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11 Things You Can’t Miss in Big Sur California

Visiting Big Sur? Don’t miss these spots!

Big Sur is by far one of my favorite places in the US. The beauty of the place always has me coming back for more. On our Endless Caravan, it was no question that we’d be stopping here.

We thought it was perfect timing when See Monterey asked us to put together a post featuring our favorite spot. If you’re visiting Big Sur in #Monterey, here’s a guide of things you can’t miss (most of which we’ve done, and there are a couple on the list that we’ll be doing on this trip!)

11 Incredible Things to Do in Big Sur CaliforniaPin

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Last Updated: March 18, 2023

What You Need to Know Before You Go

  • The most popular time to go is from April to October. The weather is the nicest but it’s also the most crowded. You can go whale watching in the winter.
  • There is no service in Big Sur, so plan ahead. If you need wifi, stop in at a restaurant or hotel. Download your google maps ahead of time so you can have offline access.
  • Book your rooms ASAP. Everything books up far in advance. I was looking up dates for the summer in spring, and I couldn’t find anything available.
  • Check current road conditions since there are landslides and fires that can close the roads.
  • Everything in the area is pricey from food to hotels. If you want to save money, you can pack some snacks. Otherwise, expect this trip to be a splurge.
  • Expect crowds. The first time I visited was in 2009, and we didn’t see many people at all. It was mostly California locals visiting. Present day, everyone is making their way there as it is one of the most beautiful places in the US, if not the world.
  • It can be done as a day trip. I’ve done it with a friend in SF since we had already been multiple times, but if it’s your first time, we recommend staying much longer to fully enjoy the views.

11 Incredible Things to Do in Big Sur California

1. Hwy 1 Drive →

First of all, the drive itself is gorgeous. Every five minutes I felt like we needed to pull over to enjoy the views. It’s one of the most scenic drives we’ve been on.

See More: The Ultimate California Coast Road Trip

The Highway 1 Drive is one of the most scenic road trips in the world - Big Sur California USA //

2. McWay Falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park →

Coordinates: 36.159167, -121.669016, map

This is probably the photo that you see the most from Big Sur. It’s a quick walk from the parking lot and you get amazing views of the waterfall. I could hang out here all day.

See More: Photo Guide to McWay Falls in Big Sur

3. Pfieffer Beach →

Coordinates: 36.238041, -121.816225, map

What’s unique about this beach is its purple sand. Photographers love coming here between December and January to capture the sun portal.

What’s unique about this beach is its purple sand. Photographers love coming here between December and January to capture the sun portal.

See More: Photo Guide to the Purple Sand Beach in Big Sur

4. Point Sur Lighthouse

Coordinates: 36.306407, -121.901790, map

This lighthouse stands on beautiful, volcanic rock just offshore in Big Sur. It still helps guide ships along the Pacific coast.

Point Sur Lighthouse along Highway 1 - Big Sur California //

5. Bixby Bridge

Coordinates: 36.371451, -121.901701, map

Bixby Creek Bridge is an architecturally beautiful bridge on its own, but add in the dramatic cliffs and seaside and you have one of the most picturesque spots in the area.

6. Nepenthe Restaurant

48510 CA-1, 93920, map

This place is very touristy, but it’s an iconic part of Big Sur. We had lunch here in the summer of 2009. I can’t remember anything too special about the food, but the views were incredible! I wouldn’t mind coming back for at least a drink or two. 


7. Henry Miller Memorial Library

48603 CA-1, 93920, map

This library is dedicated to works of those who have lived in or near Big Sur, particularly the late writer and artists Henry Miller. It’s a great spot to check out if you love the Big Sur area too!

8. Hike to Limekiln Falls in Limekiln State Park

Trailhead Coordinates: 36.010922, -121.516739, map

Hike through giant redwoods and bubbling streams, and find yourself staring up at a 100-foot cascading waterfall.


9. Pfeiffer Falls and Valley View Trails at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Trailhead Coordinates: 36.252267, -121.783938, map

It’s a two-mile, easy-to-moderate hike at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. See the giant trees, beautiful landscapes, and rocky waterfall.

10. Camping at Los Padres National FOrest

69345 CA-1, 93920, map

There are plenty of campsites in Big Sur, but we ended up staying at Plaskett Creek Campground. Sand Dollar Beach was right across from our campsite, and it was an easy walk over to watch the sunset.

Camping in Los Padres National Forest - some of the best unspoiled campsites in Big Sur California //

11. Get Lunch at The Sur House or Stay at Ventana

48123 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920map

Although Sur House is only open to guests for Breakfast and Dinner, the general public can enjoy lunch here. The food is delicious and the views are amazing.

Even better, book a stay at The Ventana for an amazing getaway. They have a ton of activities included in your stay and plenty of add-ons as well.

Local Tip: For an exclusive experience, check out the Ventana Glass House.

More Things to Do in Big Sur CA

Map of the Best Things to DO in Big Sur

Best Places to Eat in Big Sur

Best Places to Stay in Big Sur

What’s Nearby

Planning Checklist

Check out See Monterey for official travel info for Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach, Carmel Valley, Salinas Valley, Moss Landing, Marina, Sand City, Seaside, Del Rey Oaks and Salinas. Plan your epic road trip today! #GrabYourMoment

Download a free visitor’s guide here for more info. If you want to extend your road trip, check out our California Coast guide with all the best stops along the PCH.

Have you been to Big Sur or any other part of Monterey? Is there anything else that can’t be missed?

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Esther and JacobPin

Esther + Jacob

Esther and Jacob are the founders of Local Adventurer, one of the top 5 travel blogs in the US. They believe that adventure can be found near and far and hope to inspire others to explore locally. They explore a new city in depth every year and currently base themselves in Las Vegas.

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