Big Sur is at the top on my list of most beautiful places in California. Untouched, with its remoteness and scenery unmatched it’s that magical place where I like to take a pause moment, unplug in nature, completely giving in to its serenity and rejuvenate. Just 3 hours south of San Francisco, the drive along the Pacific coastline has the same jaw-dropping effect every time. It is where the green Santa Lucia mountains meet the turquoise blue of the Pacific. Rolling down the car windows, deeply breathing in the air infused with fragrant eucalyptus and the sea is healing in itself. Stop often to absorb the stunning vistas, high cliffs, sandy beaches and toast to the gorgeous sunset.
In this blog, I have listed my recommendations of must-do things in Big Sur that I like to share with my friends.
Things to see in Big Sur
Bixby Bridge is the classic California icon. The view from here is like no other, so naturally is one of the crowded vista stops. It’s quite an architectural wonder from 1932.
Pfeiffer Beach famous for its purple sand beach is a little tricky to find as there is no real sign on the Hwy. $10 entry and parking lot get packed soon. The purple color of the sand here is from manganese garnet deposits washed from the surrounding rocks, more obvious as you walk further south of the beach. On our last visit, we saw many of these tiny ink-colored jellyfish-like sea creatures washed ashore, known as Velella.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has many different hikes and waterfalls to check out, as well as a restaurant inside. We hiked to the Pfeiffer falls which is 1.6 miles. The waterfall isn’t that big, but a nice spot to cool off.
McWay Falls the much photographed scenic 80-foot waterfall, a creek that drops into a blue-green cove, off California’s Highway 1. Hike a short 1/2 mile to an overlook in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to see the breathtaking view of this natural wonder.
Ewoldsen trail, 5 miles of moderately difficult trail in Julia Pfeiffer Burns state park, winds through redwoods and oak forests with glimpses of the most spectacular coastal views from the top. This is my favorite hike in the area. The park has an entry fee of $10 and limited parking, so you may park your car on the roadside and walk in.
Elasen Hot springs where you can soak in the ocean-facing hot spring baths. They are open to public for night bathing sessions from 1:00am to 3:00am. Reservation is a must which opens online at 9AM daily and gets sold out in minutes. It’s $30 per person. Soaking in the sulfur spring gazing at the star-filled night sky and listening to the calming ocean waves is quite a unique experience.
Andrew Molera State Park has ample trails wind through meadows, bluffs, beaches and hilltops, also has a walk-in camp ground.
Sand Dollar beach hidden in a protected cove is my absolute favorite for its spectacular beach. It isn’t until you walk right up to the edge of the bluff that you can see how awesome the beach is. Its a 10 minutes walk down through wooden staircases from the edge of the bluff to the beach. Finding sand dollars here is a delight.
Places to Eat in Big Sur
Big Sur Bakery is my must stop for morning cuppa coffee and some fresh-baked goodies. They have a great lunch menu too with outside patio. Known for their wood-fired pizzas.
Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn is a good choice for a mimosa brunch or for a romantic dinner. This place is expensive and requires a prior reservation for dinner. Can’t repeat enough, you have to go and see this cozy restaurant to believe how charming this place is inside and out! No cell service or wi-fi, so you forced to disconnect and truly enjoy the moment.
Nepenthe facing the hills surrounded is quite a view to soak in with your lunch. Or simply stop for a drink to rejoice the sunset. This place gets busy during the day.
Cafe Kevah, right next to Nepenthe is an alternative for a more affordable meal than its expensive counterpart – Nepenthe. Good for brunch/lunch and serves fresh smoothies as you enjoy the same view as Nepenthe.
Big Sur Taphouse is for the beer lovers to taste some local beers.
Big Sur River Inn I love this spot for post-hike lunch. Sitting on the chairs in the middle of the flowing creek to heal the tired feet is all I need after a long hike.
Budget Stay in Big Sur
Big Sur is pretty pricey. So after much research, I found these listed places to be comparatively budget-friendly. However, I would advice to make reservations way in advance since everything in California seem to book up so fast for weekends.
Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn I won’t categorize this place in budget stay as its expensive. However, they have rooms for a reasonable price (starts at $125). My trick is to call them months in advance to book our favorite “Little Room” which doesn’t dent my pocket. You have to be in this place to believe how charming and romantic it is! Right off Hwy1 hidden in the redwoods, the property has a few cottages and the main restaurant. I am so enamored by Deetjen that I have made it a tradition to spend 2 nights every year just to unwind and relax. With brewing coffee in hand, strolling the grounds early in the misty morning and watching the playful blue jays is refreshing.
Riverside campground or Big Sur Campground & Cabin has campsites right next to the river and cabins (cabins starts at $140 onwards).
Big Sur River Inn/ Fernwood Resort/ Ripplewood Resort/ Lucia Lodge are some other budget-friendly hotels.
Treebones Resort is a glamping resort with different types of lodging options from campsites with ocean view, yurts and the most interesting of all – the nest, which is a nest atop a tree with the most amazing ocean view to wake up to. The nest and the campsites are affordable budget options.
There are many campgrounds to check out in this area but I won’t list it here.