21 Fun Things to do in Big Sur Day Trip: Ultimate California Coast Road Trip

Welcome to our Big Sur Day trip planner.

Big Sur, located along Central California coast, is one of the best places to visit on the West Coast of USA.

So exactly where is big sur located? The region is 90 miles long and begins south of Monterey and Santa Cruz. It ends near San Simeon.

Big Sur Coast is known for its rocky beaches, spectacular sunsets, and sheer natural beauty. It includes charming small towns such as Pacific Grove, Carmel Highlands, and Big Sur Village.

How to get to Big Sur? Just follow SR1.

The 90 miles long stretch of Highway 1 through Big Sur is a part of the Pacific Coast Highway or PCH1. The drive to Big Sur consistently ranks as one of the top scenic drives in the world.

Also Read: 20 Best Roadtrips in the US

That means whether you are driving to Big Sur from San Diego or the Monterey peninsula or Bay Area, on your Big Sur road trip you will be treated to enchanting views and landscapes.

Here is a detailed guide to things to do in Big Sur, an itinerary to plan the ultimate Big Sur day trip, and tips to help you encounter the dangerous twist and turns in the Big Sur drive.

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“. . . They had skies of pure azure and walls of fog moving in and out of the canyons with invisible feet, hills in winter of emerald green and in summer mountain upon mountain of pure gold.
They had even more, for there was ever the unfathomable silence of the forest, the blazing immensity of the Pacific, days drenched with sun and nights spangled with stars. . .”
– Henry Miller, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch

History of Big Sur

The name Big Sur means ‘el Sur grande’ or the Big South in Spanish.

In the 1950s, Big Sur was an artist’s enclave. Many writers, painters, artists, and hippies settled here, contributing to the regions bohemian and eclectic, free spirited counterculture. The most famous of them was probably Henry Miller, the American writer.

To them, Big Sur was the ultimate paradise. Largely unspoiled and unconnected, it was the perfect place to embark on creative endeavors.

The sheer beauty of the coast inspired many souls to settle in the region and call it home.

While idyllic life in Big Sur has changed dramatically since Henry Miller lived there in the 1950s, the picturesque setting of the unspoiled Big Sur coastline remains the same today… serene and rugged! 

Also Read: Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary

How much time to spend in Big Sur

There are so many things to do Big Sur that you can easily spend days or weeks together exploring the area.

You can even move here for a month and still not want to leave – Big Sur casts a spell on all its visitors!

Which begs the question, can you really see Big Sur in a day?

That’s the beauty of the region! If you have less time, you can be practical and take an incredible one day San Francisco Big Sur day trip that covers the most popular Big Sur activities.

Big Sur in a day is an easy trip to plan and entirely possible for most travelers.

Best time to visit Big Sur

The best time visit Big Sur is from spring to fall.

In the spring, the whole area is carpeted with beautiful wildflowers. It looks gorgeous and the weather is perfect for Big Sur trip.

Fall is another great time to visit to enjoy the views and burst of colors along the coast.

Summers can be very foggy and you may miss out on clear panoramic coastal views.

Winter along the Central Coast is quite cold. Outdoor activities such as camping or hiking are not as easy since you need to pack layers.

Also during Big Sur winter, you will have fewer daylight hours to cover Big Sur must see attractions.

But winter is the best time to see migrating gray whales.

Also Read: 24 Best Places to Visit in California in winter

Where to begin Big Sur day trip?

Big Sur from San Francisco

Big Sur can be reached as a day trip from San Francisco or San Jose or most places in the Bay area. In fact, it is one of the most popular day trips from San Jose.

It is better to drive to Big Sur from San Francisco since the most famous attractions such as Bixby Creek Bridge and McWay Falls are closer when you are coming from the north.

How far from San Francisco to big sur? The distance from San Francisco to Big Sur Village is a little under 150 miles and the drive takes 2.5 hours while San Jose to big sur is 100 miles and 1 hr 45 mins.

Also Read: One day in San Francisco itinerary

Los Angeles to Big Sur

You can also road trip Big Sur from Santa Barbara or Los Angeles or other cities in SoCal but you will need at least 2 to 3 days.

How far is big sur from la? The distance from la to big sur is about 350 miles and takes 5.5 hours. If you are visiting Big Sur from Los Angeles and have less time, then plan your trip around southern attractions like San Simeon and Limekiln State Park.

Also Read: One Day in LA Itinerary

Or you can also start your trip in LA area, drive north to see the major attractions, and the go from Big Sur to San Francisco to make a one way trip.

Or start in north, driving from San Francisco to Big Sur and then continue from Big Sur to Los Angeles or even San Diego!

Whichever route you pick, the big sur pacific coast highway trip is a memorable one.

Beautiful stops along the PCH 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles (CC 2.0 / sranson)

Other California Coast posts:
Driving down to Los Angeles? Check out our San Francisco to Los Angeles road trip guide.
Plan a summer California road trip, using our 10 day California road trip itinerary that covers the coast, the desert, the High Sierra, and the coastal redwoods!

Things To Know Before You Plan Big Sur One Day Trip

Central California coast is still changing and erosion is continually occurring. Storms trigger mudslides or floods and can close PCH1 for long durations.

Always check the weather for rain and storm forecasts and road closures along PCH1 before starting your Big Sur road trip.

Current Status: Winter storm in January 2021 washed away a section of Highway 1. Visitors currently need to take about 5 miles of detour between Big Creek Vista Point and Lime Creek Bridge.

Check out sunrise and sunset times before planning your trip. The daylight hours are lesser during winter and can affect how much you can expect to see in a day.

Fill up your car before you enter the Big Sur area as gas stations are sparse on the route.

You might have limited connectivity in certain parts. Mobile phones often have no signal in some stretches of Big Sur.

We suggest keeping a print out of your Big Sur itinerary and a GPS to guide you in case of any difficulty.

Rent a convertible if possible, this scenic PCH1 route is even more perfect with a top-down car in the summers.

We do not recommend Big Sur driving at night as the fog rolls in and visibility can get quite poor, creating bad conditions to drive in the Big Sur region.

Don’t forget to take a rainproof light jacket, especially if you are visiting in the winter. Things can get chilly quite fast when it’s windy or after the sunsets.

If you are visiting in the summer, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat are a must. Additionally, take a swimsuit if you plan to swim in any of the beaches during your Big Sur day trip.

Big Sur stretch of PCH1 can get quite crowded during the holidays, weekends and in summer.

Leave early or avoid major holidays to skip the crowds.

The road through Big Sur is continuously winding and turning. If you are prone to motion sickness, we recommend getting your favorite remedies.

Lunch or dinner stops in Big Sur are few and far in between.

Either plan your trip down to where you will be having lunch or bring a picnic basket along and eat on the go.

We really like the second option as it allows for picnic underneath a redwood grove or on the beach or amidst the blooming wildflowers.

When hiking in Big Sur, be wary of poison oak.

If you purchase the California State Park day entry pass for $10 it covers entry to all California parks on that day and significantly reduces the cost of your trip.

While this is a Big Sur one day itinerary, you can also use it for spending anything from 2 days in Big Sur to a week.

What To Bring For San Francisco To Big Sur Day Trip

Before we proceed to the Big Sur map of attractions, here’s what you need to pack.

1. Binoculars

2. Great Camera

3. Telephoto zoom lens + wide-angle lens

4. Comfortable shoes for hiking

5. Raincoat or light jacket

6. Layered clothing

7. Swimsuit or wetsuit (depending on the season)

8. Sunscreen

9. Picnic lunch

10. Nutrition bars and other snacks

11. Water – lots of it!

12. Cash

13. An amazing rental car and plenty of gas

14. An adventurous spirit!

Things to do in Big Sur Road Trip

The 90 miles of Big Sur starts after the coastal town of Carmel in the north and end near San Luis Obispo in the south; the majority of Big Sur highlights are centrally located in a 25 miles long stretch from Bixby Creek Bridge to McWay Falls.

The road is a two-lane, curving and winding coastal one; it is sandwiched between the Santa Lucia Mountain ranges and the Pacific Ocean.

In spring, wildflowers bloom on the hills and cliff tops, and innumerable pull-out points lure tourists into admiring the views.

We can guarantee it, you will feel like getting down at every turn and twist on the road, especially when it’s foggy.

And that’s okay too, the Big Sur coastal drive is all about the journey and aimless driving for miles!

In this Big Sur itinerary, we list the points of interest as they appear when driving south from San Francisco via Monterey and Carmel.

If you are driving northwards, you can refer to the below Big Sur stops in the opposite order.

Wondering where to stop on a road trip to big sur? Then read on for our essential Big Sur road trip stops.

Also Read: Pacific Coast Itinerary in 5 Days: Big Sur and Beyond

Point Lobos Landscape view (CC2.0 )


The charming city of Monterey is the perfect place to begin your Big Sur day trip. Check out attractions such as the Cannery Row, 17 Mile Drive, Pebble Beach, and the aquarium.

There are many other things to do in Monterey County. Take a cruise or see Pacific Grove and Carmel by the Sea before driving down to Big Sur.

Carmel is a beautiful artist colony or community and has an amazing vibe. In Carmel, you will find the historic Mission Carmel, art galleries, and charming cottage homes.

Definitely add one of these towns to grab breakfast or lunch on your list of Big Sur things to do.

If you have more time, visit Santa Cruz boardwalk or the beautiful Pigeon Point Lighthouse. Other things to do near Big Sur include the charming cities of Pescadero and Half Moon Bay.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos, just south of Monterey and Carmel and at the start of Big Sur, is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts.

It has great hiking and most of the trails have incredible views of the Bay.

Point Lobos is also one of the popular things to do in Big Sur with kids as it has plenty of easy hiking trails for all ages and fitness levels.

We like the Cypress Cove Trail and China Cove Trail in particular.

Apart from hiking, Point Lobos is also excellent for bird watching and whale watching. We have also seen a sea otters. You need to reach Point Lobos early in the morning to find a good parking spot.

Garrapata State Park

Garrapata State Park with its rocky beaches, tide pools, and secluded coves is a great stop along the way.

The spot is favorite with painters and artists residing in Carmel.

We really liked the short bluff trails, especially Soberanes Point Trail, with its great ocean views.

Rocky Creek Bridge

Many visitors often mistake Rocky Creek Bridge as Bixby Creek Bridge since they look quite similar.

However, there is no parking at Rocky Creek Bridge and you can’t stop whereas you will be seeing hordes of tourists getting down and parking before Bixby Creek Bridge.

However, even if we can’t get down we like looking at the views of the bridge from the car.

Also Read: 10 Best convertible drives in the country

Bixby Creek Bridge

Bixby Creek Bridge is where the fun on Big Sur truly starts. This famous bridge near big sur is one of the most photographed bridges in California after the Golden Gate bridge.

This bridge is a compelling architectural feat and spans the Bixby Creek Bridge.

Pull Out points are located on both sides of the Bridge and while we recommend getting down at both ends, it is the majestic views from the North end that are most iconic.

The north parking lot has a trail with great views and it is from here that most popular photos of the bridge are taken.

Visiting and taking photos at Bixby Creek Bridge is one of the most popular things to see in Big Sur CA in one day.

The famous Bixby Bridge in Big Sur (CC2.0 / Pixabay)

Hurricane Point

Located about 1.3 miles south of Bixby Creek Bridge, Hurricane Point is one of the highest points on the Pacific Coast Highway.

From here you have almost 360-degree views of the coast towards the North as well as South.

Because of its high elevation, it is very windy here, hence the name.

The sunsets from this viewpoint are incredible and magically paint the coast on golden hues.

Point Sur Lightstation State Historic Park

What to do in big sur California for adventure lovers? Visit the Point Sur Light!

This historic lighthouse also has the reputation of being a haunted one.

Located at a strategic position with a commanding view over the valley, the Point Sur Lightstation makes for iconic photographs.

Tours are offered on specific days, we recommend checking the state park website for timings.

The lighthouse provides an incredible adventure experience with scary winds, dense fog, churning ocean, and the tall cliffs.

From this big sur viewpoint, you can also see migrating whales and other marine life.

Andrew Molera State Park

This state park is one of the famous big sur places to see. Its popular attraction is the 9 miles long Andrew Molera Loop Trail that goes from the hills to the purple sand beach. This hiking trail is great for an amazing adventure.

While you won’t be able to fit it in on a Big Sur day trip, the park also has smaller trails that are equally beautiful.

Andrew Molera State Park also has excellent birding.

Big Sur Lighthouse (CC 2.0 NOAA Photo Library)

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of the most visited state parks on Big Sur day trip from San Francisco.

This park has it all – a majestic redwood forest, campsites under the trees, secluded trails with beautiful views, and wildlife viewing opportunities.

Also Read: Best Beaches to Camp in the USA

Valley View Trail is one of the popular trails in this state park.

While Pfeiffer Beach is nearby, it is not a part of the park and isn’t covered by the state park entry fee.

Big Sur Ranger Station

We strongly recommend stopping at the visitor information center on your Big Sur itinerary.

Docents have up to date information on closures and weather forecasts and are the perfect Big Sur guides.

There is also a gift shop which is great for buying Big Sur souvenirs.

Pfeiffer Beach

While it is exceedingly popular, Pfeiffer Beach is also hard to find.

The road turn-off has no signage which confuses many visitors.

After you leave Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, you will cross the Big Sur River.

The road to the beach is the first after the bridge across the river and begins about half a mile after the Big Sur Ranger Station (around MM 45).

Follow the single lane road for a couple of miles till you see the beach parking lot. 

Finally, hike the mile-long trail to the beach. This trail passes through sand and we suggest wearing your beachy footwear to avoid getting sand in your shoes.

If you still can’t find it or prefer GPS coordinates, the ones for Pfeiffer Beach are 36.24023 / -121.77706. You can use the National Parks pass to visit the beach.

Travel Tip: During peak travel times, the beach parking lot gets full early on in the day. 

Also Read: 10 Best Fall drives in the USA for spectacular fall foliage

The beach is quite pretty with a unique purplish hued sand but it’s the (seemingly) wildly strewn rock formations that are the star attraction here.

From arches to holes and jagged curves, the rock formations have it all. 

The most famous rock is the Keyhole Rock, so named for the natural keyhole at the bottom.

If you have the time or are staying in the area, we suggest returning here at sunset to see the water take on magnificent colors and paint the rocks in brilliant hues.

Keyhole Rock, Pfeiffer Beach (CC 2.0 Photo by Daiwei Lu on Unsplash)

Henry Miller Library

Where to stop on big sur for literary and culture lovers?

The Henry Miller Library is a must for fans of the American writer Henry Miller. This is also a great stop for all book readers and literary fans.

Henry Miller lived in the Big Sur region for over 17 years and the Henry Miller Library commemorates his life and career.

The library is unlike any other and is a delight to wander. It is located 0.25 miles south of Nepenthe restaurant and great to visit on the Big Sur scenic drive.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Most people know Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park due to the famous McWay Falls (see below). However, the state park has lots more than that.

It is also home to Partington Cove, a secluded cove with amazing ocean views.

Many of the park’s trails are currently closed (as of August 2018) due to weather damage, including McWay Falls, so check before you go.

Partington Cove

Easily reached by a short 15-20 mins hike down the cliff from Highway 1 big sur route after mile marker 37.8, Partington Cove is wonderful to explore.

It is not that well-known among visitors and you will often have the cove to yourself.

To reach the cove, find the green gate to the unmarked trail that follows Partington Creek, crosses a wooden bridge, and then splits before passing through a tunnel.

Once you reach the cove, you will have sublime views of the turquoise, blue water, and shellfish.

The trail is about a mile long and you return the same way.

If you follow the other part of the trail where it splits, you will come to a second cove with crashing waves.

McWay Falls

While Big Sur has many waterfalls, the famous McWay Falls draws the most visitors. This is definitely one of the best places to visit in big sur.

Located inside Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, McWay Falls was one of the highlights of our Big Sur day trip.

I have fallen in love with the McWay waterfall since I saw a few photos floating on social media; something about the stream of water tumbling 70 feet below onto turquoise foaming waves has held me spellbound long before I visited Big Sur.

To visit McWay Falls, park in the parking lot at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (costs about $10, cash only or California State Park annual pass accepted) and follow the mile-long hiking trail to the observation deck.

From here you have panoramic views of the McWay Falls cascading onto the untouched Sandy Beach below.

The short hike is definitely worth it, you also have uninterrupted views over both sides of the Big Sur coastline.

The views from the observation deck are simply breathtaking.

The distance from San Francisco to McWay Falls is 160 miles and about 3 hours.

Beautiful McWay Falls from observation deck (CC 2.0 Photo by Austin Prock on Unsplash)

Big Creek Bridge

Another of Big Sur’s majestic bridges, this is a double-arched bridge on Highway 1.

It spans across the Big Creek Canyon and is photogenic.

Lookout points are located at both ends of the bridge and have great views over the coast.

Limekiln State Park

Limekiln State Park is a great addition to Big Sur itinerary with plenty of small hiking trails leading to the 4 limekilns in the park.

It also has good trails that will lead you to redwood groves.

The Limekiln state park beach is very beautiful and has great sunset views. We also liked the campgrounds that we saw on our way to the beach.

Los Padres National Forest

Where to stop on a big sur road trip for excellent hiking?

Los Padres National Forest is a wild forested area that extends well into the interior.

The forest has many winding roads that go perpendicular to the PCH1 and meet the coast; these are a delight to drive and make for excellent detours.

Los Padres is also popular for hiking and camping. We visited the Willow Creek Day Use Area and liked the views from Willow Creek Vista Point.

Sand Dollar Beach is another popular day-use area with picnic tables and beach access.

While the California State Park entrance day pass doesn’t allow entry into Los Padres National Forest, the National Parks pass does.

Jade Cove

Located within Los Padres National Forest, Jade Cove is a unique attraction.

More of a hidden gem in the San Simeon and Big Sur area, this cove is a favorite with jade hunters.

However, the trail leading to the cove is not marked and goes down a steep cliff.

Not for the faint-hearted, the rewards for reaching the cove are worth it: you can find pieces of jade if you look carefully enough and also the views from the cove are breathtaking.

Jade Cove is definitely one of the fun things to do in big sur for expert hikers.

Elephant seals at the rookery on Highway 1 (Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

Piedras Blancas Light Station

Piedras Blancas Light Station can be seen by 2 hour-long guided tours which are available only on certain days.

Since you can’t walk up and visit, advance reservations to the tours are needed.

The tour is a great way to learn about the history of the lighthouse and the surrounding marine life.

Visiting the lighthouse is more feasible if you are spending 2 days in Big Sur but it can also be accommodated on a day trip if you really want to visit.

The lighthouse is a hit with kids of all ages. Views of the coast and the ocean from the top of the lighthouse are stunning, making this another Big Sur highlights.

Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery

The Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery is one of the best places to see in big sur for animal lovers.

Located south of the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, the rookery is free to visit.

There is plenty of parking available near the rookery and you can mostly always see elephant seals flopping around the beach from the lookout point.

To see the pups, plan a trip around February to April.

The volunteers at the Rookery are very knowledgeable and like to share information about the seals, making it a great place to learn about natural history.

This is a great stopover for families with kids.

Also Read: Ultimate California Road Trip Itinerary in 10 Days

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle is the lavish mansion built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst.

Built over a period of 28 years, the mansion has 165 rooms and is furnished in an opulent style.

Castle tour takes you on a walk through the grand rooms, ornate sculptures, and the staggering grounds including the famous swimming pools.

Also, the views from the top of the hill where the castle is located are stunning.

Hearst Castle is one of the musts on your Big Sur one day trip itinerary.

Grand swimming pools at Hearst Castle (CC 2.0 Pixabay)

Besides the above stops along the Pacific Coast Highway, there are plenty of other things to do at Big Sur in one day.

You can relax at one of Big Sur’s spa resorts. While you can’t get into many of them without staying the night, some do offer day spa activities. This is also a great option if you are looking to stay the night and spending 2 days in Big Sur.

The Esalen Institute is also a great place for spiritual experience along Big Sur. It has week-long classes aimed at reconnecting and rejuvenating yourself.

The Big Sur region is also rich in diverse wildlife including marine life.

The area is great for bird watching, and spotting otters, dolphins, elephant seals, grey whales, sea lions, and other animals that reside along the California central coast.

Bes sure to take a telephoto zoom lens or a binoculars to capture a migrating whale or a sea lion diving in the water.

You can also ride the beach on horseback or indulge in a romantic getaway in Big Sur.

With its amazing views and cozy cabins, the area is perfect for honeymooners and to spend Valentine’s Day getaway.

Or extend your California Coast road trip to Paso Robles where you can enjoy wineries and wine tasting.

Big Sur Itinerary

Now that we have covered some of the best things to do in big sur, let us suggest some itineraries. You can follow these whether you are planning San Francisco to Big Sur drive or going from Big Sur to la.

One day in Big Sur

Big Sur is 90 miles long, so there are too many things to see in Big Sur in one day.

Where to stop big sur if you have limited time?

While this list covers all the popular spots, we suggest choosing anywhere from 4 to 6 favorite spots and building your 1 day itinerary around them.

Point Lobos, Bixby Creek Bridge, Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls, Elephant Seal Rookery, and Hearst Castle are some of the must see Big Sur attractions.

To make the most of your one day in Big Sur, you need to wake up at dawn and get an early start from San Francisco.

We suggest leaving the city by 4:30-5 am to avoid the rush hour traffic.

It takes at least 3 hours (~110 miles) to reach Big Sur and ideally you want to reach Bixby Creek Bridge by 8 am to beat the crowds.

2 days in Big Sur

If you are spending 2 days in Big Sur or 3 days in Big Sur, then stay in Big Sur Village. See the highlights north of Big Sur Village on Day 1 and then drive south to attractions near Piedras Blancas or San Simeon.

Day 1: Point Lobos, Bixby Creek Bridge, Pfeiffer Beach, McWay Falls

Day 2: Limekiln State Park, sand Dollar Beach, Elephant Seal Rookery, and Hearst Castle

Whale Watching Big Sur

Big Sur whale watching is very popular with nature lovers and families. Big Sur is one of the best whale watching destinations in California.

Winter is the best time to go to big sur if you are interested in gray whale watching. Many people make the San Francisco to big sur pacific coast highway road trip from December to February watch the migrating gray whales.

You can see humpback whales from April to December and blue whales from June to October.

You can also go on whale watching excursions at Monterey.

Where To Eat In Big Sur?

Looking for the best places to eat in big sur?

The most popular options to have lunch in Big Sur valley include Nepenthe, where the famous once ate – including Henry Miller or Deetjen’s – a charming organic restaurant.

Other dinner options include the pricey but yummy Big Sur bakery or the wallet-friendly Big Sur Deli. Big Sur Deli is also where the local’s shop and this is a great place to buy a picnic meal.

Post Ranch Inn is as famous for its views as it is for the gourmet food and luxurious amenities.

Some other great options in the area include Ventana Inn, Big Sur Roadhouse, and Big Sur River Inn.

Or buy food for your trip in Monterey or Carmel and have a nice picnic in Big Sur.

Sunset over PCH1 (CC 2.0 / amarcotty)

Where To Stay In Big Sur?

While this is a Big Sur one day itinerary, your San Francisco to big sur day trip need not be that short!

Essentially the Big Sur coastal drive itinerary remains the same even if you are staying in the area and exploring the magnificent redwood trees and pristine beaches. 

The lodging and accommodation options on Big Sur coast highway are limited and you do need advance reservations for most of the year.

Many of the inns and hotels also have on-site restaurants and so you will find the same names popping over again.

Located at the southernmost end of Big Sur, Ragged Point Inn has great views over the coast and serves good food at the on-site restaurant.

It also has a gift shop to buy your Big Sur souvenirs and map of big sur coast.

Other good options to stay include the luxurious Post Ranch Inn or the Big Sur Lodge or the glamping yurts at Treebones Resort.

Post Ranch Inn is located just about 30 miles south of Carmel valley. Post Ranch Inn is perched high above the ocean on a cliff and has stellar views. It is expensive and luxurious but worth the relaxing stay.

Big Sur River Inn has a great location along the riverbank while Ventana Inn is located in the cozy woods and has deer or two peeking through the windows.

Camping in Big Sur is a great way to stay in nature and experience this amazing coast to the fullest. However, the campgrounds get booked as soon as they open.

Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground is quite popular for camping.

Other great options include staying in either Monterey / Carmel or San Simeon area. Monterey has many hotels and lodging options while San Simeon has all that plus great nightlife!

Resources To Plan Your Trip To Big Sur Coast

We would like to reiterate, there is limited to no cell service in Big Sur and you need to carry maps, addresses, guides, printed itineraries, and reservation copies to be on the safe side.

It is safe to assume that the cell service will decrease after Monterey.

Also, many of the roads and trails are unmarked – like the Pfeiffer Beach road, and we recommend carrying a guide you trust throughout the trip.

You can either print out our Big Sur guide or check out these guides below that we trust.

Great Travel Guides To Plan Your Big Sur Road Trip:

Moon Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip: California, Oregon & Washington (Travel Guide)

Road Trip USA Pacific Coast Highway

Lonely Planet Coastal California (Travel Guide)

Great Website Resources To Create Big Sur Itinerary:

Pacific Coast Highway Itinerary in 5 Days: Big Sur and Beyond – Our guide to planning your entire road trip from San Francisco to Los Angeles over the length of a week including attractions in Monterey, Santa Barbara, and others.

PCH1Roadtrip – Our new website dedicated to the Pacific Coast Highway road trip.

A Guide to California’s Big Sur – This is an awesome website by John Rabold, a Bay Area and California native, is a great travel guide to the region. It has lots of practical information including Big Sur business’ addresses and phone numbers.

TripAdvisor Central Coast Guide – This was another website that we found quite useful while planning our trip.

Big Sur is a trip for couples, friends, and families.

Apart from the scenic stops, ocean view, and hiking trails, there are lots of things to do in Big Sur with kids.

Whale watching is a popular winter activity while Big Sur camping and RVing is popular in the summer. 

Big Sur, California has long been the muse of artists, writers, and photographers and was originally home to an artist’s colony.

If you are interested in reading about Big Sur, its history, and the artists that live there – I highly recommend Henry Miller’s memoir, ‘Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieronymus Bosch’.

If you follow our blog, you know I often like to wax lyrical about perfectly ordinary things!

However, honestly speaking, Big Sur road trip is an oh-so-dreamy, leave-me-here-forever moment.

The views were so scenic and incredible that I felt as if I had pulled an Instagram filter over my eyes!

As the frothing and foaming waves of the Pacific Ocean crashed against the rugged coastline, I felt a deep reverence for this beautiful coast.

We hope you liked our sf to big sur travel guide.

To once again quote Henry Miller,
“It is here at Big Sur that I first learned how to say Amen!”

2 thoughts on “21 Fun Things to do in Big Sur Day Trip: Ultimate California Coast Road Trip”

  1. Thank you for putting together this information. One question — for those of us who are afraid of heights (not motion sickness, just heights), is this drive likely to be terrifying in parts? Any recommended work arounds? Bridges are fine, but it’s more the looking over the edges of cliffs…

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