There’s no place quite like Big Sur. Derived from the original Spanish-language “el sur grande”meaning “the big south”, Big Sur is often mistaken for a town, not a region, and is most famous for its seaside cliffs. If you’ve visited, you know exactly why experiencing it is so hard to put in words. I think it is best described by smell. Baked rock, sea salt, juniper, bay leaves, pine needles, camp fire….it is positively intoxicating. We decided to head here for a quick babymoon because 1) Big Sur was on my bucket list, 2) our plans to head to St. John fell through due to Zika, and 3) we were going to Sonoma to meet up with friends for the weekend. It was the perfect spot for relaxation, beautiful views, and great food.
So, you’re sold, right? Let’s talk about when you should go and how long you should plan to stay:
The best time to head to Big Sur is April-October. But be prepared; it is a true tourist destination and you will be sharing the drive with families and couples pulling off the highway to take in the views. Many tourist locations may not be open during non-peak months, but the views never quit. Be sure to map out your trip before heading out, as the cellphone coverage can be dicey.
Big Sur is a great day trip for those who live in the Bay Area, but you’d be hard pressed to experience everything in less than 24 hours. I would recommend a one night stay– minimum. We stayed for two nights and three full days and felt we had gotten a good feel for the place.
How to get there? Take Highway 1. But if you are in a hurry and only have a day, I would suggest taking the freeway. This is one of the few drives you don’t want to rush!
Where To Stay? The coolest thing about Big Sur is how underdeveloped the region is. There are hotels peppered along the coast and on the east side of the highway- but they are barely noticeable unless you are looking for them. Here are our hotel recommendations:
Quaint: Deejun’s Big Sur Inn. This place is adorable. It’s authentically rustic and sits right at the bottom of ridge with paths to walk to the coast. Deejun’s is one of those places that has captured the early days in Big Sur through the hand-crafted interiors and old-world charm.
Resort-like: Ventana. We stayed here! It was like living in a tree house. The amenities made it a place we could spend all day. We went on a morning hike, had breakfast overlooking the treetops, got an amazing massage, and enjoyed the warm temperatures by the pool. Our room was spacious and we enjoyed using the big soaking tub, fireplace, and hammock. If you need to relax and spend time in a quiet place, Ventana is a good middle ground.
Special Occasion: Post Ranch Inn. This space has been voted Best Hotel in America, so you can be sure to experience something that isn’t exactly ordinary. The Post family was one of the original Big Sur pioneers and were dedicated to exploring and conserving the land for decades. The resort opened in 1992, sitting atop a cliff overlooking the Pacific ocean. Each of the 39 spacious rooms are made from recycled redwood with huge paneled glass to let in the light and the views. You can’t get a better view anywhere else.
Where to Eat:
Breakfast:Deejun’s Big Sur Inn. Breakfast by candle light in the quaintest little hotel. Fresh, cozy, romantic!
Lunch: Big Sur Bakery. This is a MUST! Located right off Highway 1, they have incredible baked goods (the strawberry scone changed me) and the sandwiches and woodfire pizza are fresh and simple– the best kind of California cuisine.
Dinner: Post Ranch Inn. Go early so you can take in the view. Definitely make a reservation and plan to dress up a bit. If you’re pregnant or do not drink, I can attest the non-alcoholic drinks were delicious! That’s my sparkling lavender lemonade pictured above with a lovely view of the Pacific ocean.
Honorable mention: Nepenthe’s Big Sur. Great view, lots of people. Stop into The Phoenix Shop on your way out.
What to Do:
Take a hike: Check out this comprehensive guide to hiking your way around Big Sur. The best way to experience the region is to take it in on foot. There are plenty of places to hike off Highway 1, just make sure to plan before you get on the road. Some parks and trails have entrance fees, so be sure to bring cash with you. Some destinations to look into: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls, Bixby Bridge, Point Sur State Historic Park.
Get some headspace: Remember the last scene in Mad Men when Don is meditating atop a cliff? He was at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. Make an appointment to take a dip in the hot springs and schedule a message at this historic landmark for wellness and meditation. They also have workshops and classes dedicated to holistic living. You could spend your entire trip at the institute if you wanted to!
Head south: Just south of Deejun’s Big Sur, Highway 1 gets even more beautiful. About an hour away is Hearst Castle with loads of cute Elephant seals bathing in the sun!
I hope this guide helps you plan a little trip to one of the most beautiful places in the USA!
Images: Wit & Delight
Kate is currently learning to play the Ukulele, much to the despair of her husband, kids, and dogs. Follow her on Instagram at @witanddelight_.
BY Kate Arends - April 22, 2016
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Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.
This is something I so want to do!! I live in the UK but this is something I am working on. Ideally a three month tour which is the visa I can get! This post has made me want it even more. 😉
Definitely worth the trip! I would say if you gave central CA a week, you could get in SF, Sonoma, and Big Sur. Two weeks could get you either up into the redwoods, or down to LA!
Monterey local here, not too far from Big Sur. It always takes posts like these for me to stop and really appreciate the area I live in. Thank you for that!
P.s. Glen Oaks Big Sur has awesome cabins to stay in with outdoor fire pits.
What a lovely place to call home!! Thanks for including the recommendation Jessica!
San Francisco and Napa Valley have been on my travel bucket list for a while, but Big Sur wasn’t on my radar until very recently. Loved this post and am now dying to visit! Thanks for the great tips! I hope you had a wonderful trip!
xx Allison @ alwayseatdessert.com
Big Sur looks stunning! Really want to visit 🙂
Been to San Francisco and planning a trip to Sonoma, but now I’m thinking we are missing out on the true experience. Thanks for the great recommendations and the inspiring views!
Just stayed at the newly reopened Hideaway. Super cute, delicious homemade breakfast by Filo (think papas bravas, stunning quiche, buttermilk blueberry scones and prosciutto), fireplace with blankets provided and one of the most attentive staff’s ever. Blissful location and stunningly simple aesthetic. V w&d stylings and color palette.
OMG that sounds SO GOOD.
I second the Glen Oaks Big Sur! The fire pit is awesome, and it is stylish and comfortable. I would also say that Kirk Creek campground is AMAZING for camping– where else can you camp on a cliff over the Pacific Ocean and then have Big Sur pastries and coffee for breakfast??? There’s a reason it books up six months in advance! (Though beware, you need to bring your own water to the campground!) For Bay Area locals who are thinking of a weekend away, bear in mind that many hotels have a 2-night minimum!
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