There are small airports in Salinas and Monterey, but if you're traveling from the East Coast, the most economical route is to fly into San Francisco or San Jose and rent a car, which is essential for exploring the area. The lowest round-trip air fare available at presstime from Boston to San Francisco was $222 on United Airlines, America West, and American Airlines; the lowest round-trip air fare to San Jose was $222 on American Airlines.
Take Highway 101 south to Route 156 south to Route 1 south, and then follow Highway 1 into Big Sur.
What to do
The drive along the 70-mile stretch of Highway 1 through Big Sur has been called the most scenic highway in the Unites States, so make a few stops to take your eyes off the road. The Old Coast Road near Andrew Molera State Park also offers great views, although it should be attempted only in dry weather. There are many nice hikes in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Pfeiffer Beach, Point Lobos State Reserve, the Ventana Wilderness, and Molera State Park. At the latter, horseback riding is available. Tour the Point Sur Lighthouse on weekends. The Henry Miller Memorial Library also is well worth a visit.
Where to stay
Big Sur Retreats
www.bigsurretreat.com and www.bigsurretreat.com/charlie
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
On an unpaved country road off Highway 1. (Get directions when you book.)Charming cabins with kitchens, decks, hot tubs, fireplaces; $200-$350 per night for two, two-night minimum on weekends.
27 miles south of Carmel, off Highway 1
Housekeeping cabins on the Big Sur River or nestled amid the redwoods; $88-$138; kitchen utensils $10 extra.
Deetjen's Big Sur Inn
Route 1, 3 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Norwegian-style inn with cozy, funky cabins with shared or private bath, some decks and fireplaces, no kitchens but a restaurant; $75-$195.
Big Sur Lodge
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
47225 Highway 1, Big Sur
800-424-4787 or 831-667-3100
Motel-style cottages, some kitchenettes and fireplaces; $99-$229.
Where to eat
Highway 1, Big Sur, 30 miles south of Carmel
Open 11:30 a.m. -10 p.m. daily. Restaurant and patio dining on a picturesque bluff. Lunch entrees $11.50-$18.50; dinner entrees $12.25-$33.
Sierra MarPost Ranch Inn
Highway 1, Big Sur
Light lunch or four-course dinner with eclectic California cuisine in elegant, glass-walled restaurant where every table has an ocean view. Lunch, noon-3:30 p.m. daily; dinner, 5:30-8 daily. Lunch entrees $6-$16; fixed-price dinner $73. Reservations essential.
Deetjen's Big Sur Inn
Route 1, Big Sur, 3 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
Intimate Norwegian-style inn. Breakfast 8 a.m.-noon weekdays and until 12:30 weekends; dinner from 6 p.m. daily. Breakfast $5-$10.75; dinner entrees $17-$29.