The Central Coast, especially the Big Sur area, has some of the most jaw-dropping scenery. Located on California’s central coast, between Carmel and the small town of San Simeon, (home to the fabulous Hearst Castle), Big Sur offers some 90 miles of pristine beauty dominated by rugged beaches, redwoods and waterfalls. Every inch of it is overloaded with postcard appeal.
Also known as the American Riviera, with incredible nature, small, quaint inns and large, luxury resorts, the classic drive through the windy roads of Big Sur on State Route 1 with a convertible car is a road trip you’ll never forget. Along the CA-1 there are lots of vista points, (there is literally one every 5, 10 minutes), and you’ll find that every stop seems more amazing than the last on the Big Sur coast.
The 714-feet-long bridge is 120 miles south of San Francisco and 13 miles south of Carmel, in Monterey County along State Route 1. You’ve seen it in so many movies and car commercials, and you definitely have to see it in real life. Reality beats the movies!
Back in the days, many starving artists who couldn’t afford to live in San Francisco, they moved to Big Sur & the Carmel Highlands, which were far more inexpensive than today. Henry Miller was one of them, calling Big Sur home for 15 years, and his house is now a memorial library. Here he wrote the autobiographical novel Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch, (first published in 1957), his love letter for this beautiful place. But after the highway was completed in 1937, the area became more desirable, hotels were built, and things changed in this paradisiac land. Now you’ll pay hundreds of dollars per night, (or even thousands, if you wanna go big).
However, Big Sur remains mostly an artsy, rural community, offering untamed wilderness and simple pleasures to its visitors. In an effort to conserve its beautiful nature, there are only a few lodging options and restaurants, no supermarkets, and only 3 gas stations in the whole area; (and you can only imagine the price of the gas). So make sure you stop and fill up somewhere in San Simeon/ or Monterey, if you’re heading South on Route 1 from San Francisco.
Big Sur has been home to artists and writers for more than a century. There is something about this wild, mystical beauty that’s fueling creativity. Remember Basic Instinct starring Michael Douglas and Sharon Stone as the crime novelist Catherine Tramell? Remember her house and those breathtaking views of the Pacific Coast from her terrace? That property is actually in Carmel Highlands, (not Stinson Beach, as they say in the movie), and it costs a fortune.
What to do in Big Sur
Big Sur is an absolute nirvana for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts, photographers, hikers and campers, and anyone who’s looking for majestic nature and unforgettable experiences. You can go hiking, camping, beachcombing, watching migrating whales, sea otters and endangered California condors, (the largest birds in North America). You also must go visit Henry Miller’s house, (which now is a memorial library & a bookstore). Have a bite on the lofty patio at Nepenthe and take in the breathtaking views. Another great place for a bite & some local art is Coast Big Sur. Make sure you stop by for coffee and lunch on the terrace while gazing out at the ocean, and check their art gallery inside. This place is a truly unique destination for fine art lovers, one-of-a-kind gifts and elevated casual cuisine. For more art galleries check out https://www.bigsurcalifornia.org/galleries.html. For more things to do in Big Sur checkout https://www.bigsurcalifornia.org.
Where to stay in Big Sur
Lodging options are limited and very pricey here. Options range from campground, inns and rustic cabins, to a couple of luxury resorts where rooms are thousands of dollars a night. Check out the Big Sur’s website for more on lodging. Our favorite place to stay here is the Deetjen’s Inn. Tucked-away on the edge of a redwood forest, this cozy inn has been welcoming guests since 1930. The property was built by Helmuth Deetjen and his wife Helen, using traditional Norwegian techniques. The inn is now on the U.S’s National Register of Historic Places.
We also love Ragged Point Inn and Resort because of its exceptional location right by the ocean. Rooms start at $239/ night, and the views are breathtaking. Another incredible place is Esalen Hot Springs if you are into yoga and meditation. This retreat has hot springs with jaw-dropping views, so just soak in the mineral-rich waters and contemplate the beauty around you. You’ll reach a zen state of mind as soon as you put your foot inside this place. If you drive from LA and need a break, the best place to stop for a night is at the
Cavalier Oceanfront Resort, the only oceanfront resort in San Simeon and Cambria. This is the ideal stopover for travelers exploring the California coast: just three miles from Hearst Castle, seven miles from the Elephant Seal Habitat (Rookery), and 10 miles from the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse. Rooms start at $289/ night, and depending on when you plan your trip, the price can be double or even triple.
If money is not a problem and you wanna experience top of the line, then you might wanna stay at Post Ranch Inn, (rooms range from $1,500 to 2,000), or Ventana, (where a room is approximately $3,500 – 4,000/ night. Yep, you got that right, it’s not a typo).
When to visit Big Sur
Weather in Big Sur is mostly sunny and chilly, so it’s best to pack a jacket and a couple of sweaters any time of year you plan to visit. Summer days are warm and pleasant, with foggy mornings and chilly evenings. But this is the most expensive time to travel, so if you’re on a budget you might wanna hold ‘til late September, October. The weather is still nice, summer crowds start to disperse, and lodging prices go significantly down. Winter is the best time to visit Big Sur if you’re looking to snag a deal on lodging. But this is when it rains a lot in Big Sur, and often the roads are closed, so you might end up locked inside the hotel most of the time. Spring is when Big Sur is blooming, figuratively and literally, so if you’re into beautiful wildflowers this is the best time for you.