Rugged coastline, stunning natural scenery and jaw-dropping views of the ocean, Big Sur is a gem of a destination for outdoor adventurers and ocean lovers.

But Big Sur is composed of a number of small towns, and picking the right one can be a challenge. That’s why we put together this no-stress guide for where to stay in Big Sur.

This article was written by travelers, for travelers. It lists the best places and towns in Big Sur and breaks them down into easy to digest sections divided by interest.

So no matter what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find the perfect place for your vacation in beautiful Big Sur.

Where to Stay in Big Sur

For all outdoor enthusiasts, Big Sur is the perfect place to stop over if you’re backpacking the USA. However, finding the right accommodation for your trip can be a bit tricky. Looking for a specific place to stay? These are our highest recommendations for places to stay in Big Sur.

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Hotel Pacific | Best Hotel in Big Sur

Pacific Hotel Monterey

This is a great place to stay if you want to enjoy the best of Monterey. They provide luxurious four-star accommodations and each room is outfitted with modern amenities. You’ll enjoy free wifi, laundry facilities, and an excellent gym. This is our pick for where to stay in downtown Monterey.

5 Private Acres Family Home

5 Private Acres Family Home | Best Airbnb in Big Sur

With 5 private acres, hiking trails, Spectacular Views, a heated outdoor pool, and a spa. This guesthouse offers natural beauty, and breathtaking views. There are 2 bedrooms in the main house. The master has a king bed with an ensuite jacuzzi tub ad the second bedroom has a super comfy queen bed.

Big Sur Neighborhood Guide – Places to Stay in Big Sur

FIRST TIME IN BIG SUR
San Simeon, Big Sur
FIRST TIME IN BIG SUR

San Simeon

San Simeon is a small town that sits mid-way between San Francisco and Los Angeles on the California coast. The southernmost town in Big Sur, it is known for its lush landscapes, jagged coastline and its magnificent views out over the Pacific Ocean.

NIGHTLIFE
Carmel By The Sea, Big Sur
NIGHTLIFE

Carmel-By-The-Sea

Carmel-By-The-Sea is a tiny beachside city that is steeped in luxury. A haven for culture vultures, this charming town is home to a wealth of art galleries, museums and historical and cultural attractions.

COOLEST PLACE TO STAY
Munras Avenue, Monterey
COOLEST PLACE TO STAY

Monterey

Monterey is one of the most beautiful coastal towns in California. It’s also our pick for the coolest town in Big Sur. Located just north of Carmel-By-The-Sea, Monterey is packed with historic buildings, cultural attractions, and an incredible array of epic scenery.

FOR FAMILIES
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Big Sur
FOR FAMILIES

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Get back to nature and enjoy a breath of fresh air by staying in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This state park and nature reserve is located away from the Big Sur Coast just north of San Simeon.

Stretching more than 140 kilometers along California’s rugged central coast, Big Sur is a stunning region. It contains lush and extensive wilderness, pristine beaches, breathtaking views, and everything in between.

From Carmel and Monterey in the north to San Simeon in the south, the region of Big Sur is composed of a number of charming small towns, rustic resorts, and vivacious villages.

Where to Stay in Big Sur
1. San Simeon; 2. King City; 3. Carmel-by-the-sea; 4. Monterey; 5. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Monterey is one of the largest towns in Big Sur. Famous throughout California for its incredible ocean views and stunning natural terrain, Monterey is also home to a great selection of historic buildings, stunning beaches, great restaurants, and boutique shopping.

Travel south and you’ll arrive in Carmel-By-The-Sea. A playground for the rich and famous, Carmel-By-The-Sea is filled with art galleries, restaurants, resorts and beaches. It is where you’ll find a wide variety of bars and options for after-dark fun.

Continue heading south and you’ll pass through Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park on the way to San Simeon. A small town that packs a big punch, San Simeon is bursting with historical attractions and animal adventures.

Of course, camping in Big Sur is also an option!

4 Best Places to Stay in Big Sur

Now let’s take a look, in more detail, at the five best towns and places to stay in Big Sur, one of the most beautiful places in the USA.

1. San Simeon – Best Place to Stay in Big Sur for First-Timers

San Simeon is a small town that sits mid-way between San Francisco and Los Angeles on the California coast. The southernmost town in Big Sur, it is known for its lush landscapes, jagged coastline and its magnificent views out over the Pacific Ocean.

San Simeon, Big Sur

One of the most popular things to do in San Simeon is to see the elephant seals. This rustic town is home to the world’s only elephant seal rookery. More than 23,000 elephant seals call this region home and can be viewed almost every day of the year.

Another top attraction is the palatial Hearst Castle. Composed for 165 rooms, this castle has more than 123 acres of manicured gardens and spectacular terraces, pools and walkways to explore.

Charming Seaside Escape | Incredible Seaside Getaway

Charming Seaside Escape

Looking for some peace and quiet? This is the ideal place for you. Right in front of the water, you’ll have your own beach access and one of the best locations in San Simeon. What’s even better is that you can bring your four-legged friends too. And with the two bedrooms, the Airbnb can accommodate small groups of up to 4 people as well. End an awesome day of exploring the area with a tasty BBQ on your porch while listening to the sound of the waves.

4-Bedroom Oceanfront Apartment | Best Condo in San Simeon

4 Bedroom Oceanfront Apartment

When visiting Big Sur for the first time, you should make your stay really special with an epic Big Sur VRBO! This oceanfront condo offers unrestricted views of the sea, enough space your a group of friends or a large family, and a total of 2000 sq. ft. You can enjoy your private beach access and have your morning coffee while strolling on the sand. This home is a true gem and has only had the highest reviews from previous guests.

Cavalier Oceanfront Resort | Best Hotel in San Simeon

Cavalier Oceanfront Resort

Boasting incredible ocean views, the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort if our recommendation for where to stay in San Simeon. This resort has a great selection of features, including an outdoor terrace and a wonderful in-house restaurant.

Enjoy spacious rooms, cable/satellite channels and free wifi throughout your stay.

Things to See and Do in San Simeon

  1. Wander the grounds of Hearst Castle and take a dip in Neptune Pool.
  2. See the Northern Elephant Seals lounging on the rocks at the Elephant Seal Rookery.
  3. Take a long walk along Moonstone Beach.
  4. Walk out to Piedras Blancas Light Station and enjoy sweeping views out over the ocean.
  5. Spend a day at Arroyo Laguna State Beach.
  6. View amazing landscapes and incredible views by hiking through San Simeon State Park.
  7. Sip a glass of delicious wine at Heart Ranch Winery.
Is This the Best Backpack EVER???
audy on top of a mountain in japan with the osprey aether

We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that has always been the best and remains the best buy for adventurers: the broke backpacker-approved Osprey Aether and Ariel series.

Want more deetz on why these packs are so damn perfect? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!

View on Osprey View on REI

2. Carmel-By-The-Sea – Best Place to Stay in Big Sur for Nightlife

Carmel-By-The-Sea is a tiny beachside city that is steeped in luxury. A haven for culture vultures, this charming town is home to a wealth of art galleries, museums and historical and cultural attractions.

Carmel By The Sea, Big Sur

It also boasts a number of eclectic and innovative restaurants, including Flying Fish Grill, Dametra Café and Portabella, making it the perfect destination for fearless foodies and travelers with a taste for seafood.

Carmel-By-The-Sea is our top pick for where to stay for nightlife in Big Sur. Although you won’t find all-night dance clubs and heaving bars here, Carmel-By-The-Sea is home to a good selection of wine bars, bistros, and pubs, ideal for a relaxing night out.

Picture-Perfect Studio | Best Airbnb in Carmel-By-The-Sea

Picture perfect Studio in Top Location

This absolutely stunning studio will make it hard to leave once your stay in Carmel-By-The-Sea is over. With only the best reviews, it’s truly a home away from home. Close to the beach, hotspots, and amazing nightlife and dining options, you’ll literally be in the heart of the action. The host is known to go above and beyond for their guests, so you can be sure to be in good hands as well. 

L’Auberge Carmel | Best Hotel in Carmel-By-The-Sea

Take your getaway to the next level with this French-inspired chateau located within walking distance from the iconic Carmel Beach. This top-rated property features an on-site gourmet restaurant, room service, and proximity to all the best Carmel-By-The-Sea has to offer.

Things to See and Do in Carmel-By-The-Sea

  1. Spot whales and other wildlife as you hike through spectacular Point Lobos.
  2. Sample local wines at the Albatross Ridge Tasting Room.
  3. Wander along the Scenic Road Walkway.
  4. Enjoy amazing views from the shores of Carmel River State Beach.
  5. See beautiful scenery at rocky and rugged Garrapata State Park.
The Future of the SIM Card is HERE!
mockup of a person holding a smartphone in white background with Holafly logo

A new country, a new contract, a new piece of plastic – booooring. Instead, buy an eSIM!

An eSIM works just like an app: you buy it, you download it, and BOOM! You’re connected the minute you land. It’s that easy.

Is your phone eSIM ready? Read about how e-Sims work or click below to see one of the top eSIM providers on the market and ditch the plastic.

Grab an eSIM!

3. Monterey – Coolest Town in Big Sur

Monterey is one of the most beautiful coastal towns in California. It’s also our pick for the coolest town in Big Sur. Located just north of Carmel-By-The-Sea, Monterey is packed with historic buildings, cultural attractions, and an incredible array of epic scenery.

Monterey, Big Sur

Great shopping, delicious restaurants, hipster coffee shops, and stylish wine bars are just a few of the things that make Monterey one of the hottest destinations on the Pacific Coast.

Love to eat? Monterey is home to some of the best food in the region. You’ll find creative and experimental restaurants serving up fresh and delicious seafood dishes, as well as American fare, Mexican feasts, and other delicacies from around the world.

In short, Monterey is the embodiment of that quintessential California cool.

Award-Winning Oceanfront Home | Best Airbnb in Monterey

This stunning historic home is just steps away from the rugged coastline, where you can sometimes catch whales and dolphins swimming from the patio. Within walking distance from Fisherman’s Wharf and Pacific Grove. A fire pit adds to the outdoor entertainment, as does a private sun terrace off one of the bedrooms. The home has two king-sized beds and is fit for up to 4 guests. While it’s certainly not cheap, it’s worth it for some of the best views on the Pacific Coast.

Hotel Pacific | Best Hotel in Monterey

Pacific Hotel Monterey

This is a great place to stay if you’re looking to enjoy the best of Monterey. They provide luxurious four-star accommodations and each room is outfitted with modern amenities. You’ll enjoy free wifi, laundry facilities and an excellent gym. This is our pick for where to stay in downtown Monterey.

Things to See and Do in Monterey

  1. Chill out by the Pacific Ocean
  2. Enjoy the sights of Monterey Bay.
  3. Hike the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail.
  4. Shop the stall and boutique on Cannery Row.
  5. Hunt for souvenirs on Fisherman’s Wharf – and spot a sleeping seal or two.
  6. Dine on delicious seafood at Sea Harvest Fish Market & Restaurant.

4. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park – Best Place to Stay in Big Sur for Families

Get back to nature and enjoy a breath of fresh air by staying in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This state park and nature reserve is located away from the Big Sur Coast just north of San Simeon.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Big Sur

It covers more than 1,006 acres of protected land and is home to rivers, waterfalls, and unforgettable natural sights.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is our top choice for where to stay for families visiting Big Sur as it’s packed with outdoor adventures kids of all ages will love. Whether you want to swim in the river or hike to the top of the mountain, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park has it all!

5 Private Acres Family Home | Best Airbnb in Pfeifer Big Sur State Park

5 Private Acres Family Home

With 5 private acres, hiking trails, Spectacular Views, a heated swimming Pool, and a spa. This guesthouse offers natural beauty and breathtaking views. There are 2 bedrooms in the main house. The master has a king bed with an ensuite (that has jacuzzi tub). The second bedroom has a queen bed with its own bath. The guesthouse has a king bed, sitting room, and its own private bathroom.

Big Sur Lodge | Best Hotel in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Big Sur Lodge

The Big Sur Lodge is our pick for where to stay in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This splendid three-star property is close to the area’s top tourist attractions. It has a spectacular pool and beautiful views.

The hotel’s rooms are spacious and come complete with kitchenettes. The hotel also provides babysitting services.

Things to See and Do in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

  1. See the massive and ancient Redwood Forests.
  2. Take a hike to the exquisite Pfeiffer Falls.
  3. Spot local wildlife including deer, skunks, bobcats and birds.
  4. Visit nearby Pfeiffer Beach and watch the fiery sunset.
  5. Build a fire and enjoy a night of sleeping under the stars.
  6. Hike the Buzzard’s Roost and enjoy panoramic views of the ocean, Sycamore Canyon and the Santa Lucia Mountains.
  7. Take a refreshing and relaxing dip in Big Sur River Gorge.
  8. Climb over rocks and around fallen trees on the family-friendly Gorge Hike.
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FAQs about Finding a Place to Stay in Big Sur

Here’s what people usually ask us about the areas of Big Sur and where to stay.

What To Pack For Big Sur

Pants, socks, underwear, soap?! Take it from me, packing for a hostel stay is not always quite as straightforward as it seems. Working out what to bring and what to leave at home is an art I have perfected over many years.

Product
Description
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!

Ear Plugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

Keep your laundry organized and stink free
Keep your laundry organized and stink free

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
Stay Dry With a Micro Towel

Sea To Summit Micro Towel

Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight, and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

Make Some New Buddies…
Make Some New Buddies…

Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!
Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!

Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

Check out my definitive Hotel Packing list for even more top packing tips!

Don’t Forget Travel Insurance for Big Sur

When you’re on a trip to Big Sur, getting trusty travel insurance sorted before you set off is the best idea!

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Big Sur

Big Sur is one of the most majestic and magnificent regions in California. Spanning 140 kilometers on the central coast, Big Sur offers visitors a myriad of spectacular views and unforgettable vistas, as well as mouthwatering restaurants.

Hopefully you now have a better idea of where to stay on your road trip adventure. If you’re still not sure which is right for you, you can also check out the charming towns of Glen Oaks, Cambria, and Pacific Grove.

Looking for more info on travelling to Big Sur and California?
No doubt one of the best drives in America.

Updated March 2023