Big Sur Elopement Guide

How to get married in Big Sur

Updated September 2nd, 2020

Are you dreaming of a Big Sur elopement with the one that you love? Big Sur is a rather rugged stretch of land located in the central coastal region of California, facing the Pacific Ocean. It generally runs north to south on the map between San Simeon and Carmel, although it does stretch inland to some degree. Its eastern border is the Santa Lucia Mountains, of course with the waves of the Pacific being the western boundary. The main thoroughfare is the pair of lanes making up State Route 1, itself famous for its winding turns around seaside cliffs, offering frequent views of the misty coastline.

Keep reading to learn about how to plan an elopement in Big Sur

rocky coast of big sur

This is a sparsely populated region with a number of state parks. Visitors and enthusiasts alike use them for camping, hiking, and beachcombing, but having a Big Sur elopement is certainly something that you can do here too. Whether you choose to have a ceremony with the sun setting over the Pacific Ocean or something amidst the majestic redwoods, you can have a truly memorable moment that has significant meaning both at the time and in the videos. Imagine the Pacific being symbolic of your endless love for one another, or consider starting your marriage between two tall redwoods that signify your shared roots for a love that will stand the test of time.

elopement in the redwoods of big sur

Big Sur Elopement Locations

Of course, for all the many natural settings that Big Sur might offer for the magical moment itself, your Big Sur elopement is still likely to need locations for receptions, accommodations, and maybe even the actual ceremony. Fortunately, there are several that you should consider.

Hotel Wedding Venues in Big Sur

Big Sur Lodge

The first place that you should consider checking out is the Big Sur Lodge. It's a lovely place nestled between a calming river, the towering trees, and the amazing beauty preserved in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Enjoy delectable cuisine crafted into tailor-made banquet menus, and choose from four different venues for your various ceremonies, be it a rehearsal dinner or reception or the bridal shower or day-after brunch, not to mention the actual main event. Enjoy all these in the Santa Lucia Room, the lodge restaurant or its outdoor patio, or even the pretty picnic areas in the state park. They even have an on-site event coordinator that you can do a wedding consultant with over the phone.

Glen Oaks Big Sur + Big Sur Roadhouse

Second, for an intimate evening for as many as 100, look at the Glen Oaks Big Sur and Big Sur Roadhouse. You can have a hour-long ceremony in an exclusive grove of between redwoods but also along the Big Sur River banks followed by a roadhouse reception.

cliffs in big sur

Ragged Point Inn

Third, consider the 17 cliff-side acres of the Ragged Point Inn that overlook the magnificent Pacific Ocean in south Big Sur. Many of the 35 rooms have great views that you can enjoy from balconies or decks, or you can rest in comfort in front of the fireplaces. The Cliff House is a five-bedroom, six-bathroom guest house with great views from its lawn and sitting room windows. It also has a gourmet kitchen and private dining room. This dog-friendly inn also has WiFi, a restaurant, gift shop, and conference and wedding facilities. If that weren't enough, you can also take advantage of a sandwich stand, wine and espresso bar, and even a minimart and gas station. To top all that off, there are Sunday concerts all summer long!

Big Sur River Inn

The fourth place you should consider checking out is the Big Sur River Inn. As the name implies, it sits along the always scenic Big Sur River, but it's also comfortably nestled among the surrounding redwood towers. Enjoy the ultimate balance of history, romance, and nostalgia along side modern comfort and conveniences. Choose from two settings for your ceremony. The expansive riverside lawn is just as spectacular a setting as the sun-dappled deck is. The culinary team and service department are both staffed with professionals who can come up with a distinct experience that fits the celebration you envision.

big sur elopement photo

Loma Vista Inn

Are you looking for something other than the redwoods or beautiful beaches for your ceremony or party? After all, everyone might be seeing those anyway at some point in all the travel and festivities. The Loma Vista Inn is a change of pace with its historic gardens. Loma Vista Inn is also conveniently located right off of Highway 1 in the beating heart of Big Sur, making it a great base of operations for anyone and everyone wanting to venture out on day trips and adventures around the area.

Post Ranch Inn

The sixth and final entrant on this list of locations you should look into certainly not the least of them. The Post Ranch Inn is right on the ocean. Don't let the size of this small hideaway fool you in regards to its award-winning level of luxury. It's a tremendously romantic escape that's well-suited, not just for elopements, but also honeymoons. Many couples come back for their anniversaries or wedding renewals. The Post Ranch Inn offers an Elopement Experience package that comes with every essential you would need for a small or intimate wedding. These can be held either in a guest room or on their terrace of their Sierra Mar Restaurant. Entertain as many as 50 guests, and trust the whole package to handle all the arrangements. It includes coordination services, exquisite flowers, a choice bottle of champagne with crystal flutes, and even a wedding celebrant and marriage license.

Big Sur State Park Elopement Locations

If you want to keep things sweet and simple, consider eloping at one of the state parks or public beaches in Big Sur. There are several gorgeous beaches and wooded areas on public land that are easily accessible. There are a few permit requirements you will want to take a look at first to decide if eloping on public land is right for you. In general, groups of 10 people or less will be able to secure a permit easily. My advice is to get your permits squared away at least 2-3 months in advance.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Home to the famous Mc Way falls and beautiful hiking trails through red wood forests, this is one of our favorite elopement locations in Big Sur. The Ewoldsen Trail is located here, along with the Tan Bark Trail. Both are wonderful to hike for your elopement or whenever you have free time to explore the area.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Located conveniently close to the town of Big Sur, Pfeiffer Big Sur has plenty of beautiful elopement locations. The park area is on the western slope of the towering Santa Lucia Mountains. The banks of the Big Sur River Gorge and Pfeiffer Beach are some of our favorite elopement spots.

Garrapata State Park

In the spring and early summer months Garrapata state park is full of wildflowers. The trails along the coastal cliffs are easily accessible and the views are incredible. The park is just 20 minutes south of Monterey and there is ample parking along the highway. If you want to get farther away from any crowds there are a few hiking trails in the area that are farther away from the main road.

Andrew Molera State Park

This area has a diverse landscape and many easy trails that offer amazing views of the oceans. Andrew Molera State Park is also very close to the town of Big Sur. There are many accommodations in the area, including camping and even glamping!

Limekiln State Park

Located in the southern region of Big Sur, Limekiln feels more secluded and off the beaten path than the other state parks in the area. Here you'll find beautiful creeks and trickling waterfalls along the forested trails. The cooler microclimate under the canopy of trees is a welcomed relief on hot, sunny days.

Best Time to Visit Big Sur

Big Sur is beautiful all year, but if you want to plan for a warm day with a bit of sun, we recommend choosing a date April - October. In the spring the coastal hills are full of colorful wildflowers. In the summer months you can take shelter from the sun in the giant redwood trees and head to the beach at sunset. June, July, and August are typically the peak tourist months in Big Sur, so we recommend the quieter months of April, May, September, and October.

Best Big Sur Hikes For Your Elopement

Ewoldsen Trail

The Ewoldsen Trail is the quintessential Big Sur hike. Within 5 miles the loop manages to pack in a bit of everything. There are lush redwood groves, crystal-clear streams, a challenging climb up to a steep canyon, and gorgeous ocean and mountain views.

Partington Cove

For such a short hike (1.5 miles out and back) this coastal trail has so much to offer. The footpath along the dramatic oceanfront leads to a secluded beach.

Waterfall Overlook Trail

This famous trail is easy for all skill levels and the path to the water fall is just 1.2 miles. Mc Way falls is an iconic waterfall that plummets 80 feet off of a granite cliff and into the ocean.

Pacific Valley Bluff Trail

This is one of the more secluded trails in Big Sur, yet it is easily accessible and great for all skill levels. The trail goes across a beautiful valley and down to the rocky coastline.

Vincente Flat Trail

For those who are not afraid to do a bit of steep climbing, the Vincente Flat Trail offers incredible views from a dramatic cliffside.

AirBnB's in the Big Sur Area

How to Get to Big Sur

By Air:

San Jose International Airport
For couples flying in from the east coast of the US or internationally, San Jose is probably your best option. The airport is about 100 miles north of Big Sur. Driving time can vary based on traffic, but typically it takes no more than 2 hours to arrive in Big Sur.

San Luis Obispo Airport
This is a small regional airport about 100 miles south of Big Sur. SLO is a beautiful city and the 2 hour drive up Hwy 1 is incredible!

Monterrey Regional Airport
If you're flying in from the northwest (Portland or Seattle) you can usually find flights that are about the same prices as flying into San Jose. Monterey is the closest airport - just 30 miles north of Big Sur.

By Car:

Renting a car is a must for exploring Big Sur because Highway 1 south of Monterey has little public transportation. Big sur is 100 miles south of San Jose and about 100 miles north of San Luis Obispo.

Big Sur Elopement Packages

Ready to explore the beauty of Big Sur for your elopement? Here are our elopement photography packages!

What's included in each package:
3hr, 5hr, & Full-day photography packages
Assistance with planning and finding vendors that will fit your style.
Assistance with permitting and marriage licenses
An online gallery full of high-resolution photos you can download and print.
All travel fees included!

Packages Starting at $4500

Big Sur Elopement Advice

1.Explore the area if you've never been to Big Sur. Keep your favorite locations in mind for photos on your elopement day.

2.Plan to be ready early in the morning or late in the afternoon. The light is best in Big Sur when the sun is lower in the sky.

3.Sort out Permits needed for your elopement at least 30 days prior. We can help you with this process!

4.Bring food and water whenever you plan on hiking or spending time in these somewhat remote locations.

5.Wear comfortable shoes and choose wedding outfits that won't restrict your natural movement.

These are far from the only possibilities in terms of activities, locations, and accommodations for a Big Sur elopement, but hopefully they're enough to get you started in planning a magnificent beginning to your life of love together. Remember, there's nothing stopping you from using one place for your family, friends, and guests before the two of you sneak off to another place of your secret choosing to start your honeymoon (maybe to nearby Yosemite) without them knowing where you are.

Share this story

  1. Where exactly in big sur was this? I’m planning on eloping there, I have never been, and I need help selecting a spot… this place is gorgeous!

  2. Amazing!!! Any specific name of location? Going to Big Sur soon for my engagement session. Would love to stop by here! Thanks!

  3. Absolutely beautiful. Brilliant in its simplicity, and your use of that gorgeous light is great. Nice 🙂

  4. Epic location for an elopement, and wonderfully captured – Dylan and Sara you guys are amazing. Congrats to Beatriz and Morgan!

  5. Gorgeous! The shot of him helping her climb the boulder in front of the crashing waves tugs at my heart strings. What a moment in such a spectacular setting.

  6. Gorgeous! The shot of him helping her climb the boulder in front of the crashing waves tugs at my heart strings. What a moment in such a spectacular setting.

  7. What a beautiful, beautiful elopement…I love the intimacy and sense of place you’ve established in these images…so well done!

  8. What a beautiful, beautiful elopement…I love the intimacy and sense of place you’ve established in these images…so well done!

  9. Seriously breathtaking. The first one of the couple down on the beach with that mist in the air…fantastic work!


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