Table of Contents

17 Top Big Sur Packing List Items for 2022 + What to Wear & What NOT to Bring

what to bring to big sur
Updated on

Beautiful Big Sur, one of the top destinations on the California coast, it’s a place everyone should visit if they get the chance. With miles of gorgeous coastline, delightful hiking trails and beaches, so much history and nature, everyone leaves a piece of their heart on this amazing land. Whether you are going camping for the weekend, renting a spot, or just visiting for the day, it is a place you don’t want to miss!

Below we are going to be talking about everything you might need for a lovely day trip to Big Sur. Everything you don’t want to forget, everything you should wear, what not to bring and more. Stick around!

What To Pack to Big Sur- 17 Essentials

  • 1. Packing Cubes

    Even for just a day trip, I never take a trip without packing anything in my packing cubes. They fit everything I need for a day and a night, but they also will fit everything I need for a whole week! They have so much space but fit so perfectly into a suitcase or a backpack.

  • 2. Hiking Pack (with water bladder)

    When taking a trip to Big Sur, you most definitely are going to need some sort of day bag or backpack. I recommend this hiking pack with a built-in water bladder. Not only does it fit everything you’ll need for a day trip, but it has a convenient water source right on your back.

  • 3. Waterproof Travel Umbrella

    Having a travel-sized umbrella may come in handy way more than you think. Not only does this umbrella protect against rain, but it is also windproof and provides shelter from the sun. At only 1 pound and 1 foot long, it is the perfect size to travel with and pack in the car or in a pack.

  • 4. Cooling Towel

    This cooling towel is such a great thing to have on any trip! Walking around Big Sur, especially in the summer, it can get hot. Dip this cooling towel in cool water and it will provide cooling relief for up to an hour!

  • 5. Universal Waterproof Phone Case

    Coastal beach trip? That means this waterproof phone case is more than necessary. Protect your phone before any accidents happen. This waterproof phone is amazing because not only is it universal, but you can also use the touch screen without taking your phone out.

  • 6. Travel Towel

    Pairing very well with the cooling towel, what would a beach trip be without a quality towel? I love this towel for day trips because since it’s fast drying (drying up to 10 times faster than regular towels) it’s great to use quickly then safely put back in your car. It also rolls up nicely into its drawstring bag and fits perfectly in a backpack.

  • 7. Headlamp

    It’s better to be safe than sorry and even if you aren’t planning on being out at night, it’s never a bad idea to have a headlamp with you on any hike you take. Sometimes, even the experienced hiker can get a little lost on trails and having a headlamp is extra comforting as night approaches.

  • 8. Neck Wallet

    It is important to have those very important credit cards, IDs, and passports anytime you are traveling anywhere. Keep all of those things close to you in one easy-access spot with this neck wallet. Easy to wear, easy to protect all your important cards, and easy to access.

  • 9. Portable Charger

    Especially on hikes or beach trips, you may not always have an outlet available to charge your phone. That’s why this portable phone charger is perfect for when you’re out and about. It fits perfectly in any small purse or backpack and will charge your phone for two full charges.

  • 10. Sunscreen

    Much of the time at Big Sur, you are basking in the open air, and open skies and that means, lots of sun. Protect your skin and stay safe by bringing sunscreen. Reef-safe sunscreen is highly recommended if you plan on taking a dip in the ocean to protect ocean life.

  • 11. LifeStraw Water Bottle

    One of the best water bottles out there has got to be this LifeStraw water bottle. Not only is it a quality water bottle, but every time you fill it up, the filter will purify your water and get rid of 99.9% bacteria in the water. So wherever you are filling up, you never have to worry about what you’re drinking.

  • 12. Floating Wrist Strap

    Anytime I’m taking a beach trip or hiking around water, rivers, etc. I never leave home without first attaching this floating wrist strap. Give yourself some peace of mind and protect your important things like phones or cameras.

  • 13. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    It is so nice to have all of your essentials in one place. There is no better way to carry toiletries than this hanging toiletry bag. With enough space for everything, you can organize all of your items perfectly and have them all in one spot. Plus, it hands up nicely for out-of-the-way easy access.

  • 14. Travel Insurance for Big Sur

    Whether you are booking a hotel room or an Airbnb, making reservations for flights or restaurants, protect yourself and your assets with travel insurance! TravelInsurance.com is great for comparing policies from top companies to find the one that’s best for you and your travel plans.

  • 15. First Aid Kit

    When packing for any hiking trip, I never leave without bringing this portable first aid kit. For short hikes or long multi-day hikes, you never know when you might need a first aid kit.

  • 16. Binoculars

    Trust me you aren’t going to want to miss anything from this trip and what better way to see absolutely everything than with binoculars? These ones are super easy to travel with and have great vision. If you are in Big Sur during the right seasons, you may be able to spot a whale or herds of seals or sea lions and it’s so fun to view them up close.

  • 17. Camera

    Basically, the whole point of going to Big Sur is to sightsee! And what is sightseeing without a camera? It is highly recommended to bring your nice, portable camera on this trip so you don’t lose any moments while exploring this beautiful coastline.

What to Wear to Big Sur

Big Sur has so many things to do. You can go from hiking to swimming, to just walking around to lounging on the beach! You can even go surfing if that is up your alley. Mainly, day trips to Big Sur include lots of sightseeing and walking or hiking around. Before you start packing, decide what you are going to be doing in Big Sur to help decide what to bring.

No matter what, you will definitely need good walking shoes. Whether they be quality sneakers or actual hiking shoes, you will want something quality and comfortable for the lots of walking that will most likely happen. Since Big Sur is a coastal trip, you will definitely want your swim gear. Usually, most people visit Big Sur during the warmer months, however, having a light jacket or a sweatshirt may come in handy especially when the evening coastal breezes pick up. If you visit Big Sur during the off seasons, or during the fall or spring, you will probably need your rain gear!

What Should Women Wear to Big Sur?- (Click to expand)

Below is a sample women’s clothing list.(All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).

Women taking a day trip to Big Sur want to stay comfortable, but it’s nice to look cute as you travel along the coast. There are so many things to do in Big Sur, it really depends on your activities list for the day. No matter what, you are definitely going to want a good pair of hiking shoes, whether you are planning on taking a long hike or not, there is bound to be lots of walking.

Pack comfortable clothes that you could hike around in, but throw that cute summer dress in your bag for when it’s time to get dinner at one of the restaurants. A sun hat and a swimsuit are a must because more than likely you will be stopping by the beach. This also means you’ll want sunscreen!


What Should Men Wear to Big Sur? - (Click to expand)

Below is a sample men’s clothing list.(All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).

Men picking clothes to bring to Big Sur can keep it pretty beach casual. As with women, make sure you have good hiking shoes and comfortable athletic wear. Not only will you need hiking shoes, but pack a pair of sandals to run down to the beach and sneakers to wear to a restaurant after the day of exploring. If you are traveling to Big Sur during the colder months, you will definitely want a jacket or a sweatshirt and some long pants.

Packing For the Seasons in Big Sur

Winter – December, January, February

Luckily, the weather in Big Sur never gets very cold. Of course, during these months, it may be very rainy and windy, but the temperatures never get below ’40s. This is not a very busy time of year, as the rains are around and camping isn’t something everyone wants to do when it’s wet outside, however, if you are looking to keep away from crowds or you’re trying to catch some elephant seals (January is the month they wash up on shore to give birth!) and whales, this is a great time of year to enjoy Big Sur.

Definitely bring your rain gear for traveling during these months. You are going to want a good waterproof windbreaker, and rain boots. If it isn’t raining, you can dress comfortably in warm pants, and a quality jacket. You may want to pack a beanie just in case those winds pick up.

Spring – March, April, May

Spring is a lovely time of year to visit Big Sur. Elephant seals are still hanging out in large crowds on the beaches, flowers are blooming and the grasses are green. The weather is starting to warm up and the rains are slowing down. It’s warm, but not totally hot out yet. The weather stays around 60-65 in the springtime, getting down to mid-’40s at night. The spring crowds mostly consist of day trippers looking to catch seal sight sightings, however, the campgrounds are still pretty empty.

You will still probably want to have your rain jacket when traveling to Big Sur in the springtime. Warm pants are still a good thing to have on, and a windbreaker is always a good thing to have just in case.

Summer – June, July, August

Summertime in Big Sur! The crowds have finally rolled in, the sun is shining, and the temperatures are nice and warm. A great thing about Big Sur is that it never gets extremely hot. During the summer it will usually stay around 70-80 with the evenings getting to around 50. Summer is the busy season in Big Sur, this is when most people come to visit, exploring the trails and doing lots of camping.

It’s finally warm enough to whip out that bikini and lounge on the beach. Bring a nice beach cover-up to stroll the beaches and do a little beach hiking. Shorts, sandals, and tank tops are in full swing. Pack a lovely summer dress or nice button-up for visiting the restaurants after a fun day in the sun.

Fall – September, October, November

In fall, things really start to slow down. According to numbers, September-November is the slowest season for Big Sur, so for some, this means it’s the best time to visit. The weather remains between 60-70, and the rains will start rolling in around October.

You could probably bring your rain jacket just in case, though you probably won’t need it. You can get away with wearing shorts and sandals, however, you will definitely want hiking shoes and sweatshirt or a light jacket for the evening time chills.

Dressing appropriately for the activity– (Click to expand)

Hiking: One of the best ways to see Big Sur up close is by hiking one or a few of the trails that are around the area. From short little walks to strenuous day hikes, there are so many different hikes for people of all ages and levels. If you plan on doing some hiking during your time in Big Sur, definitely bring a quality pair of hiking shoes. You will want sunscreen and perhaps some bug spray especially if you are in the redwoods areas. Hiking clothes such as sports tank tops, or moisture wicking pants are handy for longer hikes.

Beach: Sometimes, a trip to Big Sur just means a fun beach day! With Big Sur being the coast, there is no limit on beach spots to explore and relax. Of course, bring your favorite swimsuit. Sunglasses, a sun hat, and sunscreen are all important for some sun protection. I recommended bringing a beach cover-up as well since these beaches are so fun to take walks on, it’s nice having a cover-up.

Sightseeing: There is so much to see around Big Sur. From sea life to different plants and trees, plus all the birds and other animals, you could spend all day going from place to place just looking around at everything. There are even things like Point Sur lighthouse which offers lighthouse tours and grand views of the ocean. Definitely bring your binoculars as you don’t want to miss anything (or animal!) out at sea. Comfortable walking shoes for taking walks at vista points, and a light jacket in case it gets windy are all good things to have while checking out the sights.

Restaurants: While Big Sur is mostly known for its incredible coastline, amazing views, and sea life, there are some amazing restaurants that are located in Big Sur. From fine dining, to bar environments, to family-friendly pizza places, there is a wide range of food in Big Sur. For a fine dining experience by the ocean, pack a semi-fancy evening dress or a button-up, plus a sweater or cardigan for the night breeze.

What NOT To Bring to Big Sur

  • 1.DON'T Bring Lots of Luggage

    Besides packing an extra sweatshirt in case it gets chilly, or an extra pair of hiking shoes if you are wearing sandals, you don’t need too many outfit changes. Save yourself the space and pack lightly.

  • 2.DON'T Bring Glass

    Glass is a pain to haul around and definitely not environmentally friendly. You never want to go to the beach with glass, so stick to plastic or cans.

  • 3.DON'T Bring Lots of Food

    Definitely bring some trail snacks or chips, especially if you plan on hiking for a pick-me-up. Otherwise, you won’t need much food as you most likely will be stopping at least one of Big Sur’s many restaurants.

  • 4.DON'T Bring Snow Gear

    The average snowfall in Big Sur is about 3 inches a year, so the chances that you will be involved in that are very slim. You can leave bulky snow gear at home for this trip and pack only lighter jackets or windbreakers as they are more necessary.

  • 5.DON'T Bring Drones

    It is not allowed to fly any drones in state parks, and besides that, it is very discouraged to fly drones anywhere else in Big Sur to protect everyone’s privacy and not disturb the wildlife.

  • 6.DON'T Bring Expensive Jewelry

    As with any beach trip or hiking excursion, there is no need to bring your finest jewels as they risk getting lost.

What NOT to wear in Big Sur – (Click to expand)

As you are taking your day trip to Big Sur, there is no need to pack a whole lot. Even in the winter seasons, you can leave your heavy parkas at home. There is definitely no need to bring snow gear or all of your winter layers. Although it can get rainy and windy in the winter months, it hardly ever snows in Big Sur. Keep your eye on the weather and pack accordingly, save space by bringing only what you will need.

FAQs about Big Sur

  • 1. What are the best spots to visit in Big Sur?

    Big Sur has an incredible amount of spots to see and views to enjoy. While you can drive through the Big Sur coastline in a day, you can easily spend a few nights there. Here are some of the top attractions in Big Sur.

    • Pfeiffer Beach – The State Park in Big Sur, everyone will tell you how beautiful Pfeiffer Beach is. Since it’s a main attraction, it does get busy during the summer seasons.
    • Pfeiffer State Park – A huge area with so much to explore, including 150 campgrounds. Nestled amongst the redwoods, it’s an amazing place to hike around.
    • Ragged Point– A beautiful vista point headed North out of Big Sur. It’s a great resting point to stretch legs, refuel, and enjoy the scenery.
    • Bixby Bridge – The iconic Bixby Bridge is a must-see when you go to Big Sur. Completed in 1932, it’s almost hard to describe, just something you need to see for yourself. Parking is limited, though you can drive across the bridge as it stands 260 feet above Bixby Creek.
    • Henry Miller Memorial Library – Not a library in the, check out books and return them sense, but a beautiful memorial place for all the art and artists of Big Sur. It was built for Henry Miller, a famous writer, and artist in the mid ’60s, and continues today to be a beautiful nonprofit museum.
    • Piedras Blancas Elephant Seal Rookery – This is voted the number one place to see the elephant seals, located in the southern part of Big Sur. Seals usually come up on the beach any time of the year, however, the herds come during January, April, and October during their mating and birthing seasons.
    What are the best spots to visit in Big Sur?
  • 2. Are dogs allowed and what can we do with our dogs at Big Sur?

    Keep in mind that a lot of Big Sur is a state park, and dogs are not allowed on state park trails. However, they are allowed in campgrounds and in picnic areas. Around Big Sur, there are two dog-friendly beaches.

    • Pfeiffer Beach
    • Sand Dollar Beach
  • 3. Best places to spend the night?

    There are plenty of lodges and camping spots around Big Sur. Some wonderful resorts include:

    • Post Ranch Inn
    • Ventana Big Sur, An Alila Resort
    • Big Sur River Inn
    • Big Sur Lodge

    There are also some amazing and beautiful camping spots, these include, but are not limited to:

    • Ventana Campground
    • Sykes Hot Springs Campground
    • Fernwood Campground and Resort
    • Pfeiffer State Park Camping
    • Riverside Campground and Cabins
    Best places to spend the night?
  • 4. What are some good restaurants?

    Big Sur is packed with amazing food and beautiful restaurants. Here are some of the best places to stop and get some food.

    • Nepenthe – $$$ (finer dining, family-friendly, very popular spot in the Big Sur area)
    • Sierra Mar – $$$$ (fine dining, amazing food, perfect for a romantic dinner by the sea)
    • Big Sur Bakery – $$-$$$ (for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, this is one of the most popular spots in Big Sur for any time of the day)
    • Big Sur Taphouse – $-$$ (family-friendly, good drink selection, perfect for a day trip meal)
    • Big Sur Roadhouse – $$ (another popular spot in Big Sur, this a classic California cuisine with a cajun twist, amazing food, and family-friendly)
  • 5. What is the best hiking around Big Sur?

    From tiny half-mile hikes to larger 10+ mile hikes, there are so many fun trails to explore in the Big Sur area. Some of the best hikes include:

    • Salmon Creek Trail – Great trail for visitors looking for a short hike. At only a quarter-mile round trip, it’s a great place to stop and stretch your legs. This trail also offers a longer expedition with a 10.5-mile hike.
    • Beach Trail, Creamery Trail, and Ridge Trail – All within Andrew Molera. State Park. These trails are connected and run about 9 miles but have amazing secret beach access and beautiful views.
    • Boucher Trail – The best trail for viewing elephant seals, as they are all along the coast following this easy 1.9-mile hike.
    • Pfeiffer Falls Trail – A family-friendly 1.5-mile hike loop found in the Pfeiffer State park. This is a wonderful trail nestled in the redwoods and is one of the more popular trails around Big Sur.
    • Waterfall Overlook Trail – Another classic trail in Big Sur, this trail is only half a mile long and is wheelchair accessible. It leads to an overlook area looking out on the coast and at the beautiful Mcway Falls, a waterfall flowing into the ocean. This is a must-see when visiting Big Sur!
    What is the best hiking around Big Sur?
  • 6. Is there cell service around Big Sur?

    The cell phone service is extremely spotty in Big Sur. Be prepared and download any maps you may need before you go and utilize other road maps and road signs.