Learn more about the Private Hollywood & Los Angeles Tour.
Best Big Sur Restaurants
With its quaint English décor and cozy fireplaces this four room restaurant has all the charm of an English countryside cottage. Try the Eggs Benedict and homemade granola on the restaurant’s award-winning best breakfast menu to Chef Domingo Santamaria’s paella with freshly caught seafood brought in from the nearby Monterey Bay, or his sun-fed filet mignon. Deetjen’s prides itself in locally sourced organic products and features on the US national register of historic places. Telephone: 831 667-25377 Web: Deetjen’s.
Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant
Enjoy wood fired cooking, satisfying the taste buds from brunch to dinner. Scrambled eggs are served on wood fired sourdough toast; an exciting assortment of serious meat or fish sandwiches is on offer for a lunch time treat; wood fired pizzas oozing with different flavors such as eggplant with goat’s cheese or green olive tapenade are served straight from the oven; and a simple wood fired breadboard with butter and sea salt opens the appetite before tucking into the restaurant’s seasonal menu. Telephone: 831 667-0520 Web: Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant.
Post Ranch Inn
Post Ranch Inn is considered one of Big Sur’s most luxurious resorts. Its Sierra Mar restaurant is no exception to this with its innovative cuisine and award winning wine selection. Chef John Cox experiments with a host of flavors from seaweed champagne to elk with rhubarb and pickled green strawberries. All ingredients are locally sourced and even the hams are cured and smoked on site. Telephone: 831 667-2200 Web: Post Ranch Inn.
Big Sur Roadhouse
The Big Sur Roadhouse features delicious California cuisine with fresh, local ingredients. In keeping with our Big Sur ethos, the seasonal menu is filled with locally sourced organic ingredients. Also, not to be missed, San Francisco designer Steve Justrich’s “homegrown modernism” has transformed the Roadhouse into a truly unique and fitting environment for dining in Big Sur. Telephone: 831 667-2370 Web: Big Sur Roadhouse.
The restaurant’s signature roast chicken with sage stuffing and cranberries features on a traditional menu among Big Sur’s most succulent steaks and Ambrosia burgers, which are made with coarse ground meat from naturally raised beef. At the same address, Lolly and Bill Fassett’s Café Kevah provides wonderful views of the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Big Sur coast. Telephone: 831 667-2345 Web: Nepenthe.
Best Big Sur Bars
Maiden Publick House
Just south of the Big Sur River Inn, this dive has an encyclopedic beer bible and motley local musicians jamming, mostly on weekends. Sixteen rotating taps and three pages of bottled brews create havoc for the indecisive drinker. Telephone: 831 667-2355 Web: Maiden Publick House.
Big Sur Taphouse
Down California craft beers and regional wines on the back deck or by the fireplace inside this high-ceiling wooden bar with board games, sports on the TVs and pub grub from the next-door deli. Telephone: 831 667-2225 Web: Big Sur Taphouse.
Fernwood’s tavern is a popular local watering hole built in the traditional Big Sur style with redwood timbers. Fernwood’s homespun atmosphere attracts a variety of locals and tourists, making for some very entertaining evenings. Very popular on evenings when live entertainment is available – usually Saturday night beginning at 9:30 PM. They also host spring and fall music festivals in the campground. Telephone: 831 667-2422 Web: Fernwood Tavern.
The Sur House
A 10,000-bottle cellar of small-production Central Coast wines has been carefully assembled by a team of local vintners and The Sur House sommelier. Craft cocktails and a curated selection of beer, along with a specialty bar menu, also are offered. Telephone: 831 667-4242 Web: The Sur House.
Best Big Sur Area Hotels
Ventana Big Sur, An Alila Resort
An exclusive 5 star resort set amid 160 forested acres on the rugged Pacific coast, Ventana (Spanish for “window”) is both inspired by and reflective of its majestic setting in Big Sur. Watch the sun set over the ocean. Explore rolling hills and old-growth forests. Reconnect with your body and spirit. With a thoughtful combination of private sanctuaries and interactive, social spaces, this is a place for all.
Fernwood Resort offers rustic accommodation in Big Sur. The motel has a sun terrace and mountain views. Guests can enjoy a meal at the restaurant or a drink at the bar.
Big Sur River Inn
Adjacent to the Big Sur River, this California hotel features an on-site restaurant and bar. Pfeiffer Day Use Beach is a 10 minute drive away. Free Wi-Fi is provided in all rooms.
Riverside Campground & Cabins
Riverside Campground & Cabins in Big Sur provides accommodations with a garden and a terrace. There’s a grill and guests can use free WiFi and free private parking.
Carmel Valley Lodge
Great views of the Santa Lucia Mountains are offered from this lodge. With a private patio, all of the warmly decorated rooms at Carmel Valley Lodge come equipped with cable TV and a fireplace. Each room has high ceilings and a modern bathroom with either a bathtub or shower.