The coast of California is home to some of the most exquisite vistas in the US, but nothing beats Big Sur. This rugged stretch of land off the famous Pacific Coast Highway between Carmel and San Simeon abounds with picturesque landscapes at every turn, each more beautiful than the last. Our luxury travel guide to Big Sur rounds up the best luxury stays, restaurants, and sights to see.
The Best Luxury Hotels in Big Sur
Alila Ventana Big Sur
With the most spectacular ocean views surrounded by towering redwoods, this all-inclusive, adults-only hotel is a perfect combination of rustic and elegant. Alila Ventana Big Sur sprawls across 160 acres. Its guest rooms and villas are decorated with zen wood elements. The hotel also boasts safari-style glamping suites if you’re feeling adventurous and want to spend a night in the great outdoors. Each glamping suite comes equipped with a wood-burning fire pit to roast s’mores — and keep warm!
Back at the hotel, there are plenty of activities to take part in. For instance, there are daily morning movement classes and two swimming pools to enjoy. You can also spend the day hiking through the nearby redwoods or opt for a picnic by the beach, and the hotel will provide any equipment you need (i.e., coolers, blankets, chairs, first aid kits, etc.).
The Sur House restaurant serves incredible, locally sourced fare and specializes in healthy options with fresh produce. Some of the ingredients are handpicked from Alila Ventana’s organic garden. The Glass House, perched atop the mountain, is also available for private, intimate dinners.
Make your trip to Ventana seamless by booking a private charter through its partner and leading private aviation company, XO. Guests are offered exclusive, discounted pricing for year-round direct private charter flights between Monterey Peninsula Airport and 17 destinations across the US.
Post Ranch Inn
Since 1992, Post Ranch Inn has been a spectacular hideaway amidst the redwoods. It’s renowned as one of the best luxury hotels in the US and is certainly one of the best luxury hotels in Big Sur. The 40 immaculate treehouse-style accommodations sit at 1,200 feet above the sea. Each room is equipped with a fireplace, private hot tub, and floor-to-ceiling windows, offering sensational views of the coastline.
The award-winning Sierra Mar restaurant is one of the best in Big Sur. Executive chef Reylon Agustin spearheads the establishment, which offers a four-course prix fixe dinner menu that changes daily. There’s also a simple but impressive à la carte menu that changes seasonally and includes ingredients from the chef’s garden. In addition, a sommelier will guide your selection from the best wines from Oregon and California.
The Post Ranch Spa offers organic spa treatments, spiritual exploration, as well as intuitive healing classes. Some of the offerings include one-on-one sessions with a shaman, a session with an astrologist, and Reiki healing. However, if you’re more of a traditional spa-goer looking for a relaxing experience, we recommend the post ranch signature massage. It includes Swedish massage techniques, pressure point therapy, and energy balancing.
The hotel offers many activities and beautiful things to see. For instance, you can opt for a morning yoga session, a guided nature walk, a sound bath, or a forest meditation. Foodies will love the edible tour of the chef’s garden, where you get to explore, taste, and learn about the crops. Additionally, it’s well worth it to take a trip down to the Post Gallery, which showcases lovely artworks by local artists, photography, sculptures, fine jewelry, and more.
Getting to Big Sur can be an ordeal. If you want to skip the windy drive to the Ranch, you can opt for a private helicopter (with Champagne, of course) from the nearby Monterey airport. Don’t worry about renting a car — the hotel offers Lexus vehicles for guest use, as well as a shuttle that will escort guests around Big Sur.
The Best Places to Eat in Big Sur
Coast Big Sur
Founded in 1958 as a refuge for artists and writers who came to Big Sur after World War II, Coast Big Sur is both a gallery and café for locals and tourists alike. The café features a range of delectable sweet treats and is quite famous for its soft-serve ice cream. If you’re going for a savory bite, try one of the sourdough pizzas and a local craft beer. After eating, be sure to check out the art gallery, which is full of eclectic works by local artists.
Big Sur Bakery
Under absolutely no circumstance should you leave without a stop at the famous Big Sur Bakery. The perpetually long line speaks for itself. The bakery opens at 9 a.m. Wednesday through Sunday and the smell of freshly baked bread and pastries is sure to ignite your senses. For lunch, the hearty soups and wood-fired pizzas will revive you after a nature hike.
A classic Big Sur sweet spot, Nepenthe is a casual, family-run restaurant with majestic cliffside views. The menu offers classic American dishes and an award-winning wine list. Attached to Nepenthe is Café Kevah, another relaxed outdoor restaurant, and the Phoenix Shop, a unique gift shop with all sorts of knick-knacks from around the world.
The Sushi Bar at Treebones Resort
This omakase experience overlooking the coast is one not to miss. Situated at the Treebones Resort, a premier ”glamping” experience, indulge in a 16-course tasting menu of fresh seafood dishes with herbs and seasonings harvested from Treebones’ organic garden. The Sushi Bar offers three seatings nightly, and we suggest adding on the optional sake pairing for the full experience.
The Best Sights to See in Big Sur
If you’ve seen a photo of Big Sur, it’s most likely of McWay Falls. This enchanting 80-foot-tall waterfall cascades year-round from McWay Creek in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and drops into an untouched cove. We suggest heading to the overlook in the evening, just before sundown. The sunset over the waterfall is a truly breathtaking sight.
Famous for its violet-tinted sand, Pfeiffer Beach is right off of Highway 1 and a perfect pit-stop for a picnic or a walk on the beach. The beach is pristine, and a popular local hangout. During the fall season, it offers perfect waves for surfers. Pfeiffer Beach has marvelous rock formations and is especially known for the Keyhole Arch. In fact, it’s one of the most photographed parts of Big Sur. The beach can be rather hidden, as it isn’t visible from Highway 1. To get there, first, take a turn onto Sycamore Canyon Road, which takes you down to the shoreline. Then, at the bottom of the road, you’ll see a parking pay station and access to the gorgeous beach.
Bixby Creek Bridge
This coastal California bridge is one of the biggest of its kind in the world. It was built in 1932 and is one of the most photographed bridges in the state, after the Golden Gate Bridge. It was built from reinforced concrete and open-spandrel and is truly an iconic landmark in Big Sur. Be sure to pull over and walk along the bluffs to truly appreciate the bridge with the ocean waves crashing around it. We recommend putting the location in your maps ahead of time if you’ve never visited before — it’s easy to drive through quickly and miss your photo opportunity!
Don’t miss our Los Angeles Hotels Guide if you’re driving down the coast from Big Sur to Los Angeles.