Plan your Trip to Big Sur
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Gorgeous View of Garrapata State in Big Sur. Thinks to do in Big Sur with Family

Are you tired of seeing people’s Big Sur pictures on the web? Do you want to go there yourself? Or do you prefer it to be a family trip? If this sounds like you, read on to find out everything you need to plan a trip to Big Sur with family! There are so many things to keep in mind but I’ll highlight the 10 things to do in Big Sur with family.

There is a place where it’s possible to see where the land meets the sea and create a view fit for a king. Surrounded by forested mountains with a highway hugging the coast close to the water. Seals gather, seagulls crow, otters swim, and kelp grows. This is a wonderful and beautiful place, one of California’s many gems: Big Sur.

Planning a trip to Big Sur can be tiring. After all, there are so many things to do in Big Sur. How do you plan it? Where do you go? What are the best family-friendly spots? Answering all these questions alone can be stressful. 

So that’s why I’m writing this blog. First, you will get to know how you can plan the trip, and then I’ll list ten things you can do once you get there. 

Making the plan

1)    Plan Ahead

It is essential to plan, as mobile phone service is rare in most parts of Big Sur. Trying to find a place with Wi-Fi would probably take up the entire day. Thus, download a GPS app with offline map services.  You don’t want to drive around to find out you miss a spot because your Internet didn’t work. You’ll want to have an idea of what you want to see and do before you get there.

So really, please look into things to do in Big Sur online before you get on the road!

2)     Know your navigational apps

Since you may be relying on these maps to guide you around, you need to know how to use them. Just for example, if you’re using Google Maps, you can download both maps and destinations for offline use. So, you can pin the various things to do in Big Sur and keep them on hand during the trip. We always search for “things to do in…” and decide according to what is more appealing to us.

3)    Don’t skip the popular spots

The popular spots, though crowded, are a must-visit. Places like Pfeiffer Beach or McWay Fall are the reason why tourists race to places like Big Sur. Believe me, they are gorgeous and well worth the effort of navigating around the crowds you’ll find (especially on summer weekends).

You need to be well prepared for crowds. Waiting 10-20 minutes is worth it! While planning your trip, you can:

  • Add a wait time to your itinerary 
  • Arrive early in the day if you want to find parking spots. Otherwise you will need to park on the side of the road

4)     The North and South of Big Sur

The Northern part has fewer twists and turns, making it easier to drive through and ideal for first-timers. California Highway 1 is skirts the coast and the the Santa Lucia mountain range, so that you will be far away from the cliffs too. The sights on the road will still be amazing but less nerve-wracking.

On the other hand, the South is closer to the water. If you prefer that, take the southern route.

4)     Check your headlights 

The highway goes through various foggy areas. Make sure your headlights work even if you plan to drive during the day. We have been there driving from sunny and warm places

5)      Take note of seasonal conditions

There are things to do in Big Sur all year round. But different seasonal conditions will affect your trip there. That is very important to take into consideration when visiting Big Sur. For example, dry weather can cause fire breakouts in summer. On the other hand, rain can bring mudslides in spring and winter. 

Make sure to get updates on the conditions there before you get on the road!

Once you’ve done your preparation, it’s time to explore and enjoy. Here are ten things to do in Big Sur with family. 

Things to do in Big Sur

1.     Spot Marine Treasures on Sand Dollar Beach

Countless sea urchins come up on the shore every day. This is an excellent place for you and your family to have fun and find shells, minerals, stones, and even jade. We love to collect them and getting them is one of my favorite things to in Big Sur with Family!

The beach has a high cliff that acts as a barrier against high wind. And if you’re visiting between October and January, it also happens to be the ideal spot to see whales as they swim by the coastline. 

2.     See Old Kilns at the Limekiln State Park

This 700-acre park has one of the biggest waterfalls in the area. It has a beautiful beach trail and various short hiking paths through soaring redwoods. 

This is also a historical landmark. The site has four old lime kilns utilized for a lime-calcining procedure in the late 1880s. Looking at these stone walls and copper furnaces are a wonderful time to spend with your family, and to see remnants of California’s history at the same time.

3.     Visit McWay Falls

This is a massive 80-foot waterfall pouring into a cove. Unfortunately, you can only admire it from designated lookouts – there isn’t access to the beach. The path itself is fenced and fairly safe. But there are a few gaps, so hold on tight to any toddlers! My kids absolutely love it.

View of McWay Fall is our favorite thing to do in Big Sur with family

4.     Appreciate the Sunset at Pfeiffer Beach

This sandy cove is the best place to put down a towel and make sandcastles. It could be windy but the creek going through Pfeiffer Beach will always be the best place for wading. But don’t let your adventures get the best of you. There are big waves, even at low tide!

Pfeiffer Beach sunset with kids

 Also, take a UV protection umbrella and bring sunscreen. 

5.     Find the Pfeiffer Falls

The Big Sur Pfeiffer State Park has a secret gem – a sixty-foot waterfall. It’s one of the most gorgeous things to see in Big Sur! Families can easily make the hike and then be amazed by the native wildlife preservation on their way out.  This is a 1.5 mile moderately trafficked out and back trail located near Big Sur, California that features a waterfall and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking and is accessible year-round. Unfortunately, it was closed due to construction at the moment I visited but the Valley View trail is open. Find more information click here.

Pfeiffer Falls with kids

6.    Explore the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Well into the Saint Lucia Mountains, you’ll find hikes going through vast meadows and the Gorge Swimming Hole. The water is clear, and the entire family can take a swim. 

We visited after COVID-19 and people wore masks, although not required by the park. There were plenty of people in the river in the summer but we waited until we could keep a safe distance from them. Here are some of our favorite memories:

7.     Hike in the Garrapata State Park Trails

Big Sur’s biggest state park has endless miles of hiking trails going up and down coastal bluffs, rolling hills, sandy beaches, and rocky peaks. It’s ideal for adventurous families. It also has flatter terrain for younger hikers. 

8.     Visit the Bixby Creek Bridge

Big Sur has an iconic bridge – it is among the tallest in the world and a sight to behold. You must take a few family pictures here. It is one one of the most photographed spots in Big Sur, and it’s a must see in a road trip. It is a the top of the canyon carved by Bixby Creek surrounded By the cliffs.

9.     Find Wildlife at the Point Lobos State Reserve

Land mammals and marine life thrive in this sequestered reserve. And all you need to admire them is a decent set of binoculars. From sea lions to mussels, fox, and deer, you can see them all. You’re bound to have the time of your life if you’re a nature lover like me!

10.     Fuel Up at Nepenthe Restaurant

All the exploring and hiking can get anyone hungry. And you don’t need to look anywhere else than the Nepenthe Restaurant to find a family-friendly environment, set on a stunning patio overlooking the Pacific Ocean. It even has a kid’s menu. It is our favorite stop when we visit because the view is like none other.

Big Sur is, without a doubt, one of the most beautiful tourist destination spots in the world. The different topography and sites make it ideal for families, and I hope this help you to enjoy your visit. Good luck!

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