10 Stops to Make in Big Sur, California

Big Sur is a rugged and mountainous section of the Central Coast of California between Carmel Highlands and San Simeon. Have only a day or two to see the stunning coastline and want to make sure you see all the highlights?

Read on for a list of places to stop in Big Sur!

Bixby Bridge-2
The iconic Bixby Creek Bridge (Source: http://www.bridgehunter.com)

1. Bixby Creek Bridge

Starting from the north, you will inevitably pass over the iconic Bixby Creek Bridge. For the perfect view, pull over at the vista point about 1.5 south of it.

Little Sur River Beach covered with red succulents

2. Little Sur River Beach

The next major vista point you will pass is one that overlooks Little Sur River Beach. Although fenced in, you can still get a good view of the private beach adorned with bright red succulents.

Point Sur Lighthouse
The publicly accessible Point Sur Lighthouse (Source: http://www.travelchannel.com)

3. Point Sur Lighthouse

There’s nothing super extraordinary looking about the outside of the lighthouse, but it is the only complete turn-of-the-20th-century light station open to the public in California. Tours are generally held every Sunday, Wednesday, and Saturday.

Andrew Molera State Park near sunset

4. Andrew Molera State Park

Here, take a hike through the forest or along the beach on one of the park’s several trails.

Keyhole Arch at Pfieffer Beach

5. Pfieffer Beach

If  I had to pick one place to visit in Big Sur, I would chose Pfieffer Beach, hands-down. Though the water is a bit chilly, this is one of the few places in the area where swimming is permitted.

Solar alignment at Keyhole Arch (Source: Steven Christenson)

While at the beach, make sure to checkout Keyhole Arch. Around the Winter Solstice (from mid-December to mid-January), the sunset perfectly aligns with the key hole, creating a stunning ray of light.

Partington Cove blooms with golden flowers

6. Partington Cove

If you’re up for a second hike, do the 1-mile Partington Cove Trail.  Though very short, it takes a bit of effort to climb back up the hill.

Stairs leading down to Sand Dollar Beach
Sand Dollar Beach at high tide


7. Sand Dollar Beach

Next, spend some time walking around Sand Dollar Beach (Tip: Instead of using official parking lot, park right across the road to get free parking. Don’t worry, you won’t be towed).

McWay Falls during mid-afternoon
McWay Falls during sunset

8. McWay Falls

If Pfieffer Beach is the number one thing to do in Big Sur, McWay Falls is a close second. It is one of only two tide falls (waterfall that flows directly into the ocean) in the United States, the other being Alamere Falls at Point Reyes National Seashore.

The Pacific Ocean meets the rugged California coast
Posing in front of a lesser-known bridge in Big Sur

9. Other Vista Points

In addition to the well-known places, there are plenty of other beautiful places to stop and capture rugged cliffs, winding roads, and bridges along the Pacific Coast Highway.

Fog adds a layer of mystery and drama to any lookout

10. Hidden Pull Offs

In addition to the highly visible vista points, there are many unofficial places to wander around and explore.

Screen Shot 2018-12-25 at 9.04.27 PM

Feel inspired to drive along the Golden Coast? Click here for basic driving directions on Google Maps.


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