The Ultimate Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary & Best Viewpoints


Located on the Pacific Coast of Central California, Big Sur is a ravishing vacation spot stretching 90 miles alongside California Highway 1. It could also be brief however a Big Sur street journey packs an enormous punch full of unimaginable surroundings, a number of state parks, culinary delights, and exquisite seaside communities.

It’s no marvel the Big Sur Road Trip is commonly rated as probably the greatest street journey on the planet. With sea stacks and waterfalls, mountaineering trails, and ocean cliffs, this is likely one of the most lovely locations we’ve been to within the United States. It’s price spending greater than only a day driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco along this route. Take your time to see the sights and make sure you keep the evening.

Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary

big sur road trip itinerary - california roadside attraction

We have put collectively a Big Sur Road Trip itinerary highlighting the entire high viewpoints on California Highway 1, instructed resorts, and high sights. The Big Sur drive may simply be performed as a day journey from San Francisco, however, there’s a lot to see, that we suggest spending not less than 4 days driving alongside this stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway 1.

Big Sur is supposed to be taken slowly, so benefit from the experience, pullover when you may, or comply with a backroad to wherever it goes. Enjoy!

Note: Parks in Big Sur are consistently altering with openings and closures. Stay up to date at the California Government Website here. Highway 1 additionally generally has closures so make sure you follow this Website throughout your Big Sur itinerary for updates on any issues.

How to Get to Big Sur

To Get to Big Sur from San Francisco, comply with US 101 to 85 South after which merge onto 17 South till you come to freeway 1. You will then comply with Highway 1 all the way in which to Monterey the place you’ll start your drive alongside the Big Sur shoreline of the Pacific Coast Highway.

Our Big Sur Road Trip itinerary follows a route from north to south, however, it may be driving south to north from L.A. The official Big Sur drive begins in Carmel by Sea persevering south to San Simeon. If you need to explore the whole lot alongside California Highway 1 you may learn our Complete California Road Trip information right here: The Ultimate California Road Trip Itinerary

Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco

The two closest airports to Carmel by the Sea are San Francisco and San Jose Airport (they’re solely half-hour aside, so it doesn’t matter which one you fly into however San Jose is the closes). We suggest flying into San Francisco and spending just a few days within the metropolis you can begin your street journey by driving through the Golden Gate Bridge! Read our information at 72 Hours in San Francisco – A Local’s Guide to the City

We picked up our rental automobile at the airport and had the liberty to discover the town by automobile earlier than shifting on to Big Sur. You can’t actually get to Big Sur in case you don’t drive. There are some excursions and day journeys however in case you don’t have your individual automobile, we extremely suggest renting an automobile to expertise Big Sur to the fullest. Compare rental automobile costs at for quotes on automobiles.

Big Sur Road Trip – Points of Interest

Once you may have made your method to Carmel, we advise making a base both right here or in Monterey. Carmel is just a minute’s drive from Monterey and there are many issues to do in each communities.

We have total posts devoted to all of the issues to do in Monterey and Carmel however let’s break down just a few issues to see in each community to begin the street journey off proper. If you need to learn extra about them, you are able to do so at Things to do in Carmel by the Sea, California, 20 Great Things to do in Monterey, California

1. Monterey

California Roat Trip stop: Monterey
California Roat Trip cease: Monterey

Monterey is a vacation spot in its personal proper and is an implausible place to go to in California. I feel the highest attractive Monterey is the Monterey Bay Aquarium which is devoted to analysis and conservation to protect wildlife within the waters offshore.

It has interactive shows and an open sea exhibit displaying tons of species of marine life. It is positioned on Cannery Row which is a historic avenue full of purchasing and eating places.

big sur road trip itinerary sea lions
So a lot of marine life to see

When strolling alongside Cannery Row, you are feeling as in case you stepped again in time right into a John Steinbeck novel. This has saved the texture of when it was the sardine capital of the world. We additionally suggest getting on the water, you may go whale watching, kayaking, and see the resident sea lions and sea otters.

Read extra: 20 Great Things to do in Monterey, California

2. Carmel by the Sea

carmel by the sea

The first official ceases on our Big Sur street journey itinerary is Carmel by the Sea. It is a ravishing seaside group that is likely one of the most unique communities within the United States.

Clint Eastwood was the mayor of this lovely seaside city and there are many issues to do in Carmel to maintain you occupied for a day or two. Carmel actually does really feel like a storybook with fairy story cottages, artwork galleries, and beautiful ocean views.

We stayed at The Hideaway which had beautiful rooms and was positioned only half a mile from the seashore. It was centrally positioned in downtown Carmel so we may stroll to eating places in the evening making it an important base for the north portion of your Big Sur street journey. TripAdvisor /

3. 17 Mile Drive

big sur road trip - 17 mile drive carmel

There is a street journey inside a street journey right here the place you may take a detour to see 17-Mile Drive. We rented an e-bike to see this drive. It was a good way to keep away from site visitors and to have the ability to cease in any respect the well-known viewpoints together with the Ghost Tree and the Lone Cypress.

This stretch of the street goes by the unique group of Pebble Beach a place there are world-class golf programs, loads of seashores, and scenic views. Read all about our time right here: 17 Mile Drive – What to See on the Scenic Drive of Pebble Beach

4. Point Lobos State Park

road trip big sur - point lobos
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

The first designated cease on the Big Sur street journey is the Point Lobos State Park which is positioned simply outdoors Carmel by the Sea. This is likely one of the most picturesque stops alongside the Big Sur street journey positioned within the north finish of the drive.

There are mountaineering trails main out to scenic views, and it’s a scuba diving mecca for folks desirous to discover the underwater sea kelp forests. But Point Lobos State Natural Reserve can also be a chicken lovers’ paradise. Cost: $10 per automobile.

Whale Watching and History

big sur road trip itinerary whales

Make positive to take a look at Whalers Cove to be taught in regards to the 1800s whaling and abalone enterprise. Whales migrate by this route of the Pacific Ocean and it was as soon as a big whaling space. It’s darkish sure, however necessary to study all historical past. This small cabin was as soon residence to Chinese Fishermen and has now been transformed right into a museum.

To go to Point Lobos State Park there’s a $10 payment per automobile. You’ll discover that you simply are paying $10 loads on the Big Sur street journey as there’s a $10 payment per automobile to enter State Parks. If you propose visiting a number of the parks, we suggest a State Park Pass.

5. Garrapata State Park

things to do in big sur garrapata state park

Another one of many many California state parks positioned alongside this drive outdoors of a city heart is Garrapata State Park. This was one of our favorite stops and it is likely one of the finest free issues to do in Big Sur. With mountaineering trails main out to sea cliffs, Garrapata State Park gives lovely views of rock formations off the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

Located in Northern Big Sur, you’ll discover the pull-off between mile markers 17 and 18. When we have been there hardly anybody else was strolling the mountaineering trails. We felt like we had extraordinary views all to ourselves.

Note: Most of Garrapata State Park remains closed since the 2016 Soberanes Fire but the first 1.25 miles of the trail are open. Cost: Free

6. Bixby Creek Bridge

bixby creek bridge big sur things to do
Bixby Bridge spanning over the gorge at Bixby Creek

The Bixby Creek Bridge (usually simply known as Bixby Bridge) is essentially the most well-known of sights alongside our Big Sur Road journey and is a spot that you will need to not miss pulling over to snap some photographs. It’s been featured in numerous movies and most just lately,

The Bixby Bridge was the entrance and heart of the sequence Big Little Lies. At the opening of every episode, the Bixby Creek Bridge is featured.

California Road Trip Bixby Bridge

The Bixby Bridge is a scenic cease alongside the Big Sur shoreline with pull-offs on both facets. It is likely one of the most photographed spots within the space and with good purpose.

The bridge stands 260 ft above a deep canyon and was in-built in 1932. It actually is a feat of engineering and is price making a cease to absorb the beautiful views up the coast.

  • There is not any payment to park on the Bixby Bridge, however, parking is restricted. We went at dawn and no one else was there. We stopped once more at sundown and in mid-day and located it troublesome to seek out parking.

7. Andrew Molera State Park

Andrew Molero state Park Big Sur

If you might be searching for an extended sandy seashore in your Big Sur drive, Andrew Molera is an efficient cease. It can also be the most important of the various State Parks alongside this street journey so be ready to stroll.

For an enjoyable journey, take the seashore path strolling alongside a 1-mile lengthy route (1.6km) to the seashore the place you’ll wade by the waters of the Big Sur River. When the water is excessive, the park places seasonal footbridges.

8. Point Sur lighthouse

Continuing north, make your method to Point Sur Lighthouse, a part of the California State Park system. What was as soon as a necessary beacon of navigation for ships touring by the treacherous waters of the Pacific Ocean of the Central California Coast, can at present be seen on a guided strolling tour? Dating again to 1889, it gives lovely views from its coveted perch.

9. Big Sur River Inn & Restaurant

big sur river inn
The Ultimate Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary & Best Viewpoints 27

One of our favorite stops on our Big Sur street journey was the Big Sur River Inn and Restaurant. Located on the Big Sur River, the company can chill out on the Adirondak Chairs (or as residents of Ontario, Canada prefer to name them – Muskoka Chairs) and benefit from the peace and solitude.

This inn was the primary restaurant and resort within the space and is a must-stop. Dating again to 1888, the property was initially owned by early homesteader Jay Pheneger after it was bought by Michael and Barbara Pfeiffer. (I instructed you on the Pheiffer’s obtained round).

Big Sur River Inn & Restaurant is simply 2 miles away from Andrew Molera State Park makes for a great base to take pleasure in this State Park.

Make positive to peruse the memorabilia hanging on the partitions of the restaurant. It’s additionally a great place to refill on the fuel station, choose some meals from the normal retailer and seize ice cream on the ice cream truck.

This is a staple within the space and a great place for lunch in your Big Sur drive or to select up some snacks for the street on the General Store. Don’t neglect to seize an ice cream there as properly. It is to die for.

10. The Big Sur Roadhouse

The Big Sur Roadhouse was an important cease for lunch with meals comprised of native substances and a farm-to-table menu. The meals were implausible, however, we additionally beloved the relaxed environment.

Sure, the wealthy and well-known frequent this spot, however, it doesn’t really feel snooty or unwelcoming. In truth, it nonetheless has that hippie vibe that made it so particular in the first place.

11. Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer beach big Sur

One of our favorite locations to go to in Big Sur was Pfeiffer Beach. Located simply south of Big Sur Station, Pfeiffer Beach was a bit troublesome to seek out, however, fortunately, Viktor Elizarof wrote an important Photography Guide here to assist us to discover it!

How to get to Pfeiffer Beach: Take the cut-off at Sycamore Canyon Road and drive the rugged two-mile monitor right down to the seashore. Here you’ll discover the beautiful Dollar Beach and Keyhole Arch rock formation.

Pfeiffer Beach has an extended sandy seashore that could be a lovely stroll at sundown with superb views. It’s a large seashore with excessive sand dunes and the place Sycamore Canyon Creek empties into the Pacific Ocean.

Big Sur things to do Pfeiffer Beach Arch
Stunning Pfeiffer Beach at sundown

Be positive to take a stroll all the way in which alongside the seashore the place you’ll discover the purple sand that made Pfeiffer Beach well-known. The purple color was created from the manganese garnet rocks discovered within the sea cliffs. There is a $10 entrance payment to Pfeiffer Beach.

12. Stop in at Nepenthe

things to do in big sur view from nepenthe

This coast has drawn artisans for many years and no place reveals that greater than Nepenthe. Sitting excessively atop a sea cliff wanting over the Pacific Ocean and Santa Lucia Mountains, this has been the go-to spot for poets, vacationers, and artists.

There is nothing higher than sitting on its doors terrace to observe the sundown and picture who else has loved these views. It was as soon as owned by Rita Hayworth and Orsen Wells. Be positive to peruse the Phoenix Shop which includes native artists.

10. Ventana resort

where to stay in big sur ventana
The foyer of Ventana Resort

We stayed an evening in each Monterey and Carmel however we additionally stayed two nights at Ventana Resort. There is tenting and different lodging alongside the route as properly. Ventana Resort is pricey however additionally they provide tenting and Glamping so there are reasonably priced choices Read extra about Ventana right here at Glamping in Big Sur – Luxury in the Redwood Forest

Two Sides to Ventana

Access to the Amenities at Ventana while Glamping in Big Sur
Access to the Amenities at Ventana whereas Glamping in Big Sur

Ventana Resort – We camped within the luxurious tented camp among the many redwoods of Ventana resort after which spent the evening in one among its luxurious suites.

If you need to really feel what it’s preferred to dwell like film stars, splurge for an evening in this place. It makes for an important base to discover all the highest issues to do in Big Sur as properly. Read: Glamping in Big Sur – Luxury in the Redwood Forest

Ventana Big Sur An Alila Resort is an expensive keep-in Big Sur with decadent suites which have door showers, scorching tubs, and hammocks. If you want to splurge simply as soon as in your life, keep right here. Taylor Swift and Mark Zuckerberg have stayed at this resort.

11. Glamping at Ventana

Glamping in Big Sur

An extra reasonably priced to take pleasure in Ventana is to camp with your individual RV amongst its redwoods or guide an evening within the Glamping Tents. We stayed in one of many tents and so they equipped the whole lot from scorching water bottles to cooking utensils and the whole lot we would have liked to make SMores. You also can use the amenities when tenting on the campground and benefit from the eating places.

12. Post Ranch Inn

Post Ranch Inn is one other place to remain on your Big Sur street journey. It is a past unimaginable resort with personal suites, infinity swimming pools, and ridiculous luxury. (albeit rather less costly than Ventana) But if you will splurge wherever in your life, it would as properly be on this luxury drive in California. Enjoy the life of a film star for an evening or as you have fun on an anniversary or big day.

13. Henry Miller Memorial Library

The Henry Miller Memorial Library honors the author who was a long-time resident. It additionally options resident artists with dwell performances, and books on the market by native writers and it showcases native artists with rotating reveals. It is open from Wednesday to Saturday. Visit the website for events.

14. McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

what to do in big sur McWay Falls
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, McWay Falls

Located within the south of the Big Sur at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is McWay Falls. It is likely one of the hottest issues to do in Big Sur. Not to be confused with Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park (we’ll get to that in a minute), Julia Pfeiffer State Park was named after Julia Pfeiffer, an early pioneer within the space.

Take a brief half-a-mile hike (800 meters) to essentially the most lovely waterfall tumbling into the ocean.

McWay Falls is likely one of the most photographed websites in Big Sur and with good purpose. This excellent little cove plunges 80 ft/24 meters from a granite cliff. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a ravishing place for dawn or sundown. How do we all know? We went for each!

Cost to see McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – You guessed it, $10 per automobile. For dawn, we took an opportunity and didn’t pay. Nobody was there that early/

15. Redwood Forests of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

California redwoods big sur
See the redwoods of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

I’ve to say, the Pheiffer’s obtained round! (not in the way in which you might be considering). The Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park takes you to the southernmost place of the California Redwoods. Get off the coast and hike by the redwoods to Big Sur River.

There are 38 miles of trails at Pfeiffer Big Sur and also you’ll discover a number of the oldest and largest redwoods within the space right here.

If you are taking the George Trail, you’ll be capable of seeing a recreation of early homesteader John Pfeiffer’s 1884 cabin. Explore this half to witness the Santa Lucia Mountains rising from the Big Sur River Gorge and get misplaced on this 1,000-acre protection. Cost: $10 per automobile.

Limekiln State Park

Can’t get sufficient Redwoods? If you need to do some tenting, Limekiln State Park has campgrounds at Limekiln Creek and at a seashore. Learn in regards to the historical past of Big Sur right here as you uncover the Eighties business of lime harvesting.

Back then lime was taken from the ocean cliffs and processed in lime kilns fuelled by the huge redwoods. Boy am I glad they stopped this business. Although they didn’t have a lot of a selection, the lime and the redwoods have been exhausted and left in ruins. But nature has grown again across the iron-and-stone kilns connected.

Sand Dollar Beach

Just a little bit farther south is the longest seashore in Big Sur, Sand Dollar Beach. As properly as being the longest seashore, it’s a widespread spot for browsing. There is a close-by campground so if you wish to spend a while on the seashore, you may arrange a store simply down the street. Sand {dollars} will be discovered on the seashore at low tide making this a preferred tide pooling spot. Just be certain to look and don’t contact.

There is a $10 payment per automobile to go to Sand Dollar Beach.

Ragged Point

Watch our video of our drive right here.

If you might be searching for a break, cease in on the Ragged Point Inn and Resort which sits excessive on a sea cliff. Located north of San Simeon, Ragged Point was as soon a part of the Hearst Ranch.

The Ramey household arrange a store right here within the Nineteen Fifties and it has been handed right down to generations as at present the great-grandchildren run the resort and restaurant.

Even in case you are not staying at Ragged Point, be certain to take pleasure in a meal and take within the views of the California Coast. Make positive to cease at Piedras Blancas State Marine Reserve to see the resident elephant seals.

End at San Simeon

hearst castle swimming pool
Hearst Castle Swimming Pool – Road Trip California

San Simeon is the place the Big Sur Road Trip ends however the Pacific Coast Highway continues on to Los Angeles. You could make a base right here as there are many issues to do. This is residence to Hearst Castle, there are seashores, mountaineering trails, and as this whole street journey, loads of marine life and exquisite views of the Pacific Ocean. You can take tours of Hearst Castle starting at $30.

Read These different posts to assist plan your Big Sur street journey

Where to Eat On Your Big Sur Drive


Incredible Prix Fix meals and high-quality eating overlooking the Pacific Ocean from excessive atop sea cliffs. We even noticed whales within the distance throughout our breakfast right here. (be certain to convey your binoculars). This place is busy for dinner so reservations are advisable.


Food at Nepenthe in Big Sur California

Nepenthe is likely one of the hottest locations to eat due to its superior view. With views of the Santa Lucia Mountains to the Pacific, be certain so as to add it to your Big Sur itinerary. We beloved our meal and the environment of Nepenthe and extremely suggest having dinner right here.

Are there Budget Hotels in Big Sur?

Not actually, this space caters to the luxurious market except you might be tenting. The historic Big Sur River Inn is the closest to reasonably priced but it’s nonetheless dear. However, ti doesn’t attain the 1000s of {dollars} per evening of the Post Ranch in Ventana.

Fernwood Resort can also be a great possibility with quite a lot of tents, cabins, and a motel.

Camping in Big Sur

big sur camping ventana redwoods

Don’t fear, in case you don’t need to lay a fortune on a room for an evening, there’s loads of tenting alongside the Big Sur street journey. Some widespread campgrounds are Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground, Big Sur Campground and Cabins, and Riverside Campground and Cabins.

If you might be searching for reasonably priced lodging, take a look at resorts in Monterey and Carmel by the Sea. They are nice locations to make a base in your street journey.

Rent a Car – California is a state for driving so lease an automobile for your Big Sur drive. You can evaluate automobile rental costs at

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Frequently Asked Questions

What is one of the best times to go to Big Sur?

There is not any dangerous time to go to Big Sur. Being California it may be explored year-round. The peak season is from April to November with crowds being heaviest in July and August.

September to November remains to be lovely and less crowded and winter is an efficient time to seek out offers on lodging. We went in May and June and had few crowds and the climate was beautiful with sunny days and chilly evenings.

How lengthy do you have to spend in Big Sur?

You can see all of the viewpoints and attractions at some point, however, we suggest a 3-day Big Sur itinerary to actually discover it and to do all of the hikes, and benefit from the eating places and resorts.

Can you drive to Big Sur?

You can drive to Big Sur from Los Angeles or San Francisco. It is widespread to make a base in Carmel by the Sea or Monterey. It is a five-hour drive from Los Angeles and is 2 hour and half-hour from San Francisco.

Where does the Big Sur street journey begin and finish?

There is not any particular starting point for a Big Sur itinerary, however, the drive is usually thought of to start in Carmel by the Sea in case you are coming from San Francisco and ends close to the San Carpóforo Creek the north of San Simeon.

And these are the highest issues to do in Big Sur together with essentially the most lovely locations to go to. If you might be planning a visit to California, make sure you take a look at this beautiful stretch of freeway alongside the Pacific Coast.

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