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The Big Sur Community


The Big Sur Marathon office is located in Carmel, appropriately only 26 miles from the start line of the Big Sur International Marathon.  We receive frequent calls from first time marathoners collecting information about Big Sur. They usually want to know the location of restaurants, hotels, shopping malls and movie theaters there. We do our best to explain that Big Sur isn't your usual "town", and you definitely won't find any shopping malls there. If are driving down Highway 1 and not paying attention,you may miss Big Sur entirely.  And, this is what makes the tiny community so unique...it's more of a spiritual haven than a town on the map.

Highway One in Big Sur

The thinly populated region of Big Sur actually has no specific boundaries, but generally is considered to be the 90 mile coastal stretch between the Carmel River to the north, and San Carpoforo Creek to the south. From the coast, Big Sur extends inland for about 20 miles to the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains.

Original occupants of the Big Sur wilderness were three Indian tribes, the Ohlone, Esselen and Salinan. When the explorations of Spanish mariners resulted in eventual colonization, the aboriginal population was wiped out, primarily as a result of disease, malnutrition and forced labor.

Big Sur Views

Isolation, a lack of roads, and a treacherous coastline kept Big Sur an inaccessible wilderness area until 1937 when coastal Highway 1 connected Big Sur with towns to the north and south. Family ranches and farms gave way to a tourist based economy, and many purchased acreage for second homes. Local residents fiercely fought over development and were successful in banning billboards and other visual distractions on Highway 1 and were able to prohibit construction within view of the highway.

Big Sur Coast

Big Sur is probably best known for the writers and artists who settled there in the mid 20th century. These fierce individualists and free spirits included Robinson Jeffers, Henry Miller, Edward Weston, Richard Brautigan, Hunter S. Thompson, Emile Norman and Jack Kerouac. Eventually, even Hollywood took note of this unique area. Many scenes from the 1944 film The Sandpiper, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, were shot there. In 1974, Zandy’s Bride, featuring Gene Hackman and Liv Ullman, was Big Sur based.

Big Sur Ridge

Today Big Sur is home to approximately 1000 inhabitants and includes descendants of the original settler families, artists and musicians, and wealthy investors. The tourism based economy offers visitors accommodations ranging from rustic campgrounds to the plush Ventana Inn and Spa. Several restaurants, gas stations and small stores are the extent of urban development and residents pride themselves on their environmental consciousness.

The founder of the Big Sur Marathon, Bill Burleigh, maintains a home in Big Sur. [see fire note below]

Ventana Inn
On June 21, 2008 a freak lightning storm passed through the Central Coast and a lightning strike in Big Sur sparked the fire that came to be known as the Basin Complex fire.  As of July 22nd the total acreage burned is 138,220 and the fire is only 72% contained, with complete containment predicted for the end of July. Over 1,400 structures have been threatened, with 26 residences and 32 other buildings destroyed.  The cost to date exceeds $67 million. Nearly 2,000 firefighters from all over the country have come to Big Sur to fight this fire.  One of the homes lost belonged to Big Sur Marathon founder Bill Burleigh; several of our Board members live and work in Big Sur, including the manager of the popular River Inn.

While the forest will regrow and homes be rebuilt, the fire's devastating effect on the environment, wildlife and residents of this tiny, rugged community is already apparent.  Big Sur is a tourism based economy, and a two week closure of Highway 1 has cost them dearly.   Many past participants of our events have called and emailed to see if they can help in any way.  If you would like to donate to the community of Big Sur, please click HERE for more information.  We, and the Big Sur community, thank you for your consideration. 
Big Sur Fire

California Condor


Highway One Road Collapse

In March 2011 a 40-foot section of Highway One just south of Rocky Creek Bridge collapsed without warning.  Miraculously no one was hurt although the effect on the Big Sur community has been ongoing.  For nearly six weeks traffic was not allowed to proceed north or south of the slide area, forcing Big Sur residents and employees to park either north or south of the slide, walk across the affected area and resume transportation from there.  In mid-April a one lane section finally allowed vehicles to traverse the area, with a traffic light alternating between north and southbound traffic. 

This slide dealt a serious blow to the Big Sur economy which is dependent on the tourism trade.  It also forced the Big Sur Marathon to make the 2011 marathon an out and back course from the finish in Carmel to a turnaround at Rocky Creek Bridge.  This further hurt the Big Sur community with participants opting to stay in Monterey and Carmel rather than in Big Sur.  Fortunately in 2012 BSIM was able to resume the traditional point-to-point course, which proved successful despite difficult logistical issues.

In October 2012 construction began on a viaduct that will span the affected area.  Due to the nature of the work being done and the large equipment there, the road continues to remain closed from 9:00 PM to 7:00 AM, further inconveniencing Big Sur residents.  Construction is due to be completed in October of 2013.


For more detailed information and to view a map showing the location of Big Sur hotels, inns, restaurants and points of interest, click HERE

Lodging Accomodations
Big Sur River Inn - 800.548.3610 Wi Fi
Fernwood Resort - 831.667.2422 Wi Fi
Post Ranch Inn - 800.527.2200 Wi Fi
Ventana Inn & Spa - 800.628.6500 Wi Fi
Points of Interest & Special Events



A short hike is necessary to access Big Sur beaches, but it is worth the effort. Popular beaches include the beach at Andrew Molera State Park, Garrapata State Beach, Pfeiffer Beach, and Jade Cove.


All of Big Sur's galleries and gift shops feature handcrafted pieces by Big Sur artists and craftspeople. Notable galleries and shops include the Big Sur Garden Gallery, the Big Sur Spirit Garden, the Coast Galleries, the Gallery at Ventana, the Phoenix Shop at Nepenthe, the Henry Miller Library, and Post Ranch Mercantile


From April through August, Sunday afternoon music is offered on the deck of the River Inn overlooking the Big Sur River from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm.  At the Fernwood, a weekend music series is available in July and August from 9:00 pm, and the Big Sur Bluegrass Festival takes place in October.


Big Sur offers a variety of day hikes.  In Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, you can choose a hike from 1.4 to 4.8 miles. Hikes encompass redwood groves, waterfalls, open oak woodlands and range from easy to strenuous. Andrew Molera State Park offers hikes of 2 and 8 miles that present great coastal views as well as beach access.  Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park has a short hike to McWay Falls with a view of the 80-foot waterfall as well as the Ewoldsen Trail through the redwood forest.

Running Two running events are held during October.  The Big Sur Trail Marathon, Half Marathon and 5-Miler are held on the Old Coast Road, the original "highway" connecting Big Sur with the Monterey Peninsula. The Big Sur River Run, considered by many to be the premier 10K on the Central Coast is held the last Saturday each October. Held annually in the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, this unique run winds through redwood and oak groves. The 10K run and 5K walk benefit the Big Sur Health Center and Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade.