Summer Escapes Series
Californiaaaa! For this edition of our Summer Escape series, we’re heading back back to cali cali. This time we’re checking out Big Sur, the vacation spot for everyone from LA to San Fran. This 90-mile stretch of the Pacific coastline is equal parts wild, civilized, beatnik, and beautiful.
WHERE TO STAY
As the name suggests. Big Sur is BIG. That means there’s unlimited options for room and board. If you’re coming from San Fran, you’ll probably want something towards the Northern end. If you’re coming from LA, you’ll be arriving from the South. One thing’s for sure – you’re up for an awesome adventure!
Glen Oaks Big Sur – This cluster of cabins and lodge-style rooms will make you feel part of the beautiful nature around you. You’ll walk on bamboo floors and sleep on organic cotton. Enjoy the retro furniture, bright textiles, and in-room yoga mats for the perfect morning Vinyasa. Travel and Leisure Magazine named Glen Oaks one of the most “Romantic Hotels in the World.” At the very least, you’ll be sure to fall in love with California!
Lucia Lodge – Big Sur is known for having some of the steepest climbs. Lucia Lodge’s 10 cabins are perched atop a 300-foot cliff, with amazing and dizzying of the water below. Forget those Summer TV shows as entertainment – this is a television-free oasis that provides everything you really need on site.
Post Ranch Inn – Hellooo infinity pools and on-site spa! Enjoy opening your floor to ceiling window to a welcoming Pacific breeze. The walls are coated in redwood salvaged from old wine barrels, and the booze isn’t just in the walls: the minibar is free! For a totally sober activity (boo), the Inn provides a Lexus convertible free of charge for exploring, so get ready to cruise down the coast lookin’ like a boss. Lovers rejoice, this hotel is 18+, no minors roaming the grounds here! No tv’s, but we’re willing to be you’ll be more than entertained.
TreeBones Resort – Ready for some serious “glamping”? You’ll find your home in one of many (well accommodated) circular abodes. Everything here is designed to get you closer to your surroundings, from the mountains in the east to the sunset in the west. Whether you’re a tree hugger or just want to get a bit more in touch with nature, you’ll absolutely love it here!
Ventana Inn – This place fills up early in the year, so book early! The Ventana Inn is known for encouraging personal activities, like yoga and pilates, and very personal activities, like clothing-optional hot baths. There’s an award-winning wine list at their on-site restaurant, and a variety of accommodations.
WHERE TO EAT:
When arriving at Big Sur, drop your bags off and try one of the many mouth-watering restaurants in the area! There’s plenty to choose from and you’ll fall in love for sure! Be sure to pack some Travelin’ Snacks if you’re planning a meal on the go during a hike.
Nepenthe – Prepare for some series views! At this restaurant, you’ll be surrounded by the folklore and tradition of the early pioneer days of the California coast. But even though it winks at the past, it certainly nods to the future, with a variety of creative vegetarian and omnivorous dishes for everyone. Try the veggie burger with a castroville artichoke to start!
Big Sur Bakery – We need to emphasize that this is more than just a bakery. They offer three meals a day, with plenty of vegan options. The building is in a converted 1930s home that overlooks the pure wilderness. Oh, and get this! There’s a vegan soup each day at this farm-to-table, family-owned operation.
Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn – This classic dates back to the 1930s and has been thriving ever since. For breakfast, enjoy the homemade granola, or try the vegetarian chimichanga (ask for no queso to go vegan) for dinner.
Wild Coast Restaurant – This is the in-house restaurant at TreeBones, so if you’re staying there, eat up! If not, it’s still worth a stopover. The best vegan dishes are the pesto a la treebones (ask for no parm, of course) and the thai yellow curry, made with tofu.
Big Sur River Inn Restaurant – If it’s a nice day, eat outside on their deck along the banks of the Big Sur River. The food is locally grown, and there’s live music every Sunday afternoon – that’s right, you don’t have to cram yourself into a packed bar for some excellent music! Vegans will love the garden harvest, grilled veggie salad, or garden burger. And there’s plenty of beer on tap to get you dancing!
WHAT TO DO
Okay, let us just start off by saying that there is so much to do in Big Sur! We had trouble cutting this list down to eight. Hell, Big Sur has nine state parks, two federal wilderness areas, and sea lions galore! You don’t need “Finding Dory” out here. But for the sake of suggestion, here are a few of our fav ways to entertain yourself while exploring the central coast:
Limekiln State Park – This is near the middle of Big Sur. The hiking trails are relatively short, so if you don’t have a ton of time, don’t fret, you can still see plenty! There’s an old limestone quarry with old kilns (hence the name) and a romantic 100-foot waterfall. We’re not here to force romance on anyone – but the landscape can certainly have an effect!
Andrew Molera State Park – Get your beach hikes on with more than 20 miles of trails. Take in the beautiful views from natural point beaks in the trials and watch local surfers rippin’ it up down below.
Esalen Institute – At Esalen, you’ll feel completely connected to the earth around you. If you’re already feeling plenty connected to the earth, or perhaps would rather connect to a beer or sandwich, maybe this spot isn’t the place for you – but we highly suggest giving it a try! Esalen offers a variety of workshops in yoga, music, meditation, art, and so on. There is a hot springs bath house and massage center that can make you completely forget about that beer.
Point Sur Lighthouse – Since 1889, this lighthouse has guided boats from atop a volcanic rock outcropping. If you’re stumped for what to do after dark, take one of the moonlit tours available from April to October. You’ll see the tower, old quarters for lighthouse operators (that are probably haunted), and a blacksmith shop.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park – It’s not named after Michelle Pfeiffer… we don’t think. Either way, she and you will love the amazing sunsets visible from this park deep within the Los Padres National Forest. The coast here has many sea stacks (google it, please) that frame the setting sun into impossible beauty. Enjoy a picnic near waterfalls that end directly on the pristine beach.
Henry Miller Library – Whether you found out about Tropic of Cancer from “Seinfeld” or an older literary sibling, you’re better off for knowing the works of Henry Miller. Miller lived in Big Sur for many years in the 1940s and 1950s, and his emphasis on free expression continues to shape the area’s mores today. But this is more than just a library, check out the website for a schedule of outdoor films and concerts!
Bixby Canyon Bridge – Built out of necessity in 1932, this bridge connects Big Sur to the rest of California and provides perhaps the most iconic example of highway engineering. The ride across may make you feel a bit queasy, but you’ll love the distant views of the bridge while you continue your drive up the coast.
Go to the beach! – You’ll definitely be getting some good beach time in at any of our recommended spots, but if you’re looking for more we have just the spots. Pfeifer Beach, with its amazing purple beaches, is one of the most beautiful in Big Sur, and is actually dog friendly! Remember to look for the well known, yet poorly understood, green flash above the sun the moment it slips below the horizon. It’s one of the most memorable parts of any California coastal excursion.