The beauty of Big Sur is a feast for the eyes. On one side of the highway, visitors are treated to unmatched views of the Pacific Ocean. On the other side sit the Saint Lucia Mountains, which feature redwood groves, meadows, rivers, waterfalls and more.
Highway 1, or the Pacific Coast Highway, is the only road that connects visitors to all points of interest in Big Sur. If you're crunched for time and are unable to stop at any attractions, merely driving along the scenic route is an adventure in itself.
Bixby Bridge is famous for being the most photographed bridge on the Big Sur Highway. Not only is it regularly featured on Big Sur postcards, but it also has its own stamp, is the title of a Death Cab for Cutie song and appeared in the movie "Play Misty for Me." It's also one of the highest concrete bridges in the world.
Get your fill of coastal views at Andrew Molera State Park. The 8-mile-long Andrew Molera Loop takes visitors on the edge of the coast with smaller trails leading down to secluded beaches.
If you're planning to hike in Big Sur, be very wary of poison oak. The plant can be abundant in state parks and other nearby trails, so make sure you know how to spot it before you go. Poison oak grows in leaves of three and often has red hues in its leaves, especially during summer and fall.
McWay Falls is the star attraction at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The 80-foot waterfall used to fall directly into the ocean until a landslide created the beach it now graces.
It's not uncommon to see hordes of photographers at Pfeiffer State Beach, especially at sunset. The keyhole arch rock is considered to be one of the most photographed natural attractions in Big Sur after Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls.
If you see cattle on the highway, don't be alarmed. Along with art galleries and wellness retreats, Big Sur is home to dairy farms and ranches.
Of all the state parks in Big Sur, Garrapata is the hardest to find. There is no sign indicating its presence, only turnout points on the highway leading to certain trails. On the upside, it is by far the least crowded.
During the spring and summer, Big Sur is a blanket of wildflowers. California poppies, lupine and calla lilies are among the few varieties visitors have encountered on trails. Take the Garrapata Trail to Garrapata Beach to experience what locals call calla lily valley.
Stuart L Gordon Photography
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is the only state park in the region that doesn't offer coastal trails or coastal access. But that doesn't mean it's lacking in attractions. The Buzzard's Roost Trail, pictured above, snakes through the Big Sur Valley, as well as redwood groves.
Sand Dollar Beach is heaven for treasure hunters. On the southern end of the beach, visitors can find serpentine or jade if they look hard enough.
If you're visiting Big Sur during the winter, keep an eye out for elephant seals. From November to February, the seals come ashore to multiple beaches in Big Sur to mate and give birth.
Limekiln Park got its name from a limestone business that used to operate out of the park's forest. Venture down the Limekiln Trail and you'll see four old limekilns that once provided materials for making cement.
Photo Courtesy of California State Parks
Previously occupied by Henry Miller's best friend, the Henry Miller Library serves as a place for artists of all kinds to showcase their work, on top of being a fully stocked library. The library also offers coffee, has a library cat on-site named Theo and regularly holds concerts. Past acts have included Arcade Fire, Fleet Foxes and The Flaming Lips.
The Big Sur River Inn is full of quirky amenities for guests as well as the general public. Don't miss out on a chance to lounge in its patio furniture, which is situated right in the flowing Big Sur River.
Photo Courtesy of the Big Sur River Inn
It's hard to come by a restaurant in Big Sur that doesn't offer coastal views. Nepenthe has not only been lauded as having some of the best views, but it was also featured in the movie "The Sandpiper" with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
If you want one-of-a-kind accommodations with unbeatable views, check in to the Treebones Resort's Human Nest. This woven alcove made entirely of tree branches atop the resort offers stunning, unobstructed views of the coastline. A two-night minimum is required and you must bring your own tent in case of rain.
Photo Courtesy of the Treebones Resort
The 361-foot-tall lighthouse is the only turn-of-the-century light station open to the public and it's on the National Register of Historic Places. It's only open for guided tours, which are offered by the California State Parks department on the weekends year-round, as well as some Wednesdays, depending on the season.