McWay Falls in Big Sur
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The Epic California Big Sur Road Trip

Driving the scenic coastal route of California’s Highway 1 through Big Sur is an epic road trip that is a must! The coastline of Big Sur might be one of the most dramatic and magnificent drives because it literally hugs the cliffs offering the most insane views. A visit to California isn’t complete until you take to the road and experience a Big Sur Road Trip.

It is almost unbelievable that there is this much land, let alone on the coast in California that is untouched and not too different than it was 50 or 100 years ago. There are plenty of things to do in Big Sur with the chance to completely unplug and connect with its breathtaking beauty. And because there is no cell or wifi service along this route!

Although Big Sur is along the coast, don’t expect to access many of the beaches as it is a rugged coast with sheer cliffs. It makes for incredible vistas but there are only a few spots where your feet can touch the sand.

Get ready to witness jaw-dropping scenery mile after mile and be delighted around every turn. Keep reading to find out the best Big Sur stops to make on this stunning drive!

Tip: If you are looking for another epic road trip, explore The Best Northern California Coastal Road Trip that heads north along the California coast from Big Sur!

Where Is Big Sur?

The drive through Big Sur is a 90-mile stretch along California’s Pacific Coast that will take you on a beautiful coastal adventure. From Los Angeles, the beginning of Big Sur (San Simeon) is a 3.5 to 4-hour drive.

And if you are taking off from LA, make a stop for a few days in Paso Robles to discover 9 Best Wineries In Paso Robles, California !

And if you are coming from San Francisco, expect a 2-hour drive to Carmel where the drive through Big Sur begins from the north.

Big Sur is home to the most gorgeous and dramatic coastline...
Big Sur is home to the most gorgeous and dramatic coastline…

To put it plainly, Big Sur is smack dab in the middle of California along the Pacific Ocean and referenced as California’s Central Coast. Big Sur is an outdoor lover’s paradise with several state parks, the Ventana Wilderness area, and the Los Padres National Forest to explore.

Pfeiffer Beach is one of the few beaches you can walk out on in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Beach is one of the few beaches you can walk out on in Big Sur

And in case you were wondering, Big Sur is a region not really a city. It spans out over 90-miles and is something to be enjoyed and not rushed!

This guide can be done in one day if you get a very early start to your day minus a hike or two. But I do recommend taking 2-3 days to really see the area and get the opportunity to relax.

Note: To complete this epic road trip you will need a car as there isn’t public transportation. But that is the fun part as you can customize this itinerary and make stops when you want. If you are flying in to San Francisco or LA then look into getting the best rates for a car rental here!

History of Big Sur

Once you visit Big Sur, you will quickly be amazed at how incredible it is that a road with several bridges was constructed along this rugged coastline. Going back to the late 1800s, traveling to this region was quite difficult as there was no road.

In the early 1900s, a doctor who struggled to reach patients in Big Sur became frustrated and decided that a road needed to be built.

That road became the iconic Highway 1 or Pacific Coast Highway that stretches all the way from San Juan Capistrano in Southern California to Leggett in Mendocino County (north of San Francisco).

The section of Highway 1 from San Simeon to Carmel finished construction in 1932, taking 19 years to complete.

There are numerous places to stop and take in the alluring views!
There are numerous places to stop and take in the alluring views!

Highway 1 through Big Sur was built with the help of inmates from San Quentin Prison and countless locals. During the 1950s and 1960s, Big Sur became known as an area where hippies, artists, writers, and actors came to live in a very natural state and away from city life.

Over the years, Highway 1 has been closed at times due to landslides from storms. Since it is a small one lane each way road, even the littlest construction impairs getting through.

In May 2017, a major landslide shut down Highway 1 for 18 months so that workers could repair and reinforce the roads. Luckily it is back open (2019) and ready for you to hit the open road on this ultimate road trip.

Best Driving Route

There really isn’t a right or wrong way to drive the coast along Big Sur. You are either driving from the south or the north. I drove from south to north as I was coming from San Diego and then later returned the same way.

That being said, I do think starting in Carmel and driving south is a little better. There are more stops on the coastal side which is easier to get on and off to see various sights.

Driving across the Bixby Creek Bridge is a must on a Big Sur road trip!
Driving across the Bixby Creek Bridge is a must on a Big Sur road trip!

This can be extra beneficial in the busy summer months as it is difficult to turn from the opposite side of the road and almost impossible to do a U-turn in many places. No matter which way you are coming from, it will be a fantastic drive!

Big Sur Road Trip Essentials

Before you head out on this epic road trip, you need to know that there is no cell service along the 90-mile stretch of road. Don’t panic!

It is a little frustrating and nerve-racking to not be able to access maps on your phone. But it is a good excuse to go old school and bust out a detailed map of your route.

Who needs cell service with views like this?
Who needs cell service with views like this?

Not too far south of Carmel, all the way to San Simeon is where you can expect your phone to be useless other than to use the camera! The good news, you really can’t get lost as you just stay on Highway 1 the entire way.

The tricky part is knowing where to turn off to go to certain beaches, hikes, and lookout points. Get an early start no matter the day but especially on summer weekends.

And with heading out onto the road early, bring some patience and expect it to be a slow and enjoyable drive. It is a one-lane each way road that has numerous turnouts to stop and take photos.

Get an early start on your Big Sur road trip to see all the gorgeous coastline!
Get an early start on your Big Sur road trip to see all the gorgeous sights!

Bring some cash in case you want to purchase something from a small business that doesn’t take credit cards. You will also need cash to enter many of the parks.

There are no ATMs that I saw so plan accordingly. To get updates on road closures due to landslides, check here to get updated conditions before you start your road trip.

Additional Tips

Although driving through Big Sur can be done in either direction, I have listed stops and sights to see coming from the north moving south.

Where To Stay In Big Sur

This California Coast road trip is better if you can spend a few nights in Big Sur. Staying overnight in Big Sur is quite expensive unless you are interested in camping.

But there are options from glamping, luxury lodges, and spas to satisfy all your needs to relax and be pampered in style. A few places that stand out in making your trip very memorable are the following:

Big Sur Lodge

Ventana Big Sur

Post Ranch Inn

Rest your head at one of the many places to stay in Big Sur!
Rest your head at one of the many places to stay in Big Sur!

Camping Options

If you are looking for rustic or more natural settings to rest your head, the following offer cabins, camping, and even a treehouse experience!

Treebones Resort – Glamping options are abundant here with a choice to camp, stay in a yurt, luxury tent or even a bird’s nest!

Big Sur Campground & Cabins – Along the Big Sur River, you can stay in the cabins, bring your RV or tent camp here.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground – Both tent and RV campsites are available in a redwood shaded area.

Limekiln State Park & Campground

Big Sur is a splendid place to visit year round but especially so in the fall
Big Sur is a splendid place to visit year-round but especially so in the fall

Big Sur Road Trip Sights To See

1. Carmel

Carmel is a charming and small town on the Pacific Coast of California that is also referred to as “Carmel-by-the-Sea”. Carmel-by-the-Sea is the main village area where there is the most to see and do within walking distance.

It happens to be the northern gateway to Big Sur too. It isn’t part of Big Sur per se but it is a good place to spend the night and get an early start on a Big Sur road trip. Not to mention it is a wonderful city to spend some time in and explore with its close proximity to the nearby 17-mile drive, Monterrey and Santa Cruz.

Carmel has many cute shops, restaurants, a beautiful beach, and the Carmel Mission to visit during your stay. You can also see adorable Comstock cottages from the early 1900s that look almost like they could be in the English countryside.

There are even cottages named “Hansel & Gretal” that can be seen on Torres Street between 5th and 6th Avenues.

Interestingly, you will notice that they don’t have street addresses as the founding people wanted it. Instead, their mail all goes to the main post office.

And did you know that the actor Clint Eastwood not only lived here but was the mayor of Carmel? Yep, “Dirty Harry” led the town of Carmel as mayor from 1986 – 1988!

Tip: If you want to go for a bike ride and see stunning sections of coastline, then spend the day biking or driving the famous 17 Mile Drive By Bike: The Best Places To Stop that goes from Pebble Beach to Carmel!

2. Point Lobos State Natural Preserve

As you embark on your road trip through California’s Big Sur, your first stop is Point Lobos State Natural Preserve. It is actually part of Carmel at its southernmost area before Big Sur begins.

As with the surrounding coastline, it is a wonderful place to take in the beauty of the coast and the Pacific Ocean. It is also home to numerous sea lions that you will quickly hear with their “barking” sounds.

If you are up for getting in an easy workout, there is a 6-mile trail that will take you through the Cypress groves. A few points of interest to see while there, are Bird Island, the Whaler’s Cabin, and the Devil’s Cauldron.

If you happen to enjoy scuba diving and don’t mind the cold, entry at Whaler’s Cove is a great spot to explore. You can also kayak and SUP if diving underwater isn’t your thing! As you can see, you could easily spend a full day here if you wanted.

Hours & Admission: Point Lobos is open from 8 am to 7 pm. It does cost $10 to park but you can always park on Highway 1 and walk-in.

Next: Garrapata State Park will be about an 8 min drive or 4 miles south of Point Lobos.

3. Garrapata State Park & Beach

Driving from north to south, you will first encounter Garrapata State Park. Park along Highway 1 and walk to the coastal side following the Garrapata State Park Bluff Trail. Continue on this trail that makes a loop viewing a gorgeous rocky coastline and terrain.

Garrapata State Park is a beautiful place for a walk and watch the sunset...
Garrapata State Park is a beautiful place for a walk and watch the sunset…

The scene is pretty dramatic especially when the waves are crashing. There was even a couple getting married when I visited that I’m sure made for excellent photos.

A peaceful cove at Garrapata State Park
A peaceful cove at Garrapata State Park

Once you get back into your car, drive about 2.8 miles to Garrapate State Beach. It is one of the few beaches in Big Sur that you can actually walk out on to a sandy beach.

Most of the coastline in Big Sur are sheer cliffs and not accessible to get to. During the winter months, you might get lucky and see whales migrating past.

Garrapata State Beach
Garrapata State Beach
Steps leading down to Garrapata State Beach
Steps leading down to Garrapata State Beach

Park along Highway 1 and follow the steps down the path to the beach. It is a wide and beautiful sandy beach that has plenty of space to sunbathe on.

Garrapata State Beach is one of the few beaches to access in Big Sur
Garrapata State Beach is one of the few beaches to access in Big Sur

There are also some cool rock formations but do be careful and never turn your back to the ocean. The waves and currents are strong here. Both parking and entry to the Garrapata State Park and Beach are free to visit.

Next: Bixby Creek Bridge is about a 5 min drive or 3.6 miles south of Garrapata State Beach.

4. Bixby Creek Bridge

The Bixby Creek Bridge is one of the most photographed sights in Big Sur and there is a good chance that you have seen a shot of it.

There will likely be cars parked here, so it is pretty much impossible to miss. You can park on Highway 1 or at a small dirt parking lot on the east side of the road (free).

View of Bixby Creek Bridge from parking area on east side of Hwy 1
View of Bixby Creek Bridge from the east side of Hwy 1

Both the bridge and the views of the Pacific Ocean are terrific and worth taking a few photos here. I recommend viewing the bridge from both sides of the street as it provides different vantage points.

The Bixby Creek Bridge was built in 1932
The Bixby Creek Bridge was built in 1932

The Bixby Creek Bridge was built in 1932 and is one of the highest single-span bridges in the world at 280 ft high. The span of the arch is 330 ft wide! Its construction and architecture are quite impressive considering the year it was built.

Enjoying the view of the Bixby Bridge
Enjoying the view of the Bixby Bridge

The bridge was named after Charles Henry Bixby who was a businessman from the east coast. He purchased large amounts of land in Big Sur and used it to mill lumber in the late 1800s.

The Bixby Bridge is one of the highest single-span bridges in the world!
The Bixby Bridge is one of the highest single-span bridges in the world!

It has been seen in countless shows and movies, with the most recent in “Big Little Lies”. The show takes place in Monterrey which is 18 miles north of the Bixby Bridge. You can see it in the opening credits of the HBO hit.

The Bixby Bridge is seen in the show "Big Little Lies"
The Bixby Bridge appears in the show “Big Little Lies”

For photo enthusiasts, the best time to capture this iconic bridge is near sunset as the sun won’t be blindingly bright. You can always skip the bridge and see it on your return later that afternoon.

Next: Big Sur River Gorge/Mt Manuel Trail (in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park) is about a 25-minute drive or 13 miles south of the Bixby Creek Bridge.

5. Big Sur River Gorge/ Mt Manuel Trail

Located in the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park are many trails that you can hike. Depending on your time and fitness level, there are easy to very difficult hikes to challenge you.

I unfortunately didn’t get the chance to hike any of these as I ran out of time, but I plan to do them next time and update with photos.

For an easy yet scenic hike, take the Pfeiffer Falls Trail which is 1.4 miles roundtrip where you can see redwoods and a 60-foot waterfall. If it is hot out and you are looking to cool off, take the 2-mile roundtrip Gorge Trail. In the gorge, there are swimming holes for you to dip in.

And if you are looking for a tough and strenuous hike that will definitely qualify as a workout, take the Mount Manuel Trail to Manuel Peak. This is a steep and difficult 9.7-mile hike with a view of Big Sur from the top that makes a great reward.

Next: The purple sand of Pfeiffer Beach is just a few minute’s drive south from the entrance of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

6. Pfeiffer Beach

After exiting Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, continue south on Highway 1 and within a few minutes, turn a sharp right onto Sycamore Canyon Road. There is no sign for Pfeiffer Beach, so watch carefully for the street sign for Sycamore Canyon Rd.

Once you turn down the road, it is a narrow and winding 2-mile drive to the actual beach. Before you head down, you will be greeted to pay a $10 entry fee.

There is a fee to access Pfeiffer Beach but it is worth it!
There is a fee to access Pfeiffer Beach but it is worth it!
Walking to Pfeiffer Beach...
Walking to Pfeiffer Beach…

There is a parking lot and restrooms available at the bottom before walking out to the beach. The gorgeous Pfeiffer Beach has huge rock formations and a pristine beach that you can walk along or sunbathe.

There are several spots where the waves come crashing through holes in the rocks and make for great photos.

What a sight seeing the purple sand!
What a sight to see the purple sand!

What Pfeiffer Beach is most famous for is its sand that is purple! It isn’t the entire beach but in random areas, the pinkish-purple hues are very distinctive and eye-catching. The color almost reminds me of red wine in spots.

Pfeiffer Beach has a wide beach that is perfect to sunbathe on if it isn't too windy!
Pfeiffer Beach has a wide beach that is perfect to sunbathe on if it isn’t too windy!
Shades of purple is more apparent in certain areas of the beach
Shades of purple are more apparent in certain areas of the beach

Walk around and notice along the waters edge the colors are darker and more vibrant. So why is the sand purple? It has various minerals in the sand with patches concentrated with garnet washed down from the hillside.

Incredible rock formations scatter Pfeiffer Beach
Incredible rock formations scatter Pfeiffer Beach
A quiet spot among the waves crashing on the rocks...
A quiet spot among the tidepools and waves crashing on the rocks…

Do note that it can get very windy and cold, so bring a jacket and maybe a hat. Although you can dip your feet into the water, it isn’t advised to swim here without caution.

Pfeiffer Beach's cove is surrounded by a stunning rocky point
Pfeiffer Beach’s cove is surrounded by a stunning rocky point

The current and waves are very strong here and it is best to stick to admiring the ocean from land. As with Garrapata Beach, Pfeiffer Beach is one of the few beaches you can access in Big Sur.

Who can resist visiting a purple sand beach?
Who can resist visiting a purple sand beach?

Next: Grab a bite to eat at Nepenthe Restaurant that is about a 15-minute drive or 4 miles south of Pfeiffer Beach.

7. Nepenthe Restaurant

Looking to have a delicious meal combined with an absolutely dazzling view? Look no further than Nepenthe Restaurant.

For these two reasons, Nepenthe Restaurant can get crowded, so if possible, call ahead to make a reservation especially if it is a summer weekend. And request to get a seat outside with a view.

The outdoor patio at Nepenthe Restaurant
The outdoor patio at Nepenthe Restaurant

Nepenthe Restaurant is literally perched on the top of a cliff overlooking Big Sur’s spectacular coastline. Don’t be disappointed if you don’t get a seat with a full view. You can walk around before or after your meal to take in the views here.

If there is a long wait, grab a drink from the bar and sit outside on the steps with brightly colored pillows. It really is a place to stop, relax, and recharge.

The perfect spot to wait for a table...
The perfect spot to wait for a table…

The restaurant has an interesting history going back to 1944 when actress Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles bought a cabin here. The cabin is now a part of the restaurant still!

They spontaneously purchased it yet never came back to enjoy it. Sadly they sold it when they divorced to the Fassett family in 1947.

The delicious Ambrosia Burger and bean salad!
The delicious Ambrosia Burger and bean salad!

The Fassett family added on and built the restaurant naming it Nepenthe which means to “induce forgetfulness from pain or sorrow”.

What a beautiful term, right? And once you arrive here, all your pains and sorrows will dissipate when you bite into the famous Ambrosia Burger and gaze off to the Pacific Ocean.

View of Pacific Ocean from Nepenthe Restaurant
View of Pacific Ocean from Nepenthe Restaurant

Nepenthe’s menu offers up fresh California-grown produce and ingredients that won’t disappoint. The Fassett family still owns the restaurant today and is a must to stop here when driving through Big Sur.

Hours: Open 11:30 am to 10 pm daily.

Note: If you just want a coffee to refuel, visit Cafe Kevah on the terrace below Nepenthe where they serve coffee and baked goods.

Next: Henry Miller Memorial Library is a 1 minute or 0.2-mile drive south of Nepenthe Restaurant heading south.

8. Henry Miller Memorial Library

Who is Henry Miller you might ask? He was a well-known American writer who had his books banned in the United States in the early 1900’s.

They were considered scandalous as they revolved around sex… His books were published in Paris until the ban was lifted in the U.S. in the 1960’s.

He lived in Big Sur from 1944 to 1962 and the library is in memorial of this famed resident. If you are a book lover, then stopping at this unique spot is a must. Don’t expect it to be a normal bookstore but a bookstore fitting for a writer who didn’t follow the rules.

There is a forest garden, artwork, old typewriters and foreign currency hanging from the ceiling. Check ahead of time to see the events that are held at the Henry Miller Memorial Library such as films and live performances.

Hours: Open 11 am to 6 pm daily except Tuesdays when it is closed.

Next: McWay Falls is about an 18 minute or 8-mile drive south of the Henry Miller Library.

9. McWay Falls

McWay Falls might be photographed more than the Bixby Bridge and once you see it, you will know why!

There is both street parking on Highway 1 and a paid parking lot ($10 per car). If you are fortunate to park on Highway 1 and walk-in, it’s free.

The sign directing you to McWay Falls from the parking lot
The sign directing you to McWay Falls from the parking lot
pathway to view McWay Falls
pathway to view McWay Falls

There are restrooms available near the parking lot and the path to view the falls is from the parking lot area.

It is a quick few minute walk through a tunnel underneath the highway. Continue to the end of the trail where you can see McWay Falls in full view.

McWay Falls is an iconic sight on a Big Sur road trip!
McWay Falls is an iconic sight on a Big Sur road trip!

I was a little bummed to realize that there is no access to the beach or falls, just viewing it from above. It is probably for the best so that it keeps it untouched from the massive amount of tourists.

It’s nice not to have anyone in the photo too! Even though you can’t go down to the beach, McWay Falls is one of my favorite Big Sur stops to make.

How often do you see a waterfall cascading onto a beach?
How often do you see a waterfall cascading onto a beach?

No matter the time of year, McWay Falls will cascade over the granite cliffs and gracefully fall onto the sandy beach below.

If the tide is high, then the falls will empty into the ocean! I have never seen a waterfall on a beach and was stunned by its beauty.

McWay Falls is an iconic sight on a Big Sur road trip!
McWay Falls is an iconic sight on a Big Sur road trip!

McWay Falls (80 feet high) is such an unusual sight and breathtaking to see. You could stare at it all day… Oh and don’t even think of climbing down to the falls, as there is a big fine if you do!

Next: Limekiln Falls is about 25 minutes or 15 miles south of McWay Falls.

10. Limekiln Falls

Limekiln Falls is located in Limekiln State Park and can be enjoyed for the day or camp overnight.

I really like the campsites as they are a short walk to a small beach. For this visit, I spent a few hours hiking to Limekiln Falls. After you park, begin the trail past the bathrooms.

Limekiln Falls Trail
Limekiln Falls Trail

Someone says waterfall and I jump at the chance to see it! Limekiln Falls will reward you with its magnificent 100-foot waterfall that is tucked away along the Limekiln Creek. If you hike to the falls and back, it is a 1.7-mile trek that is considered moderate.

A small waterfall on the Limekiln Creek
A small waterfall on the Limekiln Creek
A waterfall no matter the size creates an idyllic setting
A waterfall no matter the size creates an idyllic setting

But I would say it is more difficult because there are a handful of places that you need to cross the creek. And there are no bridges except for some propped up logs and rocks that you need to get across. Having said that, it is completely worth it to see!

The trail that continues to the old kilns
The trail that continues to the old kilns
One of four old kilns used to extract lime from the late 1800s
One of four old kilns used to extract lime from the late 1800s

When you come to the first split in the trail, I recommend continuing straight following the Kiln Trail before heading to the falls. If you add this to your hike, then the hike will be over 2 miles. At the end of Kiln Trail, you will see the four old abandoned kilns.

The old kilns were used to extract lime at the end of the 19th century. Along the way, redwood trees will keep you company on this exquisite trail.

Sign directing to the Falls and Kiln Trails
Sign directing to the Falls and Kiln Trails
One of the sections of the creek to cross to get to the falls
One of the sections of the creek to cross to get to the falls

Once you get back to the fork, turn left for Limekiln Falls (or right if you are coming from the beginning of the trail). Get ready to cross about five sections of the stream and test your balance!

The gorgeous 100-foot Limekiln Falls
The gorgeous 100-foot Limekiln Falls
Climbing up the rocks to see the bottom portion of the falls
Climbing up the rocks to see the bottom portion of the falls

Oh, and once you have returned to the start of the trail, walk down to the tiny beach. It is a tranquil spot to sit and relax post-hike. This is definitely a spot I plan to come back and camp at!

Hours & Admission: Open 8 am to sunset. The entrance fee is $10 per car for the day.

When To Visit

Visiting Big Sur like much of California can be visited any time of the year as the weather is pretty constant between 55 F and 80 F, keeping in mind it can get colder or hotter depending on the month.

In my opinion, the best months to venture out on a Big Sur road trip is from August to December.

These months tend to be the sunniest and without fog. To avoid the crowds, go during the week or visit in September or October for a superb experience.

Although California is known for its sunny weather and balmy temps, the coastal region gets very wet and foggy in the spring and first part of summer.

Many days the fog doesn’t burn off until the early afternoon and is why I love going in the fall the most!

A fallen tree is cut to clear the path!
A fallen tree is cut to clear the path!

Got Travel Insurance?

I had always heard that it was wise to get travel insurance before going on a vacation. But I always thought that would be a waste of money and not needed as my medical coverage would be enough. Well, I was wrong to ignore those recommendations! Granted for most trips, nothing goes wrong but it just takes one bad accident or hospital visit to change your perspective.

On a trip to Panama, I traveled with both of my parents. Although I suggested that we get travel insurance, my dad was adamant that his medical coverage would be enough. Long story short, he got severe pneumonia and was hospitalized for four days. It was the scariest few days. In the end, he was treated and we were on our way again but we lost out on a lot.

Because we had to cancel excursions, hotels, and activities, we were out that money. Since this trip, let’s just say I will always purchase World Nomads travel insurance for all those normal and random things that can go wrong. I have since used World Nomads and have been very happy with their service. It is worth the peace of mind knowing that myself and my loved ones will be covered!

Enjoy your Big Sur Road Trip!

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Disclaimer: My post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a small commission if you click a link and purchase through that link. It won’t cost anything to you to use these links but is very much appreciated. Thank you!

Heading to California and want to take an epic road trip? Drive the Pacific coastline through Big Sur for gorgeous views, stunning beach hikes and plenty of photo opportunities. Follow this guide to know where to stop and things to do on a Big Sur Road trip! #bigsur #california #bigsurtravel #californiatravel

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38 Comments

  1. Great article Vanessa! Sounds you really enjoyed this spectacular road trip! We drove through the Big Sur area, but didn’t stop to explore it, after reading this, I want to go back for another visit. I love that waterfall onto the beach! WOW!

    1. Thank you Shannon! Yes, I highly recommend spending some time in Big Sur! It is so pretty and so much to do there. 🙂

    1. Thanks Wendy! It is a wonderful road trip to drive when visiting California. Would love for you to visit so that we could meet up! Or I come to Australia. 🙂

  2. I’ve always wanted to do this drive, it looks amazing. So much nature, and the ocean right there. I’m in BC so hopefully some day I’ll make it right down the coast

    1. It is an abundance of ocean and nature for sure! That would make an amazing road trip coming from BC. I hope you get the chance to do it soon! 🙂

  3. This looks like SUCH a fun road trip!

    I had never done many road trips before we moved to Canada. Up here most of our long drives have been through mountains…I think it would be fun to try a different kind of drive like this. The Big Sur coastline and bridges all look pretty, but I would also be excited for the stop offs and food!! 😉

    1. Thanks, Josy! Yes such a fun road trip! I kinda the same way, I used to hate road trips when I was younger but really enjoying them now. Especially if there is gorgeous scenery. Visiting Canada and doing some road trips up there are high on my list! 🙂

  4. Great post, I have major envy of your road trip now 😍 Definitely inspired me to check Big Sur our if I’m ever back in the US!

  5. Omg when I was a kid my family did this drive in the fog, and I’ll never forget how absolutely terrifying the road was! Unfortunately we didn’t make any stops along the way, so if I ever get up the courage to drive it myself I’d love to go back.

    1. Oh that would be scary if it was foggy. Plus you wouldn’t get to see the pretty cliffs and beaches. Go in the fall and there shouldn’t be any fog, best time of year to go! 🙂

  6. This is such a comprehensive guide to the big sur region! It looks like such an amazing road trip, it’s definitely on my wishlist. Good to know that I should plan on going in the fall, it would be so disappointing to go and have the views obscured by fog.

    1. Thank you, I’m so glad it has inspired you to want to go! Yes, the fall is a spectacular time to visit! 🙂

  7. The company I used to work for sent me to their Silicon Valley office for 2 weeks. It’s a pity I didn’t get to drive the Big Sur as it looks glorious and was so close to where I stayed. Then again, they paid me to work no sight-see. Still, this post is so detailed I feel like I’ve been there already. Well done, Vanessa. Your photos capture a lot.

    1. Oh thank you so much! I’m glad you found it informative. That is a pity you didn’t get to go there before or after your work trip but now you have a great reason to go back! 🙂

  8. We did a short (very short) road trip through Big Sur driving back from San Francisco to LA, but we decided we want to go back and explore so many more spots along the drive. This is the perfect guide to Big Sur, and we definitely plan to use it next time!

    1. Big Sur definitely requires a few days or longer to see all of it for sure. I hope you get to go back soon and use this guide! 🙂

  9. I recently did this road trip myself but because of fog and construction I didn’t see the bridge! So it’s nice to see a glimpse of it here 😉

    1. Oh that is a bummer you got fog. They have been doing a lot of construction over the past 2 years. But hopefully you get a better experience next time and get to see the bridge! 🙂

  10. I have one week earmarked for a local US road trip and this post has just solidified Big sur as a contender. Thanks for the tips on the phone service for 90 miles, thats great to know! It looks like a great road trip!

  11. I LOVE BIG SUR! I think this area is one of the BEST places in California, hands down. My German friend came to visit California for the first time, and he said he was completely blown by how beautiful it was and wished we had spent more time there.

    I also have yet to go to Garrapata State Park, but it looks gorgeous! Next time I’m over there I plan to visit. And I also second your thoughts on the best time to visit – I always tell people to come to California in the fall!

    1. That is so cool to hear the perspective of someone not from California. I think it is amazing but I’m from California so might be biased. lol. Yes, the fall is really the best time to visit and hope you get to Garrapata State Park next time! 🙂

  12. Fantastic post on a wonderful area! All your photos of the coastline look incredible. I would also add San Simeon with all the elephant seals, they were a highlight for me! But you saw way more other things than I did, we mostly just enjoyed the drive and made a handful of stops (McWay Falls was also a highlight). Also loved Carmel, I had no idea Clint Eastwood used to be mayor there!!! That’s hilarious. They also have poodle parades every year. I honestly just love Carmel more with every new thing I learn about it hahaha.

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed Big Sur too! Yes, there is so much to see that you can easily spend days in that area. Love San Simeon too just didn’t have photos but will update on my next visit! 🙂

  13. Vanessa, This is the most useful information I have read. You have times of operation, costs to enter, where to park, distance and travel time from site to site. Great information for deciding how much time I need to plan my trip and what to bring. Thank you.

    1. Thank you so much, I really appreciate the kind words! I try to include all the info that one would need when visiting places. Right now there is a small section that is closed as they are repairing the road but otherwise you can see it all. Check their road updates I linked to in the post. Have a wonderful time! 🙂

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