I feel fortunate to call California home, there are no dearth of places to tickle your fancy in the Golden State. Take for instance, Big Sur – An enchanting place, intertwining along the Pacific Coast Highway. Tucked behind redwood forests and steep cliffs, it’s wilderness heaven.
It’s a gorgeous place to visit any time of year, although my preference is going in Fall – you’re more prone to get sunshine, clear skies, and gorgeous sunsets. But even during summer, when the fog rolls in, the place brings on magical feels, faster than you can say Expelliarmus. (Harry Potter reference, for the win!)
Why don’t I show you what I mean??
10 Spectacular Sights in Big Sur
The beautiful coastal scenery
Give in to the urge to pull over, as you make your way through the hair pin bends on the one lane road. From the sprawling ocean to the valleys and cliffs all around, it’s breathtaking! Try the off-beaten roads, notably Palo Colorado road & Nacimiento Road.
2. Bixby Bridge
This iconic bridge is featured on most California postcards. Head to the parking lot across the street to get view of the bridge and valley from its anterior angle. Do step down – yes, even to the ledge that makes you feel like you’re gonna fall off the cliff. The view is so worth it. Just don’t take selfies without looking where you’re going 🙂
3. River Inn
River Inn has been around since the 1800s. Nestled between redwoods, this cosy inn has an outdoor deck facing the river, with live music every Sunday. Featuring Marianne’s ice cream from the namesake store in Santa Cruz, CA; this is also a good pit stop for gas & restrooms should you need either.
Big Sur Bakery and Big Sur Roadhouse are other options for quick and affordable eats (they’re just up the road from River Inn)
Los Padres National Forest, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, 46800 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Phone: (831) 667-2700
4. Pfieffer Beach
One of California’s most unique beaches. There are 2 gigantic rocks by the shore, where you can see & hear the thunderous echo of crashing waves. The second rock formation, has a “window”: a square shaped hole carved by the ocean. You can see waves rush through this opening and it’s really something else to see the sun rise or set through this window. What makes this beach truly unique though, is the super subtle, but visible, purple sand. Word of advice: If you’re going on a weekend, come early! Parking is limited and once the lot is full, park rangers will not let you in!Address: Sycamore Canyon Rd, Big Sur
Phone: (805) 434-1996
5. McWay Falls
This incredible waterfall plunges onto the beach by the ocean. Accessible by a mere 0.64 mile hike, this is the crown jewel of Big Sur. I’ve even seen whales during summer from this lookout.
6. Hiking & Camping
Needless to say, this is a paradise for campers & hikers! Big Sur Campground is super central and accessible. Here are top 5 hikes in the area.
a) Ewoldsen Trail: 4.6 miles long, with redwood trees, streams & ocean vistas. Takes a good 2-3 hours and is simply spectacular.
Starting Point: McWay Falls Parking Lot
b) Pfieffer Big Sur State Park: This 3 mile hike takes you through tall redwoods and ends at an 80 foot tall waterfall.
Starting Point: Pfieffer Beach State Park
c) Andrew Molera Loop: 8.8 miles, with view of bluffs, ridges & the panorama.
Starting Point: Andrew Molera Park
d) Jade Cove Beach Trail: 1.5 miles, by the ocean, with view of rock coves. And yes, it has jades.
Starting Point: Sand Dollar Beach
e) For an Intense Hike | Junipero Serra Peak: 12 miles, approx. 8 hour hike across meadows, ascents, to the tallest peak in the Santa Lucias.
7. Lunch at Nepenthe
The view from the outdoor terrace is outstanding. Who wouldn’t want to chow down a burger overlooking this? (Try the Mai Tai, it’s as delicious as it is super strong.)
8. If you’re looking for a fancy place to stay or have dinner (or a cocktail): Ventana Inn or Post Ranch Inn.
These places are for luxury stays & indulgence – actress Anne Hathaway got married at Ventana Inn. Ventana has a quaint terrace, strewn with lights at night, it also has a spa. If you’re looking for a romantic getaway & luxurious accomodation in the area, you can’t go wrong with either Ventana or Post Ranch Inn.
Sipping a hot chocolate (or hot toddy for that matter) by the fireplace in the rustic Ventana lodge, on a cold, foggy day definitely stokes the Mojo fire.
48123 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Phone: (831) 667-2331
Post Ranch Inn
47900 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Phone: (831) 667-2200
10. Esalen Institute
Fascinating place in a picturesque setting. Esalen offers over 500 workshops on meditation, yoga, massages, organic food and spirituality. They also have hot springs, which you can’t go wrong with anytime of year.
55000 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
South of Big Sur are Heart Castle, San Luis Obispo & you can continue on to LA. If heading to NorCal, (Northern California, towards San Francisco & the Bay Area) – consider stopping by the charming town of Carmel. It is a more versatile option for dinner over Big Sur. Sunset in Carmel beach is not to be missed!
Whether you head in for a day trip or a weekend getaway, Big Sur will not disappoint!
Also published on Medium.