Big Sur Guides and Hiking
Big Sur Guides and Hiking
Eco ToursSightseeing ToursHiking & Camping ToursNature & Wildlife Tours
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
9:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Detailed Reviews: Reviews order informed by descriptiveness of user-identified themes such as cleanliness, atmosphere, general tips and location information.
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35 reviews
Very good

Bob L
Windsor, Canada48 contributions
Aug 2022
My 24 year old son and I signed up for the private hiking excursion. Leslie responded to questions I had and the signup & payment process was very smooth. We met our guide (Ola) at the predefined rendevous point and away we went. Ola was great and gave us a lot of insight into the natural environment of the Big Sur coast and forest that was fascinating. I highly recommend Big Sur Guides and Hiking!
Written August 24, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Clarkston, Michigan5 contributions
Jun 2023 • Friends
Big Sur Tours arranged the perfect tour guide, Lesli for our tour of Pebble Beach, Carmel, Big Sur, and Monterey!! My 2 girlfriends and I are from Michigan and as our husband's played golf at Pebble Beach we wanted to take advantage of our one day we had to learn about the area. Lesli's knowledge and insight on the areas was amazing. She took us to almost every nook and cranny with such ease of driving those twisty, turny roads. Along with the wonderful road trip, she provided the most delicious and charming charcuterie picnic lunch (including a cute picnic basket). We loved our tour and the time spent with Lesli, and highly recommend Big Sur Tours!!
Written June 15, 2023
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Rick W
1 contribution
Sep 2022
We had two private hike excursions on back to back days with Everitt. Both were outstanding. Everitt was very knowledgeable of all of the flora and fauna of Big Sur. I would highly recommend Big Sur Guides to anyone who wants a truly insightful tour of Big Sur.
Written October 1, 2022
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Los Angeles, CA19 contributions
Aug 2021 • Solo
Big Sur Hiking Tours we’re great! I was traveling alone and was nervous to go hiking by myself so I had reached out to them a couple months prior to my trip to see what kind of hikes they offered. Lesli was great and made recommendations based on where I was staying and my experience. Bryan was my guide and he was awesome! He knew so much about the history of the area, the redwoods, plant life… he taught me about poison oak and I’m grateful for that lesson! Highly recommend this team. They were really great.
Written August 31, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Collingswood, NJ2 contributions
Sep 2021
My Tour was the 'Jack Kerouac' Experience in early September 2021. I really loved the experience- the tour guide, Patrice, was very knowledgeable, friendly and a true steward of the beauty and sanctity of Big Sur. He guided us thru the forest and the rocky coast , and shared interesting facts about Big Sur that I found very interesting. There was a small amount of hiking , so I'd recommend 'good shoes' for this tour.
Touring Big Sur was a highlight of my trip. Patrice was an excellent guide, so I'd gladly recommend him, and if I returned to the area, I'd request him again!
Written September 19, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

9 contributions
Apr 2021
My husband and I enjoyed our half day hike with Brian in the Pfeiffer State Park. Brian is a wonderful guide, full of knowledge about plants, the Redwood trees, local history, and how the forest is affected by fires. Although we could've done the hike on our own, we wouldn't have learned and experienced nearly as much if Brian hadn't been our guide. Thank you for a wonderful day in nature.
Written April 11, 2021
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Corona, CA61 contributions
Jul 2020 • Family
We’ve hiked Big Sur many times, but wanted history and knowledge of the area, plants and trees. Our guide, Everett, took us on a spectacular hike up Tan Bark Trail. We wanted a trail less traveled, ( especially during Covid ) and one we’ve never been on. He matched it to our abilities perfectly, and was an excellent guide. We did the lunch option, and it was a perfect setting under the redwoods to rest and eat our delicious sandwiches. Thank you Everett, you made our day !
Written August 2, 2020
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Huntingdon. UK86 contributions
Sep 2012 • Couples
California’s Big Sur coastline is often regarded as one of the most spectacular drives in the World. In different seasons, what you ‘get for your money’ changes from spring’s green and grassy slopes, through to the brown of late summer punctuated only by the green trees.

In winter, wild storms can see up to 100 inches of rainfall in the Ventana Hills. They have to either flow to the shoreline or to the rich central plains that in summer fuel the growth in the vineyards and vast ‘oceans’ of vegetable crops.

There’s also the winter season for the migrating Monarch butterflies to make the hills around Monterey their base, and other seasons for migrating whales (giant humpback and the blue) to delight shoreline spotters.

What all of us really come for is the ‘drive’ itself and the views. Let’s make no mistake, for many the journey is something they do in a day or two at most. They are missing the point, in my humble opinion. Big Sur is a destination in its own right, and not just a road to complete as fast as possible with photos shot along its 100 miles while still sitting in the car! I call this act as ‘drive by shooting’.

This road is littered with jewels for you to seek out and treasure. And they aren’t all out to sea, but also as you look in towards the mountains.

For me, the Big Sur experience starts with the decision about how you will ‘arrive’ in this drama-infested stretch of coastline. I guess that all but a few either head up from Los Angeles, or down from San Francisco. Either way, you have many miles of instantly forgettable driving – more so if coming from the South – before you arrive at the main event. Allow me to suggest a third way. Arrive slap bang in the middle!

How do you achieve the apparently impossible? You drive across the middle of the Ventana range on the Nacimiento-Ferguson Road from near Paso Robles. You get their from the 101 from the same choice of starting points.

You will be one of an exclusive club making this trek. Perhaps less than a 100 a day do this route – and of them I guess more than half will be locals.

The Nacimiento Road is the only way in or out of Big Sur if there are landslides or fires on the California 1 road – Pacific Coast Highway. But let me warn you, this route is a challenge in itself with the road twisting and turning most notably the nearer the summit you get. This is not a journey to take with an oversized motorhome!

This is not a road with guardrails and reflective posts on every precarious corner. Do not drive this road at night, and certainly not if you are in a hurry. Taken gently, you will savour incredible views, butterflies and birds, and also the heat. Up here you are way above summer cloud levels and the sun shines every day. In winter, it’s another story!

You pass two extraordinary official campsites on the landward side of the range. They are carved into the hillsides with redwoods and other massive trees to marvel at. They are Nacimiento and Ponderosa.

This is not ‘hotel world’ but your chance to remember childhood days when you played ‘Cowboys and Indians’. Here, even 150 years ago, Indians really did roam the hills and valleys. Big Sur – as a road, didn’t even exist as a track until around 80 years ago.

Before Mexico gave up ownership of California to the USA in 1848 (as part of a huge chunk of land spreading to Texas in the east and Oregan in the north, there was no investment from a largely bankrupt nation. Going back even further, Mexico was owned by the Spanish!

Nacimiento was the first road to the coast, and was supported by dozens of tracks that fan out across the wilderness and were used to haul the equipment needed to construct what we now take for granted. There were few settlers even 50 years ago.

To get this trip underway, we had reserved all the main things we wanted from WalMart. Kitting out the van took no more than an hour or two, and we were on the way!

Let me take you back to your choice of starting point. Obviously you will fly in to Los Angeles or San Francisco.

I’m going to recommend LA. With hire car collected, drive North on the 405 Interstate until you hit the 5. Why?

Because you are about to drive another miracle road. It’s called The Grapevine. It’s also the ‘cement’ between Southern and Central California.

Thirty years ago, the road wound and switchbacked 100 times to take you over the mountains (that include the San Andeas Fault). There are still traces of the road to be seen in places. The elevation at the summit at over 4,000 feet dropped 3,000 feet in a matter of a few miles as the crow flies – explaining the need for the road to wind its way to achieve that drop.

Going down is one thing. Everyone can get down at some speed or other. The real challenge was getting up!

Today, it’s an altogether less twisty ‘helter skelter’ but obviously still encapsulating the same change in height above sea level. The road is steeper and longer than anything I suspect you will have ever ‘enjoyed’.

To enter the Central belt, trucks have to first stop for a break test. It’s mandatory. Yes, this road is serious business! I would recommend the same break test stations for the Nacimiento Road, but presumably your hire car is going up to the job! You’ll know pretty soon if it isn’t.

There are no testing stations. There are no escape routes, either! You’ll have to invent your own, if required. As good fortune would have it, I have never needed to find out if ‘throwing it in reverse’ does anything but mangle the gearbox.

I wouldn’t advocate the Grapevine for a night time jaunt, and nor would I be keen on engaging in battle it in bad weather. Up here in winter they get real snow! Along the hillside there are huge banks of pipes designed to quickly flush away rainfall that would otherwise become raging and dangerous walls of water.

The view as you begin the Grapevine’s descent is enough to make your jaw drop. Down on the plain, the road is straight as an arrow for mile after mile. Be prepared for runaway trucks stuck in escape roads or racing past you with brakes on fire. It happens many times a day.

So famous is the Grapevine it has even had Country & Western songs written about it with mythical tales of road races as the subject.

Once safely back down to 1,000 feet, take a peep back at what you have navigated. It will amaze you. There’s a huge service station with hotels and shops.

We headed north west to a place called Lost Hills. We turned left onto Highway 46 that, if you let it, the road will deposit you on the Pacific shoreline near the town of Cambria. Our night stop in our rental van – swiftly and cheaply adapted into a very rudimentary mobile home – was to be in a ‘town’ called Cholame.

Cholame has one building. The Jack Ranch restaurant. Once upon a time, it used to also be a Post Office when Wells Fargo had stagecoaches. We slept the night in a field just west of the Jack Ranch. We just pulled off the road and had an astonishing night looking up at the stars. The next morning we woke to find ourselves surrounded on the ridge all around by massive hunks of mobile beef.

It was reminiscent – not for the last time on this journey – of being on the set of a cowboy movie with the cattle in the role of the cowboys (or the Indians) as we sat at the bottom of the bowl in our ‘wagon’.

Just east of Cholame (pronounced show-lamb) is where James Dean died in a car crash in 1955. There’s a memorial to Dean in Jack’s, and the highway here has been re-named in Dean’s honour.

The food at Jack Restaurant was brilliant. Home cooking and perhaps the best steak we have ever eaten. As I will mention later, ‘finding’ Cholame and Jack’s was only achieved through literally ‘following’ the route on Google Earth. We needed a place to stop for the night, and we were looking for a side road that might be quiet.

Each night we showered using the black ‘bag tanks’ that heat up if left in the sun. Leaving them on the dashboard in full view, they got really hot.

On that first night, we found another side road and showered in the middle of a field in brilliant, hot evening light.

Paso Robles (on the junction of the 46 and the 101) was our last food and water stop before Big Sur. Our appointment was as the Vons (Safeway) store in the town. Make sure you get the store card. You can use it at Safeway in Carmel later on. The discounts with these cards are significant.

We made the mistake of filling the water canisters at a gas station a few miles further north. It was a $2 for five gallons. It was supposed to be free if filling with fuel at the same time, but that didn’t happen. It was around 100 degrees at this stage, and we didn’t hang around to argue. One tank full and we were out of there!

After the short drive north, our road carved off to the right and then back under the 101. We were aiming for the Fort Hunter Liggett Army Reserve and a ‘mystery’ left turn that was so badly signed. I got lost! After a less than happy or relaxed encounter with someone with exceedingly short-cropped hair, wearing a uniform and clutching something that I reckoned wasn’t designed to kill rabbits, we were pointed in the right direction.

Ahead, we could see what appeared to be almost vertical peaks. The climb all started slowly, making it increasingly evident that at some stage it was going to become a serious climb.

Don’t get me wrong. It was really incredible, and my wife got a better view (that I don’t think she really enjoyed) of the sheer drops to the right hand side. I just knew that with the van, there was precious little space for a car to fit between me and the rocks.

There was no option but clamp your eyes on the road and each bend, praying that we would not find a runaway car or truck coming towards us. The construction of this sort of road always amazes me. How did the guys who cut this route with hand tools know that their plan was actually going to work out and see them pop out the other side? Perhaps there were a few wrong turns made, but after half an hour of torrid driving we suddenly emerged out of the trees to see the light.

In place of the deep forest and a million trees, the seaward side was quite barren. The drive up through those trees had not been ludicrously steep, but now at the top I could sense that this last 10 miles to the coast was going to be much more challenging.

This was when, for the 2nd time in 24 hours, I considered the quality of the brake pads. This ‘truck’ had an automatic gearbox and I selected first. I would need the brakes the whole way down, so preservation was essential. After a few minutes, the smell of ‘something’ was becoming a concern. We stopped and considered the view! Fire in the brakes in this tinder dry landscape of Big Sur was a recipe to avoid.

As luck would have it, we encountered few vehicles on their way up. With few trees on this side of the range it was easy to see them coming. I parked up every time! This was not a road to attempt heroics.

Reaching the bottom was such a relief. It’s nearly 3,000 feet from the top. As the driver on this entire journey, there is no time to admire the view. The few times I did take a peep I could easily have parked us in the sea or a ravine.

It wasn’t until we were parked up at the Kirk Creek campground and I looked back up the hill, did I get a real sense of the severity of the drop. It looked even more terrifying.
Kirk Creek is special. Very special.

Before I go into any detail, I think it’s important to ask you some questions. Why have you come here to Big Sur? What are you expecting? And what do you want Big Sur to give you?

To me, a holiday like this is an experience. It’s not to be compared with a beach or hotel holiday. This is a chance for you – a rare chance – to get to understand who you are, what you are, and why you are here.

Other than a guidebook, this is not a place to read some mindless trash novel about city life. If you have to, pick something historical about the region. Every second your eyes are open, there’s something to absorb and catalogue in the brain. There are also sounds or, as is often found here, no sound.

We didn’t turn on the radio once. Why would you? For what? Was I bothered there was no phone signal? No.

Big Sur is not a place to rush through. In one sense, I wish we didn’t have cameras to record flat and colour-washed images. Your eyes don’t see a wide angle slice of the view with fixed, cropped edges. That’s why pictures aren’t even second best as a memory option.

Big Sur is a place to become a part of. I hope you understand what I am trying to say. This is an opportunity to merge with the rhythm of the place, to watch the swaying trees and the birds hovering in the sky.

Visiting a place like this is not about doing things. Unless you let the place take you over, you miss the view and the experience. You miss the point of being here.

Right then, back to Kirk Creek. To me, it’s one of the rare places in the world where there can be a stillness where you can become absorbed into what is happening.

Look out of your tent in the night and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see a million stars. Even in the day when traffic is humming past on California 1, I invite you to look at every detail of where you are.

The layout of the sites allows you masses of space. If you pick the right one – you always pick the one you want – it will be magic. When booking (particularly if sleeping in a tent), work out if your vehicle will obscure the view.

No, I’m not going to tell you which is the best pitch with your own bench on which to sit for hours looking out over the ocean! Ok, number seven!

I’ve read people complain about the sound of the sea while here. That’s crazy. Why did you come here if you didn’t want to hear the waves, perhaps hear the distant sound of a seal, and appreciate what is here?

Personally, I would stop here for three nights – maybe more – and use this place as a base for short trips or just stay put.

If you were terrified by Nacimiento-Ferguson, take a short drive back up. I dare you! Yes, it’s a tough road. It is also spectacular. I wish we’d gone back up, even if just for the view.

Stop anywhere along it and then look down … and up. Try to imagine this place on a night with a wild storm where the sea spray shoots up the cliff, carried by the wind. Imagine the feeling of rain lashing your face.

Don’t say how horrible it would be! Try to work out how amazing it would be! Imagine everything your head will allow! Take off the brakes!

When you do move on from Kirk Creek, make sure you have a plan! You can’t just park up on the edge of the road at night! Are you heading south first, or north? One thing you will probably need is a fresh supply of food. I suggest you head south to Cambria. That way, you can come north again and see how you could have ‘arrived’ if coming from the south!

Cambria has good shops and a supermarket to stock up. Maybe try to get some fresh water?
A few moments ago I said about having a plan. A detailed plan. In summer the campgrounds fill up so quickly. There is a reservation system online to book up. But they only take pre-bookings for half of the pitches and when those are gone you are turning up and expecting a night’s stay on a first come basis!

So, heading north again, where are you going to stay? I’ll give you two choices.

The first is to head up the forestry road by the Treebones resort – take the left fork at the bottom – and drive up as far as you and your courage will allow. It could take you 45-minutes to get to the viewing ‘deck’ at the top. But what a reward. What a view.

There are a dozen or more ‘pull-outs’ along the way if you find you’ve lost your bottle!
I drove it in the van, and was OK. I’ve seen small cars make it. You don’t need an off-roader in the summer. My only firm advice is, don’t attempt this in the wet!

Several things may strike you. One is how quiet it is. The other is the heat. You can easily add 20 or more degrees compared to the coast. You won’t be bothered by the law up here, either. You’ll find locals who have their special haunts and tent up for the night, and on these backroads there are houses tucked away, presumably occupied by people intent on a serious escape route from the world.

If you’ve read the guidebooks, you’ll be expecting all manner of wildlife wandering past you at night. The truthful answer is that they are more frightened of you! If you stay quiet, though, you might see deer wander close by. You’ll also see the aerial display of the condors and eagles. Around your feet, you’ll be more likely to find a couple of ground squirrels seeing what food you have!

Perhaps your thrill will be to see a coyote or two. Sometimes called American Jackals or prairie wolf, they only come near if you move in to their patch! They have to live somewhere. You’ll know if you are in their territory from their well trodden routes across the grassland.

The one danger to you is going to poison oak. The plant is everywhere. Read up on it, learn to recognise it, and don’t touch it!

If you haven’t decided to try Willow Creek Road – sometimes called Los Burros – then your only other real choice is Plaskett Creek Campground just a few miles north by Jade Cove and Sand Dollar beaches. It’s on the mountain side of the road.

It is wonderful No, there aren’t sea views, but the parkland is almost erotic in terms of how pretty it is. Get the right pitch, and you’ll feel in heaven. You’ll probably be under a tree or two, and in the company of birds, butterflies and your now faithful companion, the ground squirrel.
The pitches in the centre circle face onto a verdant green space that’s ‘communal’. I recommend the outer circle, unless you want to share in the party atmosphere.
Rhonda, the regular campground chief, will tell you the water is safe to drink without boiling. Don’t take that as a guarantee. Better safe than sorry. It comes straight from the hills, and I have no idea if it’s even filtered!

Just like at the other campgrounds, each ‘pitch’ has a fire pit – the Yanks love a fire! – and a pedestal BBQ unit. Personally, I am less than keen on having a fire next to a tent!
Book in for a couple of nights, and then move back to Kirk Creek for one night as you head north. That’s a good plan.

Depending upon the timing of your trip, don’t be surprised to find that yet another chunk of the coast road has slipped fathoms deep into the Pacific. In September 2012 when I ‘did’ Big Sur, there were two restoration projects underway that caused huge traffic delays in the week. One was a few miles north from Kirk Creek.

There are websites for everything in the States, and that includes a couple for roadworks warnings. Check them out before you complete your final route plan. The later or earlier you hit the jam sites, the quicker you’ll be. That’s rather obvious, I guess.

Did I say ‘quicker’? Wash my mouth out! I just meant to avoid being in a slow moving traffic jam!

The Government will, one presumes, always have to find a way of repairing the road after the annual winter ravages. But how will the drive change if you end up with miles of ‘suspended’ concrete and steel structures – like a giant skytrain railroad – to complete your journey?

I can see a time when Big Sur will be inaccessible for years at a time. The pressure that puts on dear old Nacimiento-Ferguson will leave its own scar. There is one really terrifying section just south of Carmel. I nearly went over the edge when I sneaked a peak. It seemed like a sheer drop into the sea. I’ve checked since on Google Earth. It wasn’t.

On the question of Google Earth, it is a completely invaluable tool to help your pre-planning. Why? Because you can see which forest roads are gated, which beaches are also blocked by gates, and also what views you want to visit.

There are no camera views from the forestry roads, sadly! But without a detailed map, you have no clue that these roads even exist.

I’ve just spent half an hour ‘driving’ Nacimiento-Ferguson. I wish I had done that before I did it for real. It would have been a help to have been more prepared!!

There are a few gems as you head north. I’ll come back to them. With one exception. I’m in a hurry to tell you about Garrapata Beach. It is the most stunning beach along the whole journey. Golden sand, easy access from the road (try the most southerly access point as it’s the easiest), and it’s one of the few places you’ll visit without a mass of kelp offshore – and also rotting on the beach attracting hundreds of flies!

It’s a jewel, but so few write about it. It’s a few miles north of Rocky Point, and about eight from Carmel. It seems like Garrapata just never got a PR agency! In one sense, I’m glad as it preserves its unique views for a chosen few.

The northerly end is well frequented (I think legally) by naturists. Good for them.

What makes this place so special are the hills behind it. There isn’t a house in sight, and reminds me of a spot on Oahu. It can be windy … if the wind blows. London can also be wet if it rains! So I’m writing the ‘obvious’ for a reader who is no fool.

One year, I would love to take a punt and park up on the road overnight and then take the tent on the beach. Look on the roadside for signs. I didn’t see any warnings. What a place.

Garrapata is about 10 miles from the most dramatic and wild campground on Big Sur. It’s called Bottcher’s Gap. It’s at the end of Palo Colorado Road, less than a mile from Rocky Point.
There’s even a sign for the road!

I’ve been sitting back in my chair, trying to contemplate what to write. It’s hard. Part of me says: just tell folks to try it and let you know when they get back.

It’s hot – at the top. It’s cool amongst the redwoods. It’s a complete surprise. It’s really varied in what is presented to your gaze. What I can say is that if you’ve really tuned out of your natural instinct to rush everywhere, you’ll want to stop and take a hundred pictures.

It starts in a rush. What I mean is, within yards you’ll find yourself driving past giant trees and wood-construction homes. Each is unique. They have to be. They are designed to fit into the space that Mother Nature provided. I could even imagine a house with a tree growing up through the middle! It’s that kind of irrational and illogical planning that forces you to build where you can.

Homes must have to have lights on all day, it’s so dark. Any sunlight reaching the ground is purely accidental and can only last a few minutes as the sun continues its daily journey across the sky.

There hundreds of private houses tucked away up here, and the residents drive quite fast. They are not here for a one-off look. Their numbers thin out the further you go until, bingo! You are at the campground.

Again, I sit here with my eyes closed, trying to select the images, sounds and other sensations that battered me. Heat. The smell of the forest. The sound of lizards scurrying from sight. The butterflies. The views. The heat. More heat. And the flies.

It feels like you are locked into a time capsule with views and stimuli that you have never experienced before. Nothing looks like what you imagined. Cone Peak – the tallest of the mountain peaks – looks like a cut-out image against the purest blue sky.

I continue to search the memory banks. I can’t. Yes I can. The leaves on the ground, and more heat. A pine fragranced-laced heat. The hovering birds. Oh. Wow. I wish I was there now.
Carmel was a huge disappointment. The shops were not as good as I remember. The beach used to be pure silver and so soft. Now it has a sheen of unwelcome nuggets of BBQ charcoal to get stuck between your toes.

The real problem with Carmel – I feel – is that it no longer fits within the ambience and peace of Big Sur. It would be if I was there as part of the drive-by-shooting brigade. Even now as I write, I am transported back to the hills, valleys, birds, butterflies and the flowers.

Why did I go to Carmel, other than for the shopping at Safeway with my Vons discount card.
You might love Carmel. But you don’t remember how it was. The problem is, I do!

Parking for the night? That could have been a real problem. No campsites, so it would have to be a hotel.

It was! We parked up the van in a remote corner of the car park at the Carmel Mission hotel, and slept soundly. In the morning, I hopped back into the driver’s seat, and drove out! Perfect.
Carmel is the most northerly extent of Big Sur. Yes, there’s 200 miles of more coastline and one or two dramatic stand-out places to stop. But we weren’t inclined to do it. We missed the hills, the valleys and the solitude.

Heading south, we completed out trio of arrival options on Big Sur. The big difference? The hills were on our left, and from where I was sitting now, I would be the first one of us heading towards the sea if I made a mistake!

One of the most photographed places is Bixby Bridge.Bixby has a PR person, as none of the other almost identical bridge spans along this road ever get a mention! Have a look at Bixby here.

We tried Sand Dollar beach on our planned two night stop at Plaskett. Sorry, but it’s nothing special, and the long walk to the bottom for brown sand and flat pebbles – plus flies – was not my idea of fun.

We didn’t stop at McWay Falls, but we did drive down to Pfeiffer Beach near Big Sur village. The road down is wonderful. Again, more crazy houses carved into the landscape, wood stores that I envied and certainly coveted! There were no oxen.

The flowers were so pretty. I have been trying to successfully grow California Poppies at home for years, and here they were on every corner and still flowering. No oil seed rape in sight. Yet. But it will come, one day.

We came back with seeds from grasses and numerous flowers, as well as ‘fruit’ from Cypress Trees that I hope will produce vigorous plants. They will be a great memory of Pfeiffer Beach, if they take.

We didn’t see a passing whale out to see. Shame. But we saw everything else on our list.
Next time – if there is a next time – we will actually plan in even greater detail! Yes, more!

Where are we staying? And we will stay in each place longer.

Planning buying your food and keeping it cool is another issue miles from shops. But on that point, surely we can survive a day or two with veg and even meat preserved in a tin, or even eggs? Next time, cold drinks will be in one cool box and food in another.

Yes, we would take a tent again. For sure. Maybe even two tents and not have a van at all. What we really needed was a more sturdy off-road vehicle to tackle the forestry roads. The mattresses came rolled up in a box, so there is not the same space issue for something normally more rigid.

This whole trip was really designed to see how we could cope with an extended holiday in a tent or van – or a mix of the two. We did 10, and survived!

What were the best bits of California and Big Sur? It would be hard to pick one thing.

How do you compare a steak at Jack Ranch with our own BBQ at Kirk Creek? How do you compare a drive down the Grapevine and Nacimiento with a day at Garrapata?

It was all quite extraordinary. Each slice of the trip has infiltrated the brain in a different way and is not to be compared.

Big Sur - and how we did the trip - may not seem to be for you. But how do you know until you’ve tried it? You might even surprise yourself!

One last, important tip. Take lots of small denomination bills to pay for the campgrounds!!

Have fun! We did.
Written October 7, 2012
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Cleveland, OH62 contributions
Jul 2014 • Couples
It occurred to me while watching the elephant seals that those guys know how to rest! In our three day trip around the Big Sur area I just felt so strongly that the most precious thing we have is time. I saw many, many people rushing in and out of there cars on the coastal highway and honestly, I was one of them. My favorite things on this 3 days bliss filled trip were: the Elephant Seals just north of Hearst Castle, Hearst Castle!!!, Pfeiffer Beach just north of the town of Big Sur!, the waterfall viewing area at Pfeiffer State Park, Whale Cove inside Los Padres park, the Henry Miller Library, Nepenthe Restaurant, Deetjans restaurant (even though I did not eat there, the architecture is so calming and quaint,), Carmel Roasting Company, the beach at Carmel. Although there are a lot of places with the name Pfeiffer...the key is to really explore! Ask the locals where is there favorite hike or place to eat. For an amazing sunset view,...Ok all of them are amazing, but have a drink at the Hyatt property called Highlands which is near to Carmel. Forget that you are a tourist and just relax into it. I decided since I did not get to see everything I wanted to see...I have to go back soon!!! Enjoy and please, please, please remember that your work will still be there when you get back.
Written July 25, 2014
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

Boston, MA66 contributions
Jul 2019 • Couples
We visited Big Sur as part of our honeymoon and we were connected with Big Sur Guides through the Ventana hotel concierge. We met up with Patrice right on the Ventana property, and set out together down the coast.

Patrice is a local who knows Big Sur intimately; he speaks about the land with genuine reverence and unbridled enthusiasm. We learned so much in our short time with him as he led us through trails we otherwise would not have found. We felt like we made a friend in Big Sur and will certainly be booking again when we return.
Written August 5, 2019
This review is the subjective opinion of a Tripadvisor member and not of Tripadvisor LLC. Tripadvisor performs checks on reviews as part of our industry-leading trust & safety standards. Read our transparency report to learn more.

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