Big Sur: California’s Masterpiece

big sur, julia pfeiffer burns, california

Masterpiece is the only way to describe Big Sur, California.

This 90 mile stretch of road that weaves in and out of mountains while hugging the Pacific Ocean is a destination for travelers around the globe.

The views are undeniably gorgeous, the state parks adventurous, and the town quaint and quiet. It’s the perfect escape to enjoy some relaxation and rejuvenation.

Big Sur is commonly visited during a California road trip with people either traveling to or from the San Francisco area. It’s a quick 2.5 hour drive from San Fran and the views never disappoint, not even once. Be prepared to pull off the road multiple times and have the GoPro charged and readily available.

I just returned from visiting California for the first time ever. I’m not sure why it took so damn long to get out there, but “California Road Trip” can officially be crossed off the travel bucket list (woo-hoo)!

Our trip covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time with about 2-3 days in each location. It was the perfect blend of fast-paced and relaxation. And Big Sur definitely fell into the relaxation & rejuvenation category. My entire psyche softens just thinking about the beautiful views and charming campgrounds.

Sigh.

Below is A LOT of information to help inspire and shape a visit to the Big Sur area.

Take what you like from this, expand upon it, and then leave the rest unknown. It’s a great place for discovery and adventure, and that’s coming from someone who’s nicknamed polly planner.

So without further ado, get ready to jot down notes, save this to your Pinterest boards, or simply daydream away…

Big Sur - California's Masterpiece: Pin now, plan your West Coast travels later!

Pin now, read later!


Important Big Sur facts:

  • There’s absolutely no cell-phone service in the area – NONE. I’m sure there’s WIFI but we chose to disconnect from our phones, it was a much needed digital detox.
  • The true “Big Sur” stretch starts in Carmel and ends at Hearst Castle (both great places to stop).
  • It can be seen in a day but do yourself a favor and spend at least 2 days here.
  • Prepare to pay higher prices for everything, especially food and gas.
  • Be ready to embrace Mother Nature – it’s what Big Sur is all about!

How to experience the Big Sur drive:

  • Rent a car – it’s the only way to experience the California coastline!
  • Spend the night before in Carmel, just do it. I’ll explain down below why.
  • Get on the road early to experience less crowded vista points and roadways.
  • Pack drinks and snacks to avoid stopping along the way.
  • Pull off the road wherever your heart desires (unless it’s dangerous)!
  • Pack a hiking outfit in the car as you never know when adventure will set in.
  • Charge all cameras – you’ll want to use every single one of them!

Big Sur - California's Masterpiece: Pin now, plan your West Coast travels later!


Tips & Tricks:

  • Purchase a map because there is no cell phone service. And because it’s fun! I purchased an awesome map from our campground upon arrival.
  • Reserve your accommodations as far in advance as possible. Big Sur is a popular destination for globe trotters and locals alike. Don’t wait till the last minute!
  • Be prepared for all types of weather as California can be cold one moment and then hot the next. We quickly learned this a few days into our trip!
  • Have cash handy as it’s easier for smaller businesses and necessary for entry into some state parks.

Where to Stay:

If camping is easy and accessible for you, then by all means camp away! For those of us who are traveling across the country or possibly internationally, camping is a lot of work for a few days. We chose to stay at Ripplewood Resort and it was absolutely great. The campground offered daily housekeeping services, a gas station, ice & firewood, a grocery store, and restaurant. It was well stocked for all of life’s basic needs! Below are some of the places I looked into or heard about while planning our travels.

bigsur_collage


Where to Eat:

I have to admit, we didn’t eat out too often while staying in Big Sur. Aside from trying to save money, we also didn’t want to waste time with full sit down meals every morning or lunch. Below are places we visited or heard great reviews from other travelers/ locals.

  • Nepenthe – the most popular restaurant in town for the stunning views and beautiful atmosphere. Be wary of the aggressive blue jays here, they will steal your food with no shame!
  • Deetjen’s – a charming restaurant that will immediately make the word cozy come to mind. It’s on the pricey side ($28 – $40 an entrée) but from what we heard, totally worth it! Breakfast and dinner are recommended here!
  • Ripplewood Resort – serves breakfast and lunch.
  • Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant – super adorable, iconic place in the area. Dinner prices are on the higher side!
  • Fernwood Tavern – This was our jam as it was moderately priced and didn’t require a reservation. It’s typical bar food but delicious!

Big Sur - California's Masterpiece: Pin now, plan your West Coast travels later!


Big Sur State Parks:

For such a short stretch of land, Big Sur offers up tons of hiking and exploring opportunities! The area boasts four state parks with well established hikes and beautiful views. We had no idea where to hike and or what to hike as our cell phones were useless and I left this part of our trip unplanned. After driving the full extent of the Big Sur coastline, we chose to explore Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. What started as an intended short hike ended as a three hour, six mile hike with stunning ocean views, waterfalls, and redwood forests. It was magical and unforgettable. Below are the four state parks to explore:

  • Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park – where we hiked. It’s an intermediate hike totaling about six miles with a lot of steep inclines. It costs money to park your car inside but roadside parking is easily accessible across the street. There’s also bathrooms and trail signs throughout the park.
  • Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park  – offers campground, restaurant, different hikes, and waterfalls. Entrance fee is $10.
    • Pfeiffer Beach – this is worth mentioning because the beach is a stunning example of Mother Nature. It’s a hidden road that is not advertised to the public. But here’s the secret – take the 2nd right after Big Sur Station, you will see a sign that states No RV’s or Trailers. It’s a $10 entrance fee and restrooms are available.
  • Andrew Molera State Park – offers campground, beach, and hiking. There is a parking fee and restrooms are available.
  • Limekiln State Park – offers campgrounds, beach, hiking, waterfalls, and old historic kilns. There is a $10 entrance fee.

Big Sur - California's Masterpiece: Pin now, plan your West Coast travels later! Big Sur - California's Masterpiece: Pin now, plan your West Coast travels later! Big Sur - California's Masterpiece: Pin now, plan your West Coast travels later!


As promised above, I want to quickly mention the adorable town of Carmel where Big Sur starts.

We stopped here on our way from San Francisco after hearing rave reviews from friends and fellow travelers. The town is something out of a storybook, as if it was illustrated and then plopped into reality. I couldn’t handle the “cuteness” overload!

Anyway, I definitely recommend stopping here for an afternoon or possibly staying for the evening before heading down to Big Sur (or if leaving and heading north).

Below is a quick run down of what we did in our short time there:

  • Stroll the streets and gawk at how adorable it is.
  • Window shop or really shop if not on a budget.
  • Go for a quick wine tasting at Caraccioli Cellars – reasonable, great ambiance, and delicious wine & snacks.
  • Grab a drink at Starlight 65 Rooftop Lounge and then eat dinner downstairs at Vesuvio.

Big Sur - California's Masterpiece: Pin now, plan your West Coast travels later!  Big Sur - California's Masterpiece: Pin now, plan your West Coast travels later!


There are truly no words for how beautiful and inspirational this slice of Mother Nature is.

Big Sur is one of those places that YOU MUST visit and experience for yourself.

When we reconnect with the outdoors, nature, and the simple raw beauty of this planet – it allows us to live with a greater sense of appreciation and gratitude. It’s a big reminder that’s served to us in the simplest form.

Take time to explore this vast world we live in friends, it’s an open book waiting for you to read!

*To view all of the stunning photos from Big Sur – click here.

The Journey Junkie site uses affiliate links to share our favorite products and brands with you. By clicking on these links, the site makes a small percentage in commission to help us continue inspiring your journey! Thanks for the support!
Allie - The Journey Junkie

Allie is the creator + soul behind The Journey Junkie Community. She is a sucker for all things life - movement, sunshine, creativity, and connection. Allie's deepest desire is for you to embrace the idea of intention setting, false belief breaking, and dream making! Through sharing her journey - wholeheartedly & unapologetically - she hopes to inspire & shape your journey!

Related Posts

8 Discussion to this post

  1. Linda says:

    I was stationed at the base below point sur for about a year – making an appointment for. The tour of the abandoned coast guard station at the top of the point is a must! I’d take the haunted tour and return for a daylight view to wale watch….it’s a steep walk up the point and has it’s own micro climate at the top but you will see comorants along the way, well worth it!

    • The Journey Junkie says:

      Hi Linda, thanks for stopping by and sharing all of that great information! Big Sur is still one of my favorite places, I’d love to go once a yea for a break from the digital world… seeing as there’s zero service!

  2. Celina says:

    I am an SF native with family visiting from Malta this week. Big Sur is top of their list and so I stumbled upon this blog. Thanks for writing it! So glad you enjoyed yourself so much while on our California Coast!!!

    • The Journey Junkie says:

      Of course Big Sur is top of their list, it’s heaven on Earth LOL! And we LOVED California, as I’m sure you hear many times over, it was incredible. Thanks for stopping by and please share the link with your fam. Safe travels for everyone – xoxo!

  3. Marisa says:

    My husband and I are thinking of going to Big Sur for our wedding anniversary. Although, I’ll be about 6 months pregnant. Are there any hikes that aren’t too intense we can still enjoy? We’re active so I don’t think it’ll be a problem but my husband is concerned if we’ll have things to do. Let me know your thoughts. Thanks and great post!

    • The Journey Junkie says:

      Hi Marissa. I think it’s definitely doable to go and have a moderately light adventure vacation. The drive itself is simply stopping at different look out points, taking photos, and then getting back into your car. The famous waterfall, Julia Burns, is a very light hike (10 minutes total) that is safe and doable. Also – Pfeiffer Beach is accessible to simply hang out and enjoy the massive rock formations.

      And I definitely recommend fitting Carmel into your travels, it’s the cutest town you’ll ever see!

      So yes, GO to Big Sur, have an amazing anniversary, congrats on the beautiful baby coming into your life, and thank you so much for stopping by! Have a great day – xoxo!

  4. Molly says:

    Love this post! My sister and I are going camping in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park this week, so this was a great read. You and your husband are so cute. It looks like so much fun and I’m looking forward to checking it out. I didn’t realize that Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park were two different parks. Are they close together? I was also wondering if you knew what the hike was called in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park that you did?
    Thanks, loved this post!

    • The Journey Junkie says:

      Hi Molly, thanks for stopping by!

      You two are going to have an incredibly EPIC time, so excited for you! Yes, they are two separate parks but definitely close by. All of Big Sur is a 20-30 minute proximity and once you get there, find a map to give you a better idea (b/c you will lose service).

      I can’t remember the hike name, but I believe it’s the only hike there. You simply walk in & keep walking, walking, and walking. The hike loops back to the beginning and it’s about 7 miles!

      Have such an amazing time and safe travels – xoxo!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge