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Big Sur

Big Sur

Art and nature merge on this rugged coast of Big Sur, one of California’s most spectacular settings

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Welcome to Big Sur, one of the world’s most unforgettable stretches of coastline. This roughly 90-mile-long stretch of redwood- and fog-trimmed waterfront between Carmel-by-the-Sea and Hearst Castle draws you (and writers like Henry Miller and Beat Generation darling Jack Kerouac) in with a magic allure that is almost palpable. This is, quite simply, a place you want to be—bluffs, sea, and sky.

The Allure of Big Sur

The classic drive through Big Sur, along twisting Highway 1, offers plenty of pullovers at places like seen-it-in-a-million-car-commercials Bixby Bridge. Stop at parks along the coastline and look up to see endangered California condors, North America’s largest birds, or look down to scan the swells for migrating whales or sea otters floating among dense beds of kelp, California’s signature seaweed.

Where to Stay in Big Sur

Many travelers to Big Sur choose to stay in a nearby Central Coast city. Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey to the north or San Simeon and Cambria to the south all have a variety of accommodations near restaurants and shops. But staying within the Big Sur region itself has its get-away-from-it-all benefits, with everything from luxury bucket-list retreats to stunning campsites to choose from.

The Alila Ventana Big Sur offers luxury villas with fireplaces and private balconies, or you can choose to sleep among the redwoods in a canvas glamping tent. The resort offers unique ways to explore and enjoy the area with private hiking, axe throwing, meditation, and bike tour options.

If seclusion is what you’re after, the quaint Post Ranch Inn offers reclaimed redwood suites perched on ocean cliffs, and its in-room balconies and outdoor hot tubs suspend seemingly in mid-air. The acclaimed on-site restaurant Sierra Mar serves inspired garden-to-table cuisine with glass-walled panoramic views.

For a room with a view, consider Ragged Point Inn and Resort. Choose from ocean- or garden-view rooms and spend your days strolling through the resort’s manicured gardens or hiking down Black Swift Falls Trail to a private beach.

Find solace in a yurt (or a human-sized nest made of twisting branches) at Treebones Resort. This unusual eco-lodge offers guests personalized massages and an on-site omakase experience, crafted by sushi chef Yancy Knapp.

If you’re looking for a more rugged experience, campgrounds abound. Consider Big Sur CampgroundFernwood ResortRiverside Campground, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Where to Eat in Big Sur

Even if you don’t stay at Post Ranch Inn, its restaurant Sierra Mar offers a taste of this amazing setting. Be sure to make reservations, then savor inventive prix fixe lunch and dinner selections (a favorite is the Wagyu short rib with stone-ground grits) while gazing out over the ocean through floor-to-ceiling windows. On some days, you’ll literally be above the clouds when the fog rolls in.

As you explore the coastal highway, there’s more good eating along the way: Stop at the Big Sur River Inn for breakfast classics such as carrot cake French toast, or Big Sur Bakery, where the dinner selection includes gourmet wood-fired pizza.

Three Things to Do in Big Sur


1. Drive the world’s most awesome coastal highway

Edging the cliffs and twisting through stands of towering redwoods, California Highway 1 is Big Sur’s main drag. Take your time, both to drive safely and for stops at overlooks, where you can watch tendrils of fog drifting into the redwood canyons.

2. Catch the good vibes at Nepenthe

For lovers of Big Sur, no visit here is complete without a stop for shopping, dining, and the gorgeous setting at Nepenthe. Nepenthe founders Lolly and Bill Fassett hired Rowen Maiden, who studied with Frank Lloyd Wright, to build the landmark redwood and adobe structure you see today. Settle into a seat along the counter on the deck and behold one of Big Sur’s definitive views as you bite into Nepenthe’s iconic ambrosia burger. Then shop at The Phoenix Shop, where you’ll find distinctive clothing and gorgeous jewelry crafted by leading designers.

3. Hike down to a secluded cove

Bear in mind that what goes down, must come up as you set out on the trail to Partington Cove. At about two miles roundtrip, it’s a short trail but there’s a nearly 300-foot climb back to the trailhead off Highway 1. The route winds its way down slope before you enter a long tunnel carved by Big Sur pioneer John Partington. Go through it and you’ll emerge at the rocky cove, which was once used for shipping logs (and later to smuggle moonshine).

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