18 Life-Changing Activities You Can Only Do In Big Sur


A long, picturesque coastline, giant redwoods straight out of a fairytale, a reputation of mythic proportions… is there any place on Earth more magical than Big Sur, California?

If you’re searching for places for your next big adventure, look no further. Whether you’re into hiking, long drives, or reflecting on life’s gifts and challenges, this mountainous section of the Central Coast has it all for you. Here are eighteen life-changing things you can only do in and around Big Sur:

Drive the Iconic Pacific Coast Highway (Highway 1)


Driving along the Pacific Coast Highway is an experience like no other. The winding road hugs the cliffs, offering unparalleled views of the rugged coastline and crashing waves below. As you navigate each hairpin turn, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas that seem straight out of a postcard. Take your time to stop at various vista points along the way, where you can stretch your legs and soak in the beauty of Big Sur.

From towering cliffs to hidden coves, every twist and turn reveals a new breathtaking sight. Whether you’re driving north or south, the journey along Highway 1 is sure to leave an indelible mark on your soul.

Hike the McWay Falls Trail


The McWay Falls Trail is a short but incredibly scenic hike that leads you to one of Big Sur’s most iconic attractions. As you meander through lush coastal forests, the sound of crashing waves grows louder, heightening your anticipation. Suddenly, you emerge onto a vista point that offers a jaw-dropping view of McWay Falls cascading onto a pristine beach below. The sight of the turquoise waters against the rugged cliffs is simply mesmerizing.

Soak in the beauty and snap some photos to capture the moment forever. Whether you visit at sunrise, sunset, or any time in between, the McWay Falls Trail is sure to leave you in awe of nature’s grandeur.

Camp Under the Redwoods at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park


Spending a night camping under the towering redwoods at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is a magical experience. As you set up your tent amidst the giant trees, you’ll feel a sense of peace and tranquility wash over you. The campground is nestled within a lush forest, offering a serene escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

After night falls, gather around a crackling campfire with friends or family and share stories under the starry sky. Falling asleep to the gentle rustling of leaves and the occasional hoot of an owl is a truly unforgettable experience. Waking up surrounded by nature’s beauty is the perfect way to start your day in Big Sur.

Visit the Bixby Creek Bridge


The Bixby Creek Bridge is not just a feat of engineering; it’s also a sight to behold. As you approach the bridge, you’ll be struck by its graceful arches and stunning ocean backdrop. Stop at one of the pullouts to admire the bridge from different angles and snap some photos to capture its beauty.

Whether you’re driving over it or simply admiring it from below, the Bixby Creek Bridge is a must-see attraction in Big Sur. It’s a testament to human ingenuity and a perfect example of how infrastructure can blend seamlessly with nature’s beauty.

Explore Point Lobos State Natural Reserve

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Point Lobos State Natural Reserve is a treasure trove of natural wonders waiting to be explored. As you hike along its scenic trails, you’ll encounter a diverse array of landscapes, from rocky shorelines to lush forests. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, including seals, sea lions, and seabirds that call this reserve home.

Don’t forget to visit the tide pools, where you can glimpse colorful marine life thriving in the intertidal zone. Whether you’re an avid hiker or simply looking for a leisurely stroll, Point Lobos offers something for everyone.

Take a Dip in the Big Sur River


Cooling off in the Big Sur River is the perfect way to beat the California heat. Find a secluded spot along its banks to wade into the crystal-clear waters and feel the stress melt away. Whether you’re swimming, sunbathing, or simply lounging on the riverbanks, you’ll be surrounded by the tranquility of nature. The towering redwoods provide shade from the sun, creating a peaceful oasis where you can relax and recharge.

After a refreshing dip, pack a picnic and enjoy a meal al fresco surrounded by the beauty of Big Sur.

Experience Nepenthe Restaurant

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Nepenthe Restaurant offers more than just delicious food; it’s also a feast for the eyes. Perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the restaurant boasts panoramic views that stretch for miles. Whether you’re dining indoors or on the outdoor terrace, you’ll be treated to breathtaking vistas that enhance the dining experience.

The menu features a variety of gourmet dishes made with locally sourced ingredients, ensuring a culinary delight with every bite. As you savor your meal, take a moment to appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds you. Whether you visit for lunch, dinner, or just a drink, Nepenthe is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Stargaze at Pfeiffer Beach


Pfeiffer Beach is not only known for its stunning sunsets but also for its dark skies perfect for stargazing. As night falls, the beach takes on a magical quality, with the stars twinkling overhead like diamonds in the sky. Set up a blanket on the sandy shores and lay back to marvel at the celestial spectacle above.

With minimal light pollution, Pfeiffer Beach offers unparalleled views of the night sky, allowing you to see constellations, planets, and even the Milky Way with remarkable clarity. Whether you’re an amateur astronomer or simply appreciate the beauty of the cosmos, stargazing at Pfeiffer Beach is an experience you won’t soon forget.

Photograph the Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer Beach


The Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer Beach is a photographer’s dream come true, especially during sunset. As the golden hour approaches, the archway is bathed in a warm, ethereal light that accentuates its natural beauty. Set up your camera and tripod to capture the magical moment when the setting sun aligns perfectly with the arch. The result is a breathtaking scene that’s sure to garner likes and comments on social media.

Even if you’re not a professional photographer, witnessing the Keyhole Arch at sunset is an experience that will stay with you long after you’ve left Big Sur.

Embark on the Ewoldsen Trail


The Ewoldsen Trail offers a glimpse into the pristine beauty of the Big Sur coastline and the Ventana Wilderness. As you hike through ancient redwood forests and lush fern-lined canyons, you’ll feel a sense of peace and tranquility wash over you. The trail meanders through diverse ecosystems, from shady groves to sun-drenched ridges, offering a variety of landscapes to explore.

Keep an eye out for wildlife, including deer, birds, and maybe even the elusive mountain lion. Whether you’re an experienced hiker or just starting, the Ewoldsen Trail promises an adventure filled with natural wonders and scenic views.

Attend a Workshop at Esalen Institute

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The Esalen Institute is more than just a retreat center; it’s a hub for personal growth and transformation. With workshops ranging from yoga and meditation to art and psychology, Esalen offers something for everyone seeking to deepen their understanding of themselves and the world around them. Set against the backdrop of Big Sur’s stunning coastline, the institute provides an idyllic setting for self-reflection and discovery.

Whether you’re attending a weekend workshop or a longer retreat, you’ll leave Esalen feeling refreshed, inspired, and ready to take on life’s challenges with a renewed sense of purpose.

Drive Through the Redwood Tunnel on Pfeiffer Big Sur Road

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Driving through the Redwood Tunnel on Pfeiffer Big Sur Road is like entering another world. As you navigate the winding road, you’ll find yourself surrounded by towering redwoods that seem to touch the sky. The canopy overhead creates a sense of intimacy and wonder as if you’re driving through nature’s cathedral.

Roll down your windows and breathe in the fresh, earthy scent of the forest as you immerse yourself in this enchanting experience. Whether you’re on your way to explore other attractions in Big Sur or simply taking a leisurely drive, the Redwood Tunnel is a must-see destination that will leave you in awe of the natural world.

Take a Helicopter Tour of Big Sur


Get ready for an exhilarating adventure with a helicopter tour of Big Sur’s stunning landscapes. As you soar above rugged cliffs, pristine beaches, and lush forests, you’ll enjoy unparalleled panoramic views that few ever get to experience. From the comfort of your seat, you’ll have a bird’s eye view of some of Big Sur’s most iconic landmarks, including McWay Falls, Bixby Creek Bridge, and Pfeiffer Beach.

Your knowledgeable pilot will provide fascinating commentary along the way, sharing insights into the region’s history, geology, and wildlife. Whether you’re celebrating a special occasion or simply seeking an unforgettable adventure, a helicopter tour of Big Sur is sure to be the highlight of your trip. Might be a great idea for a proposal, too!

Explore Garrapata State Park


Garrapata State Park is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. With its rugged coastline, rocky coves, and pristine beaches, it offers endless opportunities for exploration and adventure. Lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails, where you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and the surrounding hillsides.

Keep your camera handy, as you never know what wildlife you might encounter along the way, from deer and rabbits to sea otters and seals. Whether you’re a nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply looking for a peaceful escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Garrapata State Park has something for everyone.

Attend a Concert at Henry Miller Library

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The Henry Miller Library is more than just a library; it’s a cultural hub that celebrates the arts in all its forms. From live music performances and poetry readings to art exhibitions and film screenings, there’s always something exciting happening at this iconic venue.

Nestled amidst towering redwoods, the library provides an intimate setting for artists and audiences to connect and create lasting memories. Whether you’re a longtime fan of a particular artist or simply looking to discover something new, attending a concert at the Henry Miller Library is sure to be a memorable experience.

Go Whale-Watching


Embark on a whale-watching excursion and witness the awe-inspiring beauty of migrating whales along the Big Sur coast. From gray whales in winter to blue whales in summer, these waters are teeming with marine life just waiting to be discovered. Join a guided tour led by knowledgeable naturalists who will share fascinating insights into the behavior and habitat of these majestic creatures.

Prepare your camera at all times, as you never know when you might catch a glimpse of a breach or a tail slap. Whether you’re an avid wildlife enthusiast or simply looking for a unique outdoor adventure, whale watching in Big Sur is an experience you won’t soon forget.

Picnic at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park


Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is the perfect spot for a scenic picnic surrounded by nature’s beauty. Choose from several picturesque picnic areas dotted throughout the park, each offering stunning views of towering redwoods, cascading waterfalls, and the sparkling Pacific Ocean.

Pack a basket with your favorite snacks and beverages, spread out a blanket, and savor a leisurely meal in the great outdoors. Whether you’re enjoying a romantic picnic for two or a fun-filled gathering with family and friends, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park provides the ideal backdrop for a memorable dining experience.

Reflect at the Henry Miller Memorial Library


The Henry Miller Memorial Library is a place of reflection and inspiration, dedicated to preserving the legacy of one of America’s most influential writers. Browse through a curated collection of books, artwork, and memorabilia that celebrate the life and work of Henry Miller. Find a quiet spot amidst the towering redwoods to sit and contemplate, allowing yourself to be enveloped by the tranquility of nature.

Whether you’re a fan of Miller’s writing or simply seeking a moment of peace and solitude, the Henry Miller Memorial Library offers a sanctuary where you can connect with yourself and the world around you.