What to do in Big Sur. These 5 Places Are a Must See.

If you happen to visit Big Sur (and you should), I want to share what to do there. Specifically there are 5 places in this region that you must see.

Now I need to admit something: When I visited Big Sur a few months back, I was only able to see 2 of the 5 places on this list (in hindsight) and as I was sitting today, browsing the entire area on Google and what to do there, I looked at a results page which displayed many other spots in this region.

And as I browsed through them, I slapped my forehead several times, while sitting back in my chair. The reason why is because I couldn’t believe I MISSED these jewels that were SO close to the other areas I was at. 

Because my trip to this place was impromptu and when I arrived, I had no GPS signal, I had to rely on only asking locals where to go and seeing the most popular spots beforehand (McWay Falls and Bixby Bridge), I decided to only visit them, but the other 3 spots that I will be adding to this list are a must see.

If you decide to go, PUT these 5 spots in your GPS so you don’t miss them like I did. I know for a fact the next time I visit this area, I WILL make up for it.

Now it important to know that Big Sur holds a lot more places to see, hike, swim in, and enjoy than just these 5 locations, but based on what I saw when I went there, plus the missing areas, I would say if you have 1 day to visit this place, then these 5 are a must see.

Let’s begin with the first place I saw:

1) Bixby Bridge.

Since I was coming into Big Sur from the north, Bixby Bridge was the first location on this list that I saw. There is a parking area near it and it is right off the road. This bridge and the scenery around it are incredible:

bixby bridge big sur

I had little time to explore this place, but I took some awesome pictures and contemplated trying to hike down it, which I do not recommend you do since there is no official hike to do that. If you were to try and do this, you’d need to improvise and that is dangerous here. Either way, enjoy the view from Bixby Bridge because it is one of the most popular spots in all of Big Sur.

2) McWay Falls.

As long as you continue down the same road (1) after Bixby Bridge, you WILL cross McWay Falls and I would say this is one of the other MAIN attractions of Big Sur:

Now you can’t legally go down to the beach and to the waterfall (McWay Falls), but you can view it from a top, whether in the parking area, and also take a short walk to a walkway near the parking lot, that’ll give you this view of it:

mcway falls big sur

Let me pause for a moment to go and hit my forehead some more, because like I said, these next 3 spots are places I missed (and I will make up for it the next time I go)!

Ok, now that I did that, let’s continue…

3) The 17 Mile Drive.

I seriously believed that there was only 1 main road along Big Sur where I could see everything (Road 1), but seeing this option pop up on the list is what made me start hitting my forehead:

The 17 Mile drive is OFF road 1 (and then comes back to it, it’s basically a semi circle) and is it’s own separate road which has hikes, a scenic drive (here are others). It has neighborhoods, hikes, beach walks, and an actual scenic drive you can take around and then back to road 1. 

The 17 Mile Drive will give you an extra scenic experience of this area, even though road 1 itself is the main drive along this whole location. 

4) Pfeiffer Beach.

So there is another iconic spot. It’s a beach that contains natural bridges (well all of Big Sur basically does) and one of these bridges is shaped in a way that if you can get to this location during sunset, the hole that is in this specific spot lights up.

If you decide to try checking out this area, I’d recommend doing it towards the end of a day trip, and to check out the other spots first:

5) China Cove. 

Out of every single place to see in this entire location, the one which I truly want to explore than any other is China Cove. It’s located next to the 17 Mile Drive:

I’m not sure if you can swim in this area, but there is a beach next to it called Gibbons Beach where you can. And it is also very beautiful there. This location has natural bridges, a tropical scenic look, beautiful colored water and so much more.

While I will happily revisit McWay Falls and Bixby Bridge, plus the other 2 spots, China Cove will be the one I look most forward to and I found a great site explaining the trail within this location here.

Like I have said, this whole area has SO much more to see besides these 5 spots, and once I do see them and update this post with more images, if I have time to explore more places here, I will update and make it a top 10 list. I am certain that Big Sur has many other areas worth seeing that are equally beautiful! 

If you plan on doing the 5 places I listed in 1 day, start as early as possible. By mid day, I’d recommend China Cove so you can possibly enjoy a swim in Gibbons Beach and finish things up with the #4 spot on the list: Pfeiffer Beach.

This sight seeing strategy should help you enjoy all 5 places without rushing too much and also make sure to do it during a warm season, so you have more daylight to spend on enjoying these spots! 

Throughout California’s coast, I doubt there’s any place that holds more beauty in one condensed spot than Big Sur, but if you’re looking to travel the greater Pacific Coast, I have done this, and share other spots you need to see! 

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