They rise above the sea surging and roaring at a height of between 500 and 1,000 meters. What are we talking about? Of course of the scenic Big Sur, America's most famous byway.
And, that's why I came to stay at Big Sur. Here there is peace and serenity, very few men and many wild animals trees, shrubs and wild lilac. There are beautiful yellow poppies, buzzards, eagles, and beautiful birds. There is the sea, the sky and the hills and boundless mountains.
I try to imagine what this place will be in a hundred or five hundred years. I guess there will be villas dotting the giant slopes and stairs that meander down to the sea. There will be planes, surfboards, helicopters, and cars. There will be vehicles of all kinds not yet imagined.
In Big Sur, there are several stretches of private beaches. There are fences but no ignoble residences disfigure the nature and landscape. The ocean cliffs shaped by waves and the wind, the colonies of cormorants and sandy beaches are worth a stop.
The waves do not know the meaning of the word obstacle. These beaches are not suitable for a swim as the current is too strong. At best, you can see someone surf on the shore. In Big Sur stay longer especially at El Matador. The beach has natural arches and if you have time, take the path that arrives at Julia Pfeiffer State Park. Then head towards Piedras Blancas and if you are lucky, you may observe a colony of sea lions.
The coastline stretches on the legendary Highway 1 for 150 km. Hearst Castle is to the south and the elegant town of Carmel in the north. But the term Big Sur refers not only to the parkway but a real region. The famous seaside cliffs represent only a bit.
The area, in fact, extends for 32 km inland. It includes many natural parks, protected areas, beaches, and forests. We see a tourist destination suitable not only for lovers of the road. It is for those who are not content to enjoy the panoramic views from cars. It is also for those who enjoy hiking trails and why not, even the most romantic moments.
How to get to Big Sur
Big Sur is, in fact, more or less the center of the California coastline. To get there, you have to come from San Francisco or Los Angeles. Take the Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway. The horizon bends and winding streets open onto wonderful views. And only then you will know that you have arrived!
From Los Angeles to Big Sur
Follow the 101 to San Luis Obispo. Then take the Highway 1 and follow the road along the coast. You will pass Morro Bay, Cambria, and Hearst Castle before sighting the dizzying turns of Big Sur; or
Take the Highway 1 from Los Angeles, past Santa Monica and Malibu. After Point Mugu State Park, Highway 1 will take you for a short distance into the interior up to Ventura. From there return to the coast. You will pass two beautiful coastal resorts such as Santa Barbara and Pismo Beach. And then go on to San Luis Obispo. From there the route is the same as above.
From San Francisco to Big Sur
Faster Road: Get off to the south from San Francisco through San Mateo, Redwood City, Palo Alto and San Jose. Continue on Highway 101. After about 97 miles, take the 156 West towards Monterey Peninsula. Continue on Pacific Coast Highway to Big Sur; or
From San Francisco take Highway 1 and follow it until it takes you to your destination. Drive through the pristine wilderness areas. You will also have the opportunity to visit the interesting towns. There is Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel, Pacific Grove, Pebble Beach and the 17 Mile Drive.
The must-see destinations of Big Sur
I interject here the main ones that are more than enough to enjoy Big Sur. All along the coastal path, you will find many scenic places to stop and admire the view. So are the opportunities to enjoy the surroundings! The most famous passage all over the Big Sur road is Bixby Creek Bridge or Bixby Bridge. The bridge built in 1932 reveals remarkable scenic views.
Another unmissable viewpoint is Point Sur Lighthouse. Here you'll find one of the most famous lighthouses of California. It is a fascinating observation point to admire all the surrounding areas. In this area following parks are famous for trekkers.
There is the Los Padres National Forest and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. There is Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Garrapata State Park, and Andrew Molera State Park. In these parks, you can engage in fishing, hunting, horseback riding, and hiking.
In the Big Sur area, more than 80 trails are available for day trips. Some have the ocean panoramic views as the final destination. Others will lead you to explore the wildest meandering wooded area. Here are two short hikes worth stopping:
McWay Falls Overlook Trail came up to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Next to the parking begins a short path (over 1 km), passing through a tunnel under Highway 1. It will lead to a spectacular cliff. Right here you will find the waterfalls. McWay Falls plunge 25 meters to the beach often forming rainbows. Sit in a bench to enjoy the view and, if you come in March or April, you can spot the whales!
Partington Cove Trail is a hiking trail that is less traveled but charming. It is steeper than from Highway 1 that leads through a wooded canyon and old wooden tunnel. It leads to the secluded and scenic Partington Cove beach.
The beaches of Big Sur
Sometimes the cold currents make the beaches ideal for swimming. The most worthwhile destination is definitely Pfeiffer Beach. If you are looking for a wide beach and less windy instead make a trip to Sand Dollar Beach. Set in a beautiful position, the New Camaldoli Hermitage is open to visitors. You have the option to buy handicrafts and food products.
Where to stop to eat and where to sleep
Andrew Molera State Park and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is in Big Sur Village. It is a small settlement where you find shops, businesses, and accommodation. The most attractive place to eat is the restaurants. There is the opportunity to dine on a romantic roof terrace watching the sunset.
The hotels in Big Sur are not cheap. Along the route, you can find several motels but you do not know what you might find in their rooms! If you're planning a coast to coast trip to the US, stay in motels at night on Route 66. In Big Sur, get romantic, enjoy the ocean and enjoy the ride.
So the advice is to book online as soon as possible and not to look for a room on the spot.
What to see during a trip to California on the road?
Our trip to California on the road lasted three weeks. Usually, with California, we always try to pair Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. Our choice was to omit these two attractions to be able to make a round trip to San Francisco. It allows us to see the big parks and the Pacific coast.
But to be honest we did it for a reason. In a not too distant future, we return to the United States for a new adventure. It has as its protagonists Las Vegas and the natural beauty of Utah.
Our road trip in California took place in March. The Death Valley was livable even in the hottest hours of the day so much so that we have met many visitors.
Arrival in San Francisco in the evening.
To move from the airport to the city we recommend that you use the cab service in California. It is very popular both in the Golden Gate city than in the rest of the country.
We had high expectations and were not at all disappointed. Having a whole house available we preferred to spend four days in San Francisco to see in detail. San Francisco is a wonderful city and, in our opinion, deserves at least three full days.
The Sonoma Valley is the wine valley to the north of San Francisco. It is next to the famous Napa and has many highlights. You can choose to know the wine valley in the day. After visiting the beautiful cellars, we loved staying a few steps from the ocean. We admire the coast to the north of San Francisco. Sonoma and Napa valleys are very close and with one more day you can visit both. Located in Sonoma, we visited the beautiful Museum of Peanuts.
What Parks of California to visit during a road trip?
Yosemite National Park
In winter, the park has several closed areas. So we limit ourselves to visit the most important parts around El Capitan. You can take a ring circuit in about three hours. So we left early in the morning. We reached the park in the early afternoon. After the visit, we arrived in Fresno trip to spend the night and break the journey the next day at the Kings Canyon.
There is a real gem on the way to stop for lunch before arriving at the park. It is La Grange Saloon and Grill, one of the memorable places on our trip.
Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Park
At Kings Canyon and Sequoia, we had a great half day captured by these wonders of nature. The duration from Fresno to reach the Kings Canyon is about two hours. In about two hours we arrived in Visalia for the night to reduce the journey to Death Valley the next day.
It was a life we dreamed of seeing her and it did not disappoint. The first day we walked in Beatty Nevada admiring the western part of the park. On the second day, we visit the most famous attractions like Zabriskie Point and Dante's View. Consider two days to see the other attractions such as Badwater and Artist's Drive. To reach Beatty start from Visalia. Consider about five hours of travel and six if you also treat yourself to a beer.
Keep five hours to visit the major attractions of Death Valley near Furnace Creek. Be careful driving at night. We arrived in Joshua Tree through the desert at night. It was no doubt an adventure driving escorted only by the moon.
The Joshua Tree park is home to the sensational Yucca called Joshua Tree by Mormon settlers. The tree branches reminded them of the arms of the prophet indicating the promised land. It's a park that I wanted in our itinerary. Allow about three hours for the visit, and about an hour to get to Palm Springs.
If you left the park feeling a hungry stop by the Pie for People for a pizza that will amaze you! Would you like palm trees, a swimming pool, a cocktail? There is and it is not enough you can also enjoy a campfire in the evening contemplating the desert stars. Not Bad!
When we travel so much on the road we like to enter a period of decompression in the itinerary. Our relaxing time was two nights in Palm Springs. The desert city is full of palm trees, golf courses, boulevard for shopping and leisure in the pool.
Salvation Mountain - San Diego
Wake up early to get to San Diego moving from a place that is a myth: Salvation Mountain. A real work of art commissioned by Leonard Knight. The road to get there is well worth the effort, skirting the Salton Sea. The lake because of the fertilizers used in the nearby fields guards dead fish.
San Diego is wonderful. It smells like Mexico with burritos. It has one foot in the past centuries and the one projected into the future, but above all many, many things to see. Do not miss the Old Town, the Embarcadero, and Gaslamp. And if you can stop by one more day, you will not regret.
We had few expectations of Los Angeles. The walk of fame is too touristy for our tastes but to walk at least once in their life is a must. Then Sunset Boulevard, Sunset Strip, and Beverly Hills. The next day we dedicate to Santa Monica and drove to Santa Barbara for the night.
Santa Barbara is a real find. It is a cool little gem with great wineries, a fascinating mission and a street full of stores for shopping.
We got up early in the morning to enjoy the beach in Morro Bay. We were then off to Big Sur, a favorite haunt of the Beat Generation. Before arriving in Big Sur, we stopped at Hearst Castle, a real gem overlooking the sea.
Carmel - San Francisco
We devoted the last day to the 17 miles. The scenic route connects Carmel in Monterey, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. We have a short stop in Santa Cruz. While returning to San Francisco take a break at Highway 1 for the last beer.
How are Californians?
Friendly people, friendly and very, very pretty.
Weather in California?
In San Francisco the temperature range from hot afternoons to frost even in the summer. The coast enjoys a mild, spring weather all year round. Some parks like Joshua Tree and Death Valley can get very hot. Even in spring, it is important to bring warm clothes that are light. In short, a real nightmare when it's time to pack!
How much does a trip to California on the road?
Let's face right away, California is expensive! Sometimes a double motel room in the city can cost well over $ 100. A lunch with a burger and a beer costs about $ 15 per head. To save money you should book your room in advance to have more choices. Eat in fast food restaurants.
Travel Insurance in California
Always remember to include in travel costs also insurance to cover medical expenses.
Eye on Fuel
The cost of fuel varies from area to area. San Francisco is the city where we found the cheapest fuel. In areas such as that between Carmel and Monterey it almost doubles. Our advice is to refuel in larger centers.