Beautiful beaches, towering sea cliffs, and roaring waterfalls await you at Big Sur, a California treasure spanning more than 90 miles of coastline and featuring a number of unspoiled state parks. Rustic Big Sur vacation rentals offer easy access to many family-friendly activities, ranging from easy hiking trails to nature reserves dotted with tide pools. Whether you’re looking for a wilderness adventure or a relaxing place to spot migrating whales, this natural vacation area offers endless opportunities. Here are 10 kid-friendly activities you can’t miss while exploring Big Sur on your next vacation.
1. Enjoy a Horseback Ride Along the Beach
For a memorable experience, families with kids of all ages are sure to love seeing the views of the Big Sur region by horseback. Andrew Molera State Park offers great opportunities for riding along the beach with guided horseback tours ideal for beginners. Be sure to keep an eye out for sea otters and other wildlife during your relaxing ride.
2. Explore Pfeiffer Beach
This sandy cove is the perfect place to lay out a few beach towels and break out the sand toys while enjoying views of striking rock formations. Your kids will love watching pelicans swoop down to the shoreline as they build sandcastles. Kids of all ages enjoy wading through the creek that runs into the ocean. Be sure to stay until evening so you can see the sunset through the gap of Pfeiffer Keyhole Rock.
3. Drive Along the Bixby Bridge
One of the hallmark attractions of Big Sur, this massive vehicle bridge strikes awe in the hearts of tourists of all ages. Pull over at one of the stops before or after driving along the bridge, and step out of your vehicle to fully appreciate the structure and capture a few family photos.
4. Hike the Trails at Andrew Molera State Park
Spanning 4,800 acres, this state park has become a family favorite due to its easy hikes along flatter terrain, biking opportunities, and safer waters ideal for older kids who want to test their surfing skills. Having trouble choosing a trail? Try Creamery Meadow Beach Trail, which offers an easy hike to a sandy beach teeming with sea birds. Head down to the old Cooper Cabin from October to January to see hundreds of monarch butterflies.
5. See Pfeiffer Falls
Make a stop at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park to see this hidden gem before enjoying a family picnic. The easy, 1-mile hike amidst lush ferns and towering redwoods is suitable for all ages, and kids are sure to love gazing up at the 60-foot falls. Be sure to stop by the nature center on your way out so your kids can view preserved native wildlife and touch a mountain lion pelt.
6. See the Iconic McWay Falls
Located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, this roaring waterfall from the cliffs to a blue-water beach cove is mesmerizing. While you can’t easily get down to the beach itself, the lookouts and points offer breathtaking views of the falls. The short hike from the highway is approximately 10 minutes long and easy for younger and older kids alike.
7. Comb Sand Dollar Beach
Living up to its name, this easy-access beach is a great place for little ones to find washed-up sand dollars, but they can also find beautiful polished stones that may contain jade and other minerals. Families can also try fishing in the surf while keeping an eye out for migrating whales.
8. Explore Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park
If you have time to see more than just Pfeiffer Falls, make a short trip from your vacation rental to explore the rest of this sprawling state park. While the other state parks in the area are known for their coastal views, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park rests further inland on the slopes of the St. Lucia Mountains, offering hike through vast meadows, to redwood groves, and along the Big Sur River. After a day of hiking, the whole family is sure to enjoy a dip in the Gorge Swimming Hole.
9. Spot Wildlife at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
While this secluded reserve features the beautiful sea cliffs typical of Big Sur, the real draw for families is the treasure trove of marine wildlife. Bring a few pairs of binoculars so the kids can spot humpback whales, orca whales, and gray whales just off shore. You can also spot sea lions and harbor seals lounging and soaking up the sun on the rocky outcroppings during the day. The reserve is also home to elusive land mammals, such as gray foxes, coyotes, and deer that you might see from one of the easy trails. Don’t head back to your vacation rental before exploring the tide pools to see crabs, sea urchins, mussels, and other sea critters.
10. See the Old Limekilns
Limekiln State Park covers just over 700 acres, but despite its small size, it offers a rich collection of historic sites and natural scenery for families with kids of all ages. The first short hike takes you through stands of redwoods and past the old lime kilns, and the second leads to a breathtaking 100-foot waterfall.
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