Big Sur road trip


It has been a busy week {do I say that too often?} but I can officially say i’m refreshed and refueled from all my recent travels. And today, i’m finally ready to share my latest one — a trip to Big Sur.

A cruise on the Pacific Coast Highway {aka Highway 1} has been high on my bucket list for quite some time, and after arriving in SF, everyone just reconfirmed those feelings. So on an open weekend, my boyfriend and I booked a car + and began planning our weekend away. I’m not one for lengthy posts, but there’s so much to share here since we stopped in several cities, so buckle in + bear with me!

Getting There

We ended up staying at an airbnb just outside Big Sur, which was by far the most affordable option. Although there were some pretty incredible alternatives in the area, we decided to $ave those for a different day 🙂 To kick-off the getaway, Ryan surprised me with a convertible he had rented, and while we aren’t ones to typically ride in luxury, I’d definitely recommend this for anyone making a similar trek. Driving with the sun warming our faces in the open, salty ocean air made the cruise along the coastline that much more magical.


For our first night, we stayed in Monterey, which is approx. a 45 minute drive outside Big Sur park. We were pleasantly surprised by the vibrant downtown area with plenty of options to eat or grab cocktails along the wharf. By morning, we were even more drawn to the area, which was nestled next to gorgeous ocean views with people walking out + about along the oceanside paths. We started the morning at the Monarch Sanctuary since it was behind our airbnb + I have a thing for these orange + black beauties {that’s a story for another day!} It was serene and beautiful, but I’d love to come back for the migration season which i’m told is pretty breathtaking. Afterwards, we made our way over to the famous aquarium on the pier since our host had given us free passes. As much as I hate to admit, it definitely gave The Shedd back home a run for its money. It had the most impressive display of ocean life, including some of my faves {jelly fishes} i’ve seen to date. While we ended up spending the day in Carmel {more on that below} we returned back for dinner plans, which included a sunset dinner overlooking the ocean at a restaurant atop the famous Lovers Point. While there was a lot of irony involved in that, I simply couldn’t get over the orange colored-sky sprawling before us as I sipped my rosé. Definitely an {unplanned} treat.


We intended to spend our afternoon in the enchanting Carmel-by-the-Sea, which happened to be the next town over and on the way to Big Sur. However, our trip was thrown a bit of a curveball due to the Pebble Beach Pro-Am Tournament happening just miles away. As much as I loved knowing celebs like Aaron Rodgers + Justin Timberlake were hitting the links in our backyard, it wasn’t as much fun finding out that all of the scenic 17 Mile Drive was closed-off for the event. The silver lining to this scenario is we improvised and ended up making a few unintended stops such as visiting the historic Carmel Mission, hiking Point Lobos {a trip fave!}, lounging at Carmel Beach + later exploring the shops of Ocean Avenue {cue the Yellowcard jam…} While I will say the missed drive opportunity is one i’d like to revisit, I feel especially grateful we were able to explore the beauty of this area in a different capacity.

Big Sur

On our second day, we woke-up early, took the convertible top down and started cruising Highway 1 down to Big Sur. For the first hour, I don’t think I stopped smiling {cheesy, but true.} The skies were clear, we were weaving through the coastline over bridges with big waves crashing next to us and we had awesome music soundtracking the experience. It was simply perfect. Our goal was to make the <1hr trip to the renown brunch spot, Nepenthe, to sip mimosas on the patio overlooking Big Sur before heading over to McWay Falls and Pfeiffer Beach. But one more roadblock {literally} crossed our path just a mere few minutes before hitting Nepenthe. There had been a recent mudslide, so the rest of Highway 1 was un-passable. Normally we’d look to a detour, but since this was a slim route swerving through rocky coastlines, there simply wasn’t one. So we, along with the rest of the highway drivers, had to turnaround and retrace our drive back to Carmel {or in our case, spend the day on the beaches of Santa Cruz, but that’s a recap for another day!} As sour of a situation this could have been, the good news is there was more coast to cruise and the views the second time around were just as wonderful. I should caveat that we had one more road stop {for a movie filming—it was pretty cool} where we had to get out on the highway and unfortunately stare at the breathtaking views a bit longer while we waited for the filming to end 😉

Ultimately, the weekend had its unexpected hiccups, but that just paved way for more opportunities to explore the area. I cannot recommend this drive enough and can’t wait to make another trek out to the beautiful Big Sur.

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