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The Best Things to Do in Big Sur

The Best Things to Do in Big Sur

Chase the waterfalls, roll your windows down, and breathe the wild coastal air with every direction pointing to the Central Coast.


5 min read

June 17, 2021

One can travel all over the world but only find peace of mind in Big Sur, the most paradisiacal stretch of coastline in all of California. Stunning doesn’t even begin to describe this often-misty destination. Magnificent seaside cliffs transform city dwellers into nature lovers. The winding roads take you to the many spectacular places to visit in Big Sur. Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, you’ll come to realize that this is your happy place—and the journey onward is divine. 

But why spend most of your time driving when the best things to do in Big Sur await exploration? Chase the waterfalls (literally), roll your windows down, and breathe the wild coastal air with every direction pointing to the Central Coast. 

Incredible Things To Do In Big Sur

As with much of Big Sur, Ragged Point is a headland that features seaside cliffs, beaches, and hiking trails you'd love to trek.

Go On A Hike At Ragged Point

A famous entryway to Big Sur, Ragged Point is one of the first places to stop if you’re driving from Los Angeles. Whether you want to rest, refill your gas tank, or explore the beauty of the Central Coast, this is where you park your car. The most breathtaking views await at the top of the 300-foot cliff. Inhale the fresh coastal air and exhale the stresses of everyday life as you go on a nature trip along this trail. Once the sea otters and elephant seals come into view, you’ll know you’ve arrived at the top. The short hike is dog-friendly, so make sure to bring your leash with you for this fun activity in Big Sur

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Pay A Visit To Partington Cove

Partington Cove is one Big Sur attraction you can’t afford to miss. This not-so-hidden-gem is a must-visit on your weekend getaway. This cove features a rugged rocky beach along with a scenic trail that leads you to this oasis. And don’t worry, the hike is pretty short and easy. There’s so much to do at this Big Sur stop—you get to see a gorgeous waterfall, cross a rustic wooden bridge, go scuba diving (bring your wetsuit), and splash around in the sapphire-blue waters. Since so many places are crowded with tourists, you’ll find peace of mind among the green landscapes of Partington Cove. 

Big Sur’s Top Things To Do With Friends

Sand Dollar Beach is Big Sur's most consistent surf spot, and its broad main bay gathers swell from all directions.

Surf At Sand Dollar Beach

One of the coolest things to do in Big Sur requires you to bring your surfboard. The longest and widest stretch of beach in the Big Sur area is Sand Dollar Beach. This sun-kissed coastline glimmering with azure waters is the perfect spot to ride the waves, explore tidepools, and pitch a tent. Contrary to popular belief, you won’t be finding a lot of sand dollars here, but you’ll come across plenty of jade rocks in the surrounding cliffs. But before you go beachcombing with your friends, challenge the waves to an epic surfing adventure at Sand Dollar Beach.

Nearly 5000 cars a day drive over the 714-foot bridge, a far cry from only the locals who used it nearly 100 years ago.

Cruise Along Bixby Creek Bridge

Yes, you’re probably going to drive by Bixby Creek Bridge anyway, but are you actually going to experience it? It’s easy to get in your car, play your favorite road trip music, and drive until you arrive. But in Big Sur, the journey matters as much as the destination. As soon as the open-spandrel arch bridge appears in your view, you know what to do. Put on your sunglasses, blast your feel-good playlist on full volume, sing at the top of your lungs, and immerse yourself in the abundance of the Central Coast. Physically, you’re in Big Sur, but mentally, you’re in paradise. 

Romantic Activities To Do In Big Sur

A sunset stroll is a given when it comes to romantic things to do in Big Sur. Do it at Pfeiffer Beach and it's a whole new experience.

Take A Sunset Stroll on Pfeiffer Beach

Sand in your toes, white foam along the shore, and striking colors of the sunset—does it get more romantic than this? In fact, it can get more romantic when Pfeiffer Beach is where you’re going on a sunset stroll. Two massive rocks along the beach create the most scenic setting for your alone time with your boo. One of them is a rock arch that allows the waves and even the last bits of light to pass through it—it’s one of the best things to see in Big Sur. As you walk towards the north shore of Pfeiffer Beach, you’ll notice that the sands are purple due to the manganese garnet rocks in the cliffs. Now ask again, can it get more romantic than this

Relax And Unwind At Post Ranch Inn

Planning a one-day drive with your special someone in Big Sur? Being on the road can get super tiring real quick. That’s why making a stop at Post Ranch Inn is a much-needed break to stretch your legs and fill your stomach with memorable meals. Escape the outside world and surround yourself with modern architecture that blends into the natural beauty of Big Sur. One thing you’re going to want to do here is check out the spa. Soothing body treatments, revitalizing yoga classes, and relaxing meditation sessions will bring tranquility and composure upon you and your partner.

Big Sur Attractions To See Solo

McWay Falls is the signature waterfall of Big Sur, dropping 80 feet down to the cove and into the Pacific.

Check out McWay Falls 

Whether you’re seeing it for the first time or the millionth, McWay Falls is always a magnificent sight. The 80-foot tidefall is one of two in the Golden State that pours right into the ocean at high tide. For an up-close view of McWay Falls, the Overlook Trail is the one to trek. This one-mile hike leads you to the stunning falls among the cliffs by the coast with birdwatching opportunities all over. There’s no denying that McWay Falls is the best Big Sur attraction you’ll love to visit solo. 

Pitch A Tent Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is nicknamed a “mini Yosemite” for good reason. Not to confuse it with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, the 1,000-acre-plus natural wonder is dotted with redwood trees that are known to live up to 2,200 years—experts estimate that the Colonial Tree is between 1,100 and 1,200 years old. So why wouldn’t you want to spend the night among these towering trees? Reserve beforehand, head over to the Pfeiffer Big Sur campground, and light a fire to make s’mores. Just you and nature, alone together. 

The Top Places To Visit In Big Sur For Families

From the bluffs at Garrapata State Park, look for migrating gray whales in season, and sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters in the coastal waters.

View Wildlife at Garrapata State Park

Two miles of beachfront and a 50-foot climb to a magnificent viewpoint make up the 2,939-acre Garrapata State Park. And while hiking and camping are must-dos here, the wildlife viewing opportunities are the ones that belong on your itinerary. Whether you catch a glimpse of playful sea otters, sunbathing harbor seals, mating California sea lions, or even migrating gray whales, you’ll enjoy seeing local wildlife thriving in their natural habitat. 

Trek to Salmon Creek Falls

Perhaps the best thing to do in Big Sur is going on a hike to Salmon Creek Falls with the whole family. This trail is arguably the most scenic route that guides you to an extraordinary 120-foot waterfall. If you’re traveling with furry friends, you’ll be happy to know that this trail is dog-friendly. Hike past rivers, wildflowers, and lush greenery to arrive at the captivating Salmon Creek Falls. 

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