california photography

Big Sur Guide, on a budget (as per usual)

This week we took a super last minute trip to Big Sur. Stephan has been wanting to photograph the Milky Way there and last time we tried it was a fail. The fog was thick every single day we were there and we saw no sunrise, sunset or night sky. But Sunday night he looked up the weather and this week it was gonna be perfect conditions for seeing the Milky Way, so at midnight we booked a hotel and left the next day after work.

  • Accommodation

Since any hotel in Big Sur is very expensive and even camping isn’t too much on budget, both times we decided to stay in Monterey, at a hotel called Pacific Inn and I super recommend it! It’s not fancy, of course, but it’s super clean and the room is very nice. It had a microwave, coffee machine and a fridge, which for us was a must. Because it’s not located right in the water or downtown Monterey it’s cheaper than other hotels and still so close to everything.

  • Food

Stephan and I have traveled quite a bit, and we figured that the easiest way of saving money is not eating out so frequently (unless you’re in South East Asia). In Eastern Europe, we would only book Airbnb’s with kitchens so we could cook. Here in California, we try to plan our meals ahead of time, go to the grocery store before a trip and pack our food along with us. For this Big Sur trip, we got yogurt, granola, bananas, and blueberries for breakfast, had peanut butter and banana sandwiches for lunch and for dinner we would eat Trader Joe’s salads or wraps. I spent a total of $41 on all of our food for 3 and a half days. We ran out of food the last day and decided to eat lunch in Carmel, at the most affordable and chill place I found. On that one meal, we spent $30. It’s fine to do it once in a while and to have an experience at a certain restaurant, but if you eat out for every single meal, do the math. It adds up.

  • Things to Do

Good news here, most of the activities in this area are free! You basically will only be spending money in gas for all the driving. Here’s a list of my favorite spots for hiking and taking pictures!

  1. Garrapata Beach

    The parking lot that leads to this trail is just a bigpull out on the side of the main road. The trail goes along the water and it’s huge! We didn’t even do the whole thing and had amazing views, photo opportunities and tired legs from all the walking!

2. Bixby Bridge

It’s famous for a reason. Watching sunset there is magical. It can be pretty crowded during the day, but it isn’t so bad closer to sunset, especially during summer, when the sunset is at 8:15 PM, lots of people don’t stay that late.

Photo by Stephan Alvin, available for print   HERE

Photo by Stephan Alvin, available for print HERE

3. Mcway Falls

My very favorite spot of all! The path that begins at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is still partially closed, but don’t worry! This view is actually from a pullout on the side of the road, just before you get to the actual entrance of the park, and it’s beautiful and most importantly: empty!

4. Point Lobos State Park

Not free, but worth it! Such a beautiful place to wander around, hike, take pictures and breath some fresh air! These photos are from earlier this year, February to be exact. And because it was winter it was pretty empty, we had no problem parking inside the park whatsoever. But since then we’ve been to Big Sur twice and every time we drive by the entrance it says the parking lot is full and there are loads of cars trying to park on the side of the road. So my tip is, go during winter or go really early, like as soon as they open!

5. Pfeiffer Beach

The entrance is a little tricky to find and there are no signs leading to it, and since the signal at Big Sur is pretty spotty I would download the offline map before you go! It’s a 5 to 10 minute drive down this super windy and tight road that leads you to one of the most photogenic beaches in Big Sur! You can’t miss this spot!

There is so much to do and see in Big Sur, and if you haven’t been you should plan a trip there ASAP, it’s gorgeous!

Not convinced yet? Check out more landscape photos from this amazing place at Stephan Alvin Photography!