Day Pass! A Handy Guide To Big Sur

There's nothing that transports us to our happy place quite like hopping in the car and hightailing it to Big Sur. A magical place where the ocean organically melds with the towering Redwoods? Yes, it's no wonder creative folks have been flocking here for decades.
Lucky for us, it's only a short drive from S.F., making it the perfect spot to kick back for the day, or a long weekend. So, we took a little trip to the coast to unearth the coolest spots in Big Sur. Every one of these suggestions warrants a memorable, super chill experience, so pack up and get on the road...with this guide in hand!
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Photo: Courtesy of Big Sur Roadhouse/James Hall.
Big Sur Roadhouse
When we heard the Big Sur restaurant scene was getting a shiny, modern addition, we knew it was going to be a huge deal. After all, the area hasn’t seen a new eatery in ages. Big Sur Roadhouse is the dining destination with an airy, sleek interior that boasts local artwork, a cozy fireplace, creative fixtures, and stylish furnishings — making it one of the coolest pit stops on Highway 1. And while the inside is nothing to scoff at, the bites are just as memorable (and won’t deflate your wallet, either). The restaurant is located on the grounds of Glen Oaks (we’ll get to that in a bit) and houses a chef from New Orleans who takes risks when it comes to inventive, culinary spins on California cuisine. Whether popping by for belly-filling brunch or a glass of fireside vino, be sure to pencil in a visit during your stay.
Big Sur Roadhouse, 47080 Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-2370.
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Photo: Courtesy of Post Ranch Inn.
Post Ranch Inn
Every inch of the sprawling 100-acre grounds of Post Ranch Inn oozes relaxation and luxury. If you’re looking to spoil yourself with insanely indulgent amenities and gorgeous architecture (did we mention the two infinity pools?), this is your ticket. Post Ranch is perched 1,200 feet above Big Sur’s crashing typography and features 39 designed-to-the-T accommodations, all boasting ahem, open mini bars. Whether you choose to go with an open ocean view situation or fancy yourself a towering treehouse among the Redwoods, you won’t go wrong with a stay here. The property also has a spa that overlooks the scene and an all-glass restaurant, Sierra Mar, that makes you feel like you’re chowing down right on the ocean. We know, booking a stay here doesn’t take much convincing, does it?
Post Ranch Inn, 47900 State Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-2200.
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Photo: Courtesy of Big Sur Roadhouse/James Hall.
Glen Oaks Big Sur
What used to be a ‘50s-style motor lodge is now a 16-room modern respite for the Big Sur traveler looking for a design-forward getaway. Whether you book one of the rooms right on the property, or stay in the cottages up the road, the rooms (all sourced from recycled and natural materials) are absolute winners (think Eames chairs, cozy fireplaces, heated bathroom floors, yoga mats, and board games). No detail is overlooked at Glen Oaks, even down to the complimentary s’mores-making kit for the individual, outdoor fire pits. Plus, the location is prime — a skip away from the Big Sur Roadhouse? Can’t beat that! You know where we’ll be holing up.
Glen Oaks Big Sur, 47080 State Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-2105.
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Photo: Courtesy of Nepenthe.
A Big Sur classic in its own right, Nepenthe is the quintessential eatery in the area, with its palatial views and open-air layout. Perfect for mimosa-in-hand lounging out on a nice day, stop by for a drink (or bite) and soak in the coastline at this laid-back restaurant. If you want to take a little bit of Nepenthe home with you, be sure to mosey into its on-site gift store below, Phoenix, where you’ll find everything from local jewelers to tomes.
Nepenthe, 48510 State Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-2345.
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Photo: Courtesy of Big Sur Bakery.
Big Sur Bakery And Restaurant
A local gem along Highway 1, Big Sur Bakery and Restaurant is a quaint oasis in an old house that churns out some of the tastiest treats around. Just the thought of the wood-fired pancakes is all we need to jolt us out of bed, knocking down the door of this hip, woodsy spot. The cozy beverages are tops, too. Don’t just pigeon hole this place as a one-trick pony though — while the breakfast is delicious, its dinner is not to be missed.
Big Sur Bakery And Restaurant, 47540 State Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-0520.
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Photo: Courtesy of Henry Miller Memorial Library.
Henry Miller Memorial Library
What better way to celebrate the esteemed and provocative American Beat generation author and Big Sur lover, Henry Miller, than a darling library dedicated in his honor? Under a canopy of sky-high greenery, you’ll find a little den filled with Miller’s great work — books and relics are for sale. But, it’s not just a place for his literary gems, the library transforms into a welcoming spot for hip bands (think Arcade Fire, Blonde Redhead, and more) and mind-flexing workshops.
Henry Miller Memorial Library, 48603 State Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-2574.
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Photo: Courtesy of Esalen Institute.
The Eslalen Hot Springs
The Esalen Institute has been a mainstay in Big Sur for years. Known for its specialty classes, holistic teachings, and sprawling grounds, it’s easily one of the most recognizable names on Highway 1. But, unless you’re enrolled in its weeklong courses or retreats, the campus is pretty much off-limits. That is, unless you stroll in from the wee night hours of 1 to 3 a.m. for a hot mineral bath (in the flesh, obviously). An idyllic way to soak in the atmosphere, you must sign up in advance (the day before) and meet the gatekeeper at 12:45 a.m., where you will then be shown to a bevy of dark pools to chill and unwind. It’s definitely an adventure!
The Esalen Institute Hot Springs, 55000 Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-3000.
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Photo: Courtesy of Deetjen's.
Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn
Definitely another landmark spot in Big Sur, Deetjen’s is one of the oldest, worldliest wonders on the central coast. The rustic cabins are flooded with comfy furnishings and make you feel like you’ve stumbled into an old friend’s abode. Whether you pop in for a bite at the cozy restaurant or decide to book an overnight stay, Deetjen’s will certainly charm you, no doubt about it.
Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, 48865 State Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-2377.
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Photo: Courtesy of Angela Tafoya.
Bixby Bridge
While yes, there’s a plethora of hikes, views, waterfalls, and other outdoorsy adventures to scope out in Big Sur, one of the most iconic, postcard-perfect takeaways has to be the Bixby Bridge. One of the tallest concrete bridges in the world, and by far one of the prettiest, the photogenic structure overarches Bixby Creek, connecting along Highway 1. If you’re coming from S.F., the landmark will greet you upon your arrival into Big Sur. A trip down the coast just isn’t complete without a snapshot against this vivid backdrop.
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Photo: Courtesy of Treebones.
Treebones Resort
Kicking back beneath the star-blanketed sky? Sounds like an ideal night in Big Sur, if you ask us. If you want to rough it, but aren’t all that dedicated to pitching a tent, perhaps Treebones glamping-style yurts will strike your fancy. The grounds feature a cool organic garden, restaurant, a selection of chic, pine-wood floor yurts, a cool mediation nest, and even a sushi bar. Bliss times ten.
Treebones Resort, 71895 State Highway 1, Big Sur; 877-424-4787.