Camping on the California coast can be amazing with incredible views but to secure one of the prime spots, you either have to plan far in advance or get very lucky. We did neither but still managed to find some good if not spectacular spots. We saw a lot of great spots but they were taken and this was on a Monday, not a big holiday weekend. You will have to face the fact that camping on the coast is very popular, especially with the locals. Once you get out there you will see why.
Our first night, we pitched the tent at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. We had tried at more coveted Julia Pfeiffer just down the coast but it was full. Don't get me wrong, the spot we got was nice. It was nicely wooded and close to the restroom, though not too close. It just didn't have a view of the ocean as we had envisioned. The park was pretty packed so we took a spot quickly, set up and went off to explore. We had a big family next to us but they weren't overly noisy considering how many of them there were!
The restrooms were very old and in need of some updates especially since they were charging $25 per night. The park itself was nice enough with some good short walks in the forest, one to a nice small waterfall. Overall, it was a good spot in a pinch but again, if you are looking to camp with an ocean view, reserve ahead.
For our second night of camping, we were not as hard-pressed for an ocean view spot. Maybe we just assumed we would not get one and had abandoned the dream. We could have had a spot in Point Lobos which would have been scenic but it was a bit too close to where we were coming from and we wanted to get at least a little bit further up the coast. We opted for Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park, just outside of Santa Cruz. That gave us a lot of time to spend making stops and doing walks on our way north.
The campground was actually nicer than Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park with nicer restrooms and even free hot showers, for the same price of $25 per night. It was a nice big spot with lots of tree cover. The park was quite serene.
We didn't really spend that much time in it (good brewery in town!) but it would have been easy to hang out and enjoy the scenery right there.
I don't normally make suggestions on places to stay if I have not actually stayed in the facility but this place looked to be a great spot that I hope to stay in one day. I just didn't know anything about it prior to stopping to see the lighthouse.
The Pigeon Point Lighthouse is also a HI (Hosteling International) property with both dorms and private rooms, right on the grounds of the lighthouse. These are old buildings previously used by caretakers that have been converted over for travelers. They represent perhaps the cheapest accommodation literally right on the coast, in the shadow of the a great old historic lighthouse no less!
Dorm spaces are $25 per night, single rooms a little over $50, and doubles around $60. You either have to be an HI member or pay an additional daily fee of $3.
Depends on the length of stay and seminar. Please visit Esalen Web page:
All meals, hot tubs and swimming pool use are included.
There is a charge for optional massage.
The Art Center has media for a large number of arts. You are invited to come and play!
Esalen Institute, renowned for its healing natural hot springs, has long been recognized as a world leader in alternative and experiential education. Dramatically situated on the Big Sur cliffs over the Pacific Ocean, the sacred beauty of the land—clear air, pulsing sea, garden path and waterfall, steaming mineral water bubbling up from deep within the earth—is itself transformative. Now in its fifth decade, Esalen offers more than 500 public workshops and seminars a year, accenting personal growth and social change, in areas traditionally neglected by mainstream institutions. A non-profit educational foundation, Esalen is also known for its research initiatives, invitational conferences, residential work-study programs, and long-term internships. Part pioneering lab and college for alternative practices, magical restorative retreat, and creative think-tank for the emerging world culture, Esalen is dedicated to exploring work in the humanities and sciences that furthers the full realization of the human potential. There are rooms available just for a stay without a workshop. Three meals a day are inculded with much of the food grown on Esalen property. The massages that are offered there are world famous.
Down to earth accommodation, but very clean and great views of the coast line and of the mountains. The people who live and run Esalen are especially gracious. The food is excellent and can be had within the Lodge or on the deck overlooking the ocean. World class massage.
My campsite at the Ventana Campground was in the shade, clean, quiet, close to the bath-house and situated between two small streams. Clean washroom and hot shower. The site for my single person tent was a bit pricey at $30.00 per night. The entrance to Ventana Campground is clearly marked by a sign on Highway One in Big Sur. You must cancel your reservation 72 hours in advance or else be charged full price.
THere are several small lodges and cabins along Big Sur. Or you can camp in one of the many campgrounds and state parks here.
We didn't actually stay in Big Sur, but in Monterey at the northern end of it.
The views, of course.
This simple campground is one of the private campgrounds in Big Sur. It's not cheap but since camping is so popular in Big Sur, it may be difficult to find an empty spot if you don't plan ahead, so advanced reservations are necessary.
The campground is located just off Highway 1 in lush forest. Each of 80 campsites has a fire ring and a picnic table. The campground has 3 bathhouses with hot showers and flush toilets. The clientele is mostly young families with children. The campsite was completely full when we stayed there, yet it remained very quiet and relaxing.
One word of warning though - in the evening it was VERY cold despite being July! Bring warm clothing and extra blankets to put under your sleeping bag.
$25.00 (two people, one vehicle)
Weekends and Holiday Weeks:
$35.00 (two people, one vehicle)
For posh accomodation, check out adjacent Ventana Inn http://www.ventanainn.com
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