The Getaway
Fun Things To Do In Big Sur

Big Sur is a ruggedly beautiful seacoast area that lies along the Pacific in west-central California. It's full of natural wonders, especially for those who enjoy the outdoors, gorgeous scenery and crystal clear night skies that are perfect for star gazing.

There are so many fun things to do in Big Sur, whether you enjoy hiking, driving along the twists and turns of Highway 1, or discovering the dramatic coastline from a secluded rocky cove. Luxurious inns, lovely beaches, and great restaurants make Big Sur a fantastic destination.


01 Head for Point Sur State Historic Park

Big Sur historic park

Point Sur appears to be an island, but it's a huge rock connected to the mainland by a sandbar. There is a stone lighthouse that sits atop this volcanic rock. Visitors can take a fascinating three-hour guided tour of the area on most weekends. There are also hauntingly beautiful moonlight tours available. It's best to call ahead, as the tours are only open to the public on specific days and times. It's first come, first served, so arrive early, bring binoculars and dress in layers.


02 Take Unforgettable Hikes

hiking Big Sur

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park has seven marked trails that lead to hidden coves, waterfalls, long creeks and redwood forests. Just a short walk of under one mile gets you to Waterfall Overlook Trail where McWay Falls astounds visitors. There's a secluded beach surrounded by bluffs that are abounding with shrubs, wildflowers, and cypresses. Come and spot the migrating gray whales from here in the winter and spring months.


03 Take In The Scenery of The Rock Arch

scenery Big Sur yhelfman / Getty Images

It's tricky to find, but once you discover Pfeiffer Beach, you'll discover it was well worth the search. There are no entrance signs, but off Highway 1, you'll find Sycamore Canyon Road between the Big Sur Post Office and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Just off Pfeiffer Beach is the Pfeiffer Keyhole Rock, one of Big Sur's most photographed spectacles. You can wade over to it during low tide. Seeing the rock at sunset is amazing, as the sun's rays shine right through the keyhole.


04 Surf, Fish and Go Beachcombing at Sand Dollar Beach

rock arch Big Sur

This stretch of shoreline is a haven for beachcombers looking for washed-up sand dollars and rocks containing serpentine and jade. Sand Dollar Beach has great waves, making it one of Big Sur's best surfing spots. It's also prime fishing grounds. You can come here to just relax on the beach that never feels crowded and have a picnic as you take in the scenery.


05 Stop At The Iconic Bixby Bridge

what to do in Big Sur

Driving along Highway One, you'll come across a breathtaking stretch of land, sea and man-made ingenuity when you approach Bixby Bridge. This masterpiece of a single-span bridge was built in 1932 and sits 260 feet above the waves of Bixby Creek. The bridge's arches are actually embedded into the cliffs. Pull over before entering the bridge and soak up the panoramic scenery of waves breaking onto the beach and rocks below and the Santa Lucia Mountains behind you.


06 Journey Along the 17-Mile Drive

driving to Big Sur

For a gorgeous ride through cypress forests along an impressive rocky coastline, take a ride on 17-Mile Drive that gets you from Pebble Beach to Pacific Grove.

Stop at Fanshell Beach if you want to check out a pupping habitat for Harbor Seals. Crocker Grove offers you a look at the oldest Monterrey Cypresses that exist. Then there is the Lone Cypress that sits on a rocky pedestal that overlooks the ocean. It's withstood the elements since it was first noted in 1919.


07 Go Camping in Limekiln State Park

There's nothing that says peace and nature like camping out in a shaded redwood grove that sits along a peaceful creek. If you prefer the ocean, this park also offers sea views at the bottom of Limekiln Canyon. There are two fabulous campsite areas in Limekiln State Park.

  • The Redwood Campsites: there are 17 sites located amongst glorious, fragrant redwood trees.
  • The Ocean Campsites: These 12 sites are on the park's coastal side. Here you'll have quick access to the beach, with Highway One overhead.

 camping in Big Sur

08 Explore a Beautiful California Mission

Big Sur Pgiam / Getty Images

San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo was founded in 1770. It is an active Roman Catholic Church and a Minor Basilica. Tours of this National Historic Landmark take place daily, from 9:30 am to 5:00 pm.

There are interesting exhibits within this peaceful church, including a video that explains the history of the California missions and the restoration of this one. Father Junipero Serra founded Mission San Carlos Borromeo. The mission is located in Carmel-By-The-Sea, a few miles off Highway One.

View the lovely Basilica, fountain, garden and one of the most beautiful chapels on the missions trail.


09 Tour Big Sur on Horseback

Big Sur horseback

Instead of driving, consider horseback riding through the scenic coastal landscapes of Big Sur. This way you can be close enough to smell the trees and greenery as you feel the coastal breezes in your hair. The Pebble Beach Equestrian Center is one spot where you can arrange a horseback tour that will have you galloping on the beach, by the golf courses, and through the forest.


10 Discover Point Lobos National Reserve

Big Sur kurkul / Getty Images

This unique state reserve at the northern end of Big Sur features one side with rocky cliffs, bits of forest, deep canyons and wildflower-filled valleys. The other side of the park has the Pacific Ocean's crashing waves hitting the cliffs. This destination is popular with hikers, scuba divers, geology lovers and observers of ocean animals. It's possible to view harbor seals, sea lions, sea otters and gray whales here. There's also a cultural history museum in Whalers Cove, which is a great picnic spot.


11 Visit the Henry Miller Memorial Library

A yellow car matching the yellow sign at the entrance of the Henry Miller Memorial Library (Where Nothing Happens) Sir Endipity /

Nestled in the natural splendor of Big Sur is the Henry Miller Memorial Library, a cultural haven that pays homage to the late writer and artist. This charming spot serves as a bookstore, arts hub, and performance venue where the spirit of creativity and freedom permeates the air. Visitors are invited to browse the collection, attend a live event, or simply enjoy the tranquil surroundings where Miller once found his inspiration.


12 Stay or dine at The Sur House at Ventana

Perched atop the rugged cliffs, The Sur House at Ventana offers a dining experience as majestic as the views it overlooks. With a menu that celebrates local ingredients and flavors, guests can savor every bite alongside panoramic views of the Pacific. For those seeking a more immersive experience, a stay at Ventana Big Sur promises luxury and serenity amidst the natural beauty of the coast.


13 Explore Andrew Molera State Park

Big Sur river flowing out into the Pacific Ocean at Andrew Molera State Park south of Monterey, CA, Big Sur, California, USA

Andrew Molera State Park, the largest in Big Sur, is a treasure trove of natural wonders. From its sprawling meadows to secluded beaches and majestic redwoods, the park offers a variety of trails for hiking, biking, and equestrian adventures. Its unique landscape makes it a perfect destination for those looking to explore the diverse ecosystems and scenic beauty of Big Sur.


14 Photograph the iconic Pfeiffer Keyhole Rock

Sun Portal at Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur

Pfeiffer Beach is home to the famed Pfeiffer Keyhole Rock, an awe-inspiring natural arch that becomes even more magical at sunset. Photographers and nature lovers alike flock here to capture the moment when the sun's rays align perfectly with the keyhole, creating a stunning natural spectacle. This hidden gem is a must-visit for anyone looking to witness one of Big Sur's most photographed sights.


15 Engage in tide pooling at Partington Cove

For those with a sense of adventure, a trek to Partington Cove unveils a hidden world of marine life. The journey involves a scenic hike through a tunnel carved into the rock, emerging onto a secluded cove where tide pools are rich with aquatic creatures. This intimate encounter with the ocean's inhabitants offers a unique perspective on the delicate ecosystems that thrive along the Big Sur coastline.


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