After nearly two very long, hard years, we started thinking about a Christmas trip 6 months ago. We originally wanted to go to Disneyland again, but with the struct regulations and mask mandates even for children we decided that we would hold off another year or two. Instead, we started planning one of our bucket list trips! I had always wanted to see Big Sur. Big Sur, widely known as some of the most beautiful coastline in the USA, is nestled just south of Monterey. Many compare it to the Scottish coast. This year we decided that instead of doing big gifts like we typically do, we would gift our children something priceless… memories!
On Christmas Eve-Eve, we drove to Monterey for the night. We enjoyed walking around Cannery Row and the kids wanted to have a quick stroll on the beach. We had booked a family suite at El Castel for night. We have stayed here for years when visiting Monterey area and love how nice and affordable their hotel is. If you have children, I highly recommend booking at El Castel. They offer suites with bedrooms, are very family-friendly, and are located in a decent part of Monterey.
The next morning we got up bright and early to begin our drive down highway 1 through Big Sur. It was a bit rainy the first hour of our drive, but still absolutely beautiful.
Our first stop was Bixby Creek Bridge. We visited this bridge over the summer and it’s a must see when traveling down highway 1. Along the drive, we stopped a couple more times looking at the scenic views. We decided to stop at McWay Falls State Park. Sadly, a lot of the park was closed for repairs. We did get to walk through a cool tunnel out to the coast line to see the waterfall. It was beautiful, but I’m not sure if I would recommend it unless you don’t mind paying $10 a car. I’ve seen so many beautiful photos over the years so maybe we just didn’t time it correctly, but in person it didn’t seem as beautiful as so many talk about. Many spots we stopped at along the coast were just as beautiful, if not more.
We continued to drive down the coastline until we hit San Simeon. We stopped to see the elephant seals and they were by far the most exciting spot during our drive for the kids. Dress warm; it was freezing and very windy. We made another stop in Morro Bay to explore a little bit and afterwards made the drive to our Airbnb in Arroya Grande. We booked a farmhouse only 10 minutes from the beach and it was perfect!
We spent the rest of Christmas Eve and Christmas exploring the Pismo Beach area. The kids had a blast at the Pismo Beach Pier. They have a fun playground and even some slides that lead right to the beach. There’s lots of shops and eateries that are family friendly as well. We enjoyed walking the pier at sunset. It was the perfect ending to a great day!
On Christmas we started the day off at the Monarch Butterfly Grove. It was such a fun experience that the kids loved. Park on the street and enjoy free admission. It does require some walking so I recommend wearing appropriate shoes. I wore open toed sandals and regretted it by the end of our adventure since it had rained the night before.
We wanted to explore some more and luckily both of our vehicles are Subaru’s so we decided to check out the Oceano Dunes SVRA. It was a blast getting to drive along the beach. We got to walk some of the dunes and watched the off-road vehicles in the water and sand. The kids loved exploring and looking for shells.
Big Sur and Pismo had been on my bucket list for awhile. Our trip was a blast! I definitely think it may be our new family tradition. If you are visiting California or even if you are a resident and have never been, Big Sur and Pismo Beach are must visit locations.
I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!