Big Sur is famous for its stunning natural beauty, which includes a rugged coastline, towering redwoods, and panoramic ocean views. Here we have shared the best places to visit and things to do in Big Sur.
About Big Sur
Big Sur is a rugged and mountainous region located along the central coast of California, between San Simeon and Carmel. It is known for its stunning natural beauty, which includes rocky coastlines, towering redwoods, and panoramic ocean views.
The region is home to several state parks, including Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Andrew Molera State Park, and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which offer hiking trails, campgrounds, and scenic vistas.
The area is also popular for its outdoor activities, such as whale watching, camping, fishing, and surfing. Visitors to Big Sur can take a scenic drive along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1) and stop at several iconic landmarks, including Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls.
The region has a rich cultural history, with several art galleries, museums, and cultural centers showcasing the work of local artists and writers.
Things To Do in Big Sur
Big Sur, located along California’s central coast, is known for its stunning natural beauty and abundant outdoor activities. Here are some things to do in Big Sur:
- Hiking in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
- Visit McWay Falls
- Drive along Highway 1
- Go camping
- Visit Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
- Explore Garrapata State Park
- Visit Point Sur Lighthouse
- Go whale watching
- Visit the Henry Miller Memorial Library
- Relax at Esalen Institute
Hiking in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of the most popular parks in Big Sur, with miles of hiking trails that wind through redwood groves, canyons, and coastal hills. The park’s most famous trail is the 8.8-mile round-trip hike to Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View.
McWay Falls is a must-see attraction in Big Sur. This 80-foot waterfall drops directly onto the beach and is visible from a short trail that leads to a viewing platform.
Drive along Highway 1
The iconic Highway 1 runs through Big Sur and offers some of the most spectacular coastal views in the world. The winding road hugs the cliffs above the Pacific Ocean, passing by rocky outcroppings, towering cliffs, and secluded beaches.
Big Sur is a popular destination for camping, with several campgrounds to choose from. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has two campgrounds, one of which is open year-round. Other options include the Big Sur Campground and Cabins and the Riverside Campground and Cabins.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is another popular park in Big Sur, known for its 80-foot McWay Falls and a trail that leads to a panoramic view of the coastline. The park also has several other trails that lead through redwood forests and along the coast.
Garrapata State Park
Garrapata State Park is a less crowded park in Big Sur, with several hiking trails that lead through rugged coastal terrain. The park also has two sandy beaches, one of which is clothing-optional.
Point Sur Lighthouse
Point Sur Lighthouse is a historic lighthouse located on a rocky promontory overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Guided tours are available that provide visitors with an inside look at the life of a lighthouse keeper.
Big Sur is a prime location for whale watching, with gray whales passing through the area during their annual migration. Several companies offer whale-watching tours that depart from Monterey and other nearby towns.
Henry Miller Memorial Library
The Henry Miller Memorial Library is a small bookstore and cultural center located in Big Sur. The library hosts events throughout the year, including music performances, poetry readings, and film screenings.
Relax at Esalen Institute
The Esalen Institute is a retreat center located in Big Sur that offers workshops and classes in yoga, meditation, and other healing arts. The center also has hot springs that overlook the Pacific Ocean, providing a relaxing and rejuvenating experience.
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Other Tourist Attractions in Big Sur
- Hot Springs
- Big Sur Bakery
- Andrew Molera State Park
- Helicopter Tour
- Partington Cove
- Ventana Wildlife Society’s Condor Sanctuary
- Sunset Cruise
- Bixby Bridge
- Coast Gallery
Hot Springs – There are several hot springs in Big Sur that offer a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. The Esalen Institute (mentioned earlier) has hot springs open to the public for a fee, while the Sykes Hot Springs can be accessed via a 10-mile hike through the Ventana Wilderness.
Big Sur Bakery – The Big Sur Bakery is a popular spot for breakfast, lunch, and baked goods. The bakery uses locally sourced ingredients and has a charming outdoor seating area.
Andrew Molera State Park – Andrew Molera State Park is a large park that offers hiking trails through open meadows, oak woodlands, and along the coast. The park also has a long sandy beach that is ideal for picnics and sunbathing.
Helicopter Tour – For a unique perspective on Big Sur’s stunning scenery, consider taking a helicopter tour. Several companies offer tours that fly over the coastline and offer stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding mountains.
Partington Cove – Partington Cove is a secluded cove that can be accessed via a short hike. The trail winds through a redwood canyon before reaching a small beach and a rocky cove that is perfect for exploring.
Fishing – Fishing is a popular activity in Big Sur, with several rivers and streams in the area that are known for their salmon and steelhead runs. Fishing guides are available for hire, or you can try your luck on your own.
Ventana Wildlife Society’s Condor Sanctuary -The Ventana Wildlife Society’s Condor Sanctuary is a conservation facility that aims to protect and rehabilitate California condors. Visitors can take a guided tour of the sanctuary and learn about the efforts to save these endangered birds.
Sunset Cruise – Several companies offer sunset cruises that depart from nearby Monterey. These cruises offer stunning views of the coastline and the chance to see sea otters, seals, and other marine life.
Bixby Bridge – The Bixby Bridge is one of the most iconic landmarks in Big Sur. The bridge spans a deep canyon and offers breathtaking views of the coastline. It is a popular spot for photos and is easily accessible from Highway 1.
Coast Gallery – The Coast Gallery is an art gallery located in Big Sur that features works by local artists. The gallery is housed in a historic building and has a beautiful garden area that is worth exploring.
Camping in Big Sur
Camping in Big Sur is a popular activity for visitors to the region, with several campgrounds located in or near the area. Here are some of the most popular campgrounds in Big Sur:
- Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park: As mentioned before, this campground is located along the Big Sur River and features 189 campsites for tents or RVs, including several group campsites. Amenities include fire pits, picnic tables, and access to restrooms and showers.
- Andrew Molera State Park: This campground offers 24 campsites for tents, as well as several group sites. The campsites are located along the Big Sur River and are within walking distance of the beach. Amenities include fire pits, picnic tables, and access to restrooms and showers.
- Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park: This campground offers 2 hike-in campsites for tents only. The campsites are located on a bluff overlooking the ocean and feature stunning views. Amenities include picnic tables, fire rings, and access to pit toilets.
- Ventana Campground: This campground offers 60 campsites for tents or RVs, as well as several glamping options. The campsites are located in a redwood forest and feature fire pits, picnic tables, and access to restrooms and showers.
- Kirk Creek Campground: This campground offers 34 campsites for tents or RVs, as well as several group sites. The campsites are located on a bluff overlooking the ocean and feature stunning views. Amenities include fire pits, picnic tables, and access to restrooms and showers.
When camping, be sure to pack appropriately for the weather and be aware of the park’s rules and regulations, including fire safety regulations.
You should also be prepared for wildlife encounters, such as deer and raccoons, and take steps to store food and trash properly to avoid attracting them.