Distance from LA: 340 miles northwest; 5.5 hours
Why it made our list: It’s hard to deny the jaw-dropping beauty of Big Sur, and while many coastal travelers attempt to squeeze it into the itinerary, it’s worth taking time to really enjoy with a dedicated visit. Whether you’re looking for an easy trek with waterfalls or more rugged terrain through the woods, there are plenty of great hiking options in the area. If you’re the outdoorsy-type, you’ll want to see about securing a campsite as early as possible, and if you’re hoping for a cabin, try for a weekday or book waaaaaaaay in advance. Otherwise you can try your luck at the Big Sur Lodge or one of the other local inns. Check out Nepenthe for view with your meal, Big Sur Roadhouse for a modern and locally sourced dinner, and Big Sur Bakery for wood-fired everything (seriously, you could eat every meal here).
Pro tip: Make a reservation for a late night visit to the Esalen hot springs, which overlooks the ocean. Totally worth the drive.
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