Big Sur and Carmel were always on my list of places to visit in California, and I can’t believe it took me this long to make it here. They are located in California’s central coast, which makes for great views, beaches and hiking.
I took a 6 hour flight from NYC to San Francisco, and then drove down to Carmel-by-the-Sea to start my 48 hours of exploring these two beautiful places.
BIG SUR AND CARMEL BY-THE-SEA
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a small beach city. The village downtown is full of hotels, restaurants, stores and galleries. You can spend 1 hour or 1 weekend and you won’t get bored. Everything is walking distance within a charming one-square mile.
We didn’t have breakfast in Carmel, but everyone highly recommended Katy’s Place for brunch. However, after roaming around downtown, we couldn’t resist the smell coming out of the cozy french restaurant, La Bicyclette. If you go, you should try the butternut squash or mushroom pizza. Afterwards, you can go across the street for some great afternoon cocktails at Seventh & Dolores.
You can’t leave Carmel without stepping foot in the white-sands of Carmel Beach, just an 8 min walk from the village. The water is usually a little bit colder but you’ll always see surfers catching the waves, and if you are lucky, some dolphins and others as well.
We made dinner plans in Big Sur, so after a relaxing hour at the beach we drove through Scenic Road– which is a MUST, with great views of the coastline and interesting houses — and then onto the iconic Highway 1 where you’ll cross over the Bixby Bridge (known as the Golden Gate of Big Sur).
In less than 1 hour we arrived at Ventana Hotel in Big Sur to watch the sunset, and eat dinner at their restaurant, The Sur House. It was a great evening followed by cocktails by their indoor fireplace.
When looking for hotels (or even motels) in Big Sur you’ll probably notice that they are more expensive than your average hotels. The most luxurious ones are definitely Ventana and Post Ranch Inn, but if you are looking for something more “affordable” and still cool, I recommend the cabins at Glen Oaks Big Sur, a 3-star hotel for ~$405/per night. Camping is always a good option too if you like the outdoors.
Big Sur is also known for great hikes, but we didn’t have enough time, so instead we went to explore Pfeiffer Beach in the morning to avoid the huge crowds. For lunch you can’t miss Nepenthe. This restaurant is not just about the food but about the whole experience. It’s the perfect combination of good ambiance and food with one of the best views of Big Sur.
By 3:00 pm on Saturday we were on our way back to Carmel to relax and enjoy our last day of the trip at Carmel Valley Ranch. The hotel has a lot to see and do. We played tennis and bocce ball, swam in the pool, walked around the ranch and vineyard with a glass of wine, and grabbed s’mores by the fire. For dinner, you can eat at their Valley Kitchen restaurant which is really convenient. The rooms have a nice outdoor area that overlook the ranch and a cozy fireplace (which I love). It was a perfect way to end our weekend trip to this beautiful California coast.
Ready to do your 48 hours in Carmel and Big Sur?