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Adventures in Big Sur: A beautiful weekend away

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

Big Sur has been intermittently open and closed during our years living in the Bay Area - while some popular trails are still closed, we decided to make the trek down for great hiking, a beautiful coast-line, and relaxing vibes with our friends!


Helpful tips:

  • Open vs. closed hikes are continuously updated, you can use the California Department of Parks and Recreation to monitor before making travel plans

  • Sunsets are phenomenal! You can basically see them anywhere, though we will call out where we watched them in the 'Where to Eat / Drink' section

  • Big Sur is a 90-mile stretch of beautiful land (read: can be a lot of driving!), so plan / schedule your days accordingly and build traffic time into your itinerary.

  • We visited in November and got nervous it would be cold - but it was actually perfect weather. Doing some post-visit research, US News actually confirms our choice and says the best time to visit is September through November. Who knew?!

  • If you're traveling to the Bay Area, it's worth checking out flying into San Jose Airport (SJC) to cut out some of the city traffic and start your trek closer to Big Sur


Itinerary - We were able to fit this all into a weekend, though would suggest adding on a day or two and spending more time in Carmel-by-the-Sea or our personal wine-tasting favorite, Carmel Valley. If you really don't want to take a day off of work, here is how we made the most of our time:


  • Friday: Commute from SF down to Big Sur, Carmel-by-the-Sea, or Monterey. Try to beat the traffic by leaving early or late. You can make a stop anywhere on the way for dinner or hold off and eat at your destination

  • Saturday: Pick a long hike to do this day to tire yourself out and really take advantage of your surroundings. Wind down with some food, booze and a gorgeous sunset

  • Sunday: Drive down as far South as you'd like (we made it to Treebones Resort) and work your way back up North with as many small hikes / viewpoints you'd like to stop at


Now for the real details!

 

Where to stay?


You have a few location options for lodging, with some pros and cons outlined below:


Big Sur

  • Pros: Less driving on Saturday and Sunday, likely beautiful views, and lots of camping spots

  • Cons: Mostly expensive places, need to plan more in advance for camping (I think?) and hotels as lodging is limited, longer drive to and from SF, less groceries/amenities for evening and morning

  • Where to stay: Treebones Resort (amazing glamping and very cool Twig Hut), Post Ranch Inn (out of my budget, but supposed to be glorious), or have some outdoorsy fun camping

Carmel-by-the-Sea

  • Pros: Less driving to and from SF, lots of nice restaurants / groceries / etc., less expensive

  • Cons: Further away from Big Sur (expect about an hour drive in and out), still not thaaat cheap

  • Where to stay: Airbnb is probably your best bet

If that is too expensive, you can also look at Monterey or Carmel Valley - it just gets you a bit further away from the main attraction.


What to do?


  • If you're like us, you'll want to get at least one long hike in. After looking at the options, we opted for an 8.2 mile hike at Andrew Molera State Park. We highly recommend this hike as it was a great mixture of length, diversity of setting and picturesque coastline. To note, we did have to wade in water at the beginning and end of the hike - though it was actually quite a blissful way to end the hike. Our other option we considered was the Tanbark Trail (6.1 miles) - but decided on this one because it had better reviews and seemed more rewarding. Definitely happy with our decision!

  • On the second day, we started the day driving all the way to Treebones Resort and worked our way back up the coast. The stops we decided to make on the way back were: Limekiln Creek (Falls trail, 1.4 miles), McWay Falls viewpoint, Partington Cove Trailhead, COAST (a gallery/coffee shop with a great view of the Sunset). If we had more time, we would have also stopped at Liewald Flats. The second day was particularly nice, as it included a lot of the more woodsy aspects of Big Sur. A great complement to the previous day.

  • As you drive, there are also loads of places to pull over and take in the views. We suggest you do that whenever you please :)



Where to eat / drink?

  • For dinner, we really optimized for views. A few places to check out in doing so are Nepenthe (fine food, great views), Post-Ranch Inn (heard amazing food, great views, and quite $$$), Coast Gallery (had a wonderful patio), or many options in Carmel

  • To drink, other than Nepenthe - most of our drinking occurred with some wine / beer back at our Airbnb. A long day of hiking deserves nice wine and comfort at home!

  • For brunch/lunch, one day we just made food at home - though the other day we sat out on the patio at Treebones Resort (as previously mentioned) and had a relaxing start to our day of sightseeing! If you call enough in advance, you could even join a yoga class and/or ask about a paying for a private class.


Nepenthe, Big Sur
Enjoying the views at Nepenthe

Final Thoughts


Would you recommend to your friend / family? Yes, definitely - the California coast is worth the trip and this stretch of land has so much to offer!


Would you return? Yes, this was one of our second trips and I would be more than happy to go again and again (though the driving does take a bit of a toll on you).


Favorites to speak of:

  • Lodging: Staying in a yurt at the Treebones Resort is high up on our glamping wishlist

  • Activity: Hiking in Andrew Molera State Park or taking in the sunset at Nepenthe

  • Eating/Drinking: We didn't do it this time, but probably worth the splurge for the prix-fixe lunch at Post-Ranch Inn


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