Big Sur California Vacation

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

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Julia-Pfeiffer-Burns-State-Park-300x191.jpgJulia 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.

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This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Andrew-Molera-State-Park-300x181.jpgAndrew 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.

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Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur California, best California beaches, Best Central California beaches, Big Sur beaches, things to do in Big Sur, Best restaurants in Big Sur, best hotels in Big Sur, best bars in Big SurPfeiffer Beach

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.

Garrapata State Park, Big Sur California, best California beaches, Best Central California beaches, Big Sur beaches, things to do in Big Sur, Best restaurants in Big Sur, best hotels in Big Sur, best bars in Big SurGarrapata State Park Beach

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.

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Sand Dollar Beach, Big Sur California, best California beaches, Best Central California beaches, Big Sur beaches, things to do in Big Sur, Best restaurants in Big Sur, best hotels in Big Sur, best bars in Big SurSand Dollar Beach

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 Restaurants

Deetjen’s

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.

Nepenthe

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 Tavern

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


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.

30 Comments

  1. sonia

    Another great place to go on vacation in California. I have never heard of the Big Sur in California. Thank you for all the great information as it makes me really want to visit it. Do you think that someone with a low-budget like would be able to enjoy a little vacation in this place? I’m not looking for anything fancy if I decide to visit the Big Sur.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You can most definitely really enjoy a Big Sur California vacation on a budget. It is probably a lot more budget friendly than a lot of other coastal destinations in California. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  2. matteo

    Wow, Big Sur is just amazing! I am really looking forward to a California vacation along the coast. Found your site, and now I am really in a pickle as to where to go. I am thinking about Big Sur, just for all the beauty. Tank you so much for this great article!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are right, Big Sur is amazing and one of the places on the central coast of California that is worth a vacation to. You will also be able to get to other coastal communities in the area if you want to and have the time. Really depends on how long you vacation for.

      Reply
  3. Patrick

    That’s it! California is too big> Therefore I have to spend the rest of my life on a beach. That’s just how it’s gonna be.

    Thanks for the insight.

    Best,
    Patrick

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Agreed! But then I live on the beach 😀 Glad you enjoyed Patrick, and thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  4. Emma

    I love your Post and your website! It’s beautiful and I want to go to all these places. I think my next vacation, when I can get off work lol, will be to Pfeiffer Beach, it seems so beautiful and relaxing. Thanks for this Post!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Glad you enjoyed Emma! Pfeiffer Beach will be a great place to relax! Thanks for stopping by and reading about a Big Sur California Vacation.

      Reply
  5. Melinda

    I love the California coastline. It is so beautiful. Sand Dollar beach looks like it will be on my wishlist for my next California vacation.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      It is beautiful Melinda. Yes, Sand Dollar beach is a great choice for a beach visit in Big Sur. Thanks for stopping by Beach Travel Destinations.

      Reply
  6. Vanessa

    Great article. The whole website is breathtaking and inviting. I have been looking at taking a vacation somewhere on the California coast, and just doing some research on where I want to go. Here I find your wealth of information on everything I need. So many places on the California coast, all beautiful. Big Sur definitely catches my attention! Thanks for the info.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      The central coast of California is beautiful, I have to agree and any where you end up is going to be a great vacation. Big Sur definitely has a lot to offer. If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!

      Reply
  7. Alex

    Hey Leahrae! I live in Santa Cruz right up the coast from Big Sur. It is quite breathtaking to be so near to such stunning scenery. I like it very much. I have not camped in Big Sur yet and I need to do that.

    I do have a question. Are you planning an article on Natural Bridges state park? It is right in Santa Cruz and I would love to hear your thoughts on the attraction. I just downright enjoy the stunning arches off the coast.

    Thank you for sharing and I hope you make it a great day!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Alex, you are soooo lucky to live so close to Big Sur! I agree that the whole area is absolutely breathtaking and hiking and camping there, wonderful. National Bridges State Park is worth it’s own review, that is for sure. I will shoot you an email when I have completed it, thanks for the great idea. Thanks for stopping by Beach Travel Destinations Alex.

      Reply
  8. Karen

    Lovely vacation guide on Big Sur California! I have been thinking about a vacation here, and just looking for information. So glad I found your site. Everything I need to plan is right on your website. We were planning on a week in Big Sur. After looking at all the information, seems like we might want to try and stretch that some. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You can absolutely do a week in Big Sur. You will be busy if you want to see all the sights, and 2 weeks would give you more time. But you can always go back 🙂 Thanks for stopping by my Big Sur California Vacation guide. Stop by again !

      Reply
  9. Joshua Collins

    Hi,

    I have been planning a vacation for some time now and I have been considering going to USA but wasn’t sure which state to go to. I’ve always wanted to go to California so I might add this vacation to the list of things to do.

    Thanks for writing such an informative guide,

    Josh

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      You are welcome Josh, you will absolutely love California. It definitely has some to offer everyone! Please let me know if you have any other questions!

      Reply
  10. Aris

    What a nice in-depth travel guide! Great details on the attractions, what to expect weather-wise, etc. Nice post!

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Thank you Aris! Glad you enjoyed visiting beach travel destinations!

      Reply
  11. jamaar

    You surely know your stuff let me say your website is beautiful! I Now know everything i would need to know if i was to go to Big Sur!! And i would guess that is what u were aiming for!! simply amazing

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      It was what I was aiming for Jamaar 🙂 I am glad you enjoyed your visit for a wonderful Big Sur California Vacation.

      Reply
  12. David

    Fantastic article. That picture of the bridge on top I want to cross I have loved bridges since I was a kid, It’s almost like a roller coaster ride for me. Watching the video was breath taking. Question the beaches it shows in the video are they walkable? It looks like an amazing place to visit and really will love to go.
    Thank you so much for the great article,
    David

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Yes, of course the beaches are walkable 🙂 And yes, it is breathtaking. The bridge, Bixby Bridge is pretty famous and worth a visit when here. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply
  13. Ahmed Aly

    Thanks for the amazing post , after reading your article Big Sur California on my list maybe this year . and thanks also about hotels recommendation, it’s very important part to know where to stay . waiting for your next article

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      Great Ahmed! You will love Big Sur, a bit of a change from my pure coastal beach posts. Of course, you do have beaches here, but so much more! Thanks for stopping by and reading about a Big Sur California Vacation.

      Reply
  14. Lane Onson

    Oh, I would absolute love a sight-seeing vacation. I like sites like this that give great information before I travel somewhere.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      A Big Sur California Vacation is definitely a sight seeing vacation! If you love the outdoors, hiking, even a great beach, than you will love Big Sur. Thanks for stopping by Beach Travel Destinations!

      Reply
  15. Bob

    This is a terrific article on Big Sur. I spent a week years ago with a hiking buddy doing day hikes in this area. We had a great time hiking and visiting tourist stops along the way while listening to Country Joe and the Fish and Janice Joplin and other stoners from the 60’s and 70’s. Well, I will be visiting Big Sur again next summer with my wife, and I found this article to be a great source of information for this trip. Thanks for doing the research for us.

    Reply
    1. Leahrae (Post author)

      It is a great area for hiking, that is for sure. More so than for beaches. You and your wife are going to have a wonderful time! If you need any additional information, please let me know.

      Reply

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