Monterey / Big Sur California, USA
Date of Travel
Whilst Monterey was a nice place, its primary purpose was to act as a base for a drive down Highway 1 (south of Monterey).
Big Sur as it’s known is renowned for its stunning views of the coast which was my sole purpose for wanting to head down there. We rented a car from Enterprise and after a 35-40 minute drive out of Monterey, you hit Big Sur which has a number of road stops/trails off the main highway which offer ample opportunity to explore the area or, as we tended to do – sit and take in the beautiful views. There are some key spots I would recommend which I detail below.
Things to Do/See/Eat
- Monterey Aquarium and Whale Watching – two separate activities but linked in their nature (figuratively and literally). I enjoyed the 3 hour boat ride to go Whale watching. Its more an hour of watching, and hour each way to get to the prime ‘Whale spot’. The sea was a bit choppy so we did see a few ‘Vomit Comets’.
I booked through Princess Monterey and found the information they provided on the excursion to be really great. We saw a number of different type of Whale, Seals and Sea Otters. The only disappointment for me was not catching a better glimpse of the famous Black and White of the Orca.
I also really liked the fact that despite having a boat full of tourists, the crew did not hound the whales around and left them to act like they do naturally. It’s clear they only spend 5-10 minutes watching a certain Whale Pod before moving on. Wildlife conservation and appreciation is valued across all of the Bay I found.
- Pfeiffer Beach on Big Sur – my favourite spot. This place gets very windy in the afternoon, but the purple sand on the beach and perfectly placed Pfeiffer Rock made it a spot where I wanted to just sit and chill all day. Maybe next time.
To get to the beach is a bit of a challenge. Unlike other spots on Big Sur – it’s not very well signposted and needs research.
Tip: Google Maps research will get you close – to find the beach, you are looking for a small sign on side of the road reading ‘Narrow Road’ which you need to go down. This is a precursor to about a mile or so of driving down a incredibly bendy road, which is mostly single track. Being my first time driving out of the UK, I came perilously close to the edge of the road (which led to steep drop) on a few occassions – or so I’m told. I was driving a 6 seater SUV in my defence.
Once you get to the bottom of the road there is (limited) parking which costs $10-ish for a spot but its totally worth the time and effort. Get there early to avoid parking disappointment.
- McWay Falls – another beautiful and popular spot. Famed for a waterfall coming out of a cliff and landing the beach below (although I was told sometimes the water doesn’t flow). I should add, most “prime” spots along Big Sur are easily identifiable by the number of cars/people at the side of the road. If you see a mini-gathering whilst driving, it might be worth pulling over to check out what’s going on.
- Bixby Bridge – famous bridge on Highway 1. You probably don’t know the name but you will recognise the bridge. I loved the architecture of it.
- Eat – Nepenthe was recommended to me and I think most people who drive Big Sur stop here for a lunch refuel. Food wise, it was tasty American style grub but what really makes the place is the incredible view over the coast.