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 the ultimate Big Sur road trip itinerary.
How Do You Get to Big Sur?
The closest airport to Big Sur is Monterey Regional Airport (MRY), but there are limited direct flights here. It is more common to find a nonstop, cheaper flight to San Jose airport which is about 1.5 hours from Big Sur. You can also get to Big Sur from San Francisco International Airport (SFO) or Oakland International Airport (OAK), but these airports are further away.
It is necessary to have a car in order to explore the Big Sur coast. Book your rental car in advance on Discover Cars, which searches across rental car companies to help you find the best deal.
Where Should You Stay in Big Sur?
If you are looking to stay right in Big Sur, you can find 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.
When is the 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.
FREE Big Sur Google Maps List
Make sure you don’t miss top viewpoints and hidden gems in Big Sur by getting access to this google maps list! As long as you download the offline version of google maps ahead of your Big Sur road trip you will be able to navigate to the destinations even when there is no service.
What Should you Bring for a Weekend in Big Sur?
- Water Bottle: This Stanley Water Bottle is really light to carry and stays cold for 12 hours. The best part is that it is dishwasher safe!
- Beach Towel: This quick dry beach towel is light and compact making it a great option to bring on your weekend trip to Big Sur.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 your weekend 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 weekend in Big Sur.
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 at Point Lobos gets full early and has a fee to park, so instead 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 detailed on how to spend your time in Point Lobos, continue to our Point Lobos State Natural Reserve Guide.
Must-Do Hiking Trail in Point Lobos
This scenic hike is a must-do 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.
A weekend in Big Sur is not complete without seeing Bixby Bridge. Bixby Bridge is a historic bridge along Highway 1 that was 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.
Read More: Day Trip to Channel Islands National Park
During your weekend exploring Big Sur, make sure to check out Pfeiffer Beach. 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 has a daily fee to access. 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 best 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. Make sure to add this short 2-mile trail to your Big Sur itinerary.
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. There is a fee 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.
Read More: Joshua Tree National Park Weekend Getaway
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. This viewpoint is saved on our Big Sur google maps list so make sure to get the list in advance!
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.
Summer 2023 Update: Limekiln State Park is temporarily closed. Check the latest status of the park here.
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. There is a fee to park in the main lot, 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 scenic 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.
Tips for Visiting Big Sur, California
- There is no service in Big Sur. Make sure to download an offline version of google maps ahead of time and get our Big Sur google maps list to guide you to the top destinations in Big Sur.
- Eat breakfast before beginning your Big Sur road trip as restaurants in Big Sur can be expensive.
- Fill up gas before Big Sur as the gas stations in Big Sur are pricey.
- Start your day early so you have more time to enjoy Big Sur.
- Bring layers as 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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