Big Sur is something of a mystery if you've never been--while the town of Big Sur seems quaint and cozy the Big Sur region actually refers to the 90 mile stretch south of Carmel and north of Hearst Castle. This is the third time I've visited and I still feel like I'm just scratching the surface of what the area has to offer. It's nothing shy of heart-aching natural beauty in seemingly all directions. The combination of the Santa Lucia Mountains on one side of the highway and the rocky Pacific Coast on the other makes even the drive majestic. (It's actually been designated an American National Scenic Byway and a California Scenic Highway, should you care to know about such designations. I mean, it's pretty, friends.)
Each time I've visited it's only been for a day or two so I've yet to explore the epic hikes up the mountainsides (though I hear there are natural hot springs to reward you for a steep climb). Years ago, I did have the chance to indulge in one of the public hot spring nights at Eslan--well worth the weary hours of a midnight soak. This time, we spent a few hours on the beach, a few hours exploring the river and parks, and a few more hours visiting the local restaurants.
Did I mention the food? The Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant and Deetjen's Big Sur Inn each deserve a few hours of food exploration on their own (and their hours are flexible enough to accommodate various schedules, even toddler schedules). Cabins abound from the rustic to the luxurious and everything between. In addition to the restaurants and gift shops there are several nostalgic roadside pull-offs worth exploring--like storybook collections of cabins dotting the highway where even the gas stations are somehow charming. How is that even possible? It's a gas station, after all.