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Driving Big Sur // 5 Tips for Your Highway One Road Trip

Lone Cyprus 17 Mile Drive Pebble Beach
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Disclaimer: this post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase from one of them I will recieve a small commision at no extra cost to you, which allows me to keep this blog up and running!


 The stretch of California’s Highway 1 from Carmel to San Simeon is often lauded as one of the most beautiful coastline drives in the world. Filled to the brim with state parks and breathtaking view points, it is definitely not a part of your road trip that you’ll want to sleep through. 

For all of the natural beauty that Big Sur has to offer, though, it is important to note that you do not want to go into your adventure there unprepared. When my brother and I set off on our road trip from San Jose back to Illinois, we had done essentially no research on the section of Highway 1 that we would be driving on. We simply thought that it would be a nice little detour on our way to Route 66. That was our first mistake.

The spirit of Big Sur is perfectly relayed in the fact that there is absolutely no cell phone service throughout the entire drive. If you’re a person who trusts Google Maps implicitly (like I do), you may want to come up with a second option beforehand (which I did not). If you don’t, you’ll most likely be faced with extreme anxiety that you’re going to get completely lost. Even though you already know you’re going to be driving along the same road for the next 100 miles.

As long as you stick to Highway 1 and nearby attractions you should probably be fine. But it’s of course better to be safe than sorry. So without further ado, here are a few tips and tricks for your drive along Big Sur that I had to learn from experience.

Plan Twice as Much Time as You Think You’ll Need

As everyone knows, road trips are so much more about the journey than they are about the destination. That mentality fits Big Sur completely. There are scenic viewpoints off the side of the road what seems to be about every ten feet. And there are more state parks in one small area than any one person can even fathom. You could easily spend several days exploring the region. You could certainly simply drive along, not stop, and still get beautiful coastline views. But you definitely wouldn’t be grasping the full effect that way.

Plan Ahead

As I mentioned before, cell phone reception in Big Sur is completely nonexistent. Not only will you be unable to use Google Maps if you get lost, but you won’t be able to use your phone to look up things to do along the way. Take some time before you set off to look into what state parks and other attractions you’d be interesting in visiting. You’ll be glad you did. 

Get Ready for Winding Roads

Highway 1 follows the Pacific coastline all the way from Washington to California. Thanks to the coast line, it’s pretty well known for being especially winding. Big Sur is no exception to this rule. In fact, it may be one of the most winding sections of the road (at least out of the small bit of it that we drove). If you’re used to straight shots all the way to your destination (like I am), then this may be a bit of a shock to you. Don’t try to drive too fast here, especially if you’re not comfortable. Safety comes first. And besides, you’ll want to drive as slowly as you can to drink in the views anyways.

Pack the Essentials

In the same vein as planning ahead, you’re definitely going to want to pack everything you think you’re going to need into your car before you head off. Big Sur is beautiful, but practically uninhabited. And when you do find a shop along the side of the road it is likely to be extremely overpriced. So you’re much better off buying all your stuff beforehand. 

Take Your Time

Finally, I just want to reiterate how important it is to take your time. Big Sur is not the stretch of road where you want to make up time, but rather where you want to lose it. Go ahead and take it all in. You don’t see this kind of beauty every day.

What’s the most beautiful stretch of road you’ve ever driven? Let me know in the comments down below!

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Lone Cyprus 17 Mile Drive Pebble Beach
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MY FAVORITE TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES

Booking Flights: The first place I turn when I’m searching for flights is actually just Google Flights - it’s great to figure out what sort of routes are available. Then, I check Skyscanner and Kiwi for deals. I also love Kiwi for its destination: anywhere feature!

Transportation: I love Omio for figuring out the cheapest way to get from one place to another, and Trainline for booking train tickets within Europe.

Accommodations: I absolutely love Booking.com for finding great hotel deals. After you stay a certain number of nights, you get Genius discounts! For hostels, Hostelworld is my go-to, and I use Airbnb occasionally as well (click here for $40 off your first booking!)

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Tours: I always check Urban Adventures for great day tours of cities first–I’m obsessed with them! GetYourGuide and Viator are also great options. For multi-day tours, I highly recommend Intrepid.

Camera Gear: I use a Sony Alpha A6300 camera with an 18-105 mm lens and a 35 mm lens. My tripod is the MeFoto Backpacker Air and I loooooove it! I also use a DJI Mavic Air and a GoPro and which allow me to capture everything my regular camera can’t.

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