Big Sur is hands-down one of the most beautiful places in California. The rugged, mountainous terrain combined with the coastal cliff views provides the ultimate escape into nature. Check out my 2-day Big Sur itinerary to plan your trip cruising on the coastal, winding roads. Big Sur makes for an amazing weekend getaway!
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How to Get to Big Sur
The region of Big Sur is located along the Central California coast in between Carmel/Monterey and San Simeon. It’s about a 5 hour drive from Los Angeles, or a 3 hour drive from San Francisco. My Big Sur itinerary goes from north to south. If you’re flying in, San Jose is the closest major airport – which is only 2 hours away! (and don’t forget to rent a car – you’ll definitely need it!)
Where to Stay in Big Sur
Lodging in Big Sur
Lodging in Big Sur can be pricey, and you also have to book pretty far in advance to secure a spot. However – if you have the budget for it, there are some AMAZING places to stay in Big Sur that are totally worth it. One of the best places to stay is Ventana Big Sur. This adults-only luxurious resort nestled in the hillside has a gorgeous view of the coastline from their two pools.
VRBOs in Big Sur
There are a few VRBOs/Airbnbs in Big Sur that would be an awesome option for a place to stay, like this Big Sur Peaceful Retreat with AMAZING panoramic ocean views throughout the house and the back deck. If you have the budget for it, staying here would be an unforgettable experience!
Camping in Big Sur
On the other end of the spectrum, camping in Big Sur is always an option as well (although you’ll need to book campsites well in advance). Check out Fernwood Campgrounds, Pfeiffer State Park, and Prewitt Ridge (dispersed camping).
My FAVORITE way to experience Big Sur is to camp in a car/RV on one of the many turnouts off the PCH. This is the best view you can get, and it’s free! Just make sure the road turnout you choose doesn’t have any “no overnight parking” signs. And the best part is, you can get these super cheap relocation RV deals for as low as $1/night! Talk about a budget-friendly trip!
If you want to camp but also want the comforts of home, renting a campervan is a great option! My favorite campervan company is Travellers Autobarn! Their vans have a stove, microwave, fridge and sink, and can sleep 3 people inside of it. Also, they have unlimited miles which is something that most campervan companies don’t offer! You can pick up the van at their location in Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Las Vegas.
Hotels Outside of Big Sur
If you want to stay in a hotel but are planning more of a last-minute trip or if you are on a budget – there are some great hotel or Airbnb options in nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey. I’ve stayed at Hotel Pacific in Monterey and it was clean, modern, and conveniently located.
VRBOs Outside of Big Sur
There are plenty of great VRBO options in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey. For instance, this beachfront cottage just south of Carmel that has awesome views!
Big Sur Itinerary | 2 Days
My Big Sur itinerary goes from north to south, but if you are driving up from the south you can just do my itinerary the opposite way! Check out my itinerary to plan your 2 days in Big Sur.
Big Sur Itinerary – Day 1:
1. Point Lobos
Your first stop on your Big Sur itinerary should be Point Lobos State Natural Reserve. This spot isn’t technically located in Big Sur, but borders it just to the north. Spend some time meandering the trails that jut out over the ocean and enjoy the sweeping views of the Pacific. You’re likely to spot wildlife here – like seals or whales – so keep an eye out and consider bringing binoculars!
2. Bixby Creek Bridge
The Bixby Bridge is one of the most iconic and highly photographed landmarks of Big Sur (and is also featured in HBO’s Big Little Lies). About a 20 minute drive down the coast from Point Lobos, the Bixby Bridge should be your second stop on your Big Sur itinerary.
I recommend stopping for a picture before you drive over the bridge. Pull over on the turnout on the right side to start, and then check out the view from the left side as well. Gorgeous from all angles!
3. Pull Off on the Side of the Road
The drive along the PCH through Big Sur is my favorite drive in California. It’s so scenic! One of the best things to do in Big Sur is when you see a viewpoint or a turnout that you like, just pull over, hop out of your car and check it out. Some turnouts even have little dirt paths you can walk down to get a closer look!
4. Hike in Andrew Molera State Park
Looking for a hike to do in Big Sur? Andrew Molera State Park is the first state park you will come across from the north end of Big Sur. There are quite a few awesome trails to choose from. If you don’t have a ton of time, check out the easy 2-mile beach trail. There’s only a few spots where you can actually get down to the beach in Big Sur, and this is one of them. The trail takes you over a hill, across a river, and takes you out at to the driftwood beach with a dramatic coastline view!
5. Pfeiffer Beach
Pfeiffer Beach is the iconic beach area in Big Sur that features a big rock formation with a hole in it. Definitely a great photo-op, especially at sunset! This beach can be a little tricky to find as it is not marked very well with signs. About 1 mile south of the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park entrance, you’ll see an intersection for Sycamore Canyon Road on the West side (coordinates are 36.240215, -121.777226). Drive down this narrow, winding road for about 2 miles. Note that no RVs or trailers are allowed down this road. Once you reach the end, you’ll see a parking area. It’s a quick walk out to the beach from here!
Pro tip – grab a sandwich at Big Sur Deli beforehand and eat on the beach!
6. Nepenthe Cocktail with a View
A few miles south of Pfeiffer Beach you’ll find Nepenthe – a restaurant on the cliffside with an AMAZING view! It’s a pricey spot, but it’s definitely worth it to come here for a cocktail and an appetizer to end your day with a drink and a view!
Big Sur Itinerary – Day 2:
1. McWay Falls
McWay Falls is likely the most iconic and most-photographed spot in Big Sur. This waterfall cascades over the cliff and falls about 80 feet into the sandy cove below. No one is allowed to go down to beach, so it’s in pristine condition. To get here, head into Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and take the 0.5 mile trail to the overlook point. It’s amazing!
2. Limekiln State Park
Looking for another Big Sur hike for day 2? About 20 minutes south of McWay Falls area is Limekiln State Park, featuring Redwood Trees and a waterfall! If you’re short on time, do either the 1.5-mile Limekiln Creek Falls Trail or the 2.2-mile Hare Creek trail.
3. Sand Dollar Beach
About 12 minutes past Limekiln State Park is Sand Dollar Beach. This wide and sandy beach is a great spot to relax and have a picnic! It’s also one of the few surf spots in the area.
4. San Martin Rock
Pull off on the road turnout to view this picturesque rock offshore. Just one of the many beautiful views off the PCH in Big Sur!
Where to Go After Big Sur?
Hearst Castle/Paso Robles
If you’re driving through Big Sur from north to south, keep on going towards San Simeon and check out the Hearst Castle! And if you have even more time, from the Hearst Castle head east to Paso Robles for some wine tasting. Tips to plan your trip to Hearst Castle and Paso Robles
Big Basin Redwood State Park
If you’re driving through Big Sur from south to north, after you leave Big Sur check out Big Basin Redwoods State Park. This is the oldest state park in California! Located in the Santa Cruz mountains, this state park features HUGE redwood trees and coastal views. Definitely worth a stop!
Big Sur Packing List
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- Nano Puff Jacket (packs up small and keeps you warm when it gets chilly at night!)
- The COLDEST Water Bottle (seriously – it stays colder than Hydroflask!)
- Hiking Boots (these are my fave)
- REI Soft Cooler (I have this and love it!)
- Cliff Bar Energy Chews (great to give you a boost of energy on hikes!)
- Sony A6000 (I’m just starting to learn photography, but this is the camera I’ve been using! I love it)
- Day Pack
- SmartWool Hiking Socks