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Where to Stop on Your Road Trip from San Francisco to Big Sur

* The drive from San Francisco to Big Sur is about 3 hours along the coast, so I highly suggest mapping out your drive beforehand. *

JT and I gave ourselves 2 days and 1 night for this trip, but I wish we would have done 2 nights so that we could explore a little more. We left SF around 10am (I wish we would have left at 8am), stopped at a few scenic overlooks and the Pigeon Point lighthouse along the way before arriving in Carmel-By-The-Seat around 12:30pm. We walked around downtown, ate lunch at Porta Bella, checked out Carmel Beach, and grabbed coffee and pastries before hitting the road to Big Sur around 3:30pm. We left later than we expected, but we decided last minute we were just going to drive down to Big Sur instead of hiking Point Lobos. From Carmel to Big Sur we stopped at a few scenic overlooks before stumbling upon the Bixby Creek Bridge around 4:15pm. I say stumble, because I was the girl that didn't do her research and just winged the trip expecting to see everything I wanted to see from driving down the coast. I was wrong, like I said I highly suggest mapping out your drive and doing some research before starting your road trip because there is so much to see and do. But mostly because you do not have service throughout most of Big Sur. That's part of the beauty of Big Sur I guess. It forces you to look around instead of at your phone. After stopping at the Bixby Bridge we kept heading south in search of the Big Sur...I quickly learned that Big Sur is not just one location. Big Sur is large area with multiple scenic overlooks/trails/beaches. The most popular sites being The Bixby Creek Bridge and McWay Falls which is further south and unfortunately we didn't have time to check it out. It was getting dark by the time we reached some sort of civilization, aka The River Inn, so we decided to head back up the coast because we were staying at a hotel in Monterey. But first I grabbed a couple of hard kombuchas at the River Inn General Store to enjoy on the drive back! We arrived in Monterey around 6:45pm, checked into our hotel and then went straight out to dinner at Alvarado Street. The next morning we walked around Monterey before heading to our reservation at 12:30pm at The Bench in Pebble Beach. Afterwards we did the 17-mile drive and headed back up the coast to San Francisco. It was a quick trip, but we got a lot in! Next time I would just give ourselves more time so we wouldn't have to rush. I would have also loved to hike Point Lobos, just south of Carmel, but we will save that for next time!

Here's a list of places I'd recommend stopping at on your road trip! Just make sure you give yourself more time than we did.

Taco Bell Cantina

Located right outside of SF in Pacifica. Probably the only Taco Bell with a view lol. We wanted to stop here, but decided not to since we were passing through early in the morning and on our way home we were in a rush! Next time!


A colorful beach town along the coast + another spot we wished we stopped at but we were in a time crunch.

Pigeon Point Lighthouse

We randomly pulled off here and I'm so happy we did! The views are insane and they had bathrooms.


Monterey is such a walkable town, I love it! Start downtown and grab breakfast at The Bagel Bakery, and/or lunch/dinner at Alvarado Street Brewery. Check out the Fisherman's Wharf and get coffee at Water and Leaves then walk along the bay to Cannery Row!

Downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea

Carmel is one of the cutest towns I have ever been to! It looks like a little gingerbread village and it's on the beach!! I am dying to plan a trip during Christmas time! If you pass through make sure you grab coffee and pastries at Carmel Bakery and lunch or dinner at Porta Bella!

Carmel Beach

The water is absolutely stunning. One of the prettiest beaches in the area!

Lone Cypress

This is the signature view of Carmel. It is absolutely stunning! The best way to see it is taking the 17 mile drive!

Stop for lunch or drinks at The Bench and be sure to do the 17 mile drive before or after!

The Bixby Creek Bridge

One of the most famous views of Big Sur. You wont be able to miss it! The views will leave you speechless.

Such a cute spot to stop and chill at while driving through Big Sur. Something to note: you won't have any service here so make sure you map out where you want to go before starting your trip!

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