Over the last century, stars from Alfred Hitchcock to Elizabeth Taylor have sought sanctuary along this scenic stretch of California coast for its snaking views, towering cliffs and secluded feel.
The landscape of Big Sur, a rugged stretch of the California coast between Carmel-by-the-Sea and San Simeon with the Santa Lucia Mountains on one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other, often strikes visitors as cinematic – which shouldn’t be surprising. Big Sur’s winding highways, seaside cliffs and frequently misty coastline are why we remember Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 Vertigo, as well as the Bruce Willis-Billy Bob Thornton flick, Bandits. Today, in this prime patch of Pacific Coast Highway, you too can blend into the area’s scenery like an under-the-radar celeb, and no one, not even the resident elephant seals, will bat an eyelid.
No phone, no televisions, no radios. Such house rules apply to all 62 cottage-style rooms at this rustic high-end resort in the middle of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. After all, why would you need electronic devices when you have a private terrace with incredible views and your own fireplace at night? Guests at Big Sur Lodge spend their days hiking in the redwoods, whale-watching, snapping pics of wildlife, tasting local wines and exploring the switchback Pacific coastline.
Some resorts are all about the food, others impress with their amenities. While Cambria Beach Lodge has everything you’d want in a retro roadside inn, the biggest draw is the location. The former motel turned beach lodge is close to the shores of San Simeon, where hundreds of elephant seals congregate at the Piedras Blancas rookery. The hippy hamlet of Harmony (population 18), with its historic links to California’s creative community, is just a short drive. The kicker: the lodge is directly across from sandy-bottomed Moonstone Beach (popular with long-boarders).
Andrew Molera State Park is not as developed as other US parks, but that’s part of the appeal. It’s known for high ridges, open meadows, rows of sycamore and redwood trees, the Big Sur River, plenty of easy-to-navigate hiking trails – and an incredibly long, mostly sandy beach, offering a crowd-free shoreline to go beachcombing on, or simply enjoy the sound of the waves.
Located offshore from Big Sur and the Central Coast, the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary is the largest of its kind in the United States with 276mi (444km) of shoreline. It’s a protected habitat for 30-plus species of marine mammals and more than 90 species of seabirds, which you can observe on guided kayak tours. This is a slow-paced kayaking outing for nature lovers who want to gently explore a marine habitat, spying bobbing sea otters bathing in the kelp forest, summiting sea lions and passing pods of dolphins.
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, named after a much-respected 19th-century rancher, contains vast stretches of the Big Sur coastline, 2,950ft (900m) ridges, granite cliffs, an 82ft (25m) waterfall and vast redwoods. One of the biggest draws for birders is the chance to see the California condor, the largest flying bird in North America. The condor can soar as high as 15,000ft (4,600m) and is considered a sacred animal by Native Americans.
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Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
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