Postcards From… Big Sur
Photo Credit: Erica Cornwall
Photo Credit: Tom Birmingham
Photo Credit: Kodiak Greenwood
Photo Credit: Victoria Garagliano for ©Hearst Castle® CA State Parks
Big Sur doesn’t have clearly defined borders and many businesses here don’t even have addresses, but rules, boundaries and things like schedules are not what this place is about. You’ll know you’ve arrived in the coastal hamlet when the Pacific Coast Highway becomes a winding, scary beautiful speedway—just roll down the window and breathe in the detoxifying mountain air. Valentine’s Day is a perfect excuse to visit, so head straight for Ventana Inn and don’t miss these famous or hidden pit stops along the way.
And don’t leave home without reading these words of advice for first-time visitors. Don’t overplan—one activity outside the hotel per day is plenty. If driving from Los Angeles, leave early to ensure that there’s time for pit stops. Plan to be gone for at least three days. Visiting Big Sur is not a tropical beach vacation (although there is a beautiful beach for expert surfers and sand dollar hunting on the way out of town, see below). While vacationing with friends and children is great, best to leave them at home. Big Sur is for lovers.
By Kelsey McKinnon
VENTANA INN Encompassing 243 acres overlooking the Pacific, this pristine, adults-only escape represents the best of Big Sur with all the bells and whistles of a world-class resort. An afternoon spent soaking in one of the Japanese tubs or your suite’s private jacuzzi with a book is a divine treat, especially when followed by a trip to the spa. A quiet path through the woods also leads to the restaurant serving super-fresh Central Coast-sourced meals.
NEPENTHE Named after the word in Greek literature for an anti-depressant, Nepenthe’s Ambrosia burgers are a cure-all for hungry travelers.
BIG SUR BAKERY Five minutes up PCH from Ventana Inn, Big Sur Bakery serves up fresh pastries and wood-fired cuisine in a rustic old ranch house.
ELEPHANT SEAL BEACH On the drive up to Big Sur from the south, stop at the Piedras Blancas rookery (on Highway 1 seven miles north of San Simeon) which is home to thousands of elephant seals on view from a pedestrian walkway.
HEARST CASTLE The fog rolls in toward Hearst Castle in San Simeon. Newspaper scion William Randolph Hearst’s dream home there has been open to the public since 1958.
HIKING If you do one thing in Big Sur, be it a hike on one of the dozens of scenic trails. Two favorites: The Sand Dollar Beach Trail and Partington Cove Trail.
ESALEN INSTITUTE The destination for progressive thinkers seeking personal growth, meditation, massage therapy, and like-minded company. The affiliated preschool is also where many locals send their kids.
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