As the morning fog dissipates and makes way for a sunny day on the cliffs of Big Sur, you’ll either find us deep in the redwood forests searching for the biggest trees or snuggled up in our favorite hotel bed listening to tunes. To us, Big Sur is the kind of place where you can slow down, unwind and enjoy the majestic forests and dramatic shorelines at your own pace.
Big Sur is not only back in business these days, but it’s back with a more welcoming spirit than ever before. If you’re looking for a campsite that’ll house you and a few rowdy mates, we’ve got you covered. If you’re looking for a fancy hotel for your honeymoon, we know of a few of those too. If you’re after a good sandwich, the best hiking trails, a place to grab a glass of rosé overlooking the coast, or where to support the local art scene, we’ve got all that in this Big Sur guide as well. Hop on in and we’ll share our favorite local hotels, restaurants, roadhouses, venues, shops, campsites, parks, trails and more tips below.
With over 300 days of sunshine per year, Big Sur is stunning and sunny nearly year round. With that said, the peak season runs from April to October. We advise visting between September and November for smaller crowds (school is back in session!) and cooler temps.
If you think you’ll be doing a lot of hiking, go ahead and download your maps before you go. The Hiking Project App makes this super easy and you don’t need to have service to access all the info you’ve saved.
All of the State Parks charge a day use fee for hiking and exploring, so be sure you have some cash handy to dole out to the cause. Better yet, scoop up one of the annual passes from CA State Parks and you won’t have to bother with scrounging up cash for the rest of the year.
A popular spot for weddings and events, Ventana offers great views, beautiful guest suites, glampsites, multiple restaurants and a spa. If you’re planning a longer stay, definitely check out the coast house and the cottage house where you’ll have plenty of space to spread out.
Perched on the cliffs overlooking the ocean, the location of this collection of yurts, cool tents and campsites is unbeatable. For those who are into alternate sleeping arrangements, you won’t want to miss the human nest and the twig hut, where you can sleep out under the stars. Inside tip: This resort is best suited for solo or duo travelers, so groups may want to book elsewhere.
If you’re looking for the ultimate luxury spot, Post Ranch Inn is it. The rooms range from houses perched right along the cliff’s edge to houses that are built into the treetops. In addition to the amazing surroundings both indoors and out, the spa here is one of the best in the world.
Glen Oaks is one of our favorite places to stay in Big Sur. It’s an old 1950s adobe motor lodge that’s been beautifully refurbished and styled to fit the modern aesthetic. There are two things you should definitely know about this place. Thing one: Big Sur cabin has a pair of outdoor clawfoot soaking tubs right under the redwood trees. Thing two: You can host a wedding here!
Set just along the river, Big Sur River Inn’s riverside suites are redwood-lined and super cozy. There’s a general store here and a restaurant too, but you’re right in the center of town so you’ll have options aplenty.
For those who prefer a tent site, RV site or rustic cabin the woods, Big Sur Campground has you covered. Set right along the Big Sur River and surrounded by redwoods, this sweet spot is packed year-round but a little easier to get into between November and March.
Riverside camping is also an option at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, with spots that are great for dry camping (a.k.a. no hookups for RVs). Campers, plan ahead to enjoy this experience, as the campgrounds fill up six months in advance. Also – this sounds crazy for a campsite with 198 sites – there’s literally one cabin on the grounds. You can bet it’s hard to book, but it’s right next to one of the group campsites, so it’s an epic score if you’re rolling in with a crew.
The forest cabins at Fernwood offer a cozy home-away-from-home for a long weekend, while the campsites and hookup sites offer a great location just along the Big Sur River. If you happen to forget any of your camping supplies, there’s a general store on the grounds that makes it super easy to grab a latte or a six-pack.
This roadhouse dining spot is bright, stylish and filled with colorful art. The menu is California classic, serving everything from tacos to beet salad. There’s also seating out back, complete with gas firepits for a chilly day.
Entering Deetjen’s has the feeling of stumbling into another time and place, one that skews toward old world English countryside. Eggs benedict, homemade granola and huevos rancheros are on the morning list of highlights. For dinner, you might try the herb-roasted organic chicken, rack of lamb or the daily catch.
If you’re looking for an epic meal in an unforgettable place, The Sur House at Ventana Inn should be at the top of your list. The menu here includes both forest and sea options, much like the terrain of the place itself.
Located at the southern tip of Big Sur, Whale Watcher’s Café is part of the Gorda Springs Resort and does all-day dining in a space that directly overlooks the ocean. On a clear day, you might be lucky enough to watch a whale swim by as you’re enjoying your morning latte. Humpbacks, blue whales and gray whales have all been seen migrating along the coast at different times of year.
Even if you can’t stay at Post Ranch Inn during your trip to Big Sur, you can at least enjoy an amazing meal at their fine dining restaurant. Sierra Mar is a glass-walled stunner overlooking the sea, where the food reflects the place. Here you’ll find a four-course prix-fixe menu that changes nightly.
With a big patio overlooking the Pacific, this is the perfect spot to hang out in the afternoon and sip on a glass of rosé. The burgers, roast chicken and triple berry pie are some of their most popular eats.
Big Sur Bakery sets a high standard for freshly baked pastries and breads, serving some of the best coffee in town too. By night, farm-fresh salads, wood-fired pizzas and wood-grilled meats and fish are all on the menu. These guys have a great space for weddings and events too.
Whether you’re sitting outside on the deck or inside the cozy restaurant at Treebones Resort, you’re in for a treat. Dining here has a garden-to-table approach, with most things cooked over campfire. Wild Coast is open for lunch and dinner, and the beer and wine list has a local focus.
After a day of exploring Big Sur, you’re probably going to want to settle in with a good craft beer, and Big Sur Taphouse is just the place for that. There’s a real sense of community at this spot, and you’ll have your pick of all kinds of Monterey County beers and wines.
Planning to spend your whole day out on the trails? Brilliant plan. Just stop into Big Sur Deli in the morning to pick up all your picnic goods. Cuban pork, caprese and chicken pesto sandwiches are just a few of the takeaway highlights.
If you can time it just right, plan to arrive at Bixby Bridge’s south end turnout at sunset for an epic set of photos. This concrete span was built in 1932 and is one of the highest bridges in the world of its kind.
McWay Falls is one of the most popular spots to walk to in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, as it overlooks a waterfall that pours from a granite cliff right out to the sandy beach below. It’s a half-mile round-trip and mostly flat, so a great one to hit if you’re hiking with kids. For those looking for more of a challenge, you can also hike the steep 1-mile Partington Cove Trail and 60-foot tunnel to the beach.
Here you can hike along Limekiln Creek to the hundred-foot waterfall or explore the park’s history via the limekiln trail that takes you across three old bridges to furnaces that once supplied lime used for mortar in San Francisco’s brick buildings.
This is one of the most top-secret tips we’re giving you. If you want to get into Esalen’s amazing hot springs on the edge of the ocean, you don’t actually have to be a guest of the Institute. You just have to book a reservation online around 9 in the morning the day of your visit, pay $35 and arrive around 1am that night. Trust us. This experience is a life changer.
Grandmother Pfeiffer is the second largest redwood in all of Big Sur, and she can be found in the redwood grove at Glen Oaks. Just take a wander along the trail down to the river and you’ll spot her in all her glory.
Beaches, bluffs, meadows and redwoods are all hiking options at Andrew Molera State Park. The trails here tend to be a little quieter than the rest in Big Sur, but check the accessibility before you head out, as some of the trails aren’t open year-round.
So, this trail is technically in the Carmel Highlands, but it’s an awesome place to stop on your way into Big Sur if you’re approaching from the north. From here, you can get a sense of the start of the change in terrain. The Whalers Cabin Museum in Point Lobos is also worth stopping into if time permits and you’re into geeking out on old world mariner artifacts.
One of the greatest jewels of the Big Sur coastline, Garrapata State Park has two miles of beachfront property on the northern edge of Big Sur, closer to Carmel. There’s plenty of variation so you can spend part of your hike exploring the coastal vegetation and the other part of your hike in the dense redwood groves. Keep an eye out for gray whales, sea otters and sea lions!
The Point Sur Light Station dates back to 1889 and was occupied by lighthouse keepers and their families up to 1974. Today, it’s a great place to visit and learn about the history of coastal navigation along the California coast.
A center of art, music, creativity and a bit of literature too, the Henry Miller Library is easy to drive right past but a total gem of a find if you step within. As for happenings, you might find anything from readings to acoustic performances to full-blown festivals.
Part of Nepenthe, this boutique is a great place to pick up anything from locally made soaps and candles to jewelry, artwork and homewares. The Phoenix Shop opened up back in the 60s and still has a collected hippie vibe, and we mean that in a very, very good way.
Hand-blown glassware, bedding, comfy bathrobes, Post Ranch signature body products and travel accessories can all be found at the Post Ranch Inn Mercantile. Our top pick? The leather passport wallet is a dream gift for us traveling folk.
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