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About Big Sur
It’s hard to believe that California, the US’s third most populous state, should have areas that are described as “wilderness” (apart from the desert of course), but the famed coastal area south of Monterey fits that description. The best places to stay in Big Sur, a region of spectacular scenery and sparse population, are approached by the spectacularly engineered coastal road and ravine bridges, commanding stunning views over the wide Pacific.
Big Sur is the bit of California between a 90-mile stretch of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Range. It’s rugged, wild and raw. Approximately 150 miles south of San Francisco in space, but about a million miles away from any city in how it looks and feels.
Big Sur was special to the Native Americans, to the early Spanish settlers and then to generations of writers and artists as a place of retreat and experimentation. Counter-culture icons like Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S Thompson have taken literary inspiration from this remote, craggy coastal area, while Hollywood’s movie-makers have also loved the “big south” as a fabulous wild backdrop to its glamorous fantasies.
The best places to stay in Big Sur range from intimate hideaways in the hills to breathtaking coastal eyries. This place has inspired artists and poets and everyone with a romantic soul, and the best places to stay in Big Sur seem to all offer absolutely unforgettable views.
In the 60s Big Sur drew creative types, hippies and those trying to unplug from the demands of modern life, and there’s still a prevalence of retreats here. But Big Sur is also extremely popular with walkers, campers and driving holidaymakers - there are wonderful lookouts every couple of miles along Highway 1 through Big Sur.
Big Sur village runs along beside the highway, and is a good place to top up on supplies, but that’s about all. Most of the best known sights are close to Highway 1, like the Point Sur Lighthouse, Bixby Bridge and the McWay Falls, but it’s better to get off the beaten track here and find some of your own highlights in the state parks and on the beaches.
What Not To Miss
- The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, with an 80-foot waterfall as its focal point, is a stunning area of coastal beauty.
- Drive along the Bixby Bridge and marvel at the magnificent ocean views all around - just be sure to remember your camera!
- What's better than getting stuck into a good book whilst surrounded by gorgeous scenery? Pick up something to read at the Henry Miller Memorial Library and have a chat with one of the many easygoing locals who frequent this spot.
Here’s our choice for the best places to stay in Big Sur, to savour this coolest of California’s scenic coastal retreats.
- The Ventana Inn and Spa is a fantastic place to escape to for an adults only break. There are just 34 rustic boutique rooms, complete with hot tubs, open fireplaces and mountain views, and surrounded by 243 acres of land. There’s also a romantic restaurant.
- The Post Ranch Inn is another romantic getaway option. This time with views of the Pacific Ocean from the hot tubs, choice of three infinity pools and award-winning restaurant. Modern, spacious and intimate.
For nature-lovers and families
- Where better to enjoy the wide open vistas of this Californian wilderness than at Treebones Resort, one of the pioneers of the “glamping” movement, that allows you to get close to nature without actually being uncomfortable. This family-run resort has been a local phenomenon since it opened in 2004, the owners seeing themselves as continuing the environmentally-in tune spirit of Big Sur’s original residents.
- Glen Oaks offers secluded cabin accommodation in Big Sur's Red Wood forests. The rooms are contemporary in style but leaning on rustic influences, whilst you can either self-cater or enjoy meals from the restaurant. A top all-round getaway!
For An Apartment or Villa
- If you'd prefer the privacy of a self-catering option then browse through the wide variety available online with our partner Booking.com.
- Big Sur's enjoys its best weather in the summer months.
- However, this is peak tourist season, so for a quieter alternative consider coming in September or October. The autumn's a lovely time to head off hiking and to make the most out of your wonderful natural surroundings.
- Fly into San Jose International Airport, 85 miles away, before taking the train or bus to Big Sur.
- British Airways fly direct from Heathrow, with the journey lasting 11 hours.
- For car hire prices, we recommend you visit our online partner Rentalcars.
Still not sure?
Best Hotels in Big Sur
Post Ranch Inn 39 rooms from $825Big Sur
1200 feet above the Pacific Ocean stands, a romantic getaway with modern, spacious rooms. Mind blowing views and hot tubs come as standard with access to 3 infinity pools, 2 spas, a gym and an award-winning restaurant. Big Sur is a great base for trekking and photography. The perfect intimate spot!Views - Over the Pacific Ocean.Great walks - Point Lobos State Reserve and others treks are trails loved treks.Surfing - Pfeiffer Beach is only one mile away.Private Hot Tub - In every room.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith, I Escape, Tablet
Treebones Resort 16 rooms from $300Big Sur
Be one with nature while gorging on oceanic views, glamping in stylish yurts and feasting on organic locally sourced produce for all meals. Put up your own tent or call a yurt a home, a fantastic spot for all the Big Sur offers. Family run for the family. Environmentally conscious, a great treat.Great walks - Big Sur hike offers canyons, waterfalls, rocky beaches and historic sites.Local markets - Explore what Big Sur has to offer from local produce and arts and crafts.Kayaking - Sea Kayaking for 60 miles at Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.Views - 360 views of Big Sur and surrounding area.Recommended by - CN Traveller
Glen Oaks 9 rooms from $175California, Big Sur
Glen Oaks are a cluster of cabins tucked away in the Red Wood forests of the Big Sur. The decor perfectly marries modern features with rustic charm. You can self cater or enjoy the locally sourced delights of The Big Sur Roadhouse Restaurant. Perfect eco-chic!Secluded setting - For escaping.Great walks - Limekiln State Park has a whole host of beautiful walks.Back to Nature - Secluded cabins nestled on the edge of a redwood grove.Barefoot Luxury - For total relaxation.
Ventana Inn and Spa 34 rooms from $500Big Sur
Adult-only boutique hideaway and spa with spectacular sunset views and Japanese hot baths set amid 243 acres. Rustic chic rooms & suites vary from offering fireplaces to hot tubs, mountain views to poolside. Fresh, locally sourced, sustainable produce is found at the restaurant. A romantic getaway.Spa - With Japanese baths and a plethora of treatments to choose fromViews - Stunning views over Big Sur's Pacific coastlineSeaside - Beautiful setting and easy access to the ocean.Great walks - Get involved in the morning hikes.Recommended by - Mr & Mrs Smith