OPEN ROADS & CAMPFIRE SONGS: Adventures in Big Sur

Featured on Established California - A Photo Adventure in Big Sur, California

I was 16 when I saw the ocean for the first time. My family and I had caravanned halfway across the United States for our summer vacation, leaving landlocked Kansas behind in favor of coastal Virginia Beach. It was nighttime when we reached our ocean side hotel, but my siblings and I couldn’t contain our excitement. We donned our swimsuits, grabbed some towels, and raced to the sandy white beach. Never ones to do something halfheartedly, we dived into the ocean with reckless abandon. I marveled at the way the full moon above cast a silvery shadow over the wind-whipped waves and listened as the ocean tide created a gentle lullaby.

It’s been nearly a decade since I first saw the ocean, but the childlike sense of wonder I experienced upon initially seeing it has never left me. When I moved to Southern California to attend college, I fell head-over-heels in love with the palm tree dotted beaches, gentle ocean spray, and crystal blue water of the Pacific Ocean. From the bluffs of San Diego the otherworldly beauty of the Bay Area, California is filled with gorgeous ocean views.

Although I’ve explored several California destinations throughout the last few years, one of my favorite spots is Big Sur. Located around 300 miles up the coast from Los Angeles, this idyllic, picturesque stretch of land is one of the Golden State’s biggest treasures. The raw, unfiltered beauty of Big Sur extends over an 85-mile stretch of coastline between San Simeon and Carmel. Because the area is so spread out, it’s worthwhile it to spend at least an afternoon exploring the region.

Featured on Established California - An Adventure in Big Sur, California - Redwood Trees

I looked up countless pictures of Big Sur before visiting, but none of them adequately prepared me for the immense natural beauty of the region. The water is breathtakingly blue, and the craggy cliffs provide perfect vantage points for the shimmering ocean below. The turquoise blue water melds into white foam as the waves touch the shoreline, creating a gorgeous visual image.

Featured on Established California - An Adventure in Big Sur, California

During my road trip to Big Sur, I hiked to McWay Falls, an 80-foot waterfall in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The scenic waterfall cascades over a cliff onto the beach below, where a cove is nestled into the cliff. The waterfall is one of the most photographed destinations in the area, and for good reason. Although hikers cannot go down to the beach where the waterfall is, the overlook above provides a birds-eye view of the waterfall.

If at all possible, make it a point to watch the sunset in Big Sur. As afternoon turns to evening, golden rays of sunlight dance over the ocean below, creating a beautiful masterpiece. The sun reflects off the cliffs, bathing them in amber hues of light.   

Featured on Established California - An Adventure in Big Sur, California - Photography by Renata Amazonas

Big Sur is mostly unhindered by traffic, buildings or construction, which makes it the perfect getaway for city dwellers eager to spend the day in nature. It is a wonderful place to enjoy a romantic date, spend some quality time with friends, or soak in the solace and tranquility of nature. Cell reception in the area is spotty, but the views are so breathtaking that you’ll forget all about your phone. If you’re trying to decide what part of California to visit next, Big Sur should be at the top of your list. 

Photography by Renata Amazonas 


Rebekah Bell grew up on a farm in Kansas and then headed to Los Angeles to study film at Biola University. Today, she's a full-time writer who absolutely loves palm trees, the ocean, and the warm, sunny weather in Southern California.