Big Sur Travel Guide

USA  #5 in Best Places to Visit in California
Credit

Courtesy of David Toussaint/Getty Images

Best Times to Visit Big Sur

The best time to visit Big Sur is from September to November. With more than 300 days of sunshine per year, Big Sur's peak season runs long, from April to October. However, once August passes, crowds start to disperse and high temperatures inland start to drop, leaving more room for visitors to wander on the coast and the mountains. Winter, especially December, is considered the best time to visit Big Sur for those looking to snag a deal on lodging. But these cheaper prices coincide with the rainy season and often even road closures. Spring ushers in cooler temperatures and the bloom of the area's beautiful wildflowers. Summer is the busiest season, offering visitors pleasant temperatures and plenty of activities and programs offered by the region's parks and educational societies. But along with heavy crowds, coastal fog is another downside; it can hang around as late as midday. It's important to note that temperatures in Big Sur vary by geography. Temps on the coast tend to be cooler than the mountains, especially during the summer. With this in mind, it's best to pack a jacket any time of year.

Weather in Big Sur

Switch to Celsius/MM
Average Temperature (°F)
60
43
62
43
63
43
68
44
73
46
76
48
76
50
77
50
77
50
73
48
65
45
60
42
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Average Precipitation (in)
0.36
0.34
0.26
0.12
0.04
0.02
0
0
0.02
0.08
0.19
0.34
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Data sourced from the National Climatic Data Center

September-November 

Although September and October are still considered part of Big Sur's peak season, the crowds are more manageable compared to the summer months. That number dwindles even more come November when the rainy season starts to kick in. Temperatures are moderate, with the highs ranging from the high 70s to mid-60s, and the lows hanging in the low 50s to mid-40s. Aside from the pleasant temps, fall also offers exciting wildlife activity. Blue whales, humpback whales and orcas are known to frequent the area in September. And during October, hundreds of monarch butterflies can be seen at Andrew Molera State Park migrating to their winter homes. Until Labor Day, visitors can still take advantage of the various summer activities and programs offered by Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, including nature walks, campfires and educational youth programs.

Key Events:

December-February 

If you're looking to have Big Sur to all to yourself, visit during winter. The lower temperatures, greater chance of rain, some road closures and abbreviated business hours clear out any remaining fall crowds. On the flipside, expect to find affordable lodging rates during these months. Also, if you're looking for some face time with Big Sur's wildlife, winter is the best time to visit. From December to February, gray whales migrate along the Big Sur coastline down to the warmer waters of Mexico. January is peak season for elephant seal spotting, as females come ashore and give birth during the last half of the month. Sea otters also give birth to new pups in January and February, so if you see a sea otter floating in the water, look out for a baby floating alongside its mother. Keep in mind that Big Sur's winter temperatures deviate from the norm, with the highs hanging in the 60s and the lows staying in the 40s. The regular rainstorms are a drawback, but these storms make way for clear skies that the summer fog doesn't allow — perfect for stargazing.

Key Events:

March-May

March still experiences frequent rain with more than 6 inches on average annually, but that peters out as soon as April hits. Aside from fewer rain showers and a slight rise in temperature, spring is favored for its flowers. Big Sur is filled with spectacular flora with wild iris blooming in the forest, willows and calla lilies showing up near creeks, and emerald green hills sprouting Lupine and California poppies. In March, visitors can catch the last of the gray whale migration and the birth of sea otter pups. In April, the Big Sur International Marathon draws crowds in the thousands, as it is the only time the highway is closed for pedestrians.

Key Events:

June-August

Summer is peak season for tourism in Big Sur, meaning you'll run into high prices for accommodations, as well as lots of other travelers on the trails. And for good reason: summer offers the best weather. There is little to no rain and the highs hang in the high 70s on the coast and in the 80s inland. The average lows are also a treat, with July and August temps staying in the 50s and June seeing high 40s. Summer is also the best time for families, as the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park starts to offer many activities, including guided nature walks, educational campfire sessions and the Junior Rangers and Ranger Cubs youth programs. The Ventana Wildlife Society Discovery Center and the Molera Ranch House Museum also welcome visitors until Labor Day. Plus, blue whales, humpback whales and orcas also turn up during the summer. 

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