Photo: Courtesy of Post Ranch Inn
Less than three hours south of San Francisco, Big Sur is a peaceful retreat on the edge of the Pacific. With more beautiful vistas than you can count, rugged beaches, quiet forests, and luxurious hotels surrounded by redwood trees, it's also a nature lover's paradise perfect for those who want a honeymoon in the great outdoors — without sacrificing comfort and romance. Here are five reasons to plan your mini-moon in Big Sur.
The View from Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park
Named for pioneer woman Julia Pfeiffer Burns, the state park encompasses the coast, a forest of redwood and madrone trees, and, its most famous feature, McWay Falls, a stunning 80-foot waterfall that drops from granite cliffs into the ocean on a protected beach. While the park is definitely the most popular one in the area — and can get quite crowded on weekends and holidays — it's large enough that once you take a peek at the falls you can easily find a quieter corner to explore. Relax under the redwoods with a picnic and a bottle of wine, or get more active with a hike through the trees. In December and January, it's possible to see whales from the end of Overlook trail. You can also check out the remains of Waterfall House — a former residence of that was donated to the state park.
Pizza by Candlelight at Big Sur Bakery
The dining scene in Big Sur is all about rustic elegance and effortless romance. Big Sur Bakery, set in a small cabin in the shade of the redwoods, specializes in farm fresh, seasonal fare and freshly-baked breads and wood-fired pizzas. In the evenings, the cozy space is lit by candles and warmed by the fire, making it the perfect place for a low-fuss romantic dinner. During the day, there's no better place for a burger or salad than Nepenthe, which is perched on the edge of the coast and offers picture-perfect views of the rugged coastline and the Pacific Ocean.
The Japanese Baths at Ventana Inn and Spa
Set on 240 acres in Ventana Wilderness, the luxe Ventana Inn and Spa is perched 1,200 feet above the Pacific, surrounded by redwood trees. Guest rooms all have private patios or decks with hammocks (some also have private hot tubs) there's an onsite fitness center, two pools (one is clothing optional), restaurant, and hiking trails. Don't miss the signature Japanese baths. Relaxing by day, they become even more spectacular by night, when the lights reflect off the pools and the privacy of the labyrinthine wooden walls gives way to the open skies above.
Dinner with a View at the Post Ranch Inn
The views from the clifftop rooms at this romantic hotel are legendary, and they don't come inexpensively. If you can't snag a room at the Post Ranch Inn, you can still enjoy the view from the Sierra Mar restaurant, which sits high above the Pacific and has floor-to-ceiling windows to take in the expansive view of the cliffs and the sea. Time your dinner to coincide with sunset for the ultimate in romance. To save a bit of money, opt for lunch instead; the three-course prix fixe menu is $55, a significant discount from the $125 four-course dinner.
The Drive Down Highway 1
There's a reason Highway 1 is one of the top road trips in the world. And it's particularly impressive in the miles around Big Sur, where it wiggles along the coast and curves in and out of redwood groves. There are plenty of places to pull over for a photo op, as well as some stops for beach access and hiking trails, so you can easily spend a few hours traveling just a few miles. One of the most famous photo-ops is the Bixby Creek Bridge, which is located between Carmel and Big Sur and is one of the tallest and longest single-span concrete bridges in the world.