Top 10 Things to Do in Big Sur

Top 10 Things to Do in Big Sur

Without a doubt, Big Sur was my favourite region in California. I highly recommend the drive through the winding road that makes up Highway 1 through Big Sur. There are so many hidden spots along the road and it can be difficult to stop at them all! I suggest at least two days in the area to have adequate time to explore the beautiful sights.

I had been sufficiently forewarned that Big Sur had a bad rap for being a tourist trap. While accommodation and meals in the area are quite pricey, there are several affordable options if you research mindfully. It is also very feasible to stay in neighbouring towns such as Carmel or Monterey and travel the beautiful drive in to Big Sur for the day.

It is important to note that WiFi in this area is extremely spotty. Make sure you don’t rely on your phone or Google Maps to direct you. You need to ensure you are aware of where you’re going ahead of time – the good ‘ol fashioned way!

In no particular order, here are my top 10 recommendations of things to do in this stunning region:

1. Buzzard’s Roost

For the hiking lovers! A challenging yet beautiful hike among the Redwoods with several switchbacks.

2. Point Lobos Nature Reserve

A beautiful coastal hike along the rugged cliff side, feeling a million miles away from anything touristy. The reserve is home to plenty of wildlife and birds and also offers activities such as hiking, diving and a Whalers Cabin. We visited just before sundown, and the park was relatively free of other visitors.

3. Julia Burns Pfeiffer State Park

For the nature and hiking lovers, this is a wonderful place to spend the day. From trails to waterfalls to unique wildlife, there are many beautiful sights to discover in this park!

4. McWay Falls

This is the famous area where the waterfall cascades directly onto the sand. The views are extremely picturesque and postcard perfect! Definitely frame worthy photographs.

5. Ewoldsen Trail

This trail leads away from McWay Falls and into the forest. These woods look like a fairy wonderland.

6. Pfeiffer Falls

A charming waterfall hidden along Ewoldsen Trail. We enjoyed our lunch break beneath the falls.

7. Pfeiffer Beach

Not to be missed! The gorgeous purple sands of this beach make for a very memorable visit. Read more about my visit here.

8. Bixby Canyon Bridge

This bridge is one of the most iconic in the entire state. No trip to Big Sur is complete without a stop to admire it.

9. 17 Mile Drive

Another must. Grab a map at one of the entrance gates and cruise 17 beautiful miles of scenic Pebble Beach and Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula. This road trip makes for a very exciting and photogenic day trip!

10. Elephant Seals

A perfect stop for your way in or out of Big Sur. These massive seals can be found on the beach at Piedras Blancas in southern Big Sur near San Simeon. They make the funniest noises! I loved how big and blubbery they were. They would scoot up the beach for a couple of seconds before collapsing.

Did I miss anything? What are some other things you recommend for a visit to Big Sur?

Author

My passion for capturing memories through the lens of my camera, my love for food and the joy I find in reflecting on my travel memories using a pen and paper results in a series of blog entries filled with warmth, pure happiness and inspiration. I hope to share a little bit of myself and my adventure of life with you.

19 comments

  • We absolutely loved our road trip on Highway 1, even if the weather wasn’t always nice with us! The 17 mile drive and the Bixby Canyon bridge were our favorite sights!

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  • McWay Falls and Pfeiffer Beach are beautiful and iconic! I still can’t believe my travels have not yet taken me in this direction, even though I’m based in California! I’m going to have to make this happen!

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  • Never been to this entire area of California so it’s wonderful to hear about your trip here and get ideas on things to do. We just did the 17 mile drive portion and loved it. We have recently taken up hiking so we’d probably like Buzzard’s Roost there. Great tips!

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  • You’re so lucky! Your photos show all the spots I’ve missed in Big Sur. Why did I miss them? We had the famous Californian fog, so thick that even close-up images of flowers had a grey haze. Looking at seals: forget it! It was really so thick a fog that climbing down to beaches would have been too hazardous. Not to mention that it was cold too…

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  • I think one life is definitely not enough to explore all the places in the USA.. Those gorgeous waterfalls, beaches, nature & animals make me wanna go to Big Sur right away! Although I have never been to this country yet, gives me all the more reason to go there and explore more.

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  • Your photos of Big Sur are breathtaking! I especially love the one with the sunlight showing through the cave at Pfeiffer Beach. I’m an avid hiker, so a few days exploring Big Sur would be my ideal vacation. I’ve actually never been to California and considering this a Must Do for when I visit. Thanks for the inspiration!

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  • Big Sur is just amazing-looking. It’s amazing all the gems that you can find in the U.S. The Bixby Canyon Bridge, Pfeiffer Falls and Ewoldsen Trail are the top of my list. This whole area just looks unbelievably magical!

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  • Can’t agree more with you on this – it was one of my fav places in California too. I absolutely loved Point Lobos Nature Reserve and still feel so good about the pictures I took there. Unfortunately never stayed overnight that side…I guess that would’ve been a lot of fun too…

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  • Never been to California yet, let alone Big Sur. I loved all your photos , but I liked the one of Pfeiffer beach with the golden sun thru the gap and also of the Seals. Hope to visit sometime.

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  • I love Big Sur! Such a highlight of the drive along the California coast. The elephant seals are so much fun to see, and the nature there is unbelievable! Next time we’re there we’ll have to visit Pfeiffer Beach and Pfeiffer falls. Thanks for the tips!

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  • I’ve got to get back to Big Sur. When we drove through, a terrible forest fire shrouded the entire coast in thick smoke and fog. We didn’t see a thing along that classic highway drive. Your beautiful photos show me what we missed! Must check out all those parks and viewpoints

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  • Big Sur is definitely one of the highlights of the California coast! The dramatic cliffs, the fog drifting through the red woods, waterfalls dropping into the ocean, and beautiful views the entire way!

    Do you know if they have re-opened the road all the way though yet? We tried to drive it last year but we had to take a massive detour due to one of the bridges cracking in half due to mud slides. Who would have thought that California would have a problems with too much rain!

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  • I love love love this part of CA. I think you got all the top nature spots in the area! The 17 Mile Drive was always a highlight when I would visit Monterey/ Carmel for my birthday but Big Sur was too far!

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  • I really want to do Big Sur! I have done a mini PCH roadtrip from San Diego to Los Angeles, but I would love to do the full version. You’re photos are beautiful

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  • I love, love, loved this region – we too did the drive (as part of a San Diego to Alaska Road trip) and as nature enthusiasts were in our element. I didn’t actually think it was overly touristy, but then again we loved driving to no set itinerary and finding off the beaten path gems, hiking on beaches etc. The elephant seals were a highlight for sure.

    Very good tip on the spotty WiFi though, I agree. Luckily we had a GPS for the car which was excellent. Splurged one night and stayed at the Hyatt Big Sur – one of the most incredible and romantic hotels.

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