Big Sur  is a region on the Central Coast of California. It contains vast wildernesses and breathtaking views as it stretches 90 miles along the rugged Pacific Ocean. It is approximately 150 miles south of San Francisco and 300 miles north of Los Angeles. The area is great for outdoor recreation and contains several state parks, two national wilderness areas and is part of the Los Padres National Forest, all of which include hiking trails. The most common visitors to Big Sur are those just driving through to enjoy the scenery. The next most common activity is hiking/backpacking in the open natural spaces.
Big Sur coastline with glimpse of Bixby Bridge, Highway 1
California Highway 1 (also known as Pacific Coast Highway) winds through Big Sur flanked by the steep Santa Lucia Mountains to the east and the rocky Pacific Coast to the west. From the north, Big Sur begins just south of Carmel and continues south through the small settlements of Big Sur Village (between Andrew Molera State Park and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park), Posts, Slates Hot Springs, Lucia, and Gorda. It ends near San Carpoforo Creek north of San Simeon (where the Hearst Castle is located). When driving on Highway 1 through Big Sur be sure to stop at the many pull outs and vista points to see the beauty of the area.
Big Sur Village 26 miles south of Carmel is a mile-long village containing three gas stations, roadside markets, lodges, camp grounds, and restaurants. For more information visit the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce , which is continually updated with a calendar of events.
Big Sur is a remote area accessible using Highway 1 or from the east via the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road beginning in Jolon. The easiest and most common way to get there is by car, though some enthusiastic adventurers cycle along the highway. There are few gas stations and gas can be very expensive, so it's best to fill up beforehand. During the winter, the road is subject to washouts and mud slides. Check highway conditions before you go and drive carefully when you do. If possible, avoid driving at night or in foggy conditions.
From San Francisco take US-101 south to CA-156 west which merges with Highway 1 about 20 miles north of the Big Sur area. The trip to Big Sur is about 125 miles and if you avoid rush hour traffic in the San Francisco Bay Area takes two hours.
From Los Angeles take US-101 north and exit onto Highway 1 toward Morro Bay/Hearst Castle. It's normally about a 250 mile and 4-5 hour drive. As of 2018, the hhighway is closed 4.6 miles north of Ragged Point at Mud Creek until mid-September due to a mud slide. An alternative route is to travel north on Highway 101 to Jolon and take the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road west.
Monterey-Salinas Transit route 22 bus runs from downtown Monterey to Nepenthe in Big Sur. During the summer it operates from Memorial Day to Labor Day (last week of May through first week of September) three times a day, and during the rest of the year it only offers service on weekends. Bus service may be canceled during bad weather, so check the schedule or call MST at 888-678-2871 for information.
SLO RTA route 15 goes as far north as San Simeon.
A private vehicle is the easiest way to get around. During summer holiday periods and on holiday weekends, traffic from Carmel to Big Sur Village can be extremely congested and slow.
Monterey-Salinas Transit route 22 bus (see above) stops at several state parks, the Big Sur River Inn, and Nepenthe.
Bicycling along Highway 1 is challenging. Due to the steep terrain, shoulders can be very narrow or non-existent.
Point Sur and Lighthouse, Highway 1
- Bixby Bridge, 11 miles north of Big Sur Village. Iconic bridge built in 1933. One of the most photographed in the world because of its location within such beautiful scenery.
- Henry Miller Memorial Library, Highway 1, a quarter mile south of Nepenthe Restaurant, 831-667-2574, . Wi-Fi internet access.
- Point Sur Lighthouse, 5 miles north of Big Sur Village, . Point Sur is a dominant feature along Highway 1. It is a National Historic Landmark and is one of the only complete turn-of-the-century light stations open to the public in California. Allegedly one of the most haunted places in America. Spectacular views can be had from atop Point Sur. Tours (3 hours) are offered - meet west side of highway at farm gate a quarter mile north of Pt Sur Naval Facility. Winter times Sa, Su 10AM, W 1PM. $10 adult, $5 children.
- McWay Falls, 12 miles south of Big Sur Village. One of the most spectacular places anywhere in Big Sur. The falls drop 80 feet onto the beach or tide. There is a hike out to a view point but it can also be seen from the road just before Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
- New Camaldoli Hermitage, located in Lucia off Highway 1 (25 miles south of Big Sur village), 831-667-2456, . Monastery offering guided retreats, also sells gifts and food items.
- California Highway 1. Take the ride by the one of the most scenic roads, Highway One. It runs by the California’s coastline – from its starting point south of Los Angeles to Mendocino County in the north. The most scenic points are in the Monterey region, beautiful seaside of Carmel-by-the-Sea and Big Sur coastline with magnificent cliffs, redwoods and the famous Bixby Creek Bridge.
Redwoods in Ventana Wilderness along the Pine Ridge trail
Big Sur river canyon from Pine Ridge trail in the Ventana Wilderness
Hiking/backpacking - There are over 80 day hikes, varying in length and difficulty. There are hikes to beaches and vistas along the coast, along rivers and through canyons, and through redwood forests in the Santa Lucia Mts. For longer and more remote adventures, backpacking is an option. There are hundreds of miles of trails through the region, particularly the Ventana Wilderness. Be prepared and know what you are doing before going backpacking in the Wilderness. More information can be found at the Big Sur Ranger Station located 3 miles south of Big Sur Village, 831-667-2315. NOTE: Always check conditions before planning a hike or backpack trip. Hiking areas in Big Sur can be closed due to fire damage, fallen trees, and slides. Know before you go.
Beaches - Remote and pristine beaches are accessible. Andrew Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Beach, and Sand Dollar Beach are the most commonly visited.
- Andrew Molera State Park, less than 1 mile north of Big Sur Village, 831-667-2315, . Miles of trails, beaches, and meadows. Also has 24 primitive camp sites (first come, first serve).
- Jade Beach in southern Monterey County near Gorda, California. There is a steep 0.1 miles (0.16 km) trail from the Plaskett Campground to Jade Cove that ends in a rope-assisted drop to the beach. Jade is a common semi-precious stone found along the coast in the southern Big Sur region from Sand Dollar Beach to Cape San Martin. Individuals may remove only what they can individually carry. Only hand tools are permitted. The narrow beach can be dangerous during high tides and storms.
- Pfeiffer Beach, 2.5 miles south of Big Sur Village turn west on Sycamore Canyon Rd (unmarked road, only paved and non-gated road to the west in the area). Great sunsets and a fun beach. Dig into the wet sand and find it is purple due to manganese garnet. If you are heading south on Route 1, the key to finding this beach is to look for the yellow sign - "NARROW ROAD No RVs - Trailers". $10 parking fee, cash only. The parking lot accommodates 65 vehicles and is usually full on summer and holiday weekends. Parking on the road is illegal; violators will be towed.
- Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, 2 miles south of Big Sur Village, 831-667-2315, . There are hiking trails through redwood groves. It is a 1.4 mile round trip to 60-foot Pfeiffer Falls that is fuller from Dec to May.
- Point Lobos State Reserve, 24 miles north of Big Sur Village (just south of Carmel), 831-624-4909, . Well-managed and developed recreation area offering many hikes, beaches, coves and points. SCUBA diving is possible by permit only. Often referred to as the crown jewel of the State Park System. Limited parking within the park. $10 per car.
- Sand Dollar Beach, 35 miles south of Big Sur Village (across Highway 1 from Plaskett Creek Campground, stairs lead to the beach). Largest expanse of sand in Big Sur and also well protected from wind. $10 per car.
- Ventana Wilderness, Big Sur Ranger Station (3 miles south of Big Sur Village), 831-667-2315. The wilderness covers 167,323 square acres. Within the wilderness area alone there are 237 miles of trails and 55 designated camping areas.
Most art galleries and gift shops are concentrated in and around Big Sur Village along Highway 1.
- Big Sur Arts Center, located at the southern end of Big Sur Village, 831-667-1530, . Sells original art work and offers classes, workshops, educational travel, and online lessons.
- Chappellet Studios, Rancho Rico, 831-238-6943, . Gallery by appointment only.
- Hawthorne Gallery, located across from Nepenthe, 831-667-3200, . Open daily 10:30am - 6:30 pm. Representing works of the Hawthorne family and other internationally known artists.
- Post Ranch Mercantile, 831-667-2347, . Open daily 10:30 am - 7:00 pm. Natural products featuring tableware, clothing, bedding, and body care products.
- Sofanya's Art Gallery 831-626-2876, . Personalized artwork, portraits, sculptures and wearable art you can take with you. By appointment.
- Soul River Studios 831-667-2559, . Located by the River Inn upstairs at the Village shops
If there's a place you'd like to eat especially, reservations are recommended. If you like to eat late, call ahead -- many places stop taking walk-ins by 9pm, and you'll be lucky to get fed at all in this tiny, isolated community.
- Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant, 831-667-0520, 47540 Highway One, . Wedding cakes, desserts, pastries. Breakfast, lunch and dinner until 9pm with plenty of outdoor seating and friendly staff.
- Big Sur Lodge Restaurant & Espresso House, 831-667-3111, . Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. On the banks of the Big Sur River, views of redwoods.
- Big Sur River Inn, 831-667-2700 or 800-548-3610, . Breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Deck overlooking Big Sur River. Live entertainment on Sundays.
- Big Sur Roadhouse, 831-667-2264, . Open for breakfast and dinner 8:00 - 2:30 pm daily. Stylish rustic modern atmosphere, outdoor patios and fire pits. Californian-Latin American cuisine with espresso drinks, beer and wine.
- Cafe Kevah, located on a terrace just below Nepenthe, 831-667-2344, . Open March - December, 9 am - 4 pm. Brunch and light lunch.
- Cielo, located at Ventana Inn, 831-667-2331, . Open for lunch and dinner seven days a week. Offering 50-mile vistas of the Pacific from the outdoor terrace.
- Deetjen's Big Sur Inn, 831-667-2378, . Breakfast 8 am - noon, dinner 6 pm - close.
- Lucia Lodge, (866) 424-4787 or (831) 667-2391, . Open for lunch and dinner from 11 am - 9 pm. Excellent Fish & Chips (judged as one of the Top 10 in the US by Coastal Living Magazine).
- The Maiden Publick House, next to Big Sur River Inn in the Village Center Shops, 831-667-2355. Classic affordable pub with food and drinks.
- Nepenthe, Highway 1, 831-667-2345, . Picturesque dining location overlooking 40 miles of coastline. Can be pricey. Also a great spot for drinks and hors d'oeuvres, providing the same view for a fraction of the cost.
- Ragged Point Inn, located 15 miles north of Hearst Castle, 805-927-5708, .
- Redwood Grill, located at Fernwood Resort, 831-667-2129, . Open 11 am - 9 pm. Serves buffalo burgers, salmon burgers, hamburgers, veggie burgers, sandwiches, salads and more.
- Ripplewood Resort, 831-667-2242, . Open 8 am - 2 pm. American cuisine with Spanish flair. $5-$12 per entree.
- San Simeon Beach Bar & Grill, 805-927-4604, . Panoramic ocean view. Pool table, TV's, live entertainment. Wi-Fi internet Access.
- Sierra Mar Restaurant, located at the Post Ranch Inn, 831-667-2800, . Light lunch noon - 3:30, drinks 3:30 to close, dinner nightly. At 1,149 feet the restaurant offers great views of the coastline.
- The Grill at Treebones Resort, 805-927-2390, . Casual dinners nightly starting at 7 pm.
Many local restaurants also contain bars and/or provide drinks.
- Fernwood Resort, just north of Big Sur Village, 831-667-2422, . Lodging, food, and a bar all in the same place. Open later than almost anywhere, with pizza by the slice available most nights after 10pm. You're likely to see every local in Big Sur here after dinner, listening to a band, drinking, and playing ping pong on the back patio. Very casual.
- The Maiden Publick House, next to Big Sur River Inn in the Village Center Shops, 831-667-2355. Classic affordable pub with food and drinks.
The two main options for sleeping in Big Sur are either camping or staying in a hotel/resort. Some locations have both options provided. Camping is popular in Big Sur and there are many small campgrounds through the region that are not listed below but can be found along Highway 1.
- Big Sur Campground and Cabins, 47000 Highway 1, Big Sur (just south of River Inn), 831-667-2322, . Accommodations include campsites, tent-cabins and rustic cabins, all beneath giant redwoods and beside the Big Sur river. There is great swimming in the river and hiking is close by. Kids can ride inner-tubes or rubber boats down the river and a short 3 mile drive either north or south will get you to beautiful beaches (Pfieffer to the south and Molera to the north.)
- Big Sur Lodge, 47225 Highway 1, Big Sur (just south of Big Sur Village), 800-424-4787 or 831-667-3100, . Lies within Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Contains 61 cottage style units and all resort amenities. Many cabins have a fireplace, and the resort prvides a bundle of wood each night plus a Duraflame firestarter (bring your own matches!).
- Big Sur River Inn, Highway 1 at Pheneger Creek, Big Sur, 831-667-2700 or 800-548-3610, . Heated swimming pool. Full service restaurant and bar. 20 guest rooms. Rates: Rooms with one queen bed $125 - $170; Rooms with two queen sized beds $150 - $215; Two room, Riverside Suite with one king size bed and two single day beds $225 - $270. The higher rates are in effect during high season. The rooms are in cabins made from fragrant wood, the beds are comfortable, and there are excellent products for the shower, so you do get value for your money.
- Deetjens Big Sur Inn, 48865 Highway 1, Big Sur, 831-667-2377, . Norwegian-style setting nestled in the redwoods of Castro Canyon. (Advanced reservations recommended)
- Fernwood Resort, just north of Big Sur Village, 831-667-2422, . Cabins, tents, RV's, all allowed but with limited availability. Also has a bar and grill as well as other resort amenities.
- Glen Oaks Big Sur, Highway 1, Big Sur, 831.667.2105, . Affordable luxury, rustic modern rooms and cabins in the heart of Big Sur. Twenty plus acres along the Big Sur River with private trails, restaurant, clean and comfortable units available year-round.
- Limekiln State Park, Highway 1, 831-667-2403, . Gorgeous campsites along a creek that runs into the ocean. Sites on the beach and under the redwoods. There are a few small hikes to the historic limekilns and a significant waterfall (be prepared to cross the creek a few times to get to the waterfall, but it's so worth it in the spring).
- Lucia Lodge, 62400 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920, 831-667-2456, . Coastal cabins with great views of the coastline ranging in price and privacy.
- Post Ranch Inn, Highway 1 (2 miles south of Big Sur Village), 888-524-4787 or 831-667-2200, . High end resort style accommodations, three pools, spas, and private decks. Sits 1200 feet above the Pacific.
- Ragged Point Inn & Resort, 20 miles north of San Simieon on Highway 1, 805-927-4502, . 30 rooms and a gourmet restaurant. Nearby stores, snacks and espresso.
- Ripplewood Resort, Highway 1, 831-667-2242, .
- Riverside Campground & Cabins, Highway 1, 831-667-2414, .
- Treebones Resort, 71895 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920, 877-424-4787, . Features 16 yurts and 5 campsites. Amenities include pool, hot tub, restaurant, gift shop, and lodge.
- Ventana Inn & Spa, 28 miles south of Carmel, 831-667-2331 or 800-628-6500, . Ultra-luxurious resort with all possible amentias including pools, hot tubs, sauna, restaurant, bar, and of course great views.
- Los Padres National Forest, Monterey Ranger District 831-385-5434, .
- Kirk creek campground. Just south of Lucia and Limekiln SP. All campsites are located on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. There are few trees (much warmer than under the redwoods!) and the sites are on well kept grass. Amazing sunsets and decent bathrooms. There are a few nice short trails leading down to the beach.
- Kirk Creek Campground, Highway 1 (Between Lucia and Gorda), . Beautiful campground set on a bluff overlooking the ocean. No water on site. $25. edit
- Plaskett Creek Campground, Highway 1 (3 miles North of Gorda), . 44 campsites with bathrooms and running water. Right across the street from Sand Dollar beach. Dog friendly! $25. edit
- A Place to Stay, highway 1 big sur ca. rustic accomodations,camping, cabins, email [email protected] edit
There are no urban areas, just three small clusters of restaurants, gas stations, motels, and camp grounds: Posts in the Big Sur River valley, Lucia, near Limekiln State Park, and Gorda, on the southern coast.
There are long stretches of coastline with little or no cell phone signal, and plan accordingly. Also, fill your gas tank before you drive to the area, as gas stations are few, and some charge as much as $7 a gallon! It is also highly advisable to buy bottled water or replenish your supply from good tap water (the tap water in Big Sur Village, for example, which is delicious mountain spring water) when you have the chance. Driving the narrow, twisty coast highway after dark can be hazardous, especially when fog is present. Big Sur is very wild country for long stretches of highway with few services. A sign that might exemplify this for you is one that appears on Route 1 southbound, showing curves, with the text "Next 72 miles"!
There are only 16 public restrooms along the entire coast to accommodate the almost 5 million annual visitors. The number of visitors far exceeds the available restrooms, and most restrooms are not located in popular locations. You can use bathrooms within California State Parks or federal campgrounds without paying an entrance fee.
To continue a trip going north on Highway 1 you can stop by Carmel and Monterey.
To continue a trip going south on Highway 1 several interesting stops include: Hearst Castle in San Simeon, and the small city of San Luis Obispo.
|This is a usable article. It has information for getting in as well as some complete entries for restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please plunge forward and help it grow!