Your Guide To An Unforgettable Weekend In Big Sur

You guys, it’s the last stretch of the summer — so put down your Jack Kerouac novel and head out on one last adventure to this California gem: Big Sur. Its breathtaking vistas of the Pacific Ocean and vast landscape of redwoods alone create for a magical escape that will stay with you long after your eventual trudge back to the city.

If you’ve never been, or have been itching for a return, we have your definitive guide to experience the best nuggets, both new and familiar, of the Highway 1-split region. Looking for a mystical token to pocket for spiritual luck? We know the place. In search of a rustic-chic inn to rest your mind, body, and soul? We’ll point you in the right direction. Click ahead and pack your bags, because this is how you end a summer on the best note possible.
1 of 6
Photographed by Jessica Velez.
McWay Falls
On the way to Big Sur, you’ll be plenty tempted to stop along the road to take in the wonderment of the sea around you, as many do, but the ultimate coastal sight is McWay Falls. Stop along the road and embark on the trail that surrounds this ocean pool and its petite waterfall. You’ll smell the sweet mixture of salty sea air and redwood pines while basking in the picturesque scene. You’ll also notice the water in the tide has turned from the normal cerulean-blue shade into a turquoise hue, resembling an enchanting mermaid’s lagoon.

McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, 47555 Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-2315.
2 of 6
Photo: Courtesy of Big Sur Roadhouse.
Big Sur Roadhouse
After a day of spectacular oceanic sights and challenging hikes, you’ll be hankering to break bread in an equally charming setting. That calls for a table at Big Sur Roadhouse. The lofty, modern take on cabin style, with a copper fireplace and midcentury paintings, serves California soul food from its kitchen. As endearing as the interiors are, we recommend heading out to its back patio, which houses more stone-burning fireplaces and might even have a pup or two for a cozy ambiance while you shuck oysters. Gut check: Plates like the roasted rack of lamb with mint jelly are seasonal, locally sourced, and organic, so you can indulge in good conscience.

Big Sur Roadhouse, 47080 Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-2370.
3 of 6
Photo: Courtesy of Ventana Inn & Spa.
Ventana Inn And Spa
The Ventana Inn and Spa sits on its own special slice of Big Sur that feels even more secluded from the hustle and bustle of life. The rooms are like the cabins you slept in at summer camp, except much, much more luxurious. On the large property, you’ll find two separate pools (one clothing-optional version for the wild spirits among us) and another with a view of the ocean. For something more exotic, head to the Japanese-style bath houses for a dip.

Relaxation is the name of the game here at the Ventana, which features a full-service spa — book the unique Essence of Big Sur Herbal Massage, a eucalyptus-, sage-, and pine-infused deep-tissue experience like no other. At the restaurant, you’ll continue to be surrounded by nature and bite into wonders like lavender-honey crème brûlée. Don’t leave without taking a novice-level hike around the might even spot a doe on site, like we did.

Ventana Inn and Spa, 48123 Highway 1, Big Sur: 831-667-2331.
4 of 6
Photo: Courtesy of The Altar.
The Altar
When you first wander into the clearing that houses The Altar, you’ll feel like you stumbled upon a secret, mythical space with a bohemian energy to it. Enter the tiny hut, and you’ll be surrounded by the most curious trinkets, such as packaged “gifts for an enemy,” lavender bouquets, and succulents planted in vintage goblets. The otherwordly-focused shop was founded just a year ago by two born-and-raised Big Sur gals looking to bring their unique knack for collecting oddities to whoever is lucky enough to find its almost-hidden location. Come in with an open spirit and leave with a crystal that harbors personal meaning — or something more practical, like a matchbox with Kurt Cobain printed on it.

The Altar in Loma Vista Gardens, 47540 Highway 1, Bug Sur; 831-238-2828.
5 of 6
Photo: Via Yelp.
Big Sur Taphouse
If you get thirsty for a spot to hang, the best place is the Big Sur Taphouse. You can start a winning streak with one of its many board games, or head out back for a view of the landscape sans the Highway, or chow down on its tasty bar bites. Order the tacos, a favorite amongst the locals.

Big Sur Taphouse, 47520 Highway 1, Big Sur; 831-667-2225.
6 of 6

More from San Francisco


R29 Original Series