There’s no place like Big Sur. Derived from the original Spanish language “el sur grande” meaning “the great south,” Big Sur is often mistaken for a city, not a region, and is most famous for its seaside cliffs. If you’ve been there, you know exactly why experiencing it is so hard to put into words. I think it is best described by the smell. Baked rock, sea salt, juniper, bay leaves, pine needles, campfire…it’s positively intoxicating. We decided to go here for a quick honeymoon because 1) Big Sur was on my bucket list, 2) our plans to go to St. John fell through due to Zika, and 3) we were going to Sonoma to meet friends for the weekend. week. It was the perfect place to relax, beautiful views and great food.
So, you’re sold, right? Let’s talk about when you should go and how long you should plan to stay:
The best time to go to Big Sur is from April to October. But be prepared; it’s a true tourist destination and you’ll carpool with families and couples pulling off the highway to take in the views. Many tourist spots may not be open during the off-peak months, but the views never stop. Be sure to plan your trip before you leave, as cell phone coverage can be dangerous.
Big Sur is a great day trip for those who live in the Bay Area, but it would be hard to experience it all in less than 24 hours. I would recommend a one night stay, minimum. We stayed for two nights and three full days and felt we had a good idea of the place.
How to get there? Take highway 1. But if you’re in a hurry and only have one day, I suggest you take the highway. This is one of the few units you won’t want to rush into!
Where to stay? The best thing about Big Sur is how undeveloped the region is. There are hotels dotted along the coast and on the east side of the highway, but they’re hardly noticeable unless you’re looking for them. These are our hotel recommendations:
Quaint: Deejun’s Big Sur Inn. This place is adorable. It is truly rustic and sits right at the bottom of the ridge with walking trails down to the shoreline. Deejun’s is one of those places that has captured the early days in Big Sur through its handcrafted interiors and old world charm.
Resort style: Window. We stay here! It was like living in a tree house. The amenities made it a place we could spend all day. We went for a morning walk, had breakfast overlooking the treetops, had an amazing massage, and enjoyed the warm temperatures by the pool. Our room was spacious and we enjoyed using the large bathtub, fireplace, and hammock. If you need to relax and spend time in a quiet place, Ventana is a good middle ground.
Special Occasion: Post Ranch Inn. This space has been voted America’s Best Hotel, so you’re sure to experience something that’s not exactly commonplace. The Post family was one of the original pioneers of Big Sur and was dedicated to exploring and conserving the land for decades. The resort opened in 1992, sitting on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Each of the 39 spacious rooms is made of reclaimed redwood with huge glass panels to let in light and views. You can’t get a better view anywhere else.
Where to eat:
Breakfast: Deejun’s Big Sur Inn. Breakfast by candlelight in the most picturesque little hotel. Fresh, cozy, romantic!
Lunch: Big Sur Bakery. It is a requirement! Located right off Hwy 1, they have amazing baked goods (the strawberry scone changed me) and the sandwiches and wood fired pizza are fresh and simple – California cuisine at its best.
Dinner: Post Ranch Inn. Go early so you can enjoy the view. Definitely make a reservation and plan to dress up a bit. If you’re pregnant or don’t drink, I can attest that the non-alcoholic drinks were delicious! That’s my sparkling lavender lemonade pictured above with a gorgeous view of the Pacific ocean.
Honorable Mention: Nepenthe’s Big Sur. Great view, lots of people. Stop at The Phoenix Shop on your way out.
Take a Hike: Check out this comprehensive guide to hiking Big Sur. The best way to experience the region is to explore it on foot. There are plenty of places to walk from Highway 1, just be sure to plan before you hit the road. Some parks and trails have entrance fees, so be sure to bring cash. Some destinations to investigate: Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls, Bixby Bridge, Point Sur State Historic Park.
Take some head space: Remember the last scene in Mad Men when Don is meditating on top of a cliff? He was at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur. Make an appointment to take a dip in the hot springs and schedule a message at this historic landmark for wellness and meditation. They also have workshops and classes dedicated to holistic living. You could spend your entire trip in high school if you wanted to!
Head South: Just south of Deejun’s Big Sur, Highway 1 gets even more beautiful. About an hour away is Hearst Castle with lots of cute elephant seals bathing in the sun.
I hope this guide helps you plan a little trip to one of the most beautiful places in the United States!
Images: ingenuity and pleasure
Kate is currently learning to play the ukulele, much to the despair of her husband, children, and dogs. Follow her on Instagram at @witanddelight_.