Big Sur + Monterey Bay

Big Sur + Monterey Bay Travel Guide

Deep within Los Padres National Forest, Pfeiffer Beach is a surreal mix of purple sand, giant redwoods, sycamores, and oaks. Offshore, a smattering of sea stacks are scattered like biscuit crumbs across the ocean.

The old-time candy shop is a sweet-lover's inspiration.

Aromatic soaps and sachets are for sale here.

Everyone will love Piedras Blancas, one of only three traditional tower-style lighthouses in California.

Poke into this charming shop for exquisite French antiques and linens.

The oldest Zen monastery in the U.S.

The University of California at Santa Cruz mascot, the banan slug, adorns hats, mugs, t-shirts, and other goodies at the campus store.

The winery runs a development series that culminates in an outdoor excursion to plant and prune vines.

Build a picnic lunch with focaccia sandwiches. Don’t forget to pick up a Big Sur Bar, a local specialty involving oatmeal, nuts, chocolate, coconut, and raisins.

Along with a sparkling strand and a gently honky-tonk wharf, Santa Cruz has a boardwalk graced with the Giant Dipper—one of the oldest wooden roller coasters in the country.

Stroll down the old-fashioned strip, chomping on corn dogs and sneaking in an arcade game or two.

Start, of course, with the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Its Splash Zone, an interactive exhibit for kids, recently doubled in size—now you can walk “through” a giant kelp forest (via a glass tunnel) and (gently) pet a living abalone in the display’s expanded touch pool.

Tour Hearst Castle, perched high on La Cuestra Encantada (“the enchanted hill”) nine miles north of Cambria.

That they serve garlic ice cream is no surprise in the garlic capital of the world, where the annual Garlic Festival dazzles garlic lovers with food, cook-offs, and even the crowning of a Garlic Queen.