A Weekend Guide to Big Sur
I would argue to say that Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places in the entire world. Deep blue waters that crash along miles of glorious California coastline, the breeze against your face as you drive along the Pacific Coast Highway, and endless adventures and opportunities to explore nature. It is a truly magnificent place that you must see at least once in your lifetime.
If you're heading to Big Sur, or doing the great "California Road Trip," use this travel guide to Big Sur to be prepared with everything you need to know! I've got "good to know" tips for your journey (some of which I wasn't even aware of before going), recommendations on where to eat, where to stay, and what to do during your visit to Big Sur.
Good to Know Information Before Heading to Big Sur
Normally I just jump right into these travel guides with places to eat, sleep, and play, but Big Sur is different. This place requires a little bit of info beforehand, or else you're going to be baffled when you get there; so here are some good to know tips before you venture out to Big Sur:
Before You Go
- There is absolutely ZERO cell phone service in Big Sur. Like, seriously, the second you cross over into Big Sur territory, your phone will go off the grid. It's kind of nice once you get used to the shock of not being constantly connected!
- There's usually wifi at most of the popular restaurants, bars, and hotels, but don't count on it when you're out and about. Unplugging in nature is what it's all about!
- You can do Big Sur in 1 day, but you should really spend at least 2 days there to see everything and take your time.
- Big Sur is pricey (because they can be), so be prepared to spend some $$ while you're there. Those of you from NYC or other large cities will feel right at home spending about $15-18 for a cocktail and $20-30 for an entree.
- Make your reservations as far in advance as you can since things tend to book up fast!
Tips for the Drive
- Rent (or have) a car. That's the only way to do it.
- Safely stop along the road wherever you want to get out and enjoy the view. It's magnificent and you deserve to soak it in! Make sure your cameras are charged!
- Pack snacks and drinks ahead of time so you can avoid paying astronomical prices at the convenience stores or restaurants in Big Sur.
- Have some cash handy because certain state parks require a small entrance fee before you head in.
- Have hiking and/or beach clothes readily available for you to grab and change into if the mood strikes you to get out and have an adventure. I'd recommend checking the weather ahead of time so you know which one to pack.
- Pick up a copy of Big Sur's free tourist newspaper (available at almost any establishment in the area) so you can utilize the map. You won't have cell phone service, so it will be your life line. You can also just take a screenshot of this, which was the exact map we used to get around:
Alright... Now for the good stuff. Where to eat in Big Sur! Like I mentioned earlier, Big Sur is pricey. You're not going to have an easy time trying to avoid paying high prices for everything you eat, but it is possible to find some affordable options. There are also incredible luxury options if you want to splurge and go all out. The good news is that the food in Big Sur (at least the food that we had) is pretty damn good and typically comes in generous portions!
- Big Sur Taphouse, 47520 Hwy 1 -- Great spot to grab a beer, big portions of comfort food, and watch whatever sport they have on TV
- Big Sur Deli, 47520 Hwy 1
- The Maiden Publick House, Village Center Shops, Hwy 1
Also try: Packing food before your trip, or driving to grocery store in Carmel-by-the-Sea for affordable groceries. Unfortunately, "budget" and "Big Sur" don't typically go together very often.
- Big Sur Bakery, 47540 Hwy 1 -- Ask any local where to eat in Big Sur and I guarantee this will be at the top of their list. Definitely a popular spot in the area! On the more expensive side of "moderate"
- Deetjen's Restaurant, 48865 Hwy 1 -- Another popular spot for both locals and travelers
- Fernwood Resort Bar & Grill, 47200 Hwy 1 -- AKA Fernwood Tavern. Tasty pizzas, bar food, and a great spot to hang out in a "pub" environment
- Nepenthe, 48510 Hwy 1 -- Food with a view!
- Cafe Kevah, 48510 Highway One -- Just downstairs from Nepenthe and supposedly more affordable
Also try: Big Sur Roadhouse (especially after they finish redecorating their space!), Big Sur River Inn Restaurant, Big Sur Lodge Restaurant, or Ripplewood Resort Restaurant (breakfast + lunch option)
- Ripplewood Resort, $$, 47047 Hwy 1
Ripplewood Resort offers guests minimalist cabins in a woodsy setting. Some cabins even come equipped with full kitchens and private decks. Another great part about the property is the convenience store, restaurant, and gas station that are available for traveler's needs
- Glen Oaks Big Sur, $$, 47080 Hwy 1
Glen Oaks is a beautiful getaway in the heart of Big Sur that it is comprised of multiple fireside motor lodges and numerous single and multi-room cabins, all of which are newly renovated and remodeled. These separate options allow you to choose the exact type of experience you want to have during your stay: either "immersive glamping in the forest" or "comfortable luxury with a side of nature." I personally love the accommodations at Glen Oaks Big Sur (it's my preferred location to stay in Big Sur) because of the modern, luxurious comforts they provide within each lodge or cabin. Read more about what to expect during your stay at Glen Oaks Big Sur right here.
- Post Ranch Inn, $$$$, 47900 Hwy 1
If you really want to splurge on luxury in Big Sur, Post Ranch Inn is your spot. This incredible, contemporary ranch-style hotel is set on a cliff that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Guests will enjoy rustic-chic suites or tree-houses, private decks with mountain or ocean views, 2 cliff-top infinity pools, and much more. No luxury is spared at the Post Ranch Inn.
Also try: Ventana Inn & Spa ($$$)
Things to do in Big Sur:
- Visit the iconic McWay Falls -- Probably one of the most breathtaking sights you'll see.
- See the purple sand at Pfeiffer Beach -- **HOW TO GET THERE: The road to get to Pfeiffer Beach is a bit hidden and narrow. When you're heading southbound, take the 2nd right after Big Sur Station. There will be a sign that says "NARROW ROAD: NO RV's OR TRAILERS." It costs $10 once you make your way down the narrow and winding road, but it is well worth it. Use caution while driving.
- Stop at Bixby Bridge to admire the architectural beauty
- Check out the "Portal to Big Sur" at Ragged Point Inn & Resort
- Walk down to Sand Dollar Beach and enjoy the view
- Hike through the Redwood Grove at Glen Oaks Big Sur and see Grandmother Pfeiffer -- The Redwood Grove near the BIg Sur River is a beautiful experience. Grandmother Pfeiffer is the second largest redwood in all of Big Sur.
- Visit any of the numerous parks to enjoy hiking, waterfalls, or campgrounds. -- There is Limekiln State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Andrew Molera State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Salmon Creek Falls Trail, and much more. Some of these parks cost money to park or enter, so check ahead of time what the fees are or carry cash with you in the car.
- Safely stop anywhere along the road while you're driving to get out and take pictures. Big Sur is such a beauty that you should savor and enjoy.
- Visit Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey before/after your trip depending on which way you're driving.
- Visit Hearst Castle before/after your trip depending on which way you're driving. Check out this post for tips!
Have you been to Big Sur? What are your favorite things to eat, places to stay, or things to do? Comment below with more recommendations!
Thank you to Glen Oaks Big Sur for sponsoring my visit during my trip to Big Sur. This post may include affiliate links, which comes at absolutely no cost to you. All proceeds go directly back into maintaining this website and making it better for you. All opinions are my own.