The 10 Best Things to Do in Big Sur, United States

December 26, 2017 Madelene Haan

Jagged cliffs pummeled by surf line the Pacific Coast Highway along Big Sur, creating some of California's most memorable ocean vistas between Carmel and the northern tip of San Luis Obispo County. Jack Kerouac and Henry Miller found inspiration in its fog-banked canyons and meadows. Gray whales migrate past twice a year, and elephant seals bask on the sandy shores. Luxury hotels, restaurants and art galleries cluster in a six-mile strip, giving way to redwood-filled state parks on either side.
Restaurants in Big Sur

1. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

52801 California State Route 1, Big Sur, CA 93920 +1 831-667-2315
Excellent
74%
Good
20%
Satisfactory
4%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1 reviews

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

A breathtaking 80-foot waterfall dropping from the cliffs to the ocean is the focal point of this park.

Reviewed By Silvertiger - Carmel, California

Really enjoyed our drive to the park during a somewhat overcast day with sprinkles. Nevertheless the view was gorgeous as we lingered and took in the beautiful vista which included the waterfall.. Just beautiful—the air, the scenery and the drive to and from ....

2. Point Sur State Historic Park

Hwy. 1, Big Sur, CA 93940 +1 831-625-4419
Excellent
80%
Good
16%
Satisfactory
2%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 148 reviews

Point Sur State Historic Park

This historic lighthouse located around Point Sur is now a state park.

Reviewed By Toni B - Costa Mesa, California

This was our second visit to the Point Sur Lighthouse and it never dissappoints! The volunteer docents are extremely knowledgeable and truly enjoy showing guests around this magical place.
The views are second to none and the history of the entire location is amazing. Please do yourself a favor and GO!
They don't take reservations - it's first-come, first-served so arrive early and get in line. You won't regret it!

3. Los Padres National Forest

CA +1 805-968-6640
Excellent
59%
Good
32%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
0%
Terrible
6%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 31 reviews

Los Padres National Forest

Covering 1.75 million acres and more than 220 miles in two different counties, the land is semi-desert in the interior while the coast is lined with redwood forest.

Reviewed By wasntme58 - Toronto, Canada

I don't think you can get a better scenery shot. Ok there are so many good picture opportunities along this road but you should stop here. Great mountain shots!

4. Pfeiffer Beach

Sycamore Canyon Road, Big Sur, CA 93920 +1 805-434-1996
Excellent
78%
Good
16%
Satisfactory
4%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1 reviews

Pfeiffer Beach

Reviewed By TheBoilerDude - Los Angeles, California

After driving past a few hotels and Big Sur Park and Lodge, you will make a sharp right turn onto Sycamore Canyon Road. The road is mostly paved but narrow so be careful; that early I only passed 2 cars coming up but there are turnouts to pull over. Right at the end there was a bit of a flooded dip in the road, in my Wrangler I had no trouble plowing across but as I left one car seemed to have had some issues.

There are two small lots (I'd guess 40 spots?) with plenty of availability and it cost $10 to enter that you must pay in cash.

Once you park, it’s a short path out onto the beach. The beach itself bends around the corner after you first come out, past the rocky crags right off shore - people were climbing them but they were steep and I didn't want to die alone in Big Sur so I skipped for this trip. Around the corner, the beach continues a long ways and I found a nice spot to sit on and chilled for a while watching the waves and the two surfers out in the bay.

The beach is famous for its purple sand which appears after rain and luckily the beach was covered in swaths of it at my visit. I imagine by the end of the day the crowds would have gotten rid of most of it. There were many dogs (so you can bring yours if you want) and it was filling up by the time I left at 10:30am.

5. McWay Falls

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, CA
Excellent
73%
Good
19%
Satisfactory
6%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 973 reviews

McWay Falls

Reviewed By akostich_11 - Los Angeles, California

McWay Falls is in every guide book for people hitting Big Sur, so unfortunately the tranquil vibes conveyed by all the famous photographs are nothing like the reality (which is loud crowds of people trampling a well-worn path from the parking lot and jamming the viewing platform for selfies and videos). Nevertheless, it's an easy 3 minute walk from the street and you might as well see it. One helpful tip would be to forgo the parking lot and crowds entirely and just park alongside Highway 1 and peer over the edge at the side of the road; you will get a better view than if you're elbow-to-elbow with people down below, and your higher vantage point will offer a different perspective than everyone else's photo.

6. Bixby Bridge

Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Excellent
64%
Good
28%
Satisfactory
6%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 1 reviews

Bixby Bridge

This historical bridge is a popular subject for photographers.

Reviewed By tao2010 - Ann Arbor, Michigan

Human creation meet nature creation. The result - the perfect harmony. Only when you step out of the car and observe the scenery. You can truly understand the reason why this bridge is so famous, Because it is so unique and stunningly beautiful.

7. Limekiln State Park

Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920 +1 831-667-2403
Excellent
66%
Good
29%
Satisfactory
3%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 202 reviews

Limekiln State Park

Reviewed By tammythetypist - Pismo Beach, California

If you want to see 11 miles of Highway 1 from Gorda to Limekiln there is a way if you're willing! Take Nacimiento-Fergussen Road out of Bradley, California. This road takes you through Fort Hunter Liggett who did not require ID on this trip, but be prepared to do so, it is an Army base. The first 1/3 of the drive was two lanes the last 2/3 was little more than 1.5 lanes wide with at least three full hairpin curves and 10 mph road. This is NOT a road for trailers or motor homes! Once you reach the summit you may see the ocean, you may see fog bank, either is beautiful! Once you reach Highway 1 turn left towards Gorda for gas at the Whale Watcher Cafe. That is the end of the road South. Sand Dollar Beach is open, Treebones Resort is open, Limekiln is open. You need to pay 10 dollars for entry well worth it. These camp grounds were beautiful with running water, flush toilets and showers. The campsites beautiful. Took a day hike and it was beautiful. The path to the kilns themselves is closed by downed trees from the fire. The path to the waterfalls was open. Paths are very well cleared. Lots of water in the creeks and there is flimsy wood/trees to cross on. The recent fire left a lot of burned out trees. Lots and lots of poison oak, use your Felsnaptha soap afterwards! No dogs allowed on the walking paths and enforced. The beach at Limekiln is small but beautiful. Nice day trip. Be sure to leave time to get back BEFORE dark Nacimiento Road is treacherous at night. Very nice day trip!

8. Ragged Point

19019 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93452-9751 +1 805-927-5708
Excellent
67%
Good
24%
Satisfactory
5%
Poor
3%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 273 reviews

Ragged Point

Reviewed By Margot P - Coffs Harbour, Australia

Travelling the coast road, the road is permanently cut between Ragged point and Big Sur. We enjoyed Ragged Point views of the cliffs and amazing road engineering, reckon it was worth the detour to the Point and the elephant seal colony on the way and then back to San Simeon.

9. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

47225 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920-9542 +1 831-667-2315
Excellent
64%
Good
26%
Satisfactory
8%
Poor
1%
Terrible
1%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 638 reviews

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Reviewed By Rosie008 - Bath, UK

Due to the Spring 2017 mudslides, the coast highway from Monterey to Big Sur had only just re-opened when we visited in October 2017. Due to a combination of the mudslides, earlier wildfire damage, and the high risk of current wildfires, a number of the longer hiking trails in the Pfeiffer State Park remained closed during our visit.
We were able to enjoy walking along the trails at Partington Cove and McWay falls, and would recommend both locations to enjoy the coastal scenery.

10. Old Coast Road

Big Sur, CA
Excellent
77%
Good
15%
Satisfactory
5%
Poor
3%
Terrible
0%
Overall Ratings

4.5 based on 98 reviews

Old Coast Road

Reviewed By arh2900 - Penarth, United Kingdom

A great and somewhat challenging drive in parts takes you along this beautiful stretch of highway. There are a number of veiwing points but aim to stop at Bixby bridge which is great. The weather can affect the view. Our trip along the highway was dogged by sea mist. There are some restaurants along the way should you wish to take in the view in a more relaxed manner.

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