Big Sur Overview
- Mountains and monoliths
- Coast life
- At one in a beatnik retreat
This rugged edge of California’s coast is a preserved piece of pioneer fantasy, where nature rules over man…
Big Sur is the 90-mile stretch of Pacific shore swooping between Carmel and San Simeon. Craggy cliffs peer out to sea with towering green mountains behind them and giant redwoods grow alongside cacti. The hair-raising Highway One will have you winding along the rocky ridges of the cliff’s edge, stopping to take in the natural epic around you. This final frontier has been hard to tame and remains isolated – electricity didn’t arrive in Big Sur until 1950 and the population still dawdles at 1,500. The awesome coast is lined with ancient forest and magical mountains, and its special-scale beauty means it’s considered sacred by Native Americans. Big Sur can also count Henry Miller as a fan – in his eyes, this is ‘the face of the earth as the creator intended it to look.’
Beautifully Big Sur
Soaring Big Sur is the Pacific coast at its most perfect. This iconic chunk of California has mighty views over cliffs, mountains, forest and sea. You won’t see sunsets or starry nights like it anywhere else.
- There aren’t many streets you’d walk along flagging down a cab – it’s far wiser to ask the hotel to book one for you. In Carmel, call +1 831 624 3885.
- Tipping culture
- 20 per cent for food and at least 10 per cent for everything else.
- Siesta and fiesta
- Shops stay open till 5pm or 6pm. Banks are in Carmel or Monterey. Californians tend to rise early, and eat dinner earlier (around 6pm).
- Packing tips
- The beach is always a hike away, so discard your flipflops in favour of sturdy shoes; you’ll be grateful for a windbreaker once the waves start crashing in.
- Recommended reads
- Big Sur by Jack Kerouac; anything by Henry Miller; Down to a Soundless Sea by Thomas Steinbeck; Day Hikes Around Big Sur: 80 Great Hikes by Robert Stone.
- All produce in this land of the healthy is locally grown and organic, with fresh fruit and vegetables in abundance and excellent quality meat and fish. Watch out for Latin American and Mexican influences in the cuisine, such as the double-fried plantain chips you’ll get in roadside cafés.
- US dollar ($).
- Time zone
- GMT -8 hours.
- Dialling codes
- Country code for the US: +1. Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey: 831.
- Do go/don't go
- In summer, it can be foggy in the morning, though this usually clears by afternoon. Beware of tailback traffic, which might spoil your ocean drive, between Memorial Day (last Monday in May) and Labor Day (first Monday in September). For the clearest views, opt for spring or autumn. Remember, the elevated coastal position means it can get quite cold, even for California.
Don't go home without...
…having a serious moment of ‘om.’ Henry Miller wrote, ‘The place itself is so overwhelmingly bigger, greater, than anyone could hope to make it that it engenders a humility and reverence not frequently met with in Americans. There being nothing to improve on in the surroundings, the tendency is to set about improving oneself.’