Welcome to Big Sur, a dazzling gem nestled on California’s central coast. As a seasoned traveler and lover of the outdoors, I’ve been fortunate enough to drive along the mesmerizing Big Sur coast countless times every season.

This breathtaking landscape, extending about 90 miles from the charming Carmel-by-the-Sea in the north down to the tranquil community of San Simeon in the south, never fails to captivate me with its sheer beauty.

Flanked by the Pacific Ocean to the west and the Santa Lucia Mountains to the east, Big Sur offers the ultimate blend of coastal and mountainous beauty. But in this natural sanctuary, you’ll find more than just stunning scenery. It’s a journey of discovery filled with diverse attractions catering to every traveler’s desires.

Adventure seekers will relish the challenging hiking trails, writers will find solitude amidst the natural beauty, and photographers will find endless opportunities to capture the region’s grandeur.

This blog post will guide you through the 52 top Things to do in Big Sur. From the iconic Highway 1 drive – which can easily be listed among the top scenic drives in the Bay Area – to hidden gems nestled within the landscape, you’re guaranteed to discover something extraordinary along this remarkable stretch of California’s coastline.

Big Sur is a whole world unto itself, providing a perfect escape from the urban hustle. Whether it’s a weekend getaway from San Francisco or a long weekend escape from San Jose, this place won’t disappoint. This guide is your key to unlocking the best of Big Sur, promising an unforgettable experience.

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Quick Facts: Planning Your Big Sur Trip

Before diving in, here are a few highlights to help you plan your trip

Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Big Sur is during the mild and picturesque spring and fall seasons.

Where to Stay: Big Sur Lodge, Hofsas House 

How to Get There: The airport closest to Mendocino is Monterey Regional Airport, approximately 45 minutes away. However, other options include airports in San Jose. To find the best prices, consider browsing flight options on a platform like Skyscanner.

How to Get Around: The easiest way to get around Mendocino is in your own car. Use Discoverlcars.com to browse deals on rental cars.

Best Fun Experience: Big Sur’s Old Coast Road eBike Tour

Best Self-Guided Tour: I love exploring Big Sur with Guide Along, a narrated self-guided tour ideal for scenic drives and road trips.  The Big Sur Guide provides incredible commentary and information.

Map of Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California

Big Sur Self-Driving Audio Tour

As you embark on the journey to explore the mesmerizing sights of Big Sur, consider enriching your experience with the Big Sur Self-Driving Audio Tour. This comprehensive guide allows you to navigate California’s iconic Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway, at your own pace.

Big Sur Station: The Premier Visitor Center and Launchpad to Your Big Sur Adventure

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations

Big Sur Station or the Big Sur Visitor Center serves as the gateway to the wonders of Big Sur, California.

Nestled in the Santa Lucia Mountains, this Forest Service facility provides essential information, trail maps, and guidance to ensure you make the most of your journey.

From here, you can access the breathtaking state parks, stunning coastal views, and picturesque trails that define Big Sur.

Whether you’re seeking hiking trails, camping spots, or scenic drives, Big Sur Station provides the necessary resources to navigate this magnificent landscape and embark on an unforgettable exploration.

Big Sur Tour Recommendation

If you’re already in Carmel or Monterey and looking to experience the stunning beauty of the Big Sur coast without the stress of driving and navigation, then consider this private charter excursion.

With a local driver-guide who knows the region’s best spots, you can tailor the journey to your interests, take your time at the places you most enjoy, and soak in the iconic views of Big Sur, all in the comfort of a full-size SUV.

Explore State Parks in Big Sur

As the sun bids farewell over Big Sur, the beach becomes a canvas, reflecting the fading light in hues of serenity.

Stepping into the lush expanse of Big Sur’s state parks always feels like returning to an old, beloved friend.

Their diverse landscapes, from towering redwood forests to the rugged cliffs lining the coast, have served as the backdrop for many of my most cherished memories.

It’s a place where the buzz of the modern world seems to fade, replaced by the soft whispering of trees and the rhythmic crash of waves against the shore.

Each visit becomes a new chapter in my ongoing love story with the California wilderness. As we journey together through each park, I hope you’ll feel the same sense of wonder and connection that makes Big Sur a favorite among nature lovers and outdoor adventurers.

So, let’s lace up our hiking boots, pack our binoculars, and set off to explore the enchanting state parks of Big Sur.

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2. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: Nature’s Masterpiece Unveiled

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
In the heart of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the captivating McWay Falls steals the spotlight with its majestic cascade.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Highlights
Location: Highway 1 at mile marker 36
Iconic Sight: McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall
Trails: Waterfall Overlook Trail, other picturesque trails winding through forests
Viewing Options: Hiking and car-side viewing of McWay Falls
Facilities: Accessible parking and restrooms, picnic areas
Camping: Available within the park
Fees: $10 entrance fee per car per day, camping $30/night

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is home to the iconic McWay Falls, a must-see 80-foot waterfall that cascades directly into the Pacific Ocean.

One of the most breathtaking destinations in Big Sur is McWay Falls, which is one of the only two waterfalls in California that fall directly into the ocean during high tide. ( Alamere Falls in Point Reyes is the other.)

To experience McWay Falls there are two ways to immerse yourself in its splendor. The first option is to embark on the wheelchair-accessible Waterfall Overlook Trail, a gentle half-mile hike leading from the parking lot to a bluff and overlook area.

Along this trail, visitors of all ages can enjoy coastal views and marvel at the magnificent McWay Falls as it gracefully descends onto the beach.

For those seeking a more leisurely approach, you can also admire this iconic waterfall from the comfort of your car.

A convenient pull-out on Highway 1 provides an unobstructed view of McWay Falls, allowing you to soak in its grandeur without breaking a sweat.

It’s a perfect opportunity to pause, take in the beauty of this natural wonder, and create lasting memories.

Beyond McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park offers a multitude of picturesque trails that wind through lush forests.

You can enjoy panoramic ocean views and miles of rugged coastline from the higher elevations along the trails east of Highway 1.

The park also features accessible picnic areas, such as the McWay Canyon day-use area, where you can enjoy a delightful picnic surrounded by nature’s tranquility.

Accessible parking and restrooms are conveniently located nearby, ensuring a comfortable experience for all visitors.

For those seeking a deeper connection with the park’s natural wonders, camping is available within Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, offering a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the serene ambiance and awaken to the sounds of nature.

Travel Tip: With an entrance fee of $10 per car per day, you gain access to this captivating park and enjoy its wonders until sunset. This fee grants you access to all California state parks until sundown. Day-use visitors can explore the park from 8 a.m. to sunset. The camping fee is $30/night.

Honoring Julia Pfeiffer Burns: The Woman Behind the Park

Julia Pfeiffer Burns, the remarkable namesake of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, embodied the spirit of Big Sur as a lifelong resident and rancher.

Known for her independent nature, she managed her family’s ranch and embraced a life of self-sufficiency. It wasn’t until her mid-forties that she entered into marriage.

Her zest for life was infectious, and she delighted in leading children on joyful adventures to what is now Pfeiffer Beach.

In 1924, the land that would later become the park was acquired by a former New York congressman. Julia left a lasting impression on the congressman’s wife, Helen, who insisted that the property be dedicated to Julia’s memory in their 1961 bequest of the land to the State of California.

This heartfelt tribute stands as a testament to Julia’s enduring legacy in the preservation of this natural paradise.

3. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park: Where Nature Embraces You

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
Within the ancient realm of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, towering redwood trees stand as majestic guardians, their silent strength inspiring awe and reverence.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Highlights
Nickname: “Mini Yosemite”
Landscape: Towering redwoods, streams, and dense greenery
Trails: Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View Overlook Trail, other trails through Redwood and Oak woodlands
Key Attractions: Pfeiffer Falls, Valley View Overlook
Camping: Available within the park, with premium riverfront sites
Fees: $10 daily fee per vehicle, camping $35 per night, premium sites $50 per night
Important Note: Separate from Pfeiffer Beach and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, affectionately termed as the “mini Yosemite,” is an embodiment of natural grandeur that offers visitors an unforgettable experience.

Within its expansive boundaries, spanning approximately 1,006 acres, this park’s splendid beauty mirrors the awe-inspiring magnificence of its famed counterpart, Yosemite.

The park’s landscape is dominated by towering redwoods, some estimated to be over a millennium old, such as the revered Colonial Tree. Meandering streams punctuate the dense greenery, creating a tranquil environment that invites you to soak in its serenity.

The park’s trails, which unfurl like ribbons of adventure through the dense Redwood and Oak woodlands, beckon to the adventurous spirit within us.

Among the myriad of trails, the Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View Overlook Trail stand out as premier attractions.

This forked trail presents a delightful conundrum to explorers – take the left fork and ascend another 300 feet to the Valley View Overlook. Here, a panoramic view of the Big Sur River Valley, Point Sur, and Andrew Molera State Park unfold in a breathtaking tableau.

The vista showcases the Big Sur Valley and the Pacific Ocean’s mesmerizing views, making it a perfect spot to pause and immerse oneself in the grandeur of nature.

If you choose to follow the other fork, a scenic route awaits, leading to the Pfeiffer Falls. This 60-foot waterfall cascades with raw power and grace, embodying the park’s untamed beauty.

The Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park’s heartbeat lies in the robust Big Sur River that courses through it, enhancing the park’s allure.

For those seeking an immersive experience, the Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground offers an ideal spot to camp under the star-studded sky, surrounded by the rustling leaves of the redwoods. The camping fee is $35 per night, with premium riverfront sites available for $50 per night.

Walking among these towering coastal redwoods in the southernmost part of the California coast is an extraordinary experience, one that lingers long after your journey home.

With each visit to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, nature unfurls her arms in a warm embrace, offering us a sanctuary where we can escape, explore, and appreciate the splendor she has to offer.

Travel Tip: For a daily fee of $10 per vehicle, visit Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park from 8 a.m. to sunset. This pass also allows access to all California state parks for the day. Please park in designated areas only. Enjoy a picnic by the Big Sur River in one of the many family picnic spots.

Please note that Pfeiffer Beach is not affiliated with Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and they are managed by separate entities. The entrance fee to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park does not grant access to Pfeiffer Beach. Additionally, it’s important to distinguish that Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a distinct park on its own.

4. Andrew Molera State Park: Unveiling Big Sur’s Untamed Splendor

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
Andrew Molera State Park invites you to embark on a journey of exploration and discovery.
Andrew Molera State Park Highlights
Park Size: Largest state park in Big Sur
Ecosystems: Coastal bluffs, sandy beaches, meadows, hills
Wildlife: Habitat for countless bird species
Trails: A variety of trails for hikers and bikers, from easy to strenuous
Historical Significance: Molera Ranch House Museum
Camping: Unique hike-in campground
Beach: Picnic spot and seasonal footbridge
Visitor’s Tip: Pack out what you pack in to maintain park cleanliness
Fees: $10 daily vehicle fee, $30/night standard campsite

Andrew Molera State Park, the largest state park in Big Sur, serves as an astonishing mosaic of diverse ecosystems. From sweeping coastal bluffs to gentle sandy beaches and from expansive meadows to secluded hills, this park offers a breathtaking palette of natural wonders.

This less frequented gem of Big Sur allows you to explore its splendor with a profound sense of solitude, making it a haven for adventure and nature enthusiasts alike.

A paradise for bird watchers, Andrew Molera State Park offers a bustling habitat for countless bird species. This wildlife spectacle adds an extra dimension to the park’s allure, providing an enchanting symphony of bird calls as a background score to your exploration.

The park boasts a myriad of trails, each with its own unique charm and challenge. The Bluffs Trail, a picturesque 3.5-mile round trip, winds along the beach, offering stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.

The Creamery Meadow Trail, an easy 2-mile round trip, serves as a popular route for hikers and bikers alike, leading directly to the beach via a seasonal footbridge over the robust Big Sur River.

For those seeking a more strenuous endeavor, the Panorama Trail, exclusively for hikers, extends 1.3 miles one way.

While steep and demanding, this trail rewards with a breathtaking vista that encompasses a panoramic view of the surroundings, including a unique traverse through a pygmy redwood forest. This trail truly encapsulates the park’s rich biodiversity and impressive landscape.

Adding a historical dimension to your visit, the Molera Ranch House Museum offers a glimpse into Big Sur’s past.

Situated near the river crossing and Ventana Wildlife Society Discover Center, it provides an opportunity to experience what life was like in Big Sur a century ago. Open for visitors during peak season on Saturdays from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., it’s a worthwhile stop in your exploration of the park.

The Andrew Molera Trail Camp, a unique hike-in campground, provides an immersive experience for camping enthusiasts.

Campers park in the day-use parking lot and hike about a quarter-mile to the campground, located in a serene meadow near the Big Sur River.

This picturesque setting provides a perfect spot for overnight stays, embedding you right in the heart of nature’s splendor.

Finally, the beach doubles as a delightful spot for a picnic. Just remember the park’s golden rule – pack out what you pack in! Ensuring we leave no trace behind helps preserve the natural beauty of this ‘hidden’ treasure of Big Sur for future generations.

So come, explore, and lose yourself in the majestic grandeur of Andrew Molera State Park.

Travel Tip: For a daily fee of $10 per vehicle, visit Andrew Molera State Park from 8 a.m. to sunset. Standard campsite: $30/night .

5. Limekiln State Park: An Encounter with History and Serenity

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
The waterfall at Limekiln State Park – where nature’s melody echoes in the lush wilderness: Photo by D.j. Dowdy
Limekiln State Park Highlights
Location: Southernmost state park in Big Sur
Key Attractions: Tall Redwoods in three unique canyons, 100-foot Limekiln Falls, Historic Limekiln Furnaces
Trails: Limekiln Falls Trail (out-and-back trail leading to the waterfall), Limekiln Trail (takes you to the historic lime kilns), Hare Creek Trail (serene stroll along the creek under redwoods)
Unique Aspects: Less crowded, offering tranquility and solitude. Historical significance with preserved lime kilns from the 1800s.
Travel Tips : Follow the trail signs. Be ready for uphill walking and scrambling over fallen trees.

Located in the southernmost region of Big Sur, Limekiln State Park is a hidden treasure offering a peaceful retreat amongst towering redwoods.

Enveloped by the soothing soundtrack of Limekiln Creek’s waters, this park has the distinction of being one of Big Sur’s quieter sanctuaries.

An outdoor enthusiast’s haven, Limekiln is defined by three canyons, each presenting unique scenery and an enchanting network of trails that wind through redwood clusters.

These paths offer a range of pleasant and moderately challenging hikes, making Limekiln a great place for all skill levels.

A highlight of the park is the Limekiln Falls Trail. This out-and-back trail takes you on a shaded journey through redwood groves alongside the babbling Limekiln Creek.

Along this route, prepare to cross over the creek multiple times – a part of the adventure that might leave your feet a touch damp.

The reward for your explorations? An awe-inspiring 100-foot waterfall named Limekiln Falls that cascades down a limestone canyon wall. In a good year, you’ll witness the might of a single, potent water mass, while in drier times, a split waterfall presents an equally captivating sight.

One of Limekiln’s unique characteristics is its historical significance. The park houses remnants of four large lime kiln furnaces from the 1800s, used to purify lime for cement.

This cement was crucial to the construction and development of San Francisco. Today, the kilns stand as testament to the past, providing an intriguing snapshot into the region’s history.

The Hare Creek Trail, although not featuring a significant endpoint, offers a delightfully peaceful stroll along the creek’s bank, under a canopy of redwoods.

With the local flora and fauna accompanying your walk, it’s an idyllic setting to unwind and keep an eye out for birds and wildlife.

Each of these facets intertwine to make Limekiln State Park an incredible destination for those seeking an intimate encounter with nature and history.

Travel Tip: Always follow the trail signs and guidelines for a safe and enjoyable experience.

6. Garrapata State Park: A Coastal Oasis with Breathtaking Views and Exquisite Wildflowers

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
Lost in the enchanting maze of the Calla Lily Valley at Garrapata State Park.
Garrapata State Park Highlights
Location: Along the Big Sur Coast
Key Attractions: Garrapata Beach, Doud Creek, Garrapata Creek, Soberanes Canyon, Bluff Trail, Soberanes Point and Whale Peak, Calla Lily Valley
Trails: Soberanes Point and Whale Peak Trail (1.8 miles, easy), Garrapata State Park Bluff Trail (0.6 miles, easy), Soberanes Canyon Trail (1.25 miles, out-and-back trail)
Unique Aspects: Less conspicuous signage making it a hidden gem, dangerous surf (no swimming), splendid views of the Pacific Ocean, seasonal wildflowers including the Calla Lily Valley, and potentially windy conditions requiring layered clothing.
Travel Tips: Park near mile marker 19 for beach access. Be prepared for potentially windy and chilly conditions, pack accordingly. Adhere to safety warnings regarding surf.

Garrapata State Park is a hidden gem nestled along the Big Sur coast, known for its rugged shoreline, secluded beaches, and stunning view of the Soberanes Canyon.

This park may be somewhat elusive, given its less apparent signage, but its beauty is unequivocal and the journey is undoubtedly rewarding.

Upon entering the park, prepare to be embraced by the grandeur of nature. Start your adventure at Garrapata Beach, accessible from mile marker 19.

Walk down the stairs to a beautiful strip of sand where you can admire the waves crashing onto the rocks and bask in the sun.

Amid the rocky cliffs and a delicate arrangement of wildflowers in season, Doud Creek gracefully tumbles down the cliff onto the beach, adding to the picturesque scenery. At the southernmost point, Garrapata Creek etches a path through the sand as it journeys toward the ocean.

Do remember, however, that the surf is too dangerous for wading or swimming.

Continuing on, the bluff trail atop the stairs leads you to an exceptional vantage point for panoramic views of the vast Pacific Ocean.

A visit during a winter storm allows one to witness and appreciate the sheer power of the ocean from a safe distance.

Garrapata State Park also boasts fantastic hiking trails, perfect for all levels of fitness. The Soberanes Point and Whale Peak trail is a crowd-pleaser. At just 1.8 miles and rated as easy, this trail offers breathtaking views of the water, especially from Whale Point. Keep an eye out for marine life – it’s an ideal spot for wildlife viewing.

The Garrapata State Park Bluff Trail, a 0.6-mile out-and-back path that hugs the Pacific Coast, is another must-do. It offers unbeatable coastal views and would be an ideal romantic trail for a sunset walk.

However, do pack layers, as it can get windy and chilly, especially during off-peak seasons.

Another highlight is the Calla Lily Valley, which peaks in January and February and is truly a sight to behold. This park is also home to an array of succulents and wildflowers, contributing to the park’s vibrant and diverse flora.

The Soberanes Canyon Trail, though partially closed, takes hikers to the edge of the coastline and offers another stunning view.

Garrapata State Park’s breathtaking views, varied flora, and overall tranquility make it a paradise for nature enthusiasts. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a casual visitor, this coastal oasis is sure to leave you in awe.

7. Point Sur State Historic Park: A Beacon of History and Panoramic Ocean Views

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
Point Sur Lighthouse, standing tall as the sentinel of the sea.
Point Sur State Historic Park Highlights
Location: Located 19 miles south of Carmel along Highway 1
Key Attractions: Point Sur Lighthouse, Point Sur Naval Facility
Tours: Three-hour walking tours of the lighthouse are available year-round
Unique Aspects: The Lightstation sits 361 feet above the Pacific Ocean on a large volcanic rock. The former Point Sur Naval Facility was once part of a worldwide network of defensive listening stations tracking Soviet submarines.
Restoration: The Lightstation buildings are currently being restored.

Situated 19 miles south of Carmel along Highway 1, Point Sur State Historic Park is an essential stop for those seeking to explore California’s coastal history.

The park’s centerpiece, the Point Sur Lighthouse, perches 361 feet above the Pacific Ocean on a large volcanic rock, protruding into the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Stepping into Point Sur State Historic Park is like walking back in time. The lighthouse, which was first lit on August 1, 1889, has been in continuous operation since then. From 1889 to 1974, lighthouse keepers and their families resided on-site until the lighthouse was automated.

Now, Point Sur Lighthouse is the only complete, turn-of-the-century Lightstation open to the public in California, and it has earned its place on the National Register of Historic Places.

Visitors can delve into the park’s rich history through docent-led tours, offered year-round on weekends and seasonally on Wednesdays. These three-hour walking tours provide an in-depth look at the lighthouse’s storied past.

But the lighthouse isn’t the only fascinating aspect of Point Sur State Historic Park. In 1958, the Point Sur Naval Facility (NAVFAC) opened as part of a worldwide network of defensive listening stations tracking the movement of Soviet submarines.

It remains one of the few surviving Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) facilities and is the only one on the West Coast open to public interpretation. The NAVFAC offers its own 90-minute tour on Saturdays and Sundays, immersing visitors in the secretive world of Cold War-era surveillance.

The park’s dedication to preserving its history is evident in the ongoing restoration efforts by State Parks staff, volunteers, and the Central Coast Lighthouse Keepers. This collective endeavor ensures that the historical integrity of the park remains intact while making it accessible to the public.

Point Sur State Historic Park is not just a stroll through history; it’s a unique destination that offers breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and a deeper understanding of California’s coastal heritage.

Whether you’re a history buff, an ocean lover, or just passing through Highway 1, this park is sure to leave an indelible impression.

8. Point Lobos State Natural Reserve: A Sanctuary of Natural Wonders

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
The secluded paradise of China Cove in Point Lobos
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve Highlights
Location: Along Highway One, a few miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea
Key Attractions: China Cove, Gibson Beach, Bird Island, Cypress Grove Trail, South Shore Trail, Sea Lion Point, Bird Island Trail
Wildlife: Harbor seals, seabirds, sea lions, sea otters, marine life, unique flora
Trails: Point Lobos Loop Trail (5 miles, moderate), Bird Island Trail (0.8 miles, easy), Cypress Grove Trail (0.8 miles, easy), Sand Hill Trail and Sea Lion Point (0.4 miles, easy), Carmelo Meadow Trail to Granite Point Trail
Unique Aspects: Considered as the “crown jewel” of California’s state parks, only 2 naturally occurring Cypress Tree groves in the world, limited parking capacity, fragility of some areas restricting access (e.g., China Cove beach)
Travel Tips: Park inside the reserve or on the shoulder of Highway 1. Arrive early or later in the afternoon to secure parking. Limited time visitors can choose shorter trails like Bird Island Trail.

The Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, fondly known as the “crown jewel” of California’s state parks, is a magnificent coastal sanctuary that offers an enchanting mix of terrestrial and marine wildlife, rugged shorelines, and spectacular views.

Nestled a few miles south of Carmel-by-the-Sea along Highway One, this reserve is a beacon of natural beauty that attracts nature lovers from all over the world.

As you venture into the reserve, you’ll be greeted by the remarkable sight of China Cove, a sheltered nook adorned with jade-green waters and a sandy beach.

Despite its delicate ecosystem prohibiting access to the beach itself, the stunning view from Bird Island Trail is unforgettable.

Don’t forget to look out for the adorable harbor seal moms nursing their newborn pups on the beach if you visit during spring!

For a change of scenery, you can also head over to Gibson Beach, accessible via a steep set of stairs, and Bird Island, a haven for nesting seabirds during spring and summer. Make sure to bring your binoculars or a camera with a zoom lens for the best experience!

With a selection of trails catering to varied capabilities and inclinations, the reserve provides diverse hiking experiences. One of the highlights is the Cypress Grove Trail, a dreamlike 0.8-mile journey amid the gnarled Monterey cypress trees that captivates visitors.

One unique feature of Point Lobos is the presence of one of the only two naturally occurring Cypress Tree groves in the world, an interesting sight for nature enthusiasts.

This grove is a living testament to time, housing the oldest specimens of Monterey Cypress, some of which have reached the ripe age of almost 300 years. These trees have a unique occurrence, appearing naturally only here and at Crocker Grove in Del Monte Forest, located along the famous 17-Mile Drive.

For a longer trail, the Point Lobos Loop, a five-mile moderate trail, offers spectacular sea views and opportunities to view birds, wildlife, and marine life.

If you’re lucky, you might spot sea otters resting on floating seaweed islands in the coves along the South Shore Trail or see sea lions basking in the sun at Sea Lion Point.

And don’t forget to check out the tide pools along the South Shore Trail, filled with colorful starfish, anemones, and urchins!

Travel Tip: The entrance fee for Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is $10 per vehicle. However, be prepared to arrive early or later in the afternoon, as parking within the reserve is extremely limited. Alternatively, you could park on the shoulder of Highway 1 and walk into the park.

Relax on State Beaches in Big Sur

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
A dramatic trio – the dance of waves, mountains, and the sandy beach in Big Sur.

The coastal allure of Big Sur is simply unforgettable. Its beaches, with their stunning blend of sand, towering cliffs, and the all-encompassing Pacific, have always been my personal sanctuary.

Over the years, I’ve found myself returning to these beaches, drawn by their tranquility and the way they allow me to reconnect with nature.

Whether it’s sunbathing with a good book, exploring the wonder of tidepools, or sharing a picnic with loved ones to the harmonious soundtrack of crashing waves, there’s a corner of Big Sur’s coastline that’s become a part of my story.

Now, I’d like to invite you along as we explore some of the most captivating state beaches in this breathtaking region. Let’s let the rhythm of the waves and the whisper of the coastal breeze guide our journey.

9. Pfeiffer Beach

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
Me, at Pfeiffer Beach, with nature’s own doorway framing the horizon

An iconic part of Big Sur, Pfeiffer Beach boasts purple-hued sands and distinctive rock formations.

The arch-shaped opening in the offshore rocks is an unforgettable sight, especially when the sunset paints the sky and casts its light through the hole.

For me, this spot is synonymous with the extraordinary charm of Big Sur’s coastline.

10. Sand Dollar Beach

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
Where the Pacific caresses the shore – a tranquil moment at Sand Dollar Beach

The largest unbroken stretch of sand in Big Sur, Sand Dollar Beach, offers stunning seaside views. It’s also a treasure trove for beachcombers; I’ve found beautifully intact sand dollars during my own explorations, a simple joy that keeps drawing me back.

Sand Dollar Beach is managed by the Forest Service as part of the Los Padres National Forest and is the longest Big Sur beach. There is a fee to park in the parking lot, but you can park along the side of the road for free.

11. Jade Cove

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
Unearthed treasures of nature at Jade Cove: Photo by Bart Keagy

Famous for its deposits of jade, Jade Cove offers a unique beachcombing experience. Every visit here is an exciting treasure hunt for me as I try to spot the greenish gemstone among the pebbles.

12. Andrew Molera Beach

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
A serene sunset at Andrew Molera Beach – where sky and sea dance in harmony.

Tucked within Andrew Molera State Park, this beach is a hidden gem. I love the peaceful walk along the trail that leads to the beach, and the views of the Big Sur River meeting the ocean waves are absolutely stunning.

13. Limekiln Beach

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
A symphony of colors as the sun bids adieu at Limekiln Beach : Photo by Lars Mikkelsen

Situated inside Limekiln State Park, Limekiln Beach provides a uniquely serene setting.

One of my fondest memories is watching the gentle waves lap against the shore, framed by the dense greenery of the park.

14. McWay Falls Beach

Although inaccessible to the public, McWay Falls Beach can be admired from the overlook at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Seeing the cascade spill directly onto the pristine beach below is a sight that never fails to awe me.

I hope you get to enjoy these beaches as much as I have during my many virtual journeys through Big Sur!

Admire the Waterfalls in Big Sur

Waterfalls are nature’s grand spectacle; the power and grace of water cascading down cliffs and rocks is an awe-inspiring sight.

Big Sur, with its diverse terrain, hosts some of the most beautiful waterfalls you’ll ever encounter. Each one offers a unique spectacle, and getting to them is often an adventure in itself.

In my own experiences, these treks through the wilderness to reach the falls have been just as rewarding as the destination.

Prepare to be captivated by these flowing wonders as we venture into Big Sur’s waterfall trails. From the thunderous roar of water crashing down to the peaceful ambiance that surrounds these natural wonders, each waterfall has a story to tell. And I can’t wait to share mine with you. Let’s dive in!

15. McWay Falls

A crown jewel of Big Sur, McWay Falls is an extraordinary 80-foot waterfall plunging directly into the ocean – a rare and stunning sight. My inaugural view of the sun-kissed falls cascading into the azure ocean remains an unforgettable picturesque memory.

16. Pfeiffer Falls

Tucked away in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Pfeiffer Falls may be less dramatic than McWay but is equally bewitching. A hike through a redwood-dense trail leads you to this tranquil waterfall. Its gentle murmur and surrounding serenity created a soothing ambience during my visit.

17. Limekiln Falls

Nestled in Limekiln State Park, this waterfall is a delightful discovery. Though it necessitates a hike, the trail through spectacular redwood groves is worth every step. The ethereal sight of sunlight piercing through the verdant canopy to dance on the cascading water left me spellbound.

18. Salmon Creek Falls

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
The captivating spectacle of Salmon Creek Falls – nature’s poetry in motion

Easily visible from Highway 1, Salmon Creek Falls offers an accessible retreat of serenity. Despite its visibility, the waterfall provides a sense of seclusion.

My top pick for visiting is early morning when the day’s first light creates a shimmering spectacle on the tumbling water.

Enjoy Top Hiking Trails in Big Sur

The allure of Big Sur extends far beyond its picturesque coastline and dramatic cliffs; it is a hiker’s paradise, with an abundance of trails that meander through enchanting redwood forests, along rugged coastal paths, and up to sweeping viewpoints.

Each trail in Big Sur has its own unique charm, offering opportunities to immerse oneself in the tranquillity of nature, spot wildlife, or simply enjoy a brisk workout in the great outdoors.

I’ve often found that lacing up my boots and hitting these trails is the best way to truly experience the beauty of Big Sur.

So whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just getting started, let’s explore some of the top hiking trails in Big Sur that promise an unforgettable adventure.

19. Sea Lion Point Trail, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

This easy, brief 0.6-mile loop offers the quintessence of Point Lobos’ charm in a short time. Enjoy the chorus of barking sea lions, the allure of otters and seals, and picturesque waterscapes that come alive during fog-free weather. The sight of spring wildflowers enriches the scenic trail.

20. Bird Island Trail, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

This 0.8-mile loop trail showcases breathtaking natural gems including the jade-green China Cove and navy-blue Gibson Beach. Enjoy the spectacle of harbor seals and their pups, and vibrant birdlife. The trail also offers a descent to Gibson Beach for an invigorating cold water dip.

21. Soberanes Canyon and Rocky Ridge Loop Trail, Garrapata State Park

This strenuous 4.4-mile trail takes you through lush redwoods, across Soberanes Creek, and offers a stunning display of wildflowers. The challenging ascent on Rocky Ridge rewards you with panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean and verdant valleys. Tip: Go counter-clockwise for a less demanding climb and better ocean views.

22. Bluffs Trail via Creamery Meadow Trail, Andrew Molera State Park

A varied 5.4-mile trail with captivating views of the ocean, sand, and inland valleys. The trail meanders through a meadow, along coastal bluffs, and offers an optional spur down to the beach. The trail can be extended to include Panorama and Ridge Trails for a strenuous 8.8-mile loop.

23. Buzzard’s Roost, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

This moderately strenuous 3-mile trail takes you through a stunning redwood landscape, where you can spot yellow banana slugs and blue Steller’s jays. Enjoy views of the river and an ocean view from the summit. Take the loop counter-clockwise for an easier climb.

24. Pfeiffer Beach Walk

Explore the famous purple sands of Pfeiffer Beach on this easy 2-mile round trip. Admire Keyhole Rock, the purple sand crystals, and keep an eye out for migrating whales. Ideal for a sunset stroll, especially in February when the sun streams through the keyhole.

McWay Falls Overlook Trail, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

This short, easy 0.5-mile trail is home to Big Sur’s iconic McWay Falls. Experience the sight of the waterfall cascading into a picturesque cove. Enjoy bird-watching opportunities and seasonal wildflowers. The trail is most visually rewarding in the afternoon and during the golden hour.

Visit Spectacular Lighthouses in Big Sur

From the whispers of the past to the panoramas of the Pacific, lighthouses in Big Sur are more than mere beacons for vessels; they are captivating symbols of history and resilience.

Standing tall against the might of the ocean and weathering storms and time, these lighthouses have witnessed Big Sur’s transformation over centuries.

With each visit, I find a certain tranquility enveloping these structures – a soothing assurance that no matter how stormy life gets, we too can stand strong and keep our light shining.

Let’s explore the spectacular lighthouses of Big Sur, each with a story of its own.

25. Point Sur Lighthouse

A sentinel perched on a dramatic volcanic rock, Point Sur Lighthouse stands out as one of my favorite landmarks in Big Sur.

Since 1889, it has been guiding mariners with its comforting light. The journey to the lighthouse, involving a gentle climb and panoramic ocean views, is as delightful as the destination itself.

Every time I visit, I feel a deep connection to its history, its function, and its rugged, stunning surroundings.

26. Piedras Blancas Lighthouse

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
Piedras Blancas Lighthouse – a beacon of serenity amidst the turbulent tides.

Nestled near San Simeon, the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse is another gem that adds to Big Sur’s coastal charm.

I love taking the guided tour here, which vividly brings to life the lighthouse’s rich history and the important role it plays in maritime navigation.

The surrounding wildlife, especially the elephant seals lounging on the nearby beaches, always make the trip even more worthwhile.

Capture Big Sur: Top Photo Spots

Big Sur offers countless opportunities to create stunning visual memories.

There’s a postcard-perfect moment waiting at every turn, and as someone who has spent considerable time capturing these moments, I can attest to the region’s abundant photographic potential.

From McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park to the stunning sunset views from Nepenthe, prepare your camera for some breathtaking shots.

Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second

Marc Riboud

27. Bixby Creek Bridge

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
The architectural marvel of Bixby Creek Bridge, standing strong against the striking Big Sur backdrop.

Few structures in Big Sur are as iconic as the Bixby Bridge. Its architectural magnificence, contrasted against the rugged cliffs and expansive ocean, makes for a truly memorable photograph.

Photography is the art of making memories tangible.

Destin Sparks

28. Vista Point

Vista Point is aptly named for its exceptional views. From here, you can see the Bixby Bridge in all its glory, set against the backdrop of rolling hills and the shimmering Pacific.

29. Ragged Point

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
Ragged Point: where the rugged terrain meets the soft whispers of the Pacific

Ragged Point, often known as the “Million Dollar View,” offers sweeping vistas of the coastline and the deep blue ocean below. It’s a place that continues to captivate me, no matter how many times I’ve seen it.

There are no forms in nature. Nature is a vast, chaotic collection of shapes. You as an artist create configurations out of chaos. You make a formal statement where there was none to begin with. All art is a combination of an external event and an internal event… I make a photograph to give you the equivalent of what I felt. Equivalent is still the best word.

Ansel Adams

30. Hurricane Point

Another unmissable spot is Hurricane Point. On clear days, you can see for miles up and down the coast.

31. Partington Cove

Lastly, the view from the trail leading to Partington Cove is one of Big Sur’s hidden gems. The cove itself, framed by towering trees and cliffs, offers a different perspective on the Pacific’s vastness.

32. Soberanes Point

A serene sanctuary where land meets the sea, Soberanes Point is a photographer’s dream. The spot offers remarkable views of the craggy cliffs tumbling into the ocean and vibrant wildflowers swaying in the coastal breeze.

I can never resist taking a moment here to breathe in the salty air and watch the waves crash against the rocks.

The serene stillness and awe-inspiring landscapes make Soberanes Point an exceptional addition to your photographic journey through Big Sur.

33. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Overlook

The overlook at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park offers a stunning panorama of the Pacific Ocean, McWay Falls, and the rugged cliffs that make Big Sur so breathtaking.

Every time I’ve visited, I’ve been in awe of how the landscape changes with the light. As photographer Destin Sparks once said, “Photography is the story I fail to put into words.”

34. Nepenthe

The views from Nepenthe, a restaurant nestled high up in the cliffs of Big Sur, are nothing short of spectacular.

With sweeping views of the coastline and breathtaking sunsets, it’s a place that truly embodies the words of Elliott Erwitt: “To me, photography is an art of observation.

It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place.”

35. McWay Falls

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
A celestial ballet over McWay Falls, where the stars align to illuminate this natural wonder.

McWay Falls is a spellbinding waterfall that plunges about 80 feet directly into the Pacific Ocean. It’s one of the most iconic views in Big Sur and a sight I’ve been fortunate enough to capture multiple times.

As Ansel Adams once said,

You don’t take a photograph, you make it

Ansel Adams

– this is a place where you can truly create something extraordinary.

36. Pfeiffer Beach

There’s something undeniably captivating about Pfeiffer Beach. Its distinctive purple sand, the large rock formation with a natural arch in the middle, and the enchanting sunsets all come together to create a photographer’s paradise.

As Diane Arbus said,

A picture is a secret about a secret, the more it tells you the less you know.

Diane Arbus

This beach, with its mystery and charm, allows for such secrets to unfold.

37. Point Sur Lighthouse

Finally, the historic Point Sur Lighthouse offers a unique blend of architectural and natural beauty. Set against the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean, it’s a stunning testament to Big Sur’s maritime past.

In the words of Bresson,

Of all the means of expression, photography is the only one that fixes forever the precise and transitory instant. We photographers deal in things that are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished, there is no contrivance on earth that can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory. The writer has time to reflect. He can accept and reject, accept again; and before committing his thoughts to paper he is able to tie the several relevant elements together. There is also a period when his brain “forgets,” and his subconscious works on classifying his thoughts. But for photographers, what has gone is gone forever.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

And so, we capture these timeless spots in our photographs, preserving their essence in our memories.

Uncover Hidden Gems: Unique Things to Do in Big Sur

Big Sur isn’t just about the natural beauty; it’s also about uncovering unique experiences that make your trip memorable.

My personal favorites range from browsing the unique selections at the Henry Miller Memorial Library to witnessing the monarch butterfly migration at Andrew Molera State Park.

Big Sur holds numerous unique experiences that I’m excited to share with you.

38. Visit the Henry Miller Memorial Library

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
Henry Miller Memorial Library

Tucked away amidst the wilderness of Big Sur, the Henry Miller Library is a hidden gem that invites you into a world of literature and art.

Dedicated to the renowned American author, this offbeat spot is not just a library but a cultural hub that hosts a series of events, including concerts, workshops, and film screenings.

Stepping into the library feels like entering a time capsule, with Miller’s books and paintings bringing to life the artistic spirit of Big Sur.

A visit here is not just a literary treat but an immersion into the culture and ethos of the region.

39. Drive the Old Coast Road

An idyllic pause on the journey through Big Sur, where the mountains embrace the ocean in a sublime duet of nature’s grandeur.

The Old Coast Road, stretching from Bixby Creek Bridge to Andrew Molera State Park, provides a picturesque off-the-beaten-path journey.

This 10-mile route, once the thoroughfare for stagecoaches before the modern highway was constructed, has a rich history. Weather conditions often rendered the road impassable, making daily life challenging for early settlers.

Running alongside the Santa Lucia Mountains, Old Coast Road takes you through varied terrains – rolling hills, deep valleys, verdant redwood groves, and expansive forests.

It offers breathtaking water vistas and endless opportunities for photography. Apart from driving, it can also be explored on foot or by mountain bike.

Wildlife enthusiasts should be alert, as encounters with wild turkeys, deer, and bobcats are not uncommon.

Old Coast Road, a rugged dirt track with its share of ruts, potholes, and steep sections, is ideally suited for 4WD high-clearance vehicles and best navigated in daylight.

The drive is considered less challenging from north to south. It’s not recommended during or immediately after rainfall. Turnouts for photo stops are sparse, so take it slow to soak in the scenic beauty.

Big Sur’s Old Coast Road eBike Tour

Chasing the sunset on Big Sur’s Old Coast Road eBike Tour

If you’re seeking a break from driving and yearn for a unique, adventurous experience, consider the Old Coast Road eBike Tour in Big Sur.

This excursion provides you with an unparalleled opportunity to immerse yourself in the raw beauty of Big Sur’s backcountry. Enjoy panoramic ocean views, traverse through an enchanted redwood forest, and even meet local cattle – all while being guided by a knowledgeable local.

The powerful eBikes will smooth out the intense climbs, turning a challenging route into an enjoyable adventure.

Note: The road appears as Coast Road, not Old Coast Road, on Google Maps, but it’s visible as the track between Bixby Creek Bridge and Andrew Molera State Park.

40. Soak in the Natural Hot Springs at Esalen Institute

For an experience unlike any other, make a late-night visit to the natural hot springs at Esalen Institute. These cliff-side hot springs offer breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean.

Submerging in these healing waters under a starlit sky is an experience that feeds the soul and senses. Remember, reservations are required, and these popular moonlit baths often book up well in advance.

41. Explore the Jade Cove

In the southern part of Big Sur lies Jade Cove, a stunning shoreline known for its deposits of nephrite jade, a tough, semi-precious stone.

Beachcombing here turns into a treasure hunt as you search for pieces of jade washed ashore. Just remember to follow local regulations which prohibit the removal of large pieces without a permit.

Each of these experiences, as unique as they are exciting, reveals another layer of Big Sur’s charm.

From literary pursuits to scenic drives, soothing hot springs to beachcombing for precious stones, these adventures invite you to embrace the unexpected and to create your own Big Sur story.

42. Seek Solitude at Camaldoli Hermitage – A monastery in the mountains

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
The serene sanctuary within Camaldoli Hermitage, a place of peace and prayer amidst the beauty of Big Sur

In my quest for tranquility and introspection, I stumbled upon the Camaldoli Hermitage, a hidden sanctuary nestled in the Santa Lucia Mountains.

It was through the pages of Pico Iyer’s book that I first learned about this Benedictine monastery, and his words resonated deeply within me, inspiring a journey to experience its serenity firsthand.

As I ventured into the mountains, leaving behind the chaos of daily life, I discovered that Camaldoli Hermitage offered much more than religious devotion.

It became a refuge for those seeking respite from the ceaseless demands of modern existence – a chance to step away from the tumultuous balance sheet of life and find solace in silence and reflection.

The empty benches scattered throughout the monastery beckoned me to partake in nature’s grand banquet, inviting me to sit and gaze upon the vast expanse of the sea and mountains.

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
A tranquil oasis above the Pacific, where the world’s troubles fade against the majesty of nature

It was in those quiet moments, with the gentle breeze rustling through the trees, that I found peace. The monastery’s tranquility provided the ideal backdrop for self-reflection, introspection, and the art of writing.

In this space of contemplation, I realized that writing offered a means of communication and a channel for my thoughts to unfold.

It allowed me to react and respond to the world while providing the necessary distance and time for deeper reflection.

But above all, I felt a profound sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the opportunity to contemplate my existence in a world of abundance, where some still struggle to find sustenance.

It was a reminder to cherish the simple moments, to find solace in the present, and to use the gift of reflection to better understand ourselves and the world around us.

I left Camaldoli Hermitage with a renewed sense of purpose and a deep appreciation for the privilege of seeking solace and embracing the serenity of this hidden gem in the mountains.

It is a place I long to return to, to sit and write, to immerse myself in the beauty of nature, and to reconnect with the profound wisdom that silence and reflection offer.

Savor Big Sur: Local Cuisine and Dining Experiences

Part of what I love about traveling is tasting the local cuisine, and Big Sur offers some delightful culinary experiences.

Whether it’s a cozy meal by the fireplace at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, enjoying a slice of the famous Ambrosia Burger at Nepenthe, or a locally-sourced dish from the Sur House at Ventana, you’re in for a treat.

43. Nepenthe

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
The enchanting blue Pacific from Nepenthe, where the sea meets the sky and leaves you breathless.

Perched high on the cliffs with breathtaking panoramic views, Nepenthe offers a dining experience like no other. From the moment you step onto the expansive terrace, you’re enveloped in a sense of serenity.

Indulge in their renowned Ambrosia Burger, savoring each bite while gazing at the endless expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

As the sun dips below the horizon, casting a golden glow over the landscape, you’ll understand why Nepenthe has been a beloved dining destination for generations.

44. Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn

Step into the cozy embrace of Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, a rustic gem tucked away amidst towering redwoods. With its warm ambiance and crackling fireplaces, this historic inn offers a dining experience that feels like stepping back in time.

Relish in their delectable cuisine, featuring locally sourced ingredients and traditional recipes that pay homage to Big Sur’s heritage.

Whether you choose to enjoy a candlelit dinner or a leisurely breakfast, Deetjen’s is a place where memories are made.

45. Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn

For an exquisite dining experience, look no further than Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn. Perched on the edge of a cliff, this renowned restaurant offers breathtaking views of the rugged coastline.

Immerse yourself in the elegant atmosphere as you savor innovative dishes crafted with locally sourced, seasonal ingredients.

Each plate is a work of art, a celebration of flavors that harmonize with the natural beauty that surrounds you.

46. Big Sur Bakery

Indulge in the rustic charm of Big Sur Bakery, a beloved local spot that combines artisanal baked goods with exceptional cuisine.

Start your day with a freshly brewed coffee and a flaky croissant, or stop by for a leisurely lunch and savor their delicious wood-fired pizzas.

As you sit in the quaint outdoor courtyard, surrounded by vibrant flowers and the scent of freshly baked bread, you’ll feel a true sense of Big Sur’s laid-back charm.

47. Ventana Big Sur

Nestled within the tranquil Ventana resort, the restaurant at Ventana Big Sur offers a culinary journey that delights the senses.

With a focus on seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, their menu reflects the flavors of the region. From sumptuous seafood dishes to innovative vegetarian creations, every bite is a testament to their commitment to sustainable and flavorful dining.

Pair your meal with a glass of local wine and revel in the serene ambiance of this idyllic setting.

These are just a few of the remarkable dining experiences that Big Sur has to offer. Each restaurant showcases the unique flavors and ambiance that make this region a gastronomic paradise.

So, whether you’re seeking refined elegance or a cozy hideaway, let Big Sur’s local cuisine tantalize your taste buds and leave you with unforgettable memories of culinary delight.

Enjoy the Festive Spirit: Top Events and Festivals in Big Sur

Photo by Dakota Nicholas Cook

Big Sur’s events and festivals reflect the vibrant spirit of this coastal paradise. For a music lover like me, attending the annual Big Sur Folk Festival is a soul-lifting experience.

There’s also the Big Sur International Marathon for athletic travelers and the Jade Festival showcasing unique local artistry. Each event offers a different perspective of Big Sur’s lively community spirit.

48. Big Sur International Marathon

Lace-up your running shoes and join the excitement of the Big Sur International Marathon. This iconic race takes participants along one of the most breathtaking marathon routes in the world, winding through the scenic landscapes of Big Sur.

As you conquer the challenging course, you’ll be rewarded with awe-inspiring views of the coastline and the cheering support of fellow runners and spectators.

49. Henry Miller Memorial Library Events

The Henry Miller Memorial Library hosts a variety of cultural events throughout the year, including concerts, art exhibits, and literary gatherings.

This unique venue pays tribute to the renowned author Henry Miller, and its intimate setting amidst the redwoods creates a magical ambiance for artistic expression.

Immerse yourself in the creative energy of Big Sur and experience the vibrant cultural scene at this iconic library.

The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware.

Henry Miller

50. Big Sur Food and Wine Festival

Indulge in the culinary delights of Big Sur at the Big Sur Food and Wine Festival. This annual event brings together acclaimed chefs, winemakers, and food enthusiasts for a weekend of gastronomic indulgence.

Experience exquisite wine tastings, gourmet dinners, and culinary demonstrations set against the backdrop of Big Sur’s stunning natural beauty.

Let your taste buds be tantalized as you savor the flavors of the region and discover the artistry of food and wine pairing.

51. Esalen Institute Workshops and Retreats

The Esalen Institute, nestled on the cliffs of Big Sur, offers a wide range of workshops and retreats focused on personal growth, spirituality, and wellness.

From yoga and meditation retreats to creative arts and healing workshops, Esalen provides a nurturing environment for self-exploration and transformation.

Immerse yourself in the serene atmosphere and engage in transformative experiences that nurture the mind, body, and soul.

52. Big Sur Jade Festival

Celebrate the unique beauty and cultural heritage of Big Sur at the Big Sur Jade Festival. This lively event brings together artists, craftsmen, and enthusiasts to showcase the mesmerizing world of jade.

Explore stunning jade creations, learn about their significance in the region, and engage in workshops and demonstrations. Immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of the festival and discover the allure of this precious gemstone.

These top events and festivals in Big Sur offer opportunities to celebrate the region’s natural beauty, cultural richness, and creative spirit.

Whether you’re a runner seeking a challenging race, an art enthusiast looking for inspiration, a food lover craving gourmet experiences, or a seeker of personal growth and wellness, these events will immerse you in the vibrant tapestry of Big Sur’s community and leave you with unforgettable memories.

Where to Stay in Big Sur, California

52 Top Things to Do in Big Sur, California - A Guide, Travel Realizations
Creating precious memories with my daughter at the Big Sur Lodge

From luxury resorts to quaint cabins and campsites, Big Sur has something for every type of traveler. I’ve had the opportunity to experience a variety of accommodations here. From the majestic views at the Post Ranch Inn to the rustic charm of the Big Sur Campground and Cabins, I’ll guide you to the perfect place for your restful retreat.

Big Sur Lodge

Big Sur Lodge, nestled within Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, is a gem I’ve personally experienced. Surrounded by redwoods, it offers quiet, spacious rooms with private decks. From cozy interiors to on-site dining, my stay was a blend of comfort and nature’s charm. You’ll truly enjoy the authentic Big Sur ambiance here. Book a stay here.

Big Sur River Inn

The Big Sur River Inn holds a special place in my heart from my visits to Big Sur. Perfectly positioned along the river, it provides a unique comfort-meets-wilderness experience. Relaxing on their signature sun chairs by the river was a highlight of my stay, and their historic restaurant served delicious meals. It’s a charming haven for any Big Sur traveler. Book a stay here.

Cavalier Oceanfront Resort, San Simeon

For those with a leaning towards the southern part of Big Sur, San Simeon is an ideal location. Particularly, the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort is a splendid choice. The resort not only provides quick access to local attractions like Hearst Castle and the elephant seal rookery but also ensures a tranquil getaway due to its relative quiet and lack of crowds. During my own visit, I cherished the serenity and unspoiled beauty the area offered, making it a delightful part of my Big Sur journey. Book a stay here.

Hofsas House, Carmel-by-the-Sea

Set in the idyllic Carmel-by-the-Sea, Hofsas House offers a charming experience that blends European elegance with a small-town vibe. With a convenient location near the northern entrance of Big Sur, the hotel is an ideal base for exploring the area’s many attractions. The hotel’s location also offers easy access to local shops, art galleries, and restaurants, ensuring a well-rounded and delightful experience during your stay. I’ve stayed here during my visits and can vouch for its convenience and charm. Book a stay here.

Best time to visit Big Sur, California

The best time to visit Big Sur is during the spring and fall seasons when the weather is mild and the landscapes are most vibrant.

Spring brings blooming wildflowers and lush greenery, while fall offers pleasant temperatures and fewer crowds.

These times allow you to fully immerse yourself in Big Sur’s natural beauty and make the most of your unforgettable journey.

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Travel Realizations

The magic of Big Sur, California, is something that simply cannot be contained within a single visit. Its diverse landscape offers a unique blend of stunning views, adventurous trails, calming retreats, and much more.

Each corner of Big Sur is a story waiting to unfold, a moment waiting to be captured. No matter who you are – an avid hiker, a passionate photographer, or just someone seeking a peaceful getaway – Big Sur holds a special allure that calls to every wanderer’s soul.

From the roaring waterfalls and iconic coastal views to the inviting lodgings nestled in nature, the 52 experiences that I’ve shared only offer a glimpse of what Big Sur has in store.

The real joy of Big Sur lies in exploring it for yourself, in feeling the wind, hearing the waves, and seeing the golden sun dip below the horizon.

I hope my journey inspires you to carve out your own path in this corner of paradise and discover the wonders that make Big Sur such a beloved destination.

As you embark on your own Big Sur adventure, may each moment be a memory in the making. Until we meet again in another travel tale, safe travels, and happy explorations!

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Chirasree Banerjee

Hello. My name is Chirasree. I have been traveling for almost 11 years to places all over the world. I enter into a separate reality during my travels and enjoy the allure of escape from the mundane. I seek beauty through nature and human-made creations. Because beauty is powerful. I seek knowledge. I observe, absorb, and write about the places I visit and the profound realizations and inspirations that each place has to offer.