If you are a fan of road trips with scenic coastal views you should be excited as Big Sur offers one of the most picturesque sceneries in California. Stunning ocean views, beautiful beaches, amazing forests, and mountains are just a small teaser about the landscapes of Big Sur but you have to see it with your own eyes!
Big Sur is the name of the 100 miles (160 km) of seacoast in Central California between the towns of Monterey and San Simeon. It is known for being the longest scenic coastline in the USA and also includes a state park that runs inland from the coast.
If one thing is for sure it is that you will spend a lot of time in nature to explore the amazing Big Sur coast, but I can tell that this journey will also likely be a gourmet food tour. Big Sur towns are famous for their great restaurants, wine tasting rooms, and trendy cafes. There are also so many great museums, art galleries, and fun attractions to visit so as you can see, Big Sur has something for every taste!
In this blog post on where to stay in Big Sur, I will talk about the best 5 towns that you can stay in Big Sur with the top hotels for all budgets. I’ve done a lot of research to find out the best hotels in Big Sur and it is time for you to do your homework by making a reservation in advance so you don’t miss them!
If you are ready, let’s start our coastal journey!
- If you are in a hurry
- 1. San Simeon – where to stay in Big Sur for the first time
- 2. Carmel-By-The-Sea – the best area for foodies and beach bums
- 3. Monterey – the coolest area to stay in Big Sur
- 4. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park – where to stay for nature lovers
- 5. Inland Big Sur & King City – where to stay in Big Sur on a budget
- Frequently asked questions about Big Sur
If you are in a hurry
Here are the best places to stay in Big Sur with hotels from luxury to budget plus Airbnbs. They are all located in the best areas of the city and have great reviews!
Here is a map of Big Sur with the 5 best areas I will be talking about in this blog post so you can easily visualize them:
1. San Simeon – where to stay in Big Sur for the first time
San Simeon is the southernmost town along the Big Sur coastline and where you should stay if you are visiting Big Sur for the first time as you will find the most amazing Pacific Ocean views, famous attractions, and an amazing food scene!
There are so many things to discover in San Simeon but if you wanna hear about some of them, the fabulous Hearst Castle and the Neptune Pool are the most impressive ones. You will also find many nice beaches on the Big Sur Coast, have a chance to see elephant seals, and find so many good restaurants with stunning ocean views. How does that sound?
San Simeon offers very nice accommodation options but I have to say that they can be expensive and fill up so quickly. Don’t worry, you can secure your place with an early reservation and get better deals on hotels just like that. If you plan to do a road trip in California and want to add another amazing destination, check out the best places to stay in Yosemite National Park.
Let’s have a look at the best places to stay in San Simeon:
This hotel is located right on the beach and offers amazing views of the Pacific Ocean and all the rooms have fireplaces and large flat-screen TVs. There is a very nice on-site bar where you can taste Californian wines and a very good breakfast will be included in your accommodation. What’s more, all the main attractions in San Simeon are within walking distance.
Other accommodation options in San Simeon
This hotel has spacious rooms with amazing ocean views, private beach access, free parking, and complimentary breakfast
This hotel offers an outdoor swimming pool, comfortable rooms with a private bathroom, a nice sun terrace, and free Wi-Fi
Set by the ocean this Airbnb has a nice terrace overlooking the ocean, a sitting room with modern amenities, and free parking
Things to do in San Simeon
- Go for a walk at William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach
- Visit the Friends Of The Elephant Seal Visitor Center to see elephant seals in their natural habitat
- Spend time on the beach at San Simeon Bay
- Check out the amazing architecture and swim at the Neptune Pool
- Have a glass of wine at the Heart Ranch Winery
- Visit the impressive Hearst Castle and Piedras Blancas Light Station
- Take a day trip to the beautiful Harmony Headlands State Park and Moonstone Beach Park
- Have delicious seafood at Manta Rey Restaurant
2. Carmel-By-The-Sea – the best area for foodies and beach bums
Carmel-By-The-Sea is a tiny beachside city that is 2 hours drive from San Simeon and offers scenic beaches as well as a great selection of restaurants and vibrant nightlife. So get ready for picturesque views and mouth-watering food!
Carmel-By-The-Sea is a very cute town where you will see so many charming houses that will keep making you wanna take photos as well as its countless nice shops and art galleries. This lovely town is also known for its epic restaurants and nightlife as you will be able to find anything from good local seafood to fine dining restaurants and wine and cocktail bars.
With breathtaking views around every corner, you should also allow some time for outdoor activities in Carmel-By-The-Sea. Walk in the lush green parks and explore the scenic hiking trails and of course spend time at the town’s best part, the stunning Carmel Beach!
Since Carmel-By-The-Sea is a small area, the best of the best hotels I have picked for you can be sold out too quickly, so make your reservation in advance so you don’t miss them. Here we go!
Carriage House offers a boutique stay at the heart of Carmel-By-The-Sea. All the rooms have beautiful decorations with fireplaces and the suite rooms even have a hot tub! In the morning you can enjoy a very good breakfast and every evening the hotel offers free wine with fresh croissants. Free parking and Wi-Fi are also available and with a short walk, you can access the beach and many city attractions.
Other accommodation options in Carmel-By-The-Sea
This boutique hotel has a large outdoor swimming pool, a sun deck, great breakfast, comfortable rooms, and free Wi-Fi
Centrally located in Carmel, this boutique hotel has beautifully decorated rooms, a garden area with gas fireplaces, and free parking
This Airbnb is perfect for a romantic getaway with its beautiful rooms, nice garden area, and an outdoor hot tub
Things to do in Carmel-By-The-Sea
- Visit the Carmel Mission Basilica Museum
- Spend time at the Carmel Beach and Carmel River State Beach
- Go for a walk at Garrapata State Park
- Try local wines at the Albatross Ridge Tasting Room
- Have dinner and drinks at Jack London’s Grill & Taproom
- Go for a stroll at the Scenic Road Walkway
- Hike at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve and try to spot whales
- Sample good cocktails at Sade’s Cocktails
3. Monterey – the coolest area to stay in Big Sur
Monterey is located just 5 miles (8 km) north of Carmel-By-The-Sea and the biggest town in Big Sur that offers amazing views of the Pacific Ocean. Monterey is a very charming town where you will find historical sites, impressive art galleries, fun attractions, and amazing seafood restaurants. Isn’t it cool, there is a bit of everything here!
The first thing you should do in Monterey is to have a stroll at the historic Old Fisherman’s Wharf checking out the cute cafes with beautiful views. If you feel like shopping you will find so many nice shops at Cannery Row. During the sunset go to Lovers Point Park and watch breathtaking views. At night you pick one of many good restaurants and taste the region’s famous wines and local seafood.
Monterey offers a great selection of hotels and I’ve already handpicked the top 4 for all budgets. If you still want more options check out our ultimate guide to the top places to stay in Monterey.
Monterey Plaza is located right on the ocean and has luxurious rooms with scenic views. I love the on-site bar and restaurant where you can have gourmet food while watching the ocean. There is a full-service spa, a rooftop fitness room, and on-site parking. This 5-star also has a very good breakfast served with fresh products and good coffee and Monterey’s all famous attractions are within walking distance.
Other accommodation options in Monterey
This hotel has a very central location and offers comfortable rooms with coffee machines, on-site parking, and free Wi-Fi
Centrally located in Monterey, this hotel has modern rooms with a fireplace, hot showers, good breakfast, and on-site parking
This Airbnb offers accommodation in a private bungalow and has comfortable rooms with modern amenities and free Wi-Fi
Things to do in Monterey
- Discover the underwater world at the Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Go for a walk at the beautiful Old Fisherman’s Wharf
- Check out the restaurants and shops at Cannery Row
- Visit the Monterey Museum of Art and the Monterey State Historic Park
- Sample good wines at A Taste of Monterey – Wine Market & Bistro
- Have dinner at Yama Sushi Bar & Restaurant
- Go for a stroll at Lovers Point Park
- Have delicious seafood at the Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant
4. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park – where to stay for nature lovers
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is located 60 miles (90 km) north of San Simeon and is the best area to stay in Big Sur if you want to spend most of your time in nature doing outdoor activities.
Here you will find scenic hiking trails that are suitable for every level, the natural beauty, Big Sur River, and the beautiful Pfeiffer Beach. If you want to chase waterfalls, go on mountain adventures, and discover spectacular landscapes you will have a lot of fun by staying in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park!
Apart from its amazing nature, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is also famous for its upscale restaurants that have stunning Pacific Ocean and mountain views. So after a tiring day, get ready for a feast!
If you are already curious, let’s check out the best places to stay in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park:
This 5-star hotel is the best luxury hotel in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and offers adults-only accommodation. You will love the outdoor swimming pool and sun terrace with epic ocean and forest views. There is an upscale spa, an excellent fitness center, a fancy restaurant with a great selection of wines, and even an on-site art gallery at Alila Ventana Big Sur. The hotel rooms have a hot tub, fireplace, and a private balcony plus you can even attend free yoga classes and hiking tours!
Other options in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Big Sur Lodge offers an outdoor swimming pool surrounded by trees, spacious rooms, a nice on-site restaurant, and free parking
Set in a forest, this Airbnb offers a private room in cabin with amazing views and a kitchen to prepare basic meals
This Airbnb has an amazing ocean and forest view, spacious rooms, a fully furnished kitchen, and a stunning terrace
Things to do in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
- Go for a swim in Big Sur River Gorge
- Hike at the Sycamore Canyon and Santa Lucia Mountains
- Have a delicious meal with a view at the famous restaurant Sierra Mar restaurant
- Go to the Pfeiffer Falls and enjoy the amazing nature
- Spend time at the Pfeiffer Beach
- Have a fancy dinner with spectacular ocean views at The Sur House
- Go for a walk to the beautiful Redwood Forest
5. Inland Big Sur & King City – where to stay in Big Sur on a budget
When you are visiting Big Sur, if you want to stay in a calmer area where you can enjoy the countryside and nature with budget accommodation options, King City and its surrounding areas are great places to stay in Big Sur. King City is located inland on the eastern side of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and you need to drive an hour from here to reach Carmel-By-The-Sea so it’s best to rent a car if you want to explore the coast.
In the center of King City, you will find so many shops, museums, and restaurants but not many good hotels so if you are on a budget and looking to stay inland from the Big Sur Coast, you will be looking at renting an Airbnb nearby. King City is also famous for its glamorous golf courses so why not take your first lesson?
For outdoor lovers, there are so many nice hiking trails in the whole eastern part of the region that offer amazing views across the mountains so this really is a great area if you are trying to get away from it all.
This Airbnb offers accommodation in beautiful vineyards and is a perfect getaway to spend time in nature and relax. There are 2 spacious rooms, a large dining area, a fully furnished kitchen, and private parking. You will love the large garden area where you can taste amazing local wines while watching the stunning scenery. It also has easy access to other Big Sur towns.
Other accommodation in Inland Big Sur & King City
This Airbnb has a comfortable room, a kitchen to prepare basic meals, private parking, and free Wi-Fi
This Airbnb offers a quiet room with a flat-screen TV, private bathroom, free Wi-Fi, and parking
Located in the beautiful countryside, this Airbnb offers a large terrace, spacious rooms, and easy access to the city center
Things to do in Inland Big Sur & King City
- Take a golf lesson at the King City Golf Course
- Go for a walk at San Lorenzo County Park
- See the impressive church, Our Lady of Grace Shrine at Marylake
- Go hiking on the King City Trail
- Visit the Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum
- Taste mouthwatering tacos at Tacos La Potranca DE Jalisco
- Go shopping in King City
- Have delicious foods at The Cork & Plough
|👑 Luxury price:
|💵 Mid Range:
|👪 Best area for families:
|Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
|🛎️ Best luxury hotel:
|Monterey Plaza Hotel
|🧳 Best mid-range hotel:
|Ragged Point Inn
|👛 Best budget hotel:
|Carmel Garden Inn
Frequently asked questions about Big Sur
🚘 Where should I stay when driving Big Sur?
⏱️ How many nights do you need in Big Sur?
In order to discover all the beautiful Big Sur Coast, I recommend staying at least 3 nights.
🗺️ What is the best area to stay in Big Sur?
🏘️ What is the closest town to Big Sur?
If you are visiting Big Sur from Southern California San Simeon will be the first town and If you travel from the north of California, Monterey is the closest Big Sur town.
🛎️ What are the best hotels to stay in Big Sur?
📷 What should I not miss in Big Sur?
Here are some of the main attractions in Big Sur that you should not miss.
● Harmony Headlands State Park
● Old Fisherman’s Wharf
● Moonstone Beach Park
● The Hearst Castle
● The Monterey County Agricultural & Rural Life Museum
● The Monterey State Historic Park
● William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach
Unfortunately, our road trip along the beautiful Big Sur coast ended here and I hope you enjoyed the journey as much as I did!
In this blog post on where to stay in Big Sur, I talked about the best towns in Big Sur and gave information about their vibe and activities you can do in each. To recap, I recommend San Simeon for the first-timers as it has a bit of everything for all kinds of travelers but you can also split your holiday with Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park in central Big Sur to spend time in nature or the north town of Monterey.
Just a friendly reminder, in order not to miss your favorite hotel and catch better deals, do not forget to make a reservation in advance!
If you still can’t decide among many accommodation options let me sum up. Here are my 2 favorite hotels in Big Sur that have great locations by the ocean and amazing reviews!
- Cambria Shores Inn – The best luxury hotel in San Simeon that is located right on the beach and has a nice outdoor swimming pool and sun deck
- Big Sur Lodge – A great place to stay in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park that has an outdoor swimming pool surrounded by amazing landscapes
Enjoy every minute of your time in Big Sur and take a lot of photos of the picturesque Big Sur coast. If you have any questions or suggestions about Big Sur and California do not hesitate to leave a comment below. I’ll be more than happy to leave a reply!
Have an amazing holiday,
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