Big Sur, California
There's a little bit of magic in the air in Big Sur. It could be the smell of California sage, or the ancient redwoods standing guard. Or maybe it's that staggering drive along Highway 1, matched only by the breathtaking view of this rugged Pacific coastline. Whatever it is, I want more...
WHERE TO STAY
There's not much in the way of lodging in Big Sur, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in variety. From the bare bones to the super luxe, there's literally something for everyone.
If money is no object, Post Ranch Inn should do the trick. The aesthetic here is modern treehouse and the water views are truly spectacular. Tip: The deck is open to non-guests for lunch and cocktails.
Ventana Inn & Spa (directly across the street from Post Ranch Inn) is slightly less expensive, though still on the high end of the spectrum. We liked the cozy rooms and Japanese hot baths. Daily guided hikes (the property is 243 acres!) and yoga are offered. If you're feeling brave, visit the clothing optional pool (the property is Adults only FYI). Shuttle service is offered to nearby restaurants. Tip: Wine & cheese hour is typically a throwaway amenity at some hotels, but not here. They pull out all the stops featuring delicious nibbles and pours from local purveyors.
Glen Oaks Big Sur is under the radar and I hope it stays that way. Individual cabins are available to rent, in addition to some smaller rooms in this converted motor lodge. The rooms are mod with a decidedly Midcentury Modern twist. Think Don Draper goes camping.
Ripplewood Resort is an affordable option offering rustic riverside cabins. Tip: Breakfast here is a local favorite.
Treebones is capitalizing on the glamping trend. Yurts and campsites available, bathrooms are shared.
Deetjens is cozy, quaint and popular; book well in advance or hope for a cancellation. Tip: Breakfast here is outstanding. The Mexican eggs are tasty and shareable.
GOOD TO KNOW
Poison Oak is rampant in this region of California, so be on the look out. In drier areas, keep your eyes peeled for rattlesnakes.
Gas is expensive in Big Sur, so fill up ahead of time.
Bridge closures have made Big Sur difficult to reach, but access is now reopened!
WHERE TO EAT
Big Sur Bakery gets a lot of buzz and rightfully so. Our dinner here was pricey, but delicious. If pizza matters to you, come here: They're excellent and change frequently. Also great for pastries and strong coffee in the morning. Tip: Ask for a table outside and bring a sweater.
Open for lunch & dinner, the Big Sur Roadhouse has an eclectic menu highlighting seasonal ingredients. The homemade ice creams are delicious.
Nepenthe (Greek for "Isle of No Care") is a Big Sur institution, serving food & drink since 1949. The Fassett family continues to own and operate this waterfront establishment, perched high on a hillside with sweeping views of the Pacific. I like it for drinks and appetizers.
There are a handful of general stores (including one at Ripplewood Resort) to stock up on picnic supplies, though prices are slightly steep. They also sell camping essentials like firewood and bug repellant.
WHAT TO DO
Big Sur is all about natural beauty, so plan to spend the majority of your time outside. The most famous view in Big Sur according to Instagram,is McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Visiting during off-peak times in advised or be prepared to do battle with a selfie stick or two. Tip: For a less trafficked experience, check out the Ewoldsen Trail. A 4.6 mile loop with top of the world views of Big Sur, this is a great way to see a lot of Big Sur in a short amount of time.
April to December is whale watching season. Grab a seat on the deck of Post Ranch Inn and watch the world go by.
Highway One is unlike any other roadway in the world. Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy this ride, especially on weekends when traffic can be heavy. The road is littered with vista points; pull over and take it all in.
WHAT TO PACK
Here's what you'll need to look put together on the trails...