So, you’ve found out that Big Sur doesn’t have its own airport…
The closest airport to Big Sur is Monterey Regional Airport, which is only a 30-minute drive. However, prices are higher and there are fewer destination options in Monterey. San José and San Francisco International Airport have cheaper fares and more destination options but are a little further.
Here is a chart of the 6 closest airports to Big Sur and how far they are from the center:
|Monterey Regional Airport
|San José International Airport
|San Fransisco International Airport
|2 hours, 30 minutes
|San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport
|2 hours, 30 minutes
|Oakland International Airport
|2 hours, 45 minutes
|Fresno International Airport
In this article, I will go over the 6 closest airports (in order) to Big Sur and how to get from them to Big Sur.
1. Monterey Regional Airport
Distance to Big Sur: 35 minutes (30 miles)
The closest airport to Big Sur, Monterey Regional Airport is located only 30 minutes from the dead center of Big Sur. I would even consider Monterey, California to be the last stop along the “Big Sur Road Trip”.
Monterey Regional Airport is one of the smaller airports on this list. Because of its size, prices may be higher and layovers might be required depending on where you’re flying from.
Monterey contains the following airlines and destinations you can fly to and from:
2. San José Mineta International Airport
Distance to Big Sur: 2 hours (102 miles)
The next closest airport to Big Sur is San José International Airport.
Compared to Monterey, this airport has many more options regarding airlines, how often flights run, and destinations. Not to mention, San José is served by almost all the U.S. airline companies.
3. San Francisco International Airport
Distance to Big Sur: 2 hours, 30 minutes (135 miles)
While San Francisco International Airport might not be the closest airport to Big Sur, it might be the easiest airport to find a cheap, direct flight from out of any other airport on this list.
Not to mention, you can spend some time in the city and will have no problem finding a rental car.
4. San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport
Distance to Big Sur: 2 hours, 30 minutes (105 miles)
Like Monterey Regional Airport, the fares in San Luis Obispo may be pricier and there may be fewer destinations.
The benefit of flying to San Luis Obispo is getting the experience of driving the full length of Big Sur from south to north. I have traveled this route and recommend it more than anything.
5. Oakland International Airport
Distance to Big Sur: 2 hours, 45 minutes (145 miles)
Typically the cheapest airport on this list, Oakland is right next to SFO and offers flights from many different airlines and destinations.
6. Fresno Yosemite International Airport
Distance to Big Sur: 3 hours (164 miles)
The furthest airport from Big Sur on the list, Fresno International Airport is more inland than the other options but if you find the right deal, it may be the cheapest flight!
How To Get To Big Sur From An Airport
Most often than not, major car rental agencies are on-site at all airports, including Enterprise, Hertz, Avis, and Budget.
You’ll find the car rental counters inside the terminal, usually in the baggage claim area or a designated Car Rental Center.
It’s advisable to book your vehicle in advance, either online or via phone, to ensure availability.
The average daily rate for a rental car can vary widely depending on the vehicle class and season, ranging from around $35 for economy cars to over $100 for luxury or large vehicles as of my knowledge cutoff in September 2021. Rates may be higher during peak travel times and holidays.
You must be at least 21 years old to rent a car in the U.S., but drivers under 25 may have to pay a ‘young driver’ fee. After landing, present your reservation, a valid driver’s license, and a credit card at the rental counter to complete your rental agreement and receive your keys.
There is also the option to take a taxi or an Uber if available.
Best Time To Visit Big Sur
The ideal time to visit Big Sur is in the fall or spring. This is also some of the best times to avoid the fog.
You also don’t run the risk of huge crowds and higher prices compared to summer. It’s also a good time to avoid road closures and uncomfortable weather in the winter.
Visiting Big Sur in the spring, you can enjoy the blooming of wildflowers, whale watching, and overall great weather.
If you are looking to get one of the cheapest flights, January is the slow season.
What to Wear When Visiting Big Sur
Year-round, Big Sur normally stays between 40ºF to 80ºF.
When I went in August, I found myself wearing shorts and a t-shirt, with a sweater over it the whole time.
The nights in Big Sur do get much colder, and I would recommend wearing pants and a heavier jacket (especially if you are traveling there in the winter season). Maybe even a scarf and beanie.
6 Places To Stay In Big Sur
1. Post Ranch Inn Perched atop the cliffs, Post Ranch Inn offers stunning ocean views and luxury accommodations. Prices are higher here.
2. Ventana Big Sur Immerse in nature’s wonder at Ventana Big Sur. Set within 160 acres of lush terrain, prices start at $70 for camping and can reach up to $2500 for nicer stays per night.
3. Treebones Resort For a unique glamping experience, choose Treebones Resort. Overnight stays in their yurts start at $320, while the exclusive Human Nest is $175 per night.
4. Glen Oaks Big Sur Offering rustic-modern lodgings, Glen Oaks blends with its natural surroundings. Room rates range from $225 to $800 per night.
5. Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, a charming historic hideaway, offers a rustic stay, with rooms starting from $105 up to $235 per night.
6. Ragged Point Inn Situated on a cliff overlooking the Pacific, Ragged Point Inn offers comfortable rooms starting at $200 per night and the chance to witness some of the most breathtaking sunsets.
3 Day Big Sur Iterinary: My Recommendations
I made this itinerary for those who are traveling from south to north on Highway 1 through Big Sur.
1. Elephant Seals Vista Point and Hurst Castle
Big Sur is home to the massive elephant seals and the viewing point right next to Hurst Castle is the best place to see them. Not to mention, Hurst Castle is a landmark itself. To tour the castle, make reservations here.
2. Ragged Point Inn
Not only is this a place to stay, but they have one of the most beautiful outlooks of the ocean in my opinion. They are also one of the only places in Big Sur that has a gas station and a small restaurant.
3. Salmon Creek Falls
Salmon Falls cascades down a steep canyon wall that happens to be a part of the Santa Lucia Mountain range. The waterfall pours down, creating a swimming hole that visitors are known to swim in.
Visitors take the Salmon Creek Trail, a 0.3-mile in-and-out hike. This trail is open at all times of the year.
My family and I went here a few years ago and we loved it. I even went in the water. Definitely cold, but beautiful.
4. Sand Dollar Beach
Sand Dollar Beach is known for its pristine white sand and crystal-clear water. It is located about 15 miles south of the town of Big Sur and is easily accessible from Highway 1.
The beach is a favorite spot for surfers, as the waves can get quite large and powerful. It is also a great place for swimming, especially during low tide when the water is calm and shallow.
Be sure to check water conditions before entering the water.
1. Limekiln State Park
Not to mention, the park has a waterfall that cascades about 100 feet down a steep, fern-draped rock face, emptying into a shallow pool within a lush, mossy glen. The trail to get to the falls is approximately 1.5 miles round trip and is rated as moderate through verdant groves of redwood trees and across several bridges over Limekiln Creek.
2. McWay Falls
Ranked first on my list, McWay Falls is a beautiful and iconic waterfall located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway in Big Sur, California.
This 80-foot waterfall is uniquely one of the few waterfalls in the world that flows directly into the ocean.
McWay Falls spills year-round from McWay Creek in the Santa Lucia Mountains into an inaccessible cove along the Pacific Ocean.
The area around McWay Falls has a variety of natural beauties, from its cliffside perch with panoramic ocean views to the native Monterey pines and coastal live oaks.
There’s an easy, well-maintained trail, the Overlook Trail, that leads to a viewing platform from where you can see the falls. This 0.64-mile round-trip hike is more like a scenic walk, making it accessible to visitors of all ages and abilities.
3. Tanbark Trail & Tin House
I hiked this trail a year ago and can safely say it’s my favorite hike EVER.
If you are looking to see redwoods while visiting, I 100% recommend going here. The trail begins with the beautiful creek about half a mile in, huge redwood trees, and ends with views of the ocean. The whole thing made me feel like I was in a fairy tale.
The whole trail is a 6 mile loop, so be sure to bring lots of water.
Tip: Park along Highway 1, basically at the Partington Cove trailhead. Instead of going towards the ocean, you go inland to the other trailhead named Tanbark Trail.
Partington Cove is also a great trail to see redwoods.
Nepenthe is a restaurant with an array of different food options. This restaurant is right off Highway One, among the Santa Lucia Mountains, and is known for its phenomenal views of the Pacific Ocean and rugged coast.
When we visited Big Sur, we really wanted to make it a priority to stop there but there were road closures around it.
P.S. The prices are a bit expensive!
1. Pfieffer Falls
Pfieffer Falls is a 60-foot tall waterfall located inside the forested section of Pfieffer Big Sur State Park.
The trail to reach the falls is called Pfieffer Falls Trail and is a 1.5-mile loop through a gorge filled with old-growth redwoods.
The hike is moderately challenging, making it suitable for a wide range of fitness levels from families with children to full-on hikers.
In rainy seasons, the falls become more dramatic, offering a captivating experience.
The Pfieffer Falls Trail is temporarily closed at the moment due to recent storms. However, you can still reach the waterfall from the Valley View Side Trail. For more information, please visit California State Parks website.
2. Andrew Molera State Park
Andrew Molera State Park is a popular destination in Big Sur. Visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including swimming, hiking, and camping. The park is located along the Big Sur River, which is a popular spot for swimming and picnicking.
The beach part of the park is wide and sandy, and there are plenty of places to spread out and relax. Visitors can swim in the ocean, play in the surf, or simply soak up the sun.
In addition to the beach, visitors can also swim in the Big Sur River. The river is relatively shallow and slow-moving, making it a safe spot for swimming. There are also several small waterfalls and pools along the river that visitors can explore.
For those who want to explore the park further, there are several hiking trails that lead to other swimming spots. The Creamery Meadow Trail leads to a secluded swimming hole, while the Ridge Trail offers stunning views of the ocean and the surrounding landscape.
Carmel-by-the-Sea is a coastal town known for its fairytale-like architecture and small-town vibe. The town is the most northern city of the Big Sur region and has a big array of options for things to do. Here’s what we did when we visited:
- Sunset on the Beach
Carmel’s beach is not too far from the downtown area, along Scenic Road.
When we went, we parked right on the street next to the beach and walked down before the sunset. There were only a few people on the entire beach and tons of cute pups, as the beach is dog friendly. The beach and sunset were magnificent.
Keep in mind that dense fog usually rolls in during the evening, so it can obscure your view of the sunset. I had luck with the Carmel sunset in the photo above in October if that helps.
The architecture and feel of Carmel’s downtown area is my favorite part. You feel like you’re walking into a fairy tale village and there are tons of things to do including shopping, coffee shops, and restaurants.
Carmel is definitely a slower place than Monterey and the other larger cities surrounding it.
For example, here’s a photo we took of downtown. It definitely has a fairytale cottage feel.
Carmel has a ton of luxurious options to dine at. When we went, we ended up going to an Italian restaurant, Porta Bella. It was a little pricy but definitely worth it. We got the Jumbo Lobster Ravioli, which was amazing. It had a great atmosphere.