After spending the last year and a half traveling to destinations all over the world, we decided it was time to show some love to our home state of California. We’re both Southern California natives so we wanted to see what the rest of the state had to offer. We planned our stops, grabbed our very best gal pals and hit the road. 450 miles. 5 days. 4 girls. 3 cities. 1 car. Can you say road trip take two?! First stop… Big Sur.
We wanted to do the drive up the California Coast right and take the scenic route. We drove up on the Pacific Coast Highway and were blown away by the sights we saw. Absolutely MESMERIZING. So much green, everywhere. We had no idea that Central California was so beautiful, and the views had us falling in love with the state all over again.
PSA. This route takes you on miles of winding roads which adds numerous hours on to your total travel time. It turned a normally seven hour drive from Orange County to San Francisco into a 15 hour trek. No that is not a typo, we were in the car for FIFTEEN hours the first day of our trip. By hour thirteen we began to lose touch with reality and contemplate our very existence. You also lose reception for about four hours on the winding roads so make sure you have your music source and directions/stops planned out beforehand.
Stops Along the Way
Although our main tourist destination of the day was the famous look out point in Big Sur, we took several other smaller stops along the way that were equally as awesome.
Elephant Seals – San Simeon, Ca
We noticed multiple signs for the lookout as we were driving up PCH. At this point we had been in the car for hours and were looking for any excuse to get out and stretch our legs. This was truly a lucky find, and was one of the highlights of our trip. There is a fenced off area where you can stand and see the seals lounging on the beach below. Those aren’t rocks in the picture below, it’s hundreds of seals enjoying a sunny Thursdsay morning, So much blubber, so little time.
The seals were exceptionally chatty that morning and filled the air with some bizarre noises. There were also some little rascals in the group that were looking to cause trouble which resulted in some pretty entertaining fights. We spent abou ten minutes gawking at the strange spectacle before us. A sight to see if you’re in the area.
Coast Gallery Cafe
Fun fact: Emma Watson was dining here at the same time that we were and denied Krista when she asked her for a picture. LOL. This cute two story cafe located right off the highway in Big Sur. The food was delicious but ridiculously expensive. $17 for a veggie hummus wrap a la carte… say what?! But it had killer views overlooking the cliffs and ocean which helped ease the blow of the price. At that point we had been in the car for nearly 10 hours and had yet to stop for a full meal. The hanger was so real.
When we had originally planned our trip, this was one of the designated stops that we had alotted time for. It’s an oddly constructed house located in San Jose. It’s former owner continuously renovated it throughout her life which reulted in doors and stair cases leading to nowhere. Some even say that it’s haunted. Unfortunally we didn’t factor in time for getting lost twice and driving slower than a snail on the winding roads. By the time we reached San Jose the tours were done for the day, and Krista’s dreams were shattered. Next time.
Our main stop for the day was, McWay Falls, the famous Big Sur lookout. If you take anything away from our posts it should be to learn from our mistakes. Make sure to do the proper research beforehand so you know exactly where you need to go prior to your trip. We didn’t and paid the price. As we said earlier, there is a four hour stretch where there is absolutely no reception available. It wasn’t until after we were well into the dead zone that we realized we didn’t know the specific location of the lookout. Oops.
What we also failed to realize was that Big Sur is a city, not the name of the lookout. Twelve trips deep and we still managed to make the rookiest move of them all. With google maps out of the question we said a prayer and hoped to find it on our own. Wrong.
We ended up passing the McWay Falls lookout by 13 miles. That’s about 45 minutes of driving if you add in having to drive slowly on the winding roads. We pulled into a nature center who supplied us with a map and directions and headed back back in the direction we came from.
The lookout is located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park located on the coast of Big Sur. There is only one road in and road out so it is relatively easy to find as long as you know what you’re looking for. You want the McWay Waterfall Trail. DO NOT pay for parking. You can park your car directly on the side of the road just steps from the trail.
The view was worth the detour. All of our frustrations went out the window as we came around the bend and were greeted by the magnificent sight. A gorgeous waterfall cascading into crystal clear ocean water. To top it off we got there as the sun was setting which provided a spectacular backdrop for an already breathtaking sight. Mother nature sure was showing off for us that day.
There were a plethora of trails in the surrounding area which lead to other awesome scenic views. To be honest I don’t think there is a bad view in Big Sur, it truly is a picturesque city. If the outdoors and hiking is your thing, then this is the destination for you. But we were women on a mission so we snapped a few pics and piled back into the car… next stop San Francisco!