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24 Fun & Best Things to Do in Big Sur, California

24 Fun & Best Things to Do in Big Sur, California

If you’re wondering what to do in Big Sur, look no further! Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places on Earth, and it’s easy to see why. It’s filled with scenic beauty and a lot of wildlife on the side. The area is home to stunning cliffs, tree-covered hills, ocean views, and some of the best California State Parks. 

Big Sur is also home to several activities, including hiking, surfing, and kayaking. While most of the activities in Big Sur are outdoorsy, there are a few things you can do indoors, from visiting museums to art exhibits. For something a bit more active, you can hike up to some spectacular viewpoints or even try your hand at rock climbing at the nearby Willow Creek Picnic Area.

Visitors can explore Big Sur by hiking through the redwoods at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park or swimming and surfing on the many Big Sur beaches. If you’re planning to visit Big Sur or are looking for an adventurous destination or just a quick getaway from the city, this destination on the California coastline is perfect!

Below are our top fun and best things to do in Big Sur, California.

Big Sur Guided Half Day Tour
1. From Monterey: Big Sur Guided Half-Day Tour Top Recommendation

Looking to explore the beautiful Big Sur region? This Big Sur Guided Half-Day Tour is the perfect way to do just that! You'll enjoy a scenic drive along the coast, with plenty of stops to take in the majestic scenery and learn more about the area. The tour also make a stop at Bixby Creek Bridge, Hurricane Point, Nepenthe, and Big Sur Lodge. This is an ideal tour for anyone who wants to explore the stunning natural beauty of the Big Sur region.

Big Sur California Pacific Coast Highway Self Drive Tour
2. Big Sur California: Pacific Coast Highway Self-Drive Tour

Looking for a breathtaking way to see the California coast? A self-drive tour of the Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur is the perfect solution! With this audio tour, you can explore the coastline at your own pace, skipping ahead or taking it slow as you please. Best of all, you'll be treated to commentary from locals that plays automatically along the route, providing an insider's perspective on this amazing region. Don't miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in the world!

Big Sur Monterey California Pacific Coast One Day Tour
3. Big Sur Monterey California Pacific Coast One Day Tour

Looking to explore the Pacific Coast without having to worry about the driving? Then Big Sur Monterey California Pacific Coast One Day Tour is perfect for you! You'll have your own personal driver-guide who will take care of everything, so all you need to do is sit back and enjoy the views. This tour takes in some of the most scenic routes in the country, so you're guaranteed to be impressed. Plus, you can tailor the itinerary to suit your needs and interests, making this a truly personalized travel experience.

TLDR

  • Most significant landmark – Point Sur Lighthouse
  • Best park – Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
  • Best free activity – Hiking at Partington Cove
  • Best activity for kids – Beachcombing at Sand Dollar Beach
  • Best activity for adults – Enjoying Sunsets at Pfeiffer Beach
  • Best food – Nepenthe
  • Best all-round accommodationBig Sur River Inn

Fun & Best Things to Do in Big Sur, California

1. Spend an Afternoon at Garrapata State Park

Garrapata State Park Scenery

Address: 34500 CA-1, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA

Spend an afternoon at Garrapata State Park, and you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of the Big Sur coast.

Perched on the edge of the continent, Garrapata State Park is a natural paradise. It’s home to trails and beaches that host a range of unforgettable adventures.

It’s a coastal state park on California’s Central Coast. The 3,000-acre park is situated between the base of the St. Lucia Mountain Range and the rugged Pacific coastline. 

Many different trails exist in this diverse area offering spectacular headland views, coastal canyon hiking trails, beach access, excellent wildflower viewing, and mountain biking opportunities. Five main marked trails of Garrapata State Park are grouped in a loop going up into the St. Lucia mountain range. 

But, if you’re looking for something more active than hiking or walking at Garrapata State Park, try surfing at nearby Garrapata Beach.

2. Take Some Pictures at Rocky Creek Bridge & Bixby Creek Bridge

Rocky Creek Bridge Scenery

Address: CA-1, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923 – Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Rocky Creek Bridge & Bixby Creek Bridge are two of the most photographed bridges in Big Sur and for a good reason. The two bridges sit on opposite sides of the highway but are only about a half mile apart.

Both bridges are beautiful and offer a unique perspective on the rugged coastline. The views of the ocean and mountains are spectacular, and taking pictures at these two bridges is a must.

The best time to visit Bixby Bridge and Rocky Creek Bridge is early morning or late afternoon. But, any other time will work as well. During the day, there are plenty of photo opportunities along the trail and underneath the bridge.

See Related: Most Famous Landmarks in California to Visit

3. Drive Along Old Coast Road

Old Coast Road Scenery

Location: Entrance just north of Bixby Creek Bridge

If you’re looking for something more adventurous than taking pictures on the bridge, drive to the Old Coast Road. The Old Coast Road provides a beautiful 10-mile drive through the coast and ranches with views of the coastline at either end.

Just north of Bixby Creek Bridge along CA-1, you’ll find an unpaved road that descends into a redwood forest. Kids will be amazed at how far they can see in the surrounding forest. As you head south, the road gently ascends, offering panoramic views of Big Sur Valley and Andrew Molera State Park.

Driving through this old coast road is a fantastic way to experience California’s natural beauty while enjoying serene tranquility.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Ventura, California

4. Enjoy a Sunset at Little Sur River Beach

Little Sur River Beach Scenery

Location: Monterey, CA 93940

If you’re looking for romantic things to do in Big Sur, look no further than Little Sur River Beach Little Sur River Beach. It’s one of California’s most beautiful beaches. It’s also one of the 86th top-rated beaches in the State. It’s located along California State Route 1, only 18 miles from Carmel-by-the-Sea, between Big Sur and Monterey.

The beach is an absolute beauty to behold. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous and makes you feel relaxed. The picturesque environment creates such a peaceful atmosphere that you would never want to leave it.

The Little River Beach is a great place to stop during your coastal drive. It’s famous for its beautiful sunsets and its natural surroundings.

See Related: Best Black Sand Beaches in the World

5. Visit Point Sur State Historic Park

Point Sur State Historic Park Scenery

Location: CA-1, Monterey, CA 93940

Located approximately 6 miles south of Bixby Creek Bridge, Point Sur State Historic Park is a must-see for anyone in the Big Sur area. 

The park offers a scenic overlook with an expansive view of the Pacific Ocean and hiking trails that lead to several other beautiful locations on the property.

Point Sur State Historic Park also features a historic lighthouse dating back to the 1890s. Constructed in the 19th century, the lighthouse has become an iconic landmark in California culture and a prominent icon along Highway 1.

Tours of the Point Sur Lighthouse are available to the public on weekends. Reservations are not required for the tour, but if you want to be sure you get a spot, it’s better to call ahead or sign up online.

6. Hike at Andrew Molera State Park

Andrew Molera State Park Scenery

Address: 45500 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

If you want to hike Big Sur, Andrew Molera State Park should be at the top of your list of best places to go. There are many great trails to enjoy, and the most amazing sights await you to discover.

The park is the largest state park on the Big Sur coast. It’s comprised of over 4,800 acres of land and natural reserves. The State Park includes sandy beaches, redwood groves, meadows, and a 20 miles stretch of hiking trails where you can enjoy biking and horseback rides.

The park is known for its many outdoor activities and beautiful natural landscapes. It has something for everyone, from camping to hiking and biking to fishing and kayaking. I highly recommend visiting Andrew Molera State Park if you’re ever in Big Sur!

7. Enjoy Surfing at Andrew Molera Beach

Andrew Molera Beach Scenery

Address: 45500 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

If you find yourself in Andrew Molera State Park, make sure to visit Andrew Molera State Beach. This amazing beach will have you wishing you lived closer so you can return daily. You’ll love the wild coastline, beachcombing, and camping under the stars here.

The beach is a beautiful, secluded beach along the Big Sur coastline. It’s s a popular spot for surfers and beachgoers, with its wide sandy stretch. The beach is accessible only by hiking trails and a steep path down to the water’s edge, but it’s worth the effort. 

At the north end of the beach, you’ll find Molera Point, which has good marine life spotting opportunities and a view of crashing waves. Here you can see marine life, observe local wildlife, and surf or lay in the sun. It’s also a good place to have fun and enjoy nature.

See Related: Best Beach Vacations in the World

8. Learn Big Sur History at Molera Ranch House Museum

Location: Andrew Molera State Park, Big Sur, CA 93920

Molera Ranch House Museum is a great place to visit if you want to learn about the history of Big Sur. The museum is located on the grounds of Andrew Molera State Park.

Molera Ranch House Museum is a restored home that once belonged to the ranch foreman. Throughout the museum, visitors can get a glimpse of both Big Sur’s past and present. It displays artifacts about Big Sur pioneers, artists, authors, and wildlife and plants of the region. Stop over at the Molera Ranch House to get a feel of what a lifestyle in the Wild West was like.

9. Stop by Big Sur Station

Big Sur Station Entrance

Address: 47555 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Big Sur Station is a great place for travelers to stop in and grab some supplies. It’s a gateway for enjoying the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The visitor center has all the information you need for your next adventure in Big Sur. Here you can find a wide selection of food, souvenirs, maps, and postcards.

Then there’s the Big Sur Lodge, which has pretty much everything you could ever want, from food items to camping supplies and luxury accommodations in cottage-style rooms. 

Big Sur Station and Big Sur Lodge are the places to stock up for your trip to Big Sur. Here you will find gear, groceries, and great local souvenirs you won’t find anywhere else in Big Sur.

10. Go Camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Sign

Location: Pfeiffer Big Sur Rd, Big Sur, CA 93920

Going camping at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of the best Big Sur things to do. Adjacent to Los Padres National Forest, this park is part of the California State Park system and offers a wide range of campsites and RV sites, with amenities like showers, flush toilets, dump stations, and water hookups.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is one of the most popular state parks on the California coast. The park boasts a river that runs through it and is surrounded by the steep Santa Lucia Mountains. 

The park also has some of the best hiking trails in California. You’ll find more than 20 miles of trails that lead you through meadows, forests, and coastal bluffs.

The Pfeiffer Big Sur campground is open year-round for camping. Almost every campsite is booked months in advance thanks to its popularity. But there are some restrictions during the winter months due to snow conditions.

See Related: What to Bring on a Camping Trip with Friends

11. Experience a Dramatic Golden Hour at Pfeiffer Beach 

Sunset in Pfeiffer Beach

Location: Sycamore Canyon Rd, Big Sur, CA 93920

Pfeiffer Beachis a hidden gem in Big Sur, California. It’s a long, isolated sand strip located seven miles south of Andrew Molera State Park. Pfeiffer Beach is far from the beaten paths and abounds in natural beauty, with towering bluffs and striking rock formations. 

Pfeiffer Beach’s most famous stone arch is commonly known as Pfeiffer Keyhole Rock. It’s one of the most-photographed Big Sur attractions. 

You can wade around Keyhole Rock during low tide, or you may prefer to marvel at it while the sun shines brightly through it after sunset. This light effect makes the keyhole arch one of the most spectacular sights in Big Sur.

Another best thing about Pfeiffer Beach is the purple sand. The purple hue sand results from erosion of the cliffs above that have created a pocket of Manganese garnet rocks which can be found as little beads of iridescent sand on top. As you walk through the sand, you cannot help but breathe in the atmosphere surrounding you. 

Couples visiting Big Sur are sure to enjoy an evening at Pfeiffer Beach, with its striking rock formations and beautiful views of the purple sand.

12. Visit Henry Miller Memorial Library

Address: 48603 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Visiting Henry Miller Memorial Library is one of the unique things to do in Big Sur. The library connects the community to the work of authors and artists who have spent time in Big Sur, gathering inspiration from the remote wilderness and sea air.  

The Henry Miller Memorial Library has an amazing collection of books, art, and memorabilia relating to Henry Miller and his work. It offers a great experience of Henry Miller’s time in Big Sur. With a range of fun activities, you will be amazed at what you can find here. 

There are also many other events held at the Henry Miller Library throughout the year that you can attend or take part in. The Henry Miller Library is open from Wednesday to Monday from 11 am until 5 pm. It’s also free to visit! If you’re looking for something new or exciting to read about, this is the place for you!

13. Take the Kids to Seal Beach Overlook

Seal Beach Scenery

Address: 49664 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Visiting Seal Beach Scenic Overlook is one of the best things to do in Big Sur. The overlook offers a beautiful panoramic view of the elephant seals trumpeting and playing in the water, which is great for photographs and Instagram posts.

The overlook can be reached from either Cambria or Hearst Castle. It’s a wonderful place to bring children and teach them about these majestic creatures. Visitors will not be able to go down onto the sandy beach. But, there are boardwalk paths that make viewing easy.

The Seal Beach Scenic Overlook provides incredible views and is a place you NEED to check out next time you travel through Big Sur.

See Related: Fun & Best Things to Do in Malibu, California

14. Take in The Stunning Views of Partington Cove

Partington Cove and Skyline

Address: 51700 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

If you are looking for a peaceful, quiet place to rest and enjoy nature, Partington Cover is the place. The cove is a small, secluded inlet and rugged beach. It sits off Highway 1, just south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Visitors can reach the cove after hiking through a dirt trail, wooden bridge, and tunnel. 

The hike to Partington Cove is about 2 miles round trip and includes several short ups and downs. Besides being beautiful, the hike provides spectacular views of the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Pacific Ocean. It’s also a moderately steep, family-friendly hike, so if you’re looking for something fun to do with your family on a sunny day, this is it!

Partington Cove is also great for photographers. The cove’s beauty can be seen from many different angles, and each view is special in its own way.

15. Spend an Afternoon at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Road

Address: 52801 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

The Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a beautiful place to spend an afternoon. The state park sits on the edge of Big Sur and has many hiking trails that will lead you through pine trees, past creeks, and into the natural wonders of the redwoods. 

The beautiful park is named after Big Sur’s most respected resident and rancher, Julia Pfeiffer Burns.  Visitors can enjoy hiking at any of the seven marked trails leading to coves, waterfalls, creek-side groves, and more. Although much of the park was damaged by the Dolan Fire in 2020, it’s expected to reopen soon.

What’s more, the park is also home to 300-foot redwoods, which are over two thousand years old. It also offers scuba diving and camping opportunities. 

There are two campsites available for overnight use only for those who wish to spend time in nature away from it all. Each has access to pit toilets and a picnic table but no showers or firewood.

16. Get Some Fresh Air at McWay Falls

McWay Falls Aerial View

Address: 52801 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

If you find yourself in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, make sure to visit McWay Falls. McWay Falls is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in California. It’s an 80-foot waterfall that flows directly into the Pacific Ocean from McWay Creek in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. 

The trail to McWay Falls is a short walk through the woods. But after you arrive at the falls, there are plenty of places to sit on rocks and watch the water flow over them.  Depending on the tide, you can catch it either at high or low tide (it is a tidefall, after all).   

The waterfall is a great place to get some fresh air and enjoy the views of the ocean and surrounding hillsides while listening to the sound of rushing water. Unfortunately, access to the beach below is off-limits to keep it pristine. 

See Related: Best Boundary Waters Waterfalls You Need to Visit

17. Enjoy a Peaceful Break at New Camaldoli Hermitage

New Camaldoli Hermitage
image by YogiP1/TripAdvisor

Address: 62475 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

New Camaldoli Hermitage is an oasis of peace and an idyllic place to spend a day. The hermitage is a monastic retreat founded by Saint Romuald in 1012.  The community of Roman Catholic monks lives here for contemplation and prayer. 

It’s located on top of a hill surrounded by nature, with views of the ocean below and the Santa Lucia Mountains in the distance. The grounds are peaceful, and you can admire the architecture and artwork throughout the building.

Enjoy a break from society and the flood of sounds in this beautiful place on a stunning Big Sur Ridge. You can also stay overnight in one of the private rooms if you’d like to spend more time there than just touring around the grounds during your visit.

18. Hike Cone Peak Summit Trail

Cone Peak Summit Trail Scenery

Location: CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

The Cone Peak Summit Trail is one of the most popular hikes in Big Sur, and for a good reason. The trail offers a unique perspective f the Big Sur area, including stunning ocean and coastal landscape views. 

The trail is often used for backpacking, hiking, and camping. There are many places along this hike where you can stop and enjoy the view, but don’t forget to continue! Once you reach  Cone Peak Summit, you’ll have stunning views of the entire Lucian Range. The trail also offers excellent sunset views and is open year-round. 

The trail is a challenging route that takes an average of 13 h 26 min to complete—that means you’ll need plenty of time if you’re going to do it in one day! 

This hike is great for couples who will love exploring the forest and finding some of the hidden treasures along the way.

19. Explore The Oldest Redwood Groves at Limekiln State Park 

Redwoods in Limekiln State Park

Address: 63025 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Limekiln State Park is one of the best things to do in Big Sur with family.  It is a popular spot for those who love nature, especially those who love redwoods and hiking. 

The park also has some of the oldest redwood groves in California, which makes it an ideal destination for lovers of nature and history. The park is famous for its redwood groves, some of which are over 100 years old! 

Limekiln State Park also has three main trails that lead to stunning views, bridges, 100 years old lime kilns, and a towering 100-foot waterfall, all of which make for beautiful photo opportunities!  

The best part about Limekiln State Park is that it’s not crowded like some other state parks in Big Sur. This means you can enjoy your time with family there without having to fight crowds!

See Related: Best National Parks to Visit in November

20. Go Beachcombing at Sand Dollar Beach 

Sand Dollar Beach Aerial View

Address: 69232 Cabrillo Hwy, Big Sur, CA 93920

TheSand Dollar Beach is located on Highway 1, about 7 miles south of Limekiln State Park. The sand is covered with washed-up sand dollars, which are easy to spot along the shoreline.

The sandy beach is known for its long and consistent wave patterns, making it a great spot for surfing. It’s also a great place for beachcombing. There are also plenty of rocks to explore if you’re not into surfing.

Sand Dollar Beach is also home to several activities, all within walking distance. Besides surfing and swimming, it’s also a good place for birding or fishing. The nearby campground has campsites with picnic tables, barbecue pits, and many more facilities.

21. Go On A Wildlife Adventure at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve Scenery

Address: 62 CA-1, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923

If you’re looking for a wildlife adventure that’s fun for the whole family, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a great place to go. The reserve offers spectacular views and easy access to wildlife. 

Point Lobos is located just north of Garrapata State Park on Highway 1. The state park is home to one of California’s largest kelp forests (70-foot high) and many species of marine life, such as dolphins, sea lions, seals, and porpoises. You can also see otters in the area and even catch a glimpse of an elusive gray whale passing by. 

The best way to enjoy the area is by its numerous hiking trails or kayaking along the coastline. You can hike through the park’s coastal meadows or explore tide pools with your family. If you’re not up for that, plenty of other activities are available as well.  

You can go on nature walks and bird-watching tours where you can learn about each species that inhabit this area. You can even take part in guided hikes if you want more information about the animals or plants living here.  

22. Enjoy Moon Bathing at Slates Hot Springs

Address: 55000 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Slate Hot Springs is a place where you can clear your mind and unplug from the world. It’s a hot spring pool located at the Esalen Institute, 3.5 miles south of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. 

One of the most popular activities at Slates Hot Springs is “night bathing” – from 1:00 am to 3:00 am. It is a complete experience that allows you to relax while you enjoy your time in the springs. 

There are several campgrounds for staying overnight at Slates Hot Springs. If you are interested in using the hot springs for day use, you have to register for one of the workshops that take place at Esalen institute. 

Escape to a beautiful location in Big Sur and enjoy a relaxing, peaceful day soaking in Slates Hot Springs. Advance reservations are required, so book today!

See Related: Fun & Best Things to do in Monterey, California

23. Visit Hawthorne Gallery

Hawthorne Gallery Architecture
image by Management/TripAdvisor

Address: 48485 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

The Hawthorne Gallery is your one-stop shop for all things art. The family-operated gallery is home to local art, paintings, and many other famous pieces.

It has been 20 years since the Hawthorne’s arrived in Big Sur. As an artist family, they have contributed to and learned from each other and the community they are a part of. 

The Hawthorne Gallery prides itself on representing only the finest artists in the country. Their galleries in Big Sur, CA, and Port Orford, OR, offer spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean and are open daily 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

The Hawthorne gallery is a unique experience where you can spend hours, even days, exploring what you love most! And afterwards, check out Nepenthe, a delicious restaurant across the street perched on the Big Sur cliffside.

24. Drive Along John Little State Natural Reserve

Address: 55420 CA-1, Big Sur, CA 93920

Visiting John Little State Natural Reserve is one of the best things to do in Big Sur. It’s a small, 21-acre nature reserve located just a mile south of the Esalen Institute. 

A reserve is a great place for a scenic drive and a nice break from the more popular attractions in Big Sur. You’ll also find several hiking trails nearby, including one that leads to some beautiful Pacific Coast ocean views. 

Sunset watching at John Little State Natural Reserve is also a world-class experience — a view of the blue ocean, azure skies, and rolling waves, and the rustic beauty of an ancient redwood forest. It’s a place where you can escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and relax.

FAQ

What is Big Sur known for?

Big Sur is known for its beautiful landscape, which has been described as “the most stunning coastline in all of California.” It offers many hiking trails leading to waterfalls, caves, swimming holes, and other natural attractions, making it a great place for outdoor recreation year-round. 

What is the best thing to do with kids in Big Sur? 

The best thing to do with kids in Big Sur is to get them out in nature. There are many outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, kayaking, and rock climbing you can do in the area. These activities will allow your children to try different, fun things while being active at the same time.

What are some fun things to do in Big Sur? 

There are simply too many things to do in Big Sur to list them all. You could spend the whole day exploring the coastline, driving the Pacific Coast highway, hiking the coastal trails or mountain biking through the woods, spotting sea otters, or driving along the winding back country roads.

What are some things to do in Big Sur when it’s raining? 

During a rainy day in Big Sur, you’ll still have plenty of things to do besides just hiding from the rain. Take advantage of the Esalen Institute, Hawthorne Gallery, and Henry Miller Memorial Library. The Big Sur area is full of exciting museums, art galleries, and some libraries, so take your pick!

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