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Renowned as one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world, California's Big Sur stretches approximately 90 miles from Carmel to San Simeon. It’s defined by plunging cliffs, unspoiled beaches, and spectacular redwood forests — not to mention dense fogs that clear suddenly to reveal dizzying Pacific vistas. Big Sur’s astonishing natural beauty has inspired generations of explorers and artists and the area is known for its eco-friendly ethos. Many of its accommodation options are similarly focused on sustainability, whether they are five-star resorts or historic family inns. Below, we look at a few of the best hotels in the Big Sur region.
Best Overall: Glen Oaks Big Sur
Located on Highway 1 near Andrew Molera State Park, Glen Oaks Big Sur started life as a 1950s motor lodge. The decor here is simple and environmentally conscious with a focus on recycled wood furniture, yet all rooms benefit from luxury touches such as heated bathroom floors. Rooms in the old motor lodge are the cheapest and come with a gas fireplace, a mini-fridge, and Wi-Fi. If you have a slightly bigger budget, opt for one of the hotel’s stand-alone cabins or cottages. Nestled amidst the region’s famous redwood trees, they spoil with a separate living room, fire pits, and a full kitchen for self-catering. The Bridge House is the largest and most luxurious option for families or groups of friends traveling together. At onsite Big Sur Roadhouse restaurant, you can enjoy seasonal Californian cuisine for breakfast or lunch.
Best Budget: Ripplewood Resort
True budget accommodation is hard to come by in Big Sur but Ripplewood Resort offers good value for money with well-equipped cabins well under $150 per night. Located next-door to Glen Oaks on Highway 1, the resort receives positive TripAdvisor reviews for its cozy atmosphere and scenic riverside setting. All cabins include a private deck, coffee maker, mini-fridge, heater, and daily housekeeping. It may be worth forking out a little extra for one with a full kitchen, though, that way you're able to cut down on overall costs by self-catering. You can purchase ingredients at the on-site grocery store while the gas station is convenient for filling up ahead of a day spent exploring the surrounding area. If you don’t feel like cooking, you can order simple but tasty meals for breakfast and lunch from the Ripplewood Café. Expect staples such as cheeseburgers, enchiladas, and burritos. Wi-Fi is available in the restaurant but not in the cabins.
Best for Luxury: Post Ranch Inn
Magnificent Post Ranch Inn is Big Sur's most iconic accommodation option for those with an unlimited budget. Renowned for its nature-inspired architecture, it perches 1,200 feet above the Pacific Ocean and boasts 39 rooms in a range of unique styles. For example, Cliff Houses wow with a glass-walled bedroom, a private deck suspended over the cliff edge, and an outdoor hot tub. Tree Houses are suspended nine feet above the forest floor and come with a fireplace, skylight, and furnished deck.
Complimentary daily activities range from sound meditation classes to guided nature hikes. You can also visit the heated swimming pool or bask in one of two cliff-top infinity spa pools. Other resort facilities include a full-service spa, an art gallery, and a boutique. Sierra Mar restaurant is a highlight for foodies, serving a complimentary gourmet breakfast buffet followed by lunch and dinner menus that change daily. The Grand Award-winning wine cellar features over 14,000 bottles. Keep in mind that the Post Ranch Inn is exclusively for adults.
Best for Romance: Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort
Adults-only Ventana Big Sur is a magical five-star resort perfect for romantic getaways. It sits amidst 160 acres of ancient redwood forest interspersed with astonishing ocean views. Spend intimate moments soaking in the Japanese hot baths, or relaxing by the heated outdoor pools (one of which is clothing-optional). At Spa Alila, you can enjoy couples treatments in a private outdoor cabana, while a $50 experience fee entitles you to a range of activities including yoga classes and sommelier wine and cheese hours.
The Sur House restaurant provides the perfect setting for a special meal. Pair Pacific-sourced seafood with small-production Central Coast wines, then sit back on the terrace and admire the breathtaking cliff-top views. All of the rustic-chic rooms and suites spoil with a king bed, an artisan mini-bar, and a private deck. For an extra touch of romance, ask for one with a fireplace and hot tub. Adventurous couples should also consider booking one of the resort’s safari-style glamping tents.
Best for Families: Big Sur Lodge
Big Sur Lodge may be basic (don’t expect Wi-Fi or cell coverage), but it’s the ideal fit for families with a passion for the great outdoors. Located within the towering redwood forest of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, the lodge puts you within easy reach of its winding trails. Back at base, kids will love the outdoor pool. There are 62 cottage-style cabins including dedicated Family Cottages with two separate bedrooms and a furnished deck. Some cottages are equipped for self-catering with a full kitchen and dining area.
Alternatively, you can stock up on picnic supplies at on-site café Espresso House, or return there after a busy morning for ice cream and milkshakes. Homestead Restaurant serves American favorites for breakfast, lunch, and dinner and has a special Kids’ Menu for children aged 12 and under. Parents will also appreciate the outdoor bar which has Californian wines, on-tap beers, and scenic creek views. A handy store and complimentary parking complete the lodge’s list of amenities.
Best B&B: Lucia Lodge
B&B fans will love Lucia Lodge with its snug atmosphere and fifth-generation family owners. Perched 300 feet above the sea on the edge of a dramatic cliff, the hotel has 10 rustic cabins and rooms. You won’t find TVs or cell service here, but you will be lulled to sleep every night by the sound of the waves breaking far below. The most charming rooms are the four original cabins closest to the cliff’s edge. Built in the 1930s, they include gas fireplaces, four-poster queen beds, and jaw-dropping ocean panoramas.
Whichever room you choose, you’ll be treated to a complimentary continental breakfast buffet each morning. The hotel also has a charming restaurant for family-style lunches and dinners, either by the indoor fireplace in winter or out on the deck in summer. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a passing whale or a frolicking sea otter from its elevated vantage point. Before you leave, don’t forget to check out the artisan crafts for sale in the lodge’s quaint country store.
Best Historic: Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn
Those wanting to step back in time should stay at Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn. Situated amidst beautiful gardens on the edge of Castro Canyon creek, the redwood inn was built by Helmuth and Helen Deetjen in the early 1930s. The creek served as a stop for travelers on the coastal wagon road before the completion of Highway 1 and the inn is now recognized on the National Register of Historic Places. Here, rustic rooms are filled with antique furniture and hand-crafted artifacts and many have quirky features such as window seats, fireplaces, or private gardens.
Grandpa’s Room belonged to the inn’s founder and still houses his beloved vinyl collection. In keeping with the era, there are no TVs and you won’t find internet or cell coverage on the property. Some rooms share a bathroom and the walls are thin — but for many reviewers, the hotel’s charm makes sacrificing a few modern comforts worthwhile. Deetjen’s Restaurant serves an award-winning breakfast spread in addition to organic local meals and small-production Californian wines.
Best Glamping: Treebones Resort
If you like the idea of staying under canvas but don’t feel like roughing it in a conventional tent, consider a stay at off-the-grid Treebones Resort. TripAdvisor reviewers rave about their glamping experience in luxury yurts with proper beds, running hot and cold water, and private viewing decks. You can even splurge on a stay in the Autonomous Tent, a cocoon-style extravaganza with a king-size bed, claw-foot tub, and gas fireplace. Camping purists (or those on a rigid budget) can also stay in regular campsites and still enjoy access to the resort’s facilities. These include two very different restaurants — the Wild Coast Restaurant, which serves farm-to-table cuisine from the resort’s organic garden; and The Sushi Bar, with its elaborate tasting menu and stunning ocean-view setting. The latter is a particular highlight and reservations are essential. Spend your days at Treebones attending yoga classes or getting pampered at the massage studio. The resort can also arrange Big Sur hiking excursions and ocean kayaking adventures.
Best Campground: Big Sur Campground & Cabins
For a more traditional camping experience check in at Big Sur Campground & Cabins. The privately owned facility enjoys an idyllic location on the banks of the Big Sur River, with tent and RV sites scattered throughout the redwood forest. All tent sites include a picnic table and a firepit for grilling out, and you’ll have access to toilets and hot showers in a nearby bathhouse. The largest RV sites can accommodate rigs of up to 40 feet in length, while all sites have water and electric hookups and access to a central dump station.
The campground is proudly family-friendly and encourages quiet between 10:00 PM and 8:00 AM. There’s a kids’ playground and a camp store that rents out basketballs, horseshoes, and inner tubes. In summer, the river is the perfect place to cool off after a long day on the trails. The camp store also stocks basic supplies including snacks, groceries, firewood, and ice. Use the coin-operated laundry to keep the contents of your daypack fresh.