This community on the shores of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary combines all the charm and history of small-town California with endless recreation and cultural activities. From historic Fisherman's Wharf to John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, from the Monterey Bay Aquarium to whale watching, scuba-diving, hiking and biking, opportunities abound to play and explore. Pebble Beach, home to the iconic 17-Mile Drive and some of the most famous golf courses in the world, hosts the annual ATT Pro-Am Golf Tournament and the Pebble Beach Food & Wine Festival. The famous Monterey Jazz Festival and Carmel Bach Festival attract music lovers from around the world. And automobilophiles flock to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the annual Concourse D’Elegance “Car Week.”
Fine dining, shopping, and high-end art galleries await you in quaint Carmel-by-the-Sea, a European-style village with a large, dog-friendly beach. For history buffs, the Carmel Mission Basilica stands as a reminder of the saga of the Carmel Mission Trail, while nature lovers head to Point Lobos State Reserve for its stunning coves, tide pools and wind-sculpted cypress trees. Heading inland, scenic Carmel Valley Road winds you through Carmel Valley, a sublime pastoral river valley nestled in the Santa Lucia foothills. Averaging 300 days of sunshine annually, Carmel Valley offers spectacular hiking and is one of the fastest growing wine regions in California. It’s also a locavore’s dream, dotted with restaurants where innovative chefs are producing gourmet farm-to-table cuisine.
Geographically speaking, “Big Sur” denotes a 90-mile stretch between Carmel to the north and San Simeon to the south. There is no downtown—only miles of staggeringly beautiful coastline, ocean cliffs, towering redwoods and a population of approximately 1,000 residents. Big Sur’s history is a rich and storied heritage of diverse civilizations, cultural influencers, writers, poets, artists, ranchers, spiritual leaders and hippies. As you drive along the highway hugging the edge of the continent, you quickly come to understand why. From the ridgetops of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to the purple sands of Pfeiffer State Beach, from soaring condors to barking elephant seals, from the engineering marvels of Bixby Bridge and Point Sur Lighthouse to the architectural wonder that is Hearst Castle, seldom do nature’s glory and humanity’s ingenuity align so ideally. And if you really want to test your mettle, join the thousands of runners who come every year to participate in the Big Sur Marathon, one of the toughest—and most breathtaking—courses in the world.