Big Sur, California: What to Do


Part 2 of my Big Sur travel guide is finally live. (Hurrah!) You can catch part 1 here: Big Sur: Where to Stay

So let’s just say you have only ONE day in Big Sur. I’m going to tell you just how you can go about filling it! It’s all here: from where to eat, what trails to hike, where to find that purple sand and the views that you do not want to miss.



First things first, you’re going to want to start your day with breakfast at Big Sur Bakery. (Which is naturally what we did.)

One thing you might not realize about the town of Big Sur, is that it’s surprisingly very very spread out. (This was expressed in guidebooks, but seeing it in person was still a surprise.)

To find the bakery, coast down Highway 1, and as soon as you spot the Shell station, be ready to pull over. Big Sur Bakery sits just beyond it.

The views from the front porch are what shall we call … UNBELIEVABLE.



Patrick and I sipped on our coffee for well over an hour, just chatting and admiring the mountainous landscape.

We were very much in our element in Big Sur, California. 😉



Next, we hit the road and headed out for our first adventure of the day: Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park.




But one thing we soon realized is that in Big Sur the road is an adventure in itself.

Luckily there were plenty of safe turn offs where we could pull over and snap as many photos as our hearts’ desired.

PS: Travel Clothes are linked here! If you find yourself with a sunny day in Big Sur, make sure you still have on layers! You never know when you’ll find yourself in a chilly shady spot.



Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park has so much to offer: trails through redwood forests and coastal trails all overlooking the Pacific.

We started our morning with a short hike to McWay Falls.


By this point in the hike, the anticipation was killing me!


And then voila, the path made a quick turn and McWay Waterfall was showing off in all its glory.



We stood on the edge of the walkway just staring out at the vista for what felt like forever.


Patrick might have had to sort of drag me away. I didn’t want to budge! Convinced I might spot a mermaid or two swimming in the waters below.
Because why would they not want to live there!?


Or here for that matter.


Once we made it back to the main ranger station, we took the Canyon Falls trail deep into the redwood forest.


Feeling like the explorers that we were with our converse on and walking sticks. 😉


But I did have a trusty backpack! My Herschel bag went everywhere with us while in California, holding everything from guide books to snacks to bottled waters.  It basically was our lifeline.


The only thing that could ever make my 6’5″ tall husband look short, is a redwood tree.

If you hike the Canyon Trail for about a quarter of a mile, you’ll reach another waterfall! We didn’t do our due-diligence, and I only found out about said waterfall like 5 minutes ago when I was researching the trail name for you guys.

I think we would have ignored the rumble in our bellies and hiked a bit further to see the waterfall but alas, looks like we’ll have to go back to see it!



By the time we were finished exploring the park, we were hungry borderline hangry.

Luckily the shopgirl at Carmel’s one & only cheese shop recommended Nepenthe to us, so when we drove by and saw the big sign & colorful umbrellas, we made a sharp left and turned into the parking lot.


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Appetizers of roasted garlic and herbal goat cheese awaited us. Paired with my own bottle of dry cider, I was oh-so-content.

For lunch (not pictured) we ordered their famous Ambrosia Burger. And all I can say is: SO GOOD.



After lunch, we knew we wanted to head to the beach. So we pulled out our trusty guide book (we didn’t’ have enough service to google anything) & found out how to get to Pfieffer Beach.

If you plan on going to Pfieffer Beach yourself, be sure to do some reading on it beforehand. The road from the main highway has no signs pointing you to the beach, whatsoever.


This was quite possibly the most unique walk from the car to a beach that I’ve ever experienced.


Suddenly we turned a corner, and the Pacific greeted us with a wave, or two.



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Pfieffer Beach is most famous for its purple sand. Thousands of amethyst hued pebbles are scattered throughout this beach.

It’s pretty magical if I do say so myself!


And squishing my toes in it was so much more fun than regular sand. 😉



The cold waters of the Pacific were much too uncomfortable for swimming, or even dipping our toes in for long for that matter.


So we just sat ourselves down in the purple sand, watching the giant waves crash and the lone (most likely freezing cold) surfer doing his thing.






There are quite a few restaurants to choose from in Big Sur. We almost went to Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn, a luxury resort situated right on the cliffs overlooking the water. But we weren’t quite in the mood for a fancy schmancy dinner.

But I was still in the mood for a fancier than usual sundress! (Big surprise!) This Free People maxi is perfect for a night out on any vacation!


What we were in the mood for, was round two at The Big Sur Bakery. We heard wonderful wonderful wonderful things about their dinner menu. And the views from breakfast were so good, we just had to do it again!


Cheesing hard, because there is a humongo plate of cheese in front of me!


Bakeries are always known for the bread, so it was no surprise that Big Sur Bakery’s pizza was baked to perfection! We also loved the balsamic Brussels sprouts as our side.

After dinner, we headed back to Glen Oaks to wind down by the fire pit & look up at the stars above.



Before we headed back up north to continue with the rest of our California adventure, we stopped at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn for brunch the next morning.


Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, Deetjen’s is one of the oldest (& quaintest) restaurants & inns in the area.

If the weather is nice, guests can dine outside on the restaurant’s patio underneath the shady & sweet smelling wisteria awning.


Coffee coffee coffee.


The most popular item on Deetjen’s breakfast menu is the Eggs Benedict, and for good reason. You can customize your dish to your liking. I chose the traditional, ham & spinach with hollandaise sauce. MMmm!



Whether you’re headed to or away from Big Sur, you’ve got to stop and admire the famous Bixby Bridge! It’s been in at least a dozen fancy car commercials, which if you watch any TV at all, I’m sure you’ve all seen it.

The bridge was constructed long ago, in 1937! Can you imagine working on that thing and having any fear of heights whatsoever? Sheesh!



Now that I’ve reached the end of my Big Sur posts, I have to say, Big Sur might just be one of my favorite “cities” in the entire world. It combines pretty much everything I love about travel: the beach, mountains, forests, camping-like atmospheres but modern conveniences & the crisp clean air deep in the heart of nature.

This is one part of the country I’m sure we’ll find a way to visit again because there is still so much yet to be explored.

If you’re reading this post and planning a trip to Big Sur yourself, feel free to shoot me an email ( to chat more! I love sharing travel tips and talking vacations with you guys!

Thanks so much for reading along this post! Writing it for you all was like re-living it all over again. 🙂 As always, thanks for stopping by the lone star looking glass!


  • The Adored Life

    What an absolutely STUNNING place! It looks like it was such a great trip!

    The Adored Life

    • Alice Kerley

      Thank you! Our trip was like a dream! 🙂

      xo, Alice