Just a couple of weeks ago, I was able to cross a destination off my 2018 travel bucket list. I’d say 2018 is starting to look up! Believe it or not, I’ve lived in California nearly my entire life and had only been to Big Sur once, when I was about 12. How could I have overlooked this majestic place that had here, in my own backyard, for all these years? It wasn’t until one of the largest landslides in California’s history hit the region, that this beautiful, yet rugged, stretch of the central coast was on top of mind. Heavy rainfall last winter caused devastating landslides and a collapsed bridge on Highway 1, cutting off access to the region for nearly 8 months. Big Sur has since bounced back with most of the iconic highway cleared and a newly constructed bridge in place. Nature is a beast and a blessing, isn’t it? Anyway, I’m so thrilled to have finally made the trip. Spectacular is an understatement when describing Big Sur – its coastline is one of the most beautiful I have ever, ever seen. If you haven’t been, I urge you to go. Don’t just drive through. Stay the weekend . . . and follow some of my recommendations on where to stay and what to see!

See Bixby Bridge: If you’re coming from the North, Bixby Bridge is one of the first photogenic spots on Highway 1. It’s the perfect place to stop as you’re entering Big Sur. Built in 1932, the concrete span is an architectural marvel, with its single span concrete arch. Once you pull over, there are opportunities to capture the most photographed landmark in the West Coast from the East and West sides.

Stay at Ventana Big Sur: As we pulled up to Ventana‘s isolated enclave, tucked amongst 160 forest acres on the Pacific coast, I felt immediately in awe and at ease. Besides the obvious dramatic setting, the adults-only resort is flawlessly and luxuriously executed. While Big Sur was cut off from public access due to the landslides, the resort took advantage of the downturn and underwent a rebranding and makeover. 59 renovated suites humbly blend into their majestic surroundings – each surrounded by tall redwoods and views of the ocean, and equipped with outdoor hammocks and showers. Scenic pathways led us throughout the property, allowing us to explore the Social House, the Japanese Hot Baths, the Redwood Cathedral, the pools and The Sur House restaurant. It’s all about relaxed vibes here and I loved every minute spent here.

See McWay Falls: McWay Falls is a 80ft waterfall that cascades right into the ocean, and is surrounded by an untouched cove. It’s about 9 miles (a 20 minute drive) from Ventana, and you’ll hike about a quarter of a mile to get the perfect vantage point. I recommend visiting McWay in the late afternoon, when the sun hits the falls just right.

Where to eat: Don’t miss breakfast at Big Sur Bakery and Deetjen’s. For a casual lunch with the most epic views, go to Nepenthe. Grab a cocktail and watch the sunset at Post Ranch Inn or Ventana’s The Sur House. If you end up at The Sur House, post up for the evening and enjoy a locally sourced meal outdoors on their massive deck, overlooking the ocean. And if you’re looking for a nightcap, head to Big Sur Taphouse and have a drink with the locals.

Glamp at Ventana Big Sur: So in addition to the 59 suites at Ventana, there are 15 safari-style canvas tents spread over 20 acres of Redwood forests on Ventana’s property. You know, in case you’re in the mood to “rough it.” I didn’t get a chance to try the newly launched glamping experience, but I’m super excited to bring back the kids since it is family friendly! Each glampsite includes a wood burning fire pit, a luxurious bed with heated blankets, and ice chest, a picnic table, and a turndown service that leaves you with hot cocoa and a s’mores kit. Dream. And if you’re willing to pay an additional resort fee, you can have access to Ventana’s spa, Social House, pools and fitness center. Done and done. I’m so coming back for this!

Visit Pfeiffer Beach at Sunset: Just a 3 and half miles from Ventana is Pfeiffer Beach, the only place you wanna be at sunset. And if you’re a photography buff, it’s even better in the middle of the night to capture the smattering of stars. The turn-off is easy to miss – it’s just north of the Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge – and you might think you’re on the wrong road but keep driving and you’ll hit the parking lot to this picturesque beach, where photographers are clamoring to capture the sun setting behind one of many rock keyholes and archways. You might even notice purple sand, which comes from manganese garnet rocks in the cliffs!

(images by HonestlyWTF & HonestlyYUM)