20 Best Things to Do in Big Sur, CA

Big Sur, CA
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Boasting a vast coastline, several breathtaking state parks, caves, beaches, and rugged terrains, Big Sur cannot be described in simple words.

The region's beauty is something that you need to see for yourself.

Home to gorgeous flora and fauna, including stunning marine and aerial species, Big Sur effortlessly captures the hearts of nature and animal lovers.

A trip to Big Sur is truly a feast for the eyes and the soul.

Ready to start planning your visit?

Here are the best things to do in Big Sur, California:

Visit Andrew Molera State Park

Scenic view of Andrew Molera State Park
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Big Sur is one of the most scenic places in California.

Andrew Molera State Park is quite underrated among other popular state parks, but its beauty is immeasurable.

The beaches covered with white sands, the dunes, and the vast meadows are some of its best-loved features.

One of the hiking trails of Andrew Molera State Park
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There are a lot of hiking trails here.

Andrew Molera State Park is near Carmel, and you can get there with just a short drive.

The scenes are breathtaking, and there are camping options if you want to stay there overnight.

Sunset view at Andrew Molera State Park's beach
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Have a Nice Day at Pfeiffer Beach

Warm sunset at Pfeiffer Beach
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Pfeiffer Beach has a dazzling background of the gorgeous Santa Lucia Mountains, which draws thousands of people to the beach every day.

It is not often that you come across a beach that looks this good.

The waves are enormous, sometimes making the ocean's blues pop out more.

The big waves of Pfeiffer Beach
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Keyhole Rock is something of a spectacle on the beach.

Photographers rush to this rock to get some good pictures while they are here.

The rock shines brightly under the sunny Californian sun, and when the waves crash against the rock, the beauty is immense.

Sunlight coming through Pfiffer Beach's keyhole rock
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Spot Breathtaking Attractions at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Most people come here to appreciate the beauty of Pfeiffer Beach and the blue sea, but certain other things make people fall in love with this state park.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is blessed with some of the best scenes of the dazzling Santa Lucia Mountains.

This park occupies the western slope and overlooks the Big Sur Gorge and the mighty Big Sur River.

There are lush green forests inside the state park filled with maples, redwoods, conifers, and many others.

You might even get to see some incredible wildlife inside the park.

Go Hiking at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Aerial view of the gorgeous Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
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Located close to Carmel, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park handles most of Big Sur's best coastlines.

One of its standout features includes a massive waterfall that crashes from over 80 feet above the ground.

Mcway falls at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
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There are a lot of trails here that go through the different redwood, chaparral, and oak forests.

You'll be treated to gorgeous views of mountains, splendid waterfalls, and these vast forests while hiking.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is one of Big Sur's top attractions, where the beauty is beyond words.

Wooden footbridge at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
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Take Photos of Bixby Creek Bridge

Scenic view of the Bixby Bridge
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Bixby Creek Bridge is well-known for being one of the most photographed attractions in the world.

It's a fine example of modern architecture and engineering.

People from all over the world flock to this place to take pictures and appreciate the views.

Closer view of Bixby Creek Bridge's structure
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Bixby Creek Bridge overlooks Bixby Creek, thus its name.

Naturally, you'll get a full view of the wild and gorgeous creek when you look down.

Standing at almost 260 meters, the bridge itself is picturesque.

Cars along the Bixby Creek Bridge
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Cruise along the Scenic 17-Mile Drive

Body of water beside the 17-Mile Drive
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Starting in Pebble Beach and heading to Pacific Grove, the scenic 17-mile Drive is something everyone enjoys.

Not only is the road extra smooth, but there are captivating sceneries you get to see along your drive.

The road of 17-Mile Drive
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The drive will take you through gorgeous cypress forests and the beautiful Big Sur coastline.

Make a few stops to take some photos.

You'll also be passing through Spanish Bay, one of the prettiest places to stop and hang out for a while.

View of the lone cypress from the 17-Mile Drive
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Enjoy the Views from Ragged Point

Scenic view from Ragged Point
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If you are heading towards the northern part of Big Sur, there is one thing that you see to take a look at with your own two eyes.

Ragged Point is located inside the Ragged Point Inn, and the view is fantastic.

California coastline view from Ragged Point
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When you get into the inn, have a delicious meal before heading off to see the view across Ragged Point.

The point lies 300 feet atop a cliff.

You'll see the seas crashing against the coast and rocky terrains when you look down.

Gateway of Ragged Point
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Get Amazed at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

Thick fog at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
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Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is the answer to all of your nature cravings.

This attraction is so phenomenal that artists, photographers, swimmers, and practically every tourist hurries here when they are in Big Sur.

Stone steps at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
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Scuba diving is quite a popular activity at this spot, as you'll get a chance to see a lot of marine animals in this area.

Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is home to a bird island, where you can catch a glimpse of migratory seabirds.

Cove beach at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
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Have a Nice Day at Carmel River State Beach

Trees near the Carmel River State Beach
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The lagoon formed by the Carmel River lies within this state park, adding more to its captivating beauty.

Carmel River State Beach is the best place to go to look at a few birds.

Rocky shore of Carmel River State Beach
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If you enjoy birdwatching, come by earlier in the day, for there are many different species for you to see.

Carmel River State Beach comprises San Jose Creek Beach, also known as Monastery Beach, a famous scuba diving destination.

Clean sand of Carmel River State Beach
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Go Trekking in Limekiln State Park

A creek at Limekiln State Park
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If you drive 56 acres from Carmel, you'll find yourself across the pleasant Limekiln State Park.

The area is vast, encompassing almost 700 acres.

It's one of Big Sur's top attractions, bringing in a lot of locals and tourists.

The park is home to a mighty forest filled with redwood trees.

A person walking along Limekiln State Park's trail
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Hare Creek Canyon is this spot's main attraction.

There are a lot of trails where you can hike through the rocky terrain.

The trails go through these beautiful forests, offering some of the best views of the canyon.

There are a lot of camping grounds where you can camp under the starry sky for a night.

A waterfall at Limekiln State Park
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Fall in Love with Nature at Garrapata State Park

Beautiful landscape of Garrapata State Park
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If you want to see some of the best views of deep canyons and have some ocean fun at the same time, head over to Garrapata State Park.

The park has some of the best trails.

You can go on hikes through trails that lead straight to the undisturbed gorgeous beach.

Trail of Garrapata State Park leading to the beach
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Or, if you want to be more in touch with nature, choose the trails that will provide you with sensational views of the Soberanes Canyon.

The best part about this state park is that it is not as crowded as the others.

You can enjoy some quiet time at Soberanes Point with beautiful views of the deep canyon and the ocean.

View of the deep canyon and ocean from Garrapata State Park's soberanes point
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Explore Los Padres National Forest

Bright flowers at Los Padres National Forest
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Comprising a large area of 1,950,000-acres, Los Padres National Forest is one of the natural treasures that Los Angeles has to offer.

There are hiking trails of more than 323 miles.

Name sign of Los Padres National Forest
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This vast forest is also home to streams, waterfalls, and rivers.

Los Padres National Forest goes along the Big Sur coastline, covering some Californian cities.

One trip isn't enough to explore the entire forest and all it offers.

Mountain view of Los Padres National Forest
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Go around Point Sur State Historic Park

Wildflowers at Point Sur State Historic Park
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Point Sur State Historic Park has a lot of attractions that inspire a lot of tourists to crowd the place.

For starters, there is a vast and historically significant lighthouse that draws people to the area.

The lighthouse is located on top of a rock that's almost 360 tall.

The lighthouse at Point Sur State Historic Park
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Interestingly, this rock used to be a volcanic mountain.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this lighthouse is still used.

It is probably the last functional lighthouse in the US.

You can join a tour and learn more about the lighthouse and other nearby attractions.

Far view of the Point Sur State Historic Park
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Visit Partington Cove

View from inside the Partington Cove Tunnel
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Want to hike through a canyon and come out in the ocean?

You have to check out Partington Cove.

An old footbridge at Partington Cove
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If you are a daring person and want to embark on an adventurous journey, make your way to this attraction.

At first, you'll have to slide across some steep trails going downhill.

After that follows a large tunnel that ultimately makes its way to the ocean's calm waters.

View of the ocean from Partington Cove
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Pay a Visit to the Henry Miller Memorial Library

Interior of Henry Miller Memorial Library
Fabrice Florin from Mill Valley, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Big Sur landscape is beautiful to everyone.

It is so mesmerizing that many artists such as photographers, writers, poets, and artists make their way to be near nature and get some inspiration.

Front exterior of Henry Miller Memorial Library
Fabrice Florin from Mill Valley, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Henry Miller Library deals with locally-produced works that revolve around Big Sur's beauty.

The works of Henry Miller have been portrayed quite beautifully in the library.

Entrance of Henry Miller Library
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Meet and Greet Charming Sea Otters at the California Sea Otter Game Refuge

Daytime view of California Sea Otter Game Refuge
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The California Sea Otter Game Refuge, a marine park, lies in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

A wildlife sanctuary has been established from the Carmel River in San Luis Obispo County to Santa Rosa Creek.

Big Sur is home to a plethora of these adorable marine creatures, but they were formerly thought to be extinct because of the demand for their fur.

A small population of California sea otters was found in 1938 along the Bixby Creek on the Big Sur Coast in California.

Because of Margaret W. Owings and her Friends of the Sea Otter group, the area's sea otter population has grown.

Stop by and Take Photos at Calla Lily Valley

Sunset at Calla Lily Valley
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Make a pit stop at Garrapata State Park if you're traveling along Highway 2 in the early spring for a special surprise.

An exquisite, wild calla lily valley may be seen on the route to Garrapata Beach along Doud Creek, a tiny, winding ravine.

There are steps and walkways throughout the valley to conserve the delicate blooms.

Beautiful calla lily at Calla Lily Valley
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Enjoy your holiday and appreciate the unique and fleeting beauty of the lilies.

The 2-mile-long beach, bordered by coarse coastal vegetation, awaits after you've taken in the scenery.

To see harbor seals, sea lions, and even passing gray whales, travel to Soberanes Point in the park.

Explore the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

View of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary's marina
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A federally protected marine region rests along California's coast called the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Between San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge and Cambria, California's San Luis Obispo County, the sanctuary stretches 276 miles.

The beach of Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary
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Many marine organisms live in the refuge, including fish, animals, seabirds, crustaceans, and plants.

Gorgeous beaches, kelp forests, tidepools, undersea seamounts, cliffs, and canyons are just some other attractions.

The National Marine Sanctuary's mission is to promote ocean conservation, scientific investigation, and ocean management.

Have a Retreat at New Camaldoli Hermitage

Roman Catholic monks live in solitary confinement in the New Camaldoli Hermitage.

Big Sur's Santa Lucia Mountains are home to this remote rural hermitage.

During the late 10th century, St. Romuald founded the Camaldolese branch of the Benedictine order.

The New Camaldoli Hermitage was founded in 1958, and its location was selected because it combines uncommon natural beauty and isolation.

You can get to it through a 2-mile-long winding road that gives breathtaking views of the surrounding area.

Today, the hermitage has around 20 monks living in tiny cottages, seeking a peaceful and secluded existence.

The monks' original recipe for date-nut cake and fruitcake is available in the hermitage's shop.

Since it was established, there have been more than 150,000 excursions to the hermitage.

Reconnect with Nature at Point Lobos Ranch

The California State Park System has land in Monterey County called Point Lobos Ranch, which is now being considered for inclusion in the system's park system.

The property is south of Carmel, east of the Point Lobos State Reserve.

It features one of the world's most significant populations of endemic native Monterey pines, an endangered uncommon Gowen cypress, and a unique coastal chaparral plant ecosystem.

Carmel Bay and the shoreline are also visible from the region. In addition to being a vital steelhead trout spawning area, the ranch and adjoining public lands provide a haven for Mountain Lions.

Some of the most important Native American archaeological sites may be found.

Final Thoughts

Big Sur has a wide variety of outdoor activities to enjoy, whether you're going solo, with a significant other, or with your family and friends.

Take a trip to this stunning region and follow this list of the best things to do in Big Sur.