12 Breathtaking Big Sur Attractions

by Jane Sophia
12 Breathtaking Big Sur Attractions

That is where the Big Sur is in California. See the landmarks that border the Big Sur that includes the Los Padres National Park that occupies a staggering 7,700 sq. Km.

For better familiarity the city of Santa Barbara is close to Big Sur. The distance is 200 km south of it.

So, what is Big Sur?

It is the name of a portion of California’s Central Coast. The coastline has a backdrop of Santa Lucia Mountains.

Its terrific beauty, rugged cliffs, steep slope of the mountain, beautiful beaches have won the hearts of millions of people from all over the world. As they say, its beauty is dramatic and simply awe-inspiring. The Big Sur attractions are many but I will cut short them to fit in a half a day trip from San Francisco.

It is undoubtedly the most picturesque coastal stretch in the world. Today we will look into some of its beautiful spots and observation platforms.

12 breathtaking Big Sur Attractions

The California State Route number 1 runs along the Big Sur for roughly 150 km, making it the most travelled highway in the world. An estimated 7 million people visit here yearly.

  1. Bixby Creek Bridge

12 Breathtaking Big Sur AttractionsSuch a jaw-dropping scene is naturally ranked at the top of the list of Big Sur attractions. Sadly, there is no dedicated viewing platform on this bridge overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

The Bixby Creek Bridge’s length is only 700 feet and the speeding cars quickly pass through because of speed limit.

Every visitor to San Francisco is taken to this bridge by his host or guide. The driving distance is 200 km. They come all the way just to cross the bridge in about a minute!

YouTube has several video clips that are worth watching. The side effect of watching the video of Bixby Creek Bridge is that you will start planning a trip to Big Sur at your earliest convenience. It is inevitable.

  1. McWay Falls

McWay Falls

The water is falling directly on the beach! That would be a lovely scene when viewed from the beach. During high tides, the waterfall empties directly into the Pacific Ocean. When this happens, the waterfall is called a “tide fall”. It is definitely a rare sight then.

The height from which the water begins its downward fall is 80 feet!

It deserves a place in the list of Big Sur attractions.

  1. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

It looks beautiful with the River flowing at the park’s border. The surroundings are full of lush foliage. The star attraction of the park is a Redwood Tree that is nearly 1200 years old!

The park’s tree groves have perfect hiking trails. It seems there is a considerable number of hikers arrive here as there is a basic lodge to stay.

In addition, there is a campground with facilities to take a shower.

  1. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Among numerous Big Sur attractions, the State Parks play a big role. This is located just 20 km from the previously mentioned state park. The beautiful McWay Falls is part of this park. Tree lovers throng this state park that is home to numerous redwood trees that are mighty tall and 2500 years old.

Some of the trees are as tall as 300 feet!

Campgrounds are there for you to pitch up a tent. The resting places offer uninterrupted view of the Pacific Ocean. I think camper vans and motor homes are not allowed to park in the campground.

California Condor

This majestic vulture is a rare sight in this region. If you are lucky, you can spot while hiking the Santa Lucia Mountains. These giants prefer to live in the crevices of tall cliffs with clear view of a water body.

  1. Little Sur River

I guessed the existence of something named ‘Little Sur” when I first came across the word “Big Sur”. This is a short river that runs only 50 km and meets the Pacific Ocean.

Little Sur River with its tributaries meet the ocean jointly. Along their course, one can spot some wildlife such as fox, deer, bear, and even a lion.

More than the range of wildlife, the area is home to several rare flora including Santa Lucia Fir, Douglas Fir, and Manzanita.

These two rivers add to the Big Sur attractions-right?

  1. Underwater Canyon

Above all the natural spectaculars in the Central Coast of California, the underwater canyons (not visible to us on the shore) are another big attractions in the Big Sur.

The rocks under the water act as habitats for a rare breed of fishes known as Cobezon and Bocaccio. The State Government wanted to protect them and thus earmarked a large area comprising 52 sq. km and created two important conservation bodies called:

  • Big Creek State Marine Reserve
  • Big Creek State Marine Conservation Area

Fishing is prohibited in this area. However, fishing cannot and is not prohibited for Sea Otters, an endangered marine life.

It is a big effort to protect the vulnerable ecology.

However, visitors are free to pursue water sports such as boating, kayaking, and snorkeling. Of course, scuba diving is also not prohibited.

  1. Pfeiffer Beach with Purple Sand

Purple sand

The Big Sur’s biggest attraction next to the Bixby Creek Bridge is the ‘purple sand’ beach. The Pfeiffer Beach is located about 5 km south of it.

Here, the beach has a backdrop of jagged cliffs that contain Manganese, the chemical that causes the purple color of sand due to erosion.

When the waves hit the shore and obediently withdraw, they leave a pattern on the purple color sand, and it is a sight of your life.

This is the only beach in the world that wears purple sand.

The approach to the Pfeiffer Beach is rather narrow, thus, prohibiting cars. You have to walk up to the beach.

Note: It is a paid beach! Yes, you have to pay $12 to enter the beach. Is there any other “paid beach” in the world.

  1. Natural arches

The rocky mountains with jagged cliffs that are in the backdrop of Pfeiffer Beach have a few arches that are naturally formed.

There is a particular arch called “Keyhole arch”. It is an apt name because of its small size in a big mountain. When the waves crash against the rock and try to enter through the keyhole, they create a thundering noise with a roaring splash.

See the video clip below that also shows the purple sand.

Terrific, eh?

There is a visitor center at the start of the road to Pfeiffer Beach where you need to buy your entrance ticket.

Note: Remember, the beach closes at 8 pm. No partying at night in Pfeiffer Purple Sand Beach.

  1. Cypress Grove Trail

Have you ever seen a cypress tree, though you might have heard of it before? They fall under ‘conifers’ category with pointed leaves. They will steal your heart when seen in a grove of their own. Cypress trees, similar to the pine trees, are compelling to take a stroll through.

  1. Bird Island Walking Trail

If Cypress Tree Grove doesn’t compel you to walk through, then, Bird Island Trail will definitely fit your taste. The short trail measuring just 1.3 km is picturesque. You can easily spot several birds that include Western Gulls, Great Blue Herons, Brown Pelicans, and Brant’s Cormorants.

Brant’s Cormorant is a flightless bird! It looks like a Penguin.

  1. Gibson Beach

It is a scenic beach and one of the best among Big Sur attractions.

You need to climb down a steep set of steps to access the beach. I am sure it is worth your effort. It is part of Point Lobos State Marine Reserve, California.

  1. Limekiln State Park

There are two real but abandoned limekilns inside the start park. So, you get a chance to see a limekiln also apart from the park’s flora and fauna.

It is a must-see forest where you can touch redwood trees and hug them and say “I love you tree”. You may not notice the blush because it is already red.

When you exit the park, you find yourself staring at the Pacific Ocean.

In addition, you will be happy to see a tall (100 feet) waterfalls called Limekiln Falls.

When is the right time to visit Big Sur?

The summer starts in April in this part of the United States. It lasts until October. So, plan your trip from April to October.

Where to Stay in Big Sur?

The wilderness of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Lucia Mountains seem to be everywhere, leaving no space even to set up your tent. So, where is the hotel for the honeymooners who wish to spend their first time together beach a beach, and that too a breathtaking one?

Ragged Point Inn is the most sough-after hotel to stay facing the ocean from a good 350 feet elevation. Certainly, the view from such a height will even force you to ignore your spouse.

Don’t procrastinate, man! I said it is the most sought-after hotel to stay in in this region.

Big Sur Travel guide:

If you are new to the U.S., it is advisable to buy a guided tour to Big Sur. As you are likely to stay in San Francisco in order to enjoy the picturesque California State Route #1, you can search for the tour packages. Mostly, it will be only a half day tour. I think you gladly allocate half a day for your Big Sur travel.

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