Big Sur & Monterey, California, USA

Big Sur & Monterey, California, USA (6/10/2021)

Big Sur

Pat Dunlap Big Sur River Inn California
Pat at Big Sur River Inn

Located just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Big Sur is one of the most dramatically beautiful drives in the United States! Exceptionally beautiful rugged ocean coastline, amazing ancient redwood forests, and interesting attractions make for an unforgettable experience. Along the way, you should pull over at the parking areas and enjoy the incredible views.

Map of Carmel, Big Sur, & Monterey

We highly recommend the approximately hour drive south of Carmel-by-the-Sea along Highway 1 to McWay Falls. Of course, you should plan to spend more time to enjoy the views, hikes, and interesting attractions. First stop driving south in Big Sur for lovers of ocean hikes should be Point Lobos State Natural Reserve along the Pacific Ocean coastline. You can see California sea lions at Sea Lion Point and maybe some sea otters. Continue to drive past the first parking lot to enjoy the beautiful coastline along the South Shore Trail (several parking lots along the way). There is a flat 6.7-mile loop with shorter hikes available.

Famous Bixby Bridge Big Sur California
Famous Bixby Bridge

Famous Bixby Bridge is great stop to enjoy Big Sur’s incredible beauty - park on north side in the parking area to witness this beautiful site (see photo). 


Big Sur Coast Gallery & Café
Big Sur Coast Gallery & Café
We love stopping at the Big Sur River Inn located on a fantastically beautiful river setting where you can sit in the river surrounded by a forest - not to be missed (see photo). Food is served on the patio overlooking the river. 

We enjoyed the Big Sur Coast Gallery & Café (see photo) – an elegant gallery and gift shop with a nice café with a sitting area looking out to the Pacific Ocean – well worth a stop.

McWay Falls Big Sur Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park California
McWay Falls - Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a great place to enjoy wonderful hikes through amazing Redwood forests. Also, the short hike to beautiful McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a great way to enjoy your Big Sur experience (see photo).



Monterey is a fun jewel just 15 minutes north of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

17-Mile Drive California
17-Mile Drive

Better yet take scenic route through the incredible 17-Mile Drive from Carmel-by-the-Sea to Monterey. This famous drive includes Pebble Beach Golf Course and incredible beauty so you will want to take your time driving through this gorgeous area. It should take about three hours depending if you stop for lunch. At the entrance, after you pay a nominal fee, you will get a map with the 17 notable stops mapped out. Definitely stop at the famous Lone Cypress, Ghost Tree, and Bird Rock.

Monterey Bay Aquarium
Sitting at the end of Cannery Row, the fascinating family-friendly Monterey Bay Aquarium is a fantastic opportunity to enjoy exhibits including recreations of the Californian ocean kelp forests, stingray touch pools, tanks with black tip reef sharks, and inlets filled with rare sea otters. Just outside you can marvel at the rowdy barking California sea lions. Cannery Row is filled with funky restaurants and hotels.

Old Fisherman's Wharf Monterey California
Old Fisherman's Wharf

Monterey’s Old Fisherman’s Wharf is a fun medley of cafes and crab shacks (see photo). Try the clam chowder best served in a sourdough bread bowl. Nearby Lovers Point State Marine Reserve is a small charming cove to explore.

Click on these links to see our other 12 posts on beautiful California:

Laguna Beach, California

Mammoth Lakes, California


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