Big Sur Weekend Road Trip Itinerary
Big Sur, California has the most incredible coastline with redwoods, bright blue water, large cliffs, and waterfalls. A weekend road trip in Big Sur offers the perfect getaway to relax, hike, and explore. Big Sur is made up of several state parks and state natural reserves including Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Limekiln State Park, and more. Start planning your weekend in Big Sur with our Big Sur weekend road trip itinerary.
How to Get to Big Sur
The north part of Big Sur is located about 80 miles southwest from San Jose airport (1.5 hour drive). You can get to Big Sur by flying into San Jose Airport (SJC), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), or Oakland International Airport (OAK), but San Jose is the closest.
Where to Stay Near Big Sur
If you are looking to stay in Big Sur, two great options are Big Sur Lodge and Big Sur River Inn. If you would like to save money and don’t mind staying a little further away, you can find accommodations in Carmel-by-the-Sea or Monterey by searching on booking.com. Carmel-by-the-Sea is about 10 minutes away from the north part of Big Sur, and Monterey is about 20 minutes away. You can also book guesthouses and rooms in Carmel-by-the-Sea and Monterey on Airbnb.
Best Time to Visit Big Sur
The best weather in Big Sur is late spring through early fall. In the summer Big Sur gets very busy. Therefore, I recommend spending doing a weekend Big Sur trip in April-early June or September-October.
What to Pack for a Weekend in Big Sur
- Daypack: Bring a backpack to carry your stuff during the day and to bring on your hikes.
- Water bottle: Don’t forget to bring a reusable water bottle.
- Light Jacket: Big Sur weather can change throughout the day so make sure you bring layers. A light jacket will help especially when it is windy.
- Long Pants: As the weather can change throughout the day, make sure to bring long pants for when it gets cold.
- Shorts: Don’t forget comfortable shorts for hiking and the beach.
- Bathing suit: It might not be hot enough for a bathing suit, but bring one just in case it warms up enough.
- Sneakers: Bring sneakers for the hikes in Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and Limekiln State Park.
- Sunglasses: It can get very bright in California so don’t forget your sunglasses.
- Sunscreen: Because getting burnt isn’t fun.
- Snacks: Food in Big Sur is very expensive so make sure to bring snacks with you.
- Camera: Bring your camera and make sure it is charged because you will be taking a lot of incredible photos during these two days in Big Sur.
Big Sur Road Trip Map
Select the map below to open the interactive map in Google My Maps. Continue reading to learn more about the best things to do in Big Sur.
Big Sur Weekend Road Trip Itinerary
I recommend splitting Big Sur up into two days, since there is so much to see and do. This Big Sur weekend road trip itinerary walks you through the best things to do in Big Sur from north to south. Whatever you do not complete during the first day you can continue to see on your second day in Big Sur. This way you aren’t rushed for time and can spend more time in the places that you enjoy the most during your Big Sur weekend trip.
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a beautiful reserve that is worth spending half a day exploring. This is one of the prettiest parts of Big Sur with nice hiking trails, great views, and pretty beaches. You will get to see a lot animals in Point Lobos including sea lions, harbor seals, sea otters, sea birds, and more. The parking lot gets full early and costs $10 to park in the reserve, so I recommend parking along the highway and walking in. You can see the highlights of Point Lobos by combining multiple hiking trails and creating a loop through the reserve. Be careful throughout the park as there is a lot of poison oak so stay on the trail and watch out for overgrown poison oak on the trail. For more information continue to our Point Lobos State Natural Reserve Guide.
Recommended Point Lobos Hiking Trail
This is my favorite hike in Big Sur. In total this hiking trail through Point Lobos will add up to 4.4 miles. Start on the Lace Lichen Trail (0.5 miles) through the middle of the park, then continue to the Cypress Grove Trail (0.8 miles) to see Cypress Cove and Headland Cove. Next, hike Sand Hill Trail (0.6 miles) to South Shore Trail. On Sea Lion Point Trail and Sand Hill Trail you will get a view of Sea Lion Cove where you should watch sea lions swimming and resting. Walk along the South Shore Trail (1 mile) and enjoy incredible views of the ocean and look out for sea lions, harbor seals, and sea otters. Along this trail you will also see areas with tide pools and you will pass Hidden Beach.
After Hidden Beach you should continue on Bird Island Trail (0.8 miles) where you will first see China Cove, a beautiful beach with bright blue water. You can’t get down to the beach at China Cove, but you can enjoy the view and see harbor seals and sea lions swimming and relaxing below. You will also see a view of Gibson Beach, which is a beautiful beach that you can get to by going down a staircase. The Bird Island Trial will then take you to a viewpoint of Bird Island where you can see many sea birds. Return back to the entrance of the park by following South Plateau Trail (0.7 miles) through a forest of pines and oaks.
Bixby Bridge is a historic bridge along route 1 built in 1932. It is a widely photographed bridge with large cliffs and a beautiful ocean view. You can find parking right before the bridge for a nice view of the bridge. The parking lot is really small so if the parking lot is full when you drive by you can always stop on the way back instead.
Pfeiffer Beach is a unique beach with purple sand and large rock formations. The parking lot is located a couple miles down Sycamore Canyon Rd and the beach is a short walk from the parking lot. Pfeiffer Beach costs $10 a day to access. You can find restrooms in the main day use parking lot and if there is enough parking in the main lot there is an overflow parking lot. The purple sand in Pfeiffer Beach is really unique, and if you are looking for the most vibrant purple sand, you can find it at the further end of the beach. Pfeiffer Beach is one of the prettiest beaches you will see during your Big Sur weekend road trip.
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
In Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park you can find the Valley View Trail, a quiet trail through redwoods that takes you to a nice view of the valley below. This short 2 mile trail is a great place to get away from the crowds. When we hiked the trail we didn’t see anyone else.
McWay Falls is a beautiful waterfall over bright blue water. This is one of the top places to see in Big Sur and gets very busy. It costs $10 to park in the main parking lot, so in order to save money I recommend parking on the other side of the street a little bit before the main lot. You can then cross the street and take the short 0.3 mile trail to an overlook where you can see McWay Falls.
Big Creek Cove Vista Point
Big Creek Cove Vista Point is a great quick stop with a beautiful view of the ocean, cliffs, and a bridge. Make sure you star it in google maps so you don’t miss it during your Big Sur road trip.
Limekiln State Park
In Limekiln State Park you can find Limekiln Falls Trail which is a nice 1 mile roundtrip trail through Redwoods that guides you to a 100-foot waterfall. The trail takes you next to and over a creek and the tall Redwoods are incredible. It costs $10 to enter the park with a car, so in order to save money you can look for safe parking along the road and walk into the park. We didn’t find much parking nearby, but you can definitely try. There are bathrooms and picnic tables in the park.
Sand Dollar Beach
Sand Dollar Beach is a long stretch of beach in Big Sur. There are about 100 steps to get down to the beach. If you don’t want to make the hike down to the beach it is still worth a quick stop at the overlook. The main parking costs $10, so try to find parking along the road in a safe spot to save money.
If you have extra time during your weekend in Big Sur...
- Partington Cove Trail: Before McWay Falls you can find Partington Cove Trail, a short 1 mile round trip trail down to a cove.
- Explore Monterey: Spend time walking down Cannery Row, a main street in Monterey. Next, hop in the car do the 17-mile coast drive.
- Walk around Carmel-by-the-sea: This is the cutest town, with lots of flowers and adorable houses. I recommend walking around here and exploring the town if you have time. You can also wine taste at several wineries throughout the town including Albatross Ridge Tasting Room, Scheid Vineyards winery, and De Tierra Vineyards winery.
Big Sur Weekend Road Trip Tips
- There is no service in Big Sur. Make sure to star the locations you want to see in google maps and load the map on your phone prior to entering Big Sur. You can then guide yourself to the next destination by following the signs and using your GPS location on google maps to get to the locations you saved.
- Eat a large breakfast in Monterey or Carmel-by-the-Sea before entering Big Sur to save money. I recommend Wave Street Cafe in Monterey and Cottage Restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
- Fill up gas before Big Sur as the gas stations in Big Sur are very expensive.
- Start your day early so you have more time to enjoy Big Sur.
- Bring layers since it can cool down fast and get windy.
Disclosure: Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links for products and services I recommend. At no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you make a purchase. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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