best attractions in big sur california

7 best attractions in Big Sur, California

Discover more about Big Sur and its unique spots. Check out the best attractions in Big Sur, explore the great outdoors, and find great tips about one of the most distinctive areas in California.


There is so much to see and do in Big Sur that you will want to stop and admire its collective beauty. Here, you will discover the 7 best attractions in Big Sur. Big Sur is the perfect destination for any road trip, rent a campervan in Los Angeles for an epic adventure. There is something for everyone to easily fall in love with these places. So, let’s dive into them!

Here is a list of unique places to visit in Big Sur, from South to North along California. Big Sur stretches from San Simeon to Carmel, over 90 miles of beautiful coastline. Full of State Parks such as Pfeiffer Big Sur, Julia Pfeiffer Burns, and Point Lobos State Park. Big Sur was originally named The Big South or El Sur Grande because all of this land was once unexplored and completely wild. 

Here are the 7 best attractions in Big Sur:

Limekiln State Park 

This is the perfect starting point to discover the hidden beauties of Big Sur. Opened in 1994, Limekiln State Park is composed of 700 acres, with three main hiking trails and a campground. 

The park is located in a wonderful location that allows you to enjoy the view of the ocean on one side and of the forest on the other. This is a  must-go-to place if you are looking for crystal clear water and a wild outdoor ambiance. The waterfalls, the creeks, and the green forests make for an incredibly relaxed day outside.

Take the opportunity to follow the three hiking trails available in this park: Waterfall trail, Lime Kiln trail, and Hare Creek trail. These are trouble-free as they are not particularly demanding. 

Just make sure to be wearing comfortable shoes and you will be good to go! This park also offers other gripping activities such as bird watching and mountain biking. 

The great advantage of visiting attractions like Limekiln State Park is that even on warmer summer days you can still enjoy it and partake in plenty of activities thanks to its shade. 

This park is the perfect example of how you can get to the heart of nature. We encourage you to visit and enjoy one of the best attractions in Big Sur. 

McWay Falls

It’s time to go see McWay Falls, another unique and one of the best attractions in Big Sur! 

This beach is unreal, it has a waterfall as its own protagonist. Yes, you read correctly: a waterfall on the beach! An 80 feet tall cascading waterfall directly on the beach. 

Make sure to park the campervan in a safe and legal spot to avoid getting a parking ticket. Enjoy half a day following the McWay Trail and reach the overlook of the beach waterfall. A perfect end to a perfect day is to be here for a unique sunset, overlooking this magical place. 

Please keep in mind that it is not possible to walk down to the McWay beach. It is highly dangerous and illegal to get off the trail and climb down to the beach. It is also detrimental to the environment, so please help us keep McWay beach one of the best attractions in Big Sur by staying on the path. Some people like to paddle boarding or kayak activity in the surroundings, however, please make sure to check the California State Park governmental website and with the local authorities during the time of your visit.

Partington Cove

One of the next best attractions in Big Sur is Partington Cove, which like the above waterfalls is also part of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Here you will be able to enjoy walking through different trailheads. Through the main one, the Partington Cove trail, you can reach two different locations.

Following the water streams and creeks, you will reach Partington Point. While in the other direction of the trail, you can reach the Cove. On this second path, you will pass through an ancient tunnel and reach the water. This point was once used as a harbor, while today it’s dedicated to walks and relaxing in front of the crystal clear ocean.

While you are here, you can check for all the different hiking trails in the area. There is enough parking space to park close by the head of some trails, but if you wish to stay for the night, make sure to book a spot in a campground like Riverside Campground & Cabins. 

Also, remember to save on your maps the location for the best attractions in Big Sur and the COAST Big Sur. This is a rooftop cafe with amazing snacks and drinks. Here you also enjoy the view and see how the old water tanks of this location got converted into a fine arts venue. You definitely don’t want to miss any of this!

Nepenthe Restaurant

A must-go place to eat in this area is the Nepenthe Restaurant. Everybody who has been through Big Sur has also been here. It is one of the best attractions in Big Sur that everybody loves: an amazing ocean viewpoint with great food and drinks. How could you not like it, right?

This open-air and indoor bar has been one of the best attractions in Big Sur since 1949. It is open every day and offers a fresh menu filled with Greek and Mediterranean-style food. The must-try food and drinks of this attraction are the Ambrosia Burger and the Mai Tai IPA. 

Fun fact about one of the best attractions in Big Sur: Nepenthe Restaurant is where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton filmed the movie The Sandpiper.

Pfeiffer Beach

Up next on our list of the best attractions in Big Sur is the hidden Pfeiffer Beach. This beach is one of the most missed spots by tourists. Many people tend to drive by because the access to the route is not so obvious. Also, the drive is not the easiest and most comfortable, as a segment of the route has only one lane. 

There is also a fee of $10 to stay in this park area but don’t worry the experience is absolutely worth it. Just make sure the weather is great to enjoy the day out. 

Pfeiffer Beach is also known as “purple sand beach”. This unique effect is given by the manganese garnet present in the nearby mountains. Every time it rains here, the beach gets a purple hue and creates a fantastic ambiance.  

The Keyhole Arch is also another feature in the list of the best attractions in Big Sur. It makes this beach extremely beautiful, and it’s one of the most photographed spots in Big Sur. Along the entire coastline, there are many incredible sea stacks to witness, but this is definitely the most special of them all. There is no doubt that you will fall in love with this spot!

Please be aware that swimming here is not advised due to the oceanic currents and the extremely cold water temperatures. Enjoy walking along the beach to fully experience the scenery of Pfeiffer Beach.

For a great place to eat and relax, head over to the Big Sur River Inn. Here you can really unwind like in no other place as there are outside tables where you can eat while having your feet in the creek’s water. The staff is super careful and makes sure no pollutants enter the water. 

Point Sur State Historic Park

Moving on to the next stop on our bucket list of the best attractions in Big Sur, Point Sur State Historic Park is the right place if you are interested in discovering more about Big Sur and its coastline.

This State Historic Park’s main event is the Point Sur Lighthouse. Built-in 1889 on top of a hill overlooking California’s coast, tours are available and last up to 3 hours and include some demanding walks. No reservations are allowed as the park follows the rule of “first come, first served”. 

If you visit the lighthouse, you can visit the home of the lighthouse’s caretaker and reach the top of the lighthouse. From here, look out to the ocean for a chance to see some whales passing by. 

Bixby Bridge

The last of our best attractions in Big Sur is the most photographed bridge in the country, Bixby Bridge, the symbol of Big Sur. 

Constructed in 1932 Bixby Bridge is 180 feet tall, standing over a canyon and looking out to a full ocean view. This is what makes this spot so beautiful and famous. The drive here is unreal, like being in a movie, and will make your visit to Big Sur spectacular. 


These 7 best attractions in Big Sur will make sure you explore every inch of what this territory has to offer! From nature parks, trails, beach walks, ocean views, historical landmarks, and waterfalls, to amazing places to eat, Big Sur has something for everyone. Save this for the next time you find yourself on an epic Californian adventure. If you’ve been inspired to go on your own Big Sur adventure, rent a campervan in Los Angeles for the perfect starting point for an epic road trip.

Have you been to Big Sur and have your own list of the best attractions in Big Sur? Let us know what you loved most about it and what tips you might have. If you’re ready to take on the road trip of a lifetime, check out all of Indie’s road trip itineraries here. For a road trip that includes Big Sur, check out our Pacific Coast Road Trip.

About the Autor

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Sean Cronin

Sean Cronin is an Italo-Irish poet who since an early age has enjoyed traveling to discover more about other cultures and about himself. He has a huge passion for cooking and reading. He enjoys the outdoors and improving his surfing.