Big Sur: Quick Guide + Photo Journal

Big Sur: Quick Guide + Photo Journal

It's Friday, which means wedding week has finally come to an end (sighhh). In case you missed them, here are my posts on The DressThe Ceremony and The Reception! If the wedding photos got you all wanderlust-y and craving a trip to California's central coast, you're in luck: today I'm sharing my advice on how to spend a perfect day in Big Sur. We were treated to some epic sunsets during our stay for the wedding, making this one of my favorite photo journals yet.

The Itinerary  

Fuel up with breakfast at Deetjen's. Start your day with a hearty breakfast in the cozy restaurant of the main house at Deetjen's Big Sur Inn. Do yourself a favor and order the huevos rancheros!

Take in the splendor of Big Sur on a hike. Two of my favorite trails start from the same parking lot in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Bypass the $10 fee for the lot and park your car for free along the west side of Hwy 1. You won't find an easier hike or a better payoff than the McWay Waterfall Trail. Stroll the flat, half-mile path to McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall that cascades onto a sandy beach below (the reason I've dubbed Big Sur as the 'Hawaii' of the mainland). The more challenging Ewoldsen Trail is a 4.5-mile loop that's scenic to the Nth degree, with majestic redwood forest, awe-inspiring canyons and panoramic ocean views.

Grab a long lunch at Nepenthe. Post up at one of the many ocean-facing seats or around the outdoor fireplace and enjoy lunch with an epic view. You can't go wrong with the burger and a glass of vino from their extensive wine list. Don't miss stopping by the Phoenix Shop afterward for souvenirs to remember your trip!

Browse the books at the Henry Miller Library. A memorial to the late writer, artist and Big Sur resident Henry Miller, this library is much more than a book store. Throughout the summer months, the space plays host to weekend music festivals, fashion shows and film screenings. There's also a resident library cat, if you're into that kind of thing (crazy cat lady here).

Watch the whales and catch a sunset from your beach blanket at Pfeiffer Beach. This hauntingly beautiful stretch of sand is notoriously windy, so pack a jacket with your bottle of wine! The sand dunes that line the perimeter of the beach tend be less windy if you visit on a bad day. Be sure to have at least $10 cash on you for the parking lot fee, and arrive earlier than needed as long lines to enter are common at sundown.

Indulge in a romantic dinner at Big Sur Bakery + Restaurant. Dining here any time of day is a good idea, but the Bakery is particularly dreamy at night. Request to sit on their gorgeously overgrown garden patio with twinkling market lights strung overhead. Make a reservation in advance and head back here for breakfast if you have time to squeeze in another visit - they have the best coffee and pastries in town.

Relax at the Eslean Hot Springs. Can you imagine a better way to end your day than dipping into a cliffside hot spring under a blanket of stars? Take advantage of the Eslean Institute's heated baths, which open to the public at night from 1AM-3AM. Space is very limited, so throw your name in the hat sooner rather than later.

Good to Know

Cell reception in Big Sur is scarce. Go old school and print any necessary maps or directions in advance of your visit. Do NOT rely on your cell phone GPS!

Note: This travel guide is available as a GPS-enabled map with offline navigation. Click here to download the guide and receive turn-by-turn walking directions between sights - no data plan or WIFI required!


Big Sur remains largely untouched today due to land use restrictions, but this also means that tourist accommodations are limited - and they fill up quickly. Hotels often book up 6-8 months in advance, so if you intend on staying the night, book early! I love Deetjen's for charming cabins and affordable rates, Glen Oaks for cool mid-century modern design and Ventana for a memorable spa experience (including Japanese hot baths!) and luxury rooms and suites. If you'd prefer to experience Big Sur like a local, check out VRBO rentals like The Gallery House, The Teapot and The Coast Ranch. Most of the photos in this post were taken at the Teapot and Coast Ranch.

Shanghai: Quick Guide + Photo Journal

Shanghai: Quick Guide + Photo Journal

Wedding Week // The Reception

Wedding Week // The Reception