Planning the perfect Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary along California Coast this summer?
Big Sur Road Trip is one of our favorites in the world!
Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places to visit on the West Coast.
On the scenic drive along California’s central coast, you can enjoy stunning views of the Pacific Ocean…
Hike in state parks such as Andrew Molera State Park;
….spot sea lions and whales, and…
fall in love with the natural beauty of the area!
To help make your trip planning a little bit easier, we have put together a suggested road trip itinerary for you.
This itinerary will take you through some of the best stops in Big Sur, as well as some other amazing places that are nearby.
Also Read: Big Sur Day Trip
Best Places to Visit on Big Sur Road Trip
There are many incredible places to visit on a Big Sur road trip that offer incredible nature views, fantastic hikes, and ample photo opportunities.
Here are the essential stops on this amazing road trip along the Pacific Coast Highway.
Start your trip in the city by the bay and enjoy a few days exploring everything San Francisco has to offer.
From the Golden Gate Bridge to Fisherman’s Wharf, there is plenty to see and do in this vibrant city.
Don’t miss a chance to explore the Muir Woods, a beautiful forest of Coastal Redwood trees just north of the city.
Continue south along the beach towns of Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz towards the Central Coast and Big Sur.
Also Read: San Francisco to Big Sur Road Trip Itinerary
The charming town of Monterey is a great stop on your road trip.
Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium to see marine life up close, enjoy a stroll along Fisherman’s Wharf, and wander around historic downtown.
Just south of Monterey is the beautiful 17-Mile Drive, with views of Pebble Beach and Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Be sure to stop at the iconic Lone Cypress Tree before continuing on your journey.
Carmel by the Sea
Start your trip in the lovely town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Stroll around the streets, visit the shops and art galleries, have lunch in one of the great restaurants, and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
Carmel Beach is also very pretty, and it’s worth taking a walk along the cliff-top path.
Point Lobos State Reserve
Just south of Carmel is Point Lobos State Reserve, a must-see stop on your Big Sur road trip.
This is one of the most beautiful places on the Big Sur coast.
The hiking trails here are some of the best in California.
Point Lobos State Park is home to the Cypress Grove Trail, a popular hike that takes you through a beautiful old-growth forest.
Hike the trails, admire the views of the rocky coastline, and look for wildlife such as sea lions, otters, and birds.
Continue your journey south to Big Sur, one of the most scenic stretches of coastline in the world.
Stop at roadside viewpoints to take in the jaw-dropping views, go for hikes in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and spot wildlife such as deer and California condors.
If you’re lucky, you might even see a whale or two!
Bixby Creek Bridge
Bixby Bridge is one of the most photographed bridges in California, and it’s easy to see why.
This graceful bridge crosses Bixby Creek, a dramatic rocky canyon that is a highlight of the Big Sur coast.
From the pullouts, you can also enjoy spectacular views of the Big Sur coastline.
The best time to visit is at sunset, when the light is perfect for photography.
Garrapata State Park
While on your Big Sur road trip, don’t miss out on the chance to explore some of the state parks in the area!
One of the most popular ones is Garrapata State Park.
This park offers stunning coastal views, hiking trails, and even a beach.
The highlight of Garrapata State Park has to be the Garrapata State Beach.
This spot is especially popular with surfers and stand-up paddleboarders.
While the waves can be a bit rough, swimming is still possible if you’re careful.
Just be sure to stay close to the shore!
Garrapata Beach is also a great place to catch a sunset.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is another great state park to visit on your road trip.
The Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna, as well as several hiking trails including the Big Sur River Gorge.
The Big Sur River Gorge is one of the most popular hiking trails in Big Sur.
This trail takes you through a beautiful canyon and it’s a great option if you’re looking for a moderate hike.
The trailhead is located just off of Highway 1 and it’s well-marked.
Once you start hiking, you’ll quickly be rewarded with views of the river and the canyon walls.
Andrew Molera State Park
If you’re looking for a less crowded state park, Andrew Molera State Park is a great option.
This state park is located just north of Big Sur Village and it offers beautiful hiking trails, a beach, and even a waterfall.
Hiking is the best way to see all that Andrew Molera State Park has to offer.
There are a variety of trails ranging from easy to moderate difficulty.
One of the most popular trails is the Beach Trail, which takes you from the parking lot all the way down to Molera Beach.
This trail is relatively easy and it’s a great option if you’re short on time.
Many road trippers visit Big Sur just to see McWay Falls!
If you can visit only a few spots along the way, let McWay Falls be amongst them!
This 80-foot waterfall is located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and it’s one of the most photographed spots in Big Sur.
To get to the falls, you’ll need to walk down a short but steep trail.
Once you reach the falls, take a moment to admire the beauty of this natural wonder.
One of the must-visit spots on your Big Sur itinerary.
This purple sand beach is located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and it’s a popular spot for photographers.
Pfeiffer Beach is also a great place to go for a walk, sunbathe, and relax.
Just be careful not to disturb the sea anemones that are found in the tide pools!
There’s a small parking lot for Pfeiffer Beach but it gets full pretty fast on weekends.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is located in the heart of Big Sur and it offers stunning views, hiking trails, and beaches.
While the most popular attraction in the park is McWay Falls, it also has several other things to do and see.
There are many great hikes in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
One of the most popular ones is the Ewoldsen Trail, which takes you through a redwood forest.
This trail is moderate in difficulty and it’s about 3 miles long.
Big Sur Village
The Big Sur Village is the perfect place to stay on your Big Sur road trip.
This village is located in the heart of Big Sur and it’s home to several excellent restaurants, cafes, and shops.
There are also a few hotels and lodges in the area, so you’ll have no problem finding a place to stay including the Big Sur River Inn.
Big Sur Bakery is also a great stop for delicious baked goods.
Los Padres National Forest
Los Padres National Forest is a large forest located in Central California in Big Sur.
The forest has several hiking trails as well as camping and picnicking areas.
If you’re looking for a place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, Los Padres National Forest is the perfect spot.
The next stop on your Big Sur road trip is San Simeon, home to the famous Hearst Castle.
This massive estate was once the home of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, and it’s now a popular tourist attraction.
Hearst Castle is set on a hilltop overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and it’s surrounded by beautiful gardens.
Take a tour of the castle to see the opulent rooms and learn about the history of this fascinating place.
Elephant Seal Vista Point
If you’re looking for a place to see some amazing wildlife, Elephant Seal Vista Point at Piedras Blancas is the perfect stop.
This vista point overlooks a large colony of elephant seals that come here to mate and give birth.
It’s an incredible sight to see the baby seals playing in the waves, and you’ll also see plenty of adult seals as well.
The vista point is located inside the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery.
Post Ranch Inn
If you’re looking for a luxurious place to stay on your Big Sur road trip, the Post Ranch Inn is a great option.
This inn is located in the heart of Big Sur and it features stunning views of the Pacific Ocean.
The inn has several excellent restaurants, as well as a spa and a pool.
It’s the perfect place to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of Big Sur.
Sand Dollar Beach
If you’re looking for a beautiful beach to relax on during your road trip, Sand Dollar Beach is a great option.
This beach is located in Big Sur and it’s known for its stunning views and its clean, white sand.
The beach is also a great place to go swimming, surfing, and sunbathing.
Morro Bay is a charming seaside town located on Morro Bay, a large inlet on the Central Coast of California.
The town is home to several excellent restaurants, cafes, and shops, as well as Morro Rock, a large volcanic plug that juts out into the bay.
Pismo Beach is another lovely seaside town, and it’s a great place to stop for a bite to eat or a walk on the beach.
The town is located near Pismo State Beach, a long stretch of golden sand that’s perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing.
Oceano Dunes Natural Preserve
Just south of Pismo Beach is the Oceano Dunes Natural Preserve, a protected area of sand dunes that are popular with off-roaders.
If you’re not into off-roading, you can still enjoy the beauty of the dunes by hiking or cycling through them.
Nearby is Oceano Beach, a wide stretch of sand perfect for swimming, sunbathing, and surfing.
The final stop on your Big Sur road trip is Santa Barbara, a charming town located in Southern California.
Stroll around the downtown area, visit the beach, and check out the Spanish-style architecture.
If you’re in the mood for some culture, take a trip to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art or the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum.
If you have time, you can even extend this road trip further to Los Angeles and even to Southern California and San Diego.
Best time to visit Big Sur
The best time for this epic road trip is in spring when beautiful wildflowers bloom all over the coastal side.
Or you can wait until fall to enjoy the stunning colors of the leaves on the trees.
Summer and the winter holiday season is one of the busiest times of the year on Highway 1.
So if you are planning your trip during this time then get advance reservations!
Also Read: Carmel to Big Sur Day Trip
Things to remember for Pacific Coast Highway road trip
Big Sur has limited amenities including cell service.
Gas up and stock up on snacks and drinks in Cambria or Morro Bay before heading into the more remote areas.
There are a few campgrounds along the way but they fill up quickly, so reservations are recommended.
Pack your patience as there will be traffic delays, especially during peak tourist season.
The Big Sur road trip is definitely a must-do for any California traveler.
This scenic route travels along the coast of the Pacific Ocean, and it’s home to some of the most beautiful scenery in the state.
Enjoy your amazing road trip along California’s Pacific Coast!
Didn’t you like our guide to visiting Big Sur?