Big Sur, the insider guide

McWay Falls.
McWay Falls. / Visit California/Myles McGuinness
  • Where to stay, what to do and eat on the Pacific Coast Highway

Home to wild mountains, enchanting redwoods and a magnificent coastline, Big Sur is the essential stop on California State Route 1, the Pacific Coast Highway.


Tickle Pink Inn

This 35-room property, set among Monterey pines on the craggy coastline of Carmel Highlands, offers uninterrupted vistas to the Pacific. Don't be surprised to see whales out at sea, spouting and blowing.

Post Inn

This romantic hideaway was once the Post family's working ranch, among the first homesteads established in the wild beauty of Big Sur. It's now an upscale, environmentally responsible lodge, with rustic-luxe suites overlooking the ocean. The Sierra Mar restaurant is open to visitors for lunch and dinner.


Big Sur Lodge

The friendly and relaxed Big Sur Lodge is set among magnificent redwoods, within the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The good-value, 62 cottage-style accommodation includes family rooms that can sleep up to four; self-catering cottages with kitchenettes; and romantic cottages with fireplaces. There is an on-site store, restaurant and coffee-shop. Many walking trails start right at the lodge; and as guests of the Big Sur Lodge one has unlimited car access to the park.


Glamping / Lisa Corson

Camping and glamping

Big Sur's campsites are well-equipped for travellers with campervans; as well as for those looking to enjoy the simply pleasure of sleeping under canvas.

If you want to experience the allure of a night among the redwoods, but can't pitch a tent like a pro, then try Ventana's Redwood and Canyon Glampsites - where you'll find safari-style tents with double beds.


Big Sur Bakery

The Big Sur Bakery is part of the region's heritage. Built in the 1930s by the Post family, it has been a regular stop for visitors and residents.

Enjoy an espresso or stay for a signature wood-fired pizza or sample the menu of homemade dishes.

The Sur House

Big Sur is all about the forest, mountains and the ocean, and at The Sur House restaurant at the Ventana Big Sur resort you feel embraced by them all. Executive Chef Paul Corsentino promises fine coastal cuisine - that means local Pacific-sourced seafood and free-range meats from regional farmers. Dinner is a sophisticated affair, but lunch can be a simple gourmet sandwich and a glass of Californian wine. Either way you'll get to enjoy the remarkable views from the terrace out to the vastness of the Pacific, framed by redwoods and the mountains.

The Sur House

The Sur House

Deetjen's Big Sur Inn

This vintage traditional inn was opened by Helmuth and Helen Deetjen to serve the wagons that used to pass through Big Sur in the last century.

The award-winning restaurant, originally created by Englishwoman Barbara Blake in the 1930s, has a charming interior cluttered with antiques and collectables, offering a cosy setting for a menu that includes local meat, vegan and vegetarian dishes as well as the catch of day.

Ragged Point Inn & Resort

A popular place to take a rest-stop on the highway, this cliff-hugging hotel has a restaurant; and an espresso bar and sandwich stand for those looking for a quick coffee and bite to eat.

Deetjen's Inn

Deetjen's Inn


Bixby Creek bridge

The twisting highway offers compelling sights at almost every turn, like the famous Bixby Creek Bridge, south of Monterey. It's the perfect place for a sunset Instagram.

The Henry Miller Memorial LIbrary

The Henry Miller Library is a cultural centre that also celebrates the life and works of the American NYC author that made Big Sur his home in later life.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

One of the most popular park sights is right by the highway - the McWay Falls, where you can watch the water tumble onto the pristine beach below.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

A wonderful place to experience the redwoods. Many are accessible without the need to walk far, including one of the oldest trees in the park - the Colonial Tree.

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

Hearst Castle

Be wowed by the storytelling of the guides as you explore this remarkable historic home, built on an 'enchanted hill' high above San Simeon, at the very south of Big Sur. Media mogul William Randolph Hearst's fantastical, extravagant estate of Spanish/Mediterranean architecture (the bell towers were modelled on the Santa María la Mayor church in Ronda, Andalucía) was once surrounded by one of the world's largest private zoos. The 'Casa Grande' was the setting for some of the most talked-about parties of the era, hosted by Hearst and his twenty-something show-girl and actress mistress, Marion Davies. Famous guests included politicians, journalists, entertainers and sportspeople - think Winston Churchill, George Bernard Shaw, Charlie Chaplin, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo, and Clark Gable.


Visit California

The comprehensive Visit California site covers the entire state, and all of the Pacific Coast Highway, with details on what to see and do, as well as where to eat and sleep.

Monterey coastline

Monterey coastline

See Monterey

Big Sur is within Monterey County, and the region's site is a good source of up-to-date information on events in the area.

Hertz Car Hire

I joined Hertz UK's free 'Gold Plus Rewards' service that offered reward points, as well as fast pick-up and returns. For inspiration on other US road-trips visit the Hertz Road-Trip planner online, where you will also find downloadable maps and additional insider guides.