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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.