Having grown up and lived in California my whole life, I’m not exactly sure how it’s possible that I’ve never been to Big Sur. To my parents’ credit, they did plan a family trip there…but alas, it was on their road trip for my college graduation and I was neck deep in finals. We decided that we had to take advantage of living near this breathtaking rugged stretch of California’s central coast – and conveniently combined it with a venue scouting trip!
We left San Diego at the crack of dawn and drove straight into the world-renowned Carmel, a town that has charmed artists and celebrities alike with its picturesque white-sand beach and European-style village packed with restaurants, shops and art galleries. We made it there before the sun came up and stopped first at the Hyatt Carmel Highlands which was absolutely beautiful but a little too small for our needs. I got my first glimpse of the beauty we were about encounter with turquoise capped waves slamming into the cliffs below us. We then started the dramatic journey down Highway 1 along the jagged cliffs pummeled by surf line to Big Sur, providing the most stunning views of any coastline I have ever seen.
The Big Sur Bakery was recommended to us as a “must” but I found it to be overpriced and a bit overrated…the avocado toast was over $20 (which they were out of) and apparently wheat toast is only delivered on certain days! Not that day…I settled for a mediocre $7 muffin. We made our way to the Ventana Inn, across the street from the famous Post Ranch Inn which was also beautiful but too small for our tastes. For a refreshing drink with an insane view, stop at the reknown Nepenthe restaurant…pricey but the atmosphere can’t be beat!
48510 Hwy 1, Big Sur, California 93920
The most iconic photo of Big Sur is that of the 80-foot McWay Waterfall as it cascades onto the sandy shore in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. One of the shortest hiking trails in Big Sur, Mcway Falls should be seen by anyone traveling along Highway 1…trust me, it’s easy. We did it in flip flops! The trail is a mere .64 miles on a flat and wide path that provides both southern and northern Coastal views. After parking, walk directly west back towards Highway 1 and look fo the sign to the Overlook/Waterfall Trail/Pelton Wheel straight ahead. You’ll head down short wooden steps, proceed along a wide path and then through a round tunnel under the highway. Once you emerge facting th ocean, turn right and walk along the path for several yards until you see the falls. Breathtaking!
We continued south to visit one of the most beautiful venues I’ve seen – Point 16. Point 16 is absolutely magical with 180 degree views of the coastline and the “loo with a view” that can’t be beat. If the logistics were not an issue (distance from LA, 1 hour bus ride from closest hotels, etc.), this would be our dream venue!
There are several different Big Sur lodging options from camping at Fernwood to the magnificently opulent Post Ranch Inn if you end up spending more time there. Many choose the “glamping” option to take advantage of the natural beauty of the area without having to rough it TOO much. We decided to continue our trek down the coast but for the adventurous, you have plenty of options to choose from whether it be tent camping to lounging in a luxurious room with a butler!
Fernwood Resort (range of options from camping to motel)
47200 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Big Sur Lodge (3.5 stars)
47225 CA-1, Bi Sur, CA 93920
Ventana Inn & Spa (4 stars)
48123 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
Post Ranch Inn (5 stars)
47900 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920
We continued our drive down the beautiful California coast past the stunning rock formations and sunning elephant seals at Piedras Blancas down to Cambria, a lovely seaside town in San Luis Obispo County. We checked in to our adorable room at the Firestone Inn and went down to catch the gorgeous sunset at Cambria’s famous Moonstone Beach. We worked up an appetite collecting the semi-precious jasper stones of all colors scattered all over the beach (hence the name “Moonstone”) and headed into town to check out Robin’s Restaurant, an eclectic East village restaurant serving made-from-scratch international cuisine that came highly recommended to us. The setting at Robin’s is romantic and unique and the fusion of Asian, Mexican and Indian – absolutely mouthwatering. We started out with crispy calamari with a spicy aioli and tried the enchiladas and chicken curry…we were not disappointed!
4095 Burton Drive, Cambria CA 93428
Firestone Inn at Moonstone Beach (3-star)
6700 Moonstone Beach Dr, Cambria CA 93428
If you have the time, arrange for a tour of Hearst Castle, William Randolph Hearst’s famous estate, only 6 miles from Cambria! We didn’t have time since we had to continue down the coast on a serious scouting mission but I hear this sprawling state historical monument is definitely worth the visit!
750 Hearst Castle Rd, San Simeon CA 93452