Seek Beauty on the Big Sur Coast

Ruggedly perfect.

By: Sara Sheehy + Save to a List

The Big Sur coast, just south of Monterey, California, has a reputation. A really good one.

Sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the beautiful Santa Lucia Mountains, Big Sur is wild and rugged, packed full of the kind of elemental beauty that both poets and adventurers crave. Its tricky topography means that, though many people visit Big Sur for the day, it's sparsely populated and remarkably quiet when those tourists are gone.

Retreat from the world with a stay at Big Sur Lodge. The Lodge offers 62 cottage-style rooms nestled in the redwood forest, access to three state parks and miles of hiking trails, and a restaurant serving up California cuisine along the Big Sur River.

Ready to escape the bustle for a weekend or more? Here's how to explore this remote coastline.

Hike to a Waterfall

Take in Iconic McWay FallsEmily Schrick

Waterfalls abound in the steep terrain along Big Sur. Make it your mission to find as many as you can.

If you're staying at Big Sur Lodge, start with the gentle, 2-mile out-and-back hike to Pfeiffer Falls. The trail leaves right from the Lodge and weaves through the redwoods to an expansive vista point, then continues to the falls itself. 

Also, be sure to check out the iconic McWay Falls, which is a gorgeous 20-minute drive from the Lodge. While you can't hike to this tidefall (a waterfall that cascades straight into the ocean), you can walk along a viewing trail to get a panoramic glimpse of this beauty.

Get Your Feet Wet

Relax on a Secluded Beach Near Soberanes Point | Eric Harris

The Pacific Ocean in Big Sur isn't a place for swimming (the water is chilly, and the currents are treacherous), but that shouldn't stop you from taking a walk on the beach or settling into the sand with a picnic lunch.

Just a few miles from the Big Sur Lodge lies secluded Pfeiffer Beach. Its rocky shoreline is perfect for tide pooling with the tide is out, and Keyhole Rock does a spectacular light show at sunset during the winter. Keep an eye out for patches of purple sand that form from the manganese garnet in the nearby cliffs.

Another secluded spot is the small beach near Soberanes Point. It'll take some fancy footwork to climb down to the water, but it's hard to beat those views.

If you're really keen to dive into some refreshing water, a swimming hole in the Big Sur River Gorge is the place to do it.

Explore Galleries & Great Eats

Photo courtesy of the Big Sur Lodge

It's no surprise that artists gravitate to Big Sur just as much as outdoor lovers do. Spend a morning visiting galleries and museums, like the architecturally stunning Hawthorne Gallery and the Henry Miller Memorial Library (Henry Miller was one of Big Sur's most famous residents).

Those who don't mind going a little farther afield will find plenty to do in nearby Monterey, including the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Cannery Row, the latter of which was made famous by writer John Steinbeck.

Foodies will swoon at the options in Big Sur, including Big Sur Lodge's own Homestead Restaurant and other favorites like the Big Sur Bakery and the elegant Sierra Mar.

No matter how you enjoy Big Sur, you'll leave the Big Sur Lodge with your spirit refreshed and your camera full. The only question will be, how soon can you get back?

Cover photo by Mitch Pittman // Relax at Garrapata State Beach

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


Slow Down and Explore Big Sur

The Outbound Collective

Over a Year after Massive Mudslide, Big Sur's Scenic Highway 1 Reopens

The Outbound Collective

Exploring Big Sur, a Photographer's Dream

Rufino Martinez

5 Photos of Big Sur's Ever-Changing Seasons

Jovelyn Gruspe

72 Hours of Food, Fun, and Outdoor Adventure in Monterey County

Mitch Pittman