48 Hours in Big Sur






Big Sur is one of the most beautiful places in California—if not anywhere. The rugged, isolated stretch of Highway 1 runs between redwood groves and rocky shores, an ocean teeming with life, for the 90 miles between Carmel and San Simeon. There are nine state parks within the region of Big Sur, and views for days. You could pass a week between hikes and hot springs—or between the pages of a good novel  (appreciating the lack of consistent cell service).

I had a chance to visit a couple of weeks ago on an adventure summit—a work retreat—with Bota Box. I’m partnering with the wine-maker on a series of posts this year and they invited me to join them and meet up along the coast. The getaway exceeded any expectations, and I’m already mentally planning a return to Big Sur with my family.

California: it never ceases to astound me.



The drive to Big Sur from Davis is around 3-1/2 hours, but I extended it by at least an hour (maybe more) with all the pull-outs I took. Every turn seemed to offer a view more beautiful than the last.


At the same time, I was pretty motivated to get to the hotel. We were staying at The Ventana Inn & Spa, which I’d been hearing about for years.

In fact when Hudson was 12 weeks old, we stayed at this gorgeous B&B in the Berkshires and one morning, everyone was sharing recollections from their favorite places they’d ever stayed. Two couples mentioned Ventana. I went back to our room and Googled it, only to discover that (a) we couldn’t afford it and (b) they didn’t allow children under 18. The Berkshires was our first (read: immensely stressful) real trip with a new baby and was like “yep, life is over.”

(Which, of course, was thankfully not true. And here I was at the Ventana!)




I get the impression that people have their place in Big Sur: that spot that they love and have been coming back to for years. It might be a campsite, a cabin or yurt, or a luxurious retreat. Ventana certainly falls into that latter category: my room had a large deck overlooking a field (where deer would graze in the morning fog) with a jacuzzi and a fireplace. The property has nature trails and Japanese hot baths—as well as a clothing-optional pool.

It is definitely honeymoon-worthy.


I had dinner with the Bota Box team and met with other bloggers and publishers that first evening at the hotel restaurant. (Crazy sidenote: two of us discovered that our partners had gone to junior prom together! Aron tells me they were king and queen!)


Wanting to take full advantage of the space, I stayed up far too late that night—and then practically melted into the sheets.


The next morning after breakfast, our group broke into two halves: one half set off to go paragliding (which, we learned later, didn’t happen due to high winds), while my half headed for Molera State Park to go horseback riding—the scenic and slower-paced (low-adrenaline) option.


The highlight was definitely the moment when the horses stepped onto the beach and you felt their hips shift more dramatically as they sank into sand. The wind was cold and salty as it blew off the waves.

We stopped for a moment and watched a pair of surfers paddle out past the seabirds (brrrr…) before turning back for lunch.


After lunch (a picnic from the hotel), we actually drove just north of Big Sur to Pebble Beach for kayaking at Stillwater Cove.




After a quick lesson, we put our boats into the water and paddled around kelp beds, spotting otters, harbor seals (you can see one below, popping its head out of the water in front of the egret), and even the spray of a whale in the distance—all in the shadow of that famous golf course and the massive homes that flank it.

I was sorry when it was time to go. I loved being so close to the water, at times reaching in to anchor the boat with a fistful of kelp, and watching an otter thumping a shell against his favorite rock on his chest.

One tip if you go: I got pretty wet during the putting-in and getting-out. Use the dry bags and clothing on offer if you go with a tour company!



That evening we all met back up for dinner in the woods, at a reserved site in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.


Only rather than tailgating with a Coleman stove, they’d arranged for Tricycle Pizza to bring in an oven.

The setting was stunning on its own, but the fresh pizzas (one with flowers), good wine, and good company took it over the top.


The only thing better?

Coming home to this…


And just think: only 15 more years and he’s eligible to stay at the inn, too.

I won’t be waiting that long, however, before a return trip to Big Sur together.

Have you been to Big Sur? What were your favorite activities? 

P.S. Where to visit tide pools in nearby Monterey, and a suggestion for lunch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

[All photos mine with two exceptions: Close-up of wine glasses and dinner table at night c/o of Bota Box. See more on Instagram.]

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