We noticed that you're using an unsupported browser. The TripAdvisor website may not display properly.We support the following browsers:
Windows: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome. Mac: Safari.

Must Do's/Lodging/Game Plan for Big Sur Area

Los Angeles
Level Contributor
30 posts
Must Do's/Lodging/Game Plan for Big Sur Area

My brother is flying out from the Chicago area mid-June and he and I are taking a trip up north from where I live in L.A. We're probably going to "quickly" buzz up the interior route to the Russian River area first where we will spend 3 nights. We then want to drive down the coast so that he can see our magnificent coastline here in California!

We'll drive down a ways from Jenner on Highway 1 and maneuver so we can drive over the Golden Gate Bridge. I've heard road conditions south of San Francisco along the coast are not in good shape at a point or two...so we'll probably stick to the 101 South and cut in at the Montery Peninsula area.

We were thinking of spending 2 nights in Big Sur...but lodging seems a little pricey or a little sketchy (reviews are widely mixed in the forums and on the review pages here). So maybe we'll spend a very inexpensive night at a Motel 6/Travelodge in Monterey/Carmel area on the first night and then start the next day by hitting Point Lobos. That seems pretty efficient way of winding South.

Just stumbled across info about Point Lobos Reserve. Is it really a "must see". Sound like it is beautiful spot, but I am totally in the dark about it. My brother is rather outdoorsy (we are kayaking/hiking in Russian River area...with a few wineries for me!). It it worth the stop or should we head directly to Big Sur?

Then I thought maybe we'd spend the next night in Big Sur proper...even though it is only 40-50 miles away. Hiking in Big Sur will probably be our biggest use of time...any other suggestions? Or particicular hikes that are "must do's"?

Also, Big Sur Lodge seems to be the most appealing lodging from what I've read...but running around $239/night for a 2-Queen room (why I'm considering the previous night at a budget motel). It is a decent spot to say, however, right? Any other spots you suggest? DeetJen's sounds cool...but don't know if I could relax not being able to lock our room when we went to hike. Glen Oaks sounds like a maybe? We aren't looking for a swanky resort...and don't want to camp...someplace clean, comfortable, safe to get a good night's rest after hiking.

Other possibility is to stay in Carmel are budget motel...do Point Lobos and a hike or two in Big Sur...and then stay 2nd night in Cambria (at my fav hotel). That might be too ambitious though. Trying to balance the driving and the exploring.

Regardless our last day will be spent driving back to L.A. Along the coast cutting in at SLO...so my brother can see Little Sur and Morro Bay.

I know, I'm long winded...basically looking for feedback on Point Lobos, Big Sur must do's/hikes and lodging in Big Sur. Also what stopover plan seems best with driving time and hiking time...1 night Carmel/1 night Big Sur...1 night Carmel/1 night Cambria...or 2 nights Big Sur?

Thanks greatly! Really looking forward to the trip!


New York City, New...
Level Contributor
1,927 posts
9 reviews
1. Re: Must Do's/Lodging/Game Plan for Big Sur Area

From SF take 101 to 380 to 280 to 85 to 101 rather than 101 all the way. 280 is far more scenic and less crowded.

Yes, Point Lobos is a must. You can drive in and park at several lots and just do short but scenic walks, or park outside the gate and walk in for a few hours. It's only about a mile by a mile so you don't need to spend more than a few hours.

Two great hikes in the Big Sur area, Andrew Molera State Park out to the ocean and then along the coast for a few miles and back over the ridge.

And the Ewoldson Trail at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. This heads inland and up for views of the ocean and coast. Julia Pfeiffer Burns is a separate park from the bigger Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park so don't confuse the two.

Oakland, California
Destination Expert
for Big Sur
Level Contributor
3,948 posts
13 reviews
2. Re: Must Do's/Lodging/Game Plan for Big Sur Area

You really need to stay in Big Sur to enjoy the place properly. Driving south from a motel around Monterey takes way too long, and it also ruins the effect. I've never heard anything bad about Deetjens or its security - also, remember, Big Sur is so isolated, it's not like roaming gangs of thieves are lying in wait.

I've actually stayed at the Big Sur Lodge, and it's perfectly nice and clean, with a pretty forest setting, if you're not looking for a super posh place. It sounds like the Post Ranch Inn is out of your price range, but it's my favorite hotel on Earth (and I've been to plenty of nice ones). Its restaurant, Sierra Mar, has a spectactular view 1000 feet above the ocean, and it's open to the public for lunch and dinner.

You're about to have an extraordinary experience wherever you go in Big Sur - adjectives fail to describe its beauty.

London, UK
Level Contributor
5 posts
25 reviews
3. Re: Must Do's/Lodging/Game Plan for Big Sur Area

I just came back from the Big Sur area. I'm no expert but can give you a few tips. I stayed in Pacific Grove on the Monterey Peninsula and travelled down to Big Sur (PG is next to Carmel). I didn't find the drive from there to Big Sur long or difficult - took less than an hour and must be one of the most spectacular/scenic drives anywhere, so I would say it's fine to base yourself in that area and travel down to Big Sur and back if you can't find the right accomodation at Big Sur itself.

I visited (but didn't stay at) Big Sur Lodge and it seemed fine. Good location for hiking. Couple of must sees in that area:

the Redwood tree groves - there is one a few minutes away from Big Sur Lodge, if you just want to visit it without staying at the Lodge you just buy a national park entrance ticket (think it is 8 usd).

Pfeiffer Beach - stunning beach reached by winding road from the main coastal Highway 1 (a right turn not long after the Big Sur Lodge turn off if you are driving south). It's not sign posted but your map will show you which one it is - the only road in the area that leads to a beach. Well worth the couple of miles drive off the main highway.

the view from almost anywhere! just driving and stopping at the many vista points along highway 1 was the best bit for me - awesome!

I didn't do Point Lobos so can't advise on that - although again it is within an easy drive of both the Monterey area and Big Sur, so you could do it which ever accomodation option you choose.

Enjoy your trip.


Paris, France
Level Contributor
876 posts
17 reviews
4. Re: Must Do's/Lodging/Game Plan for Big Sur Area

Point Lobos is wonderful. Don't miss it. If you're up to it, park outside the park (on the road - you'll see other cars there) and walk the perimeter hike. It's just over 6 miles and you'll see so many wonderful different microenvironments; tiny coves, forested knolls, seal rocks, birds, tide pools and blow holes and clean clear beaches. It's well worth an afternoon of your time.

Big Sur Lodge is a good place to stay. The park has some nice hikes. Don't miss Pfeiffer Falls. If you go further south, stop briefly at Julia Pfeiffer Burns park and take the short walk out to see the falls.

Consider Morro Bay, instead of Cambria. It's a lovely little fishing village. It would be a great place to kayak.

San Francisco
Level Contributor
12 posts
6 reviews
5. Re: Must Do's/Lodging/Game Plan for Big Sur Area

From a former 20 yr. local, Deetjens is a killer place to stay. Don't worry about the security. It's cool. Glen Oaks is also a great place to stay at, just don't eat next door, GO ACROSS THE STREET. Find the Post Office & about 3/4 of a mile north of it is an unmarked winding road going down to Pfeiffer Beach. For a really good hike, walk north along the beach & plan on another 45 minute walk over the rocks & you will come upon a very beautiful deserted stretch of beach.

Or head south past Lucia about 8miles, just past Sand Dollar Beach, to Jade Cove. Park along the Hwy., & take the trail down to this secluded cove that has rock hounds from around the world down here hunting & finding JADE.

Try to book an evening at Esalen Institute to use their natural hot springs. Soak in them while kicking back 40 ft. above the ocean. Great sunsets, moonsets also .....

If all the other places are filled, & you don't mind TOTAL SILENCE, & a very comforting setting, Get ahold of the Camaldoli Hermitage. A very cool place with very inexpensive rooms ($60) & for greater comfort trailers ($75) per night. No radios or stuff like that is permitted, so you REALLY gotta like the solitude. The brothers up there are all very nice & do not hassle you about your faith or anything like that.

Good Luck ....

Los Angeles
Level Contributor
30 posts
6. Re: Must Do's/Lodging/Game Plan for Big Sur Area

Thank you everyone for your great suggestions. We finally booked the portion of our stay in the Russian River area (decided to rent a cabin on Austin Creek so we'll really be able to settle in there) and now time to plan for Big Sur.

Thanks again!

Level Contributor
74 posts
1 review
7. Re: Must Do's/Lodging/Game Plan for Big Sur Area

We go to Big Sur often as our retreat away from LA. We were just there again last week.

Ventana and Post Ranch Inn are wonderful. They are pricey, but you can sometimes get good deals at Ventana.

Here's my recommendation:

I second Deetjen's. Each room is unique and most have wood burning stoves/fireplaces. They're quaint and old-fashioned and have no locks on the doors--but as a previous poster said, don't worry.

They have all price ranges, but I would recommend these rooms in this order:



Lower Creek



This mostly has to do with proximity to the street. All of these rooms have their own bath and a stove/fireplace.

The restaurant is wonderful and so is the staff.

Other things you should do in the Big Sur area:

• Eat a meal at Nepenthe. Even breakfast in their little outdoor cafe is nice because of the view.

• Have drinks at Rocky Point. Amazing ocean view.

• Eat at Deetjen's. The dinner atmosphere is magical. They also serve breakfast.

• If you're going to splurge on a very expensive meal, go to Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn and be sure your reservation is before sunset.

• Make the drive to Carmel Valley--about 30 minutes or so--and go wine tasting. We highly recommend the Corkscrew Cafe/Bistro for lunch. Eat outside. Very casual and delicious. There are also a munch of places to wine around the cafe (and at the cafe).

• If you're into spa stuff, you can go to Allegria, the spa at Ventana for a massage, etc.

Have a great time.

New Orleans...
Level Contributor
2,481 posts
60 reviews
8. Re: Must Do's/Lodging/Game Plan for Big Sur Area

thanks, califguys - this info really helps me as well!!! I have read a lot of negative reviews of Nepenthe on this site, but if you recommend it, I'll give it a go! Thanks again.

Level Contributor
74 posts
1 review
9. Re: Must Do's/Lodging/Game Plan for Big Sur Area

The food isn't all that amazing, but the view is great. That's why I recommend breakfast there. It's casual and on their patio. You order at the counter. We had a really lovely start to our day, sipping mimosas and just looking at the water. I wouldn't go there for dinner because after the sun goes down, you lose the view. Better places for food.

New Orleans...
Level Contributor
2,481 posts
60 reviews
10. Re: Must Do's/Lodging/Game Plan for Big Sur Area

sounds great! I'll catch breakfast there then.