If you’re looking for an incredible road trip to take in California, look no further than Big Sur.
This stunning stretch of coastline is home to rocky cliffs, jaw-dropping views, and plenty of winding roads that will have your heart racing.
While you could technically drive the entire length of Big Sur in a day, we recommend spreading out your trip over a few days to really take in all that this area has to offer.
To help you plan your perfect Big Sur road trip, we’ve put together a list of the 15 best stops along the way as well as recommendations to begin your road trip.
Also Read: 15 Best Lighthouses on the West Coast
Best Cities to begin Big Sur Road Trip
Several cities in California make for a great starting point for your Big Sur road trip.
San Francisco, Monterey, and San Luis Obispo are all located within a few hours’ drive of Big Sur and offer plenty to see and do before hitting the road.
If you’re starting your road trip from San Francisco, we recommend taking the California Highway 1 South towards Big Sur.
This drive will take you about 4 hours if you make no stops, but we highly recommend making a few stops along the way.
Los Angeles in Southern California is another great starting point for visiting Big Sur.
The drive from LA to Big Sur will take you about 5 hours, but you’ll have the opportunity to see some of California’s most iconic scenery.
If you’re starting in Monterey, we recommend driving south on Highway 1 to visit Big Sur.
This route is a little shorter than taking the route from San Francisco, but it offers plenty to see and do along the way.
Similarly, Carmel-by-the-Sea also makes a great starting point for this road trip.
Pebble Beach is a world-famous golf course located north of Big Sur.
This course is known for its stunning ocean views and challenging holes.
If you’re a golf fan, be sure to add Pebble Beach to your Big Sur road trip itinerary!
San Luis Obispo
San Luis Obispo is a great option if you’re looking for a slightly relaxed starting point for your road trip.
The drive from San Luis Obispo to Big Sur will take you about 3 hours, but you’ll have the chance to explore the city before hitting the road.
Once you’ve picked your perfect starting point, it’s time to hit the road and explore all that Big Sur has to offer.
Best Stops on Big Sur Road Trip
The best stops on a road trip down California’s Big Sur coastline are definitely worth your time.
From the dramatic scenery and wildlife to the tasty food and interesting history, these destinations along the California Coast will make your trip unforgettable.
There’s plenty to explore along this 173-mile route, so we’ve put together our top picks for the best stops on your journey.
Buckle up and get ready for some unforgettable memories!
Also Read: Best Things to do in Big Sur, California
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a charming little town that’s worth a stop on your road trip.
This picturesque town is known for its white-sand beaches, Spanish architecture, and art galleries.
There are also plenty of great restaurants and shops to check out, so make sure to spend some time exploring this lovely town.
Carmel Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
This beach is known for its white sand and stunning ocean views.
If you’re looking to relax and soak up some California sun, Carmel Beach is the perfect spot.
Bixby Creek Bridge is one of the most iconic bridges in California and a must-see on your road trip.
This beautiful bridge spans over 750 feet and provides stunning views of the coastline below.
There are pullouts along the side of the road to stop and take photos, so make sure to take your time enjoying this beautiful bridge.
Los Padres National Forest
Los Padres National Forest is a gorgeous national park that’s worth a visit on your road trip.
This park is home to rugged mountains, oak and pine forests, and winding rivers.
There are plenty of great hiking trails to explore, so make sure to spend a few hours enjoying the natural beauty of this park.
McWay Falls is a beautiful waterfall that’s located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.
This 80-foot waterfall tumbles over a cliff and into the Pacific Ocean below, providing stunning views.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Apart from McWay Falls, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is also home to redwood forests, meadows, and plenty of hiking trails.
Some of our favorite things to do here include hiking to the Ewoldsen Trail, watching the sunset from the Cove Overlook, and enjoying a picnic lunch with a view.
Pfeiffer Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Big Sur and worth a stop.
This beach is known for its dramatic cliffs, purple sands, and clear waters.
Pfeiffer Beach is known for its bright purple sand, which is caused by the high levels of manganese in the area.
Make sure to stop and take a few photos of the Keyhole Rock formation while you’re visiting this stunning purple sand beach.
The beach has a small parking lot with only a few spots and gets pretty full on weekends – arrive early to make the most of your time!
Hearst Castle is a must-see on your road trip down the California coast.
This castle was built by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and is now open to the public.
There are tours of the castle, gardens, and pools available, so make sure to spend a few hours exploring this stunning estate.
Partington Cove is a beautiful stop on your road trip.
This cove is accessible by a short hike and features a stunning beach with dramatic cliffs.
There’s also a tunnel that was carved into the rocks in the 1800s that you can explore.
Make sure to bring your camera to capture the incredible views from this hidden gem.
Nepenthe is a restaurant that’s located in Big Sur and a great place to stop for lunch.
This restaurant has stunning views of the coastline and serves delicious American cuisine.
Make sure to try their famous Ambrosia Burger, which is topped with avocado, bacon, and cheese.
They also have a great wine selection, so it’s the perfect spot to enjoy a relaxing meal.
Garrapata State Park
Garrapata State Park is a beautiful park that’s home to the rocky coastline, Redwoods, and rolling hills.
A highlight is Garrapata State Beach, a beautiful beach that’s located within Garrapata State Park.
This beach is known for its dramatic cliffs, crashing waves, and stunning views.
Make sure to stop here during your road trip to enjoy the incredible views and for some peaceful hiking in nature.
Andrew Molera State Park
Andrew Molera State Park is one of the most underrated state parks to visit during your Big Sur road trip.
This park is home to miles of hiking trails, a beautiful beach, and the historic Cooper Cabin.
Make sure to spend a few hours hiking through this stunning park and enjoying the incredible views along California’s Central Coast.
Big Sur Village
Big Sur Village is a small town located in the heart of Big Sur.
This town is home to cute shops, restaurants, and art galleries.
Make sure to stop by here for some shopping and lunch during your epic road trip down the coast.
Some of our favorite stops here include Big Sur Bakery to try delicious pastries and the Big Sur River Inn for a meal with a view!
Limekiln State Park
Limekiln State Park is one of the most popular parks in Big Sur.
This park is home to beautiful hiking trails, a waterfall, and historic lime kilns.
Make sure to spend a few hours exploring this park and enjoying the incredible views of the California coast.
Sand Dollar Beach
Sand Dollar Beach is a beautiful beach that’s perfect for a relaxing stop.
This beach is known for its soft white sand and clear waters.
Make sure to stop by here and enjoy a swim, sunbathe, and relax on the beach.
Post Ranch Inn
Post Ranch Inn is a luxury hotel located in Big Sur.
This hotel is known for its incredible views, luxurious accommodations, and world-class service.
If you’re looking for a splurge during your road trip, we recommend booking a night or two at the Post Ranch Inn.
Ventana Redwoods Campground
If you’re looking for a camping option during your road trip, Ventana Redwoods Campground is a great choice.
This campground is located in the Ventana Wilderness and offers stunning views of the redwoods and the Pacific Ocean.
Make sure to bring your camping gear and spend a few nights under the stars in this beautiful part of California.
Point Lobos State Reserve
Point Lobos State Reserve is a beautiful nature reserve that’s worth a visit on your Big Sur itinerary.
This reserve is known for its rugged coastline, lush forests, and pristine beaches.
Point Lobos State Reserve is also one of the best places to see wildlife along the Big Sur coast.
This beautiful reserve is home to a variety of animals, including seals, sea lions, otters, and birds.
There are also plenty of hiking trails to explore, so be sure to bring your hiking shoes!
Elephant Seal Vista Point
Elephant Seal Vista Point is a great stop to see the elephant seals.
Located within the Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery near San Simeon, this is one of the best places to see these magnificent creatures up close.
There is a viewing platform where you can watch the seals sunbathe, swim, and play in the water.
This is a great stop for animal lovers and anyone who wants to see some unique wildlife.
The rookery is located close to Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, which makes another great stop on this spectacular road trip.
Best Time to Visit Pacific Coast Highway
The best time to visit Big Sur and the Pacific Coast Highway is from April to October.
During these months, you’ll have the best chance of good weather and will be able to enjoy all of the attractions and activities that this area has to offer.
If you’re planning a road trip, we recommend starting your journey in early May or late September to avoid the busiest times and to get the most out of your trip.
This amazing road trip is also fabulous during the winter months – you can easily spot whales along the coast.
There you have it—our picks for the best stops on a Big Sur road trip.
Also Read: Best Places to Stop on Pacific Coast Highway
While this list is far from comprehensive, it should give you a good starting point for planning your own Big Sur road trip.
So what are you waiting for?
Start packing your bags and get ready to explore one of the most beautiful areas in California!
We hope you enjoy this beautiful area as much as we do!