Henry Miller, Jack Kerouac and Hunter S. Thompson all knew it: Big Sur is one of the most beautiful and inspirational spots on earth. Here the Santa Lucia Mountains meet the Pacific with high drama. If you’re lucky enough to be driving down Route 1, you’ll fly down a redwood-lined, serpentine road along a high cliff, with mountains on one side and a jaw-dropping rocky shore on the other. You’ll pass over the famed Bixby Creek Bridge and along long beaches and cow pastures until you see Point Sur Lighthouse in the foggy distance. Sitting atop a 360-foot-tall rock jutting out into the Pacific, the lighthouse seems almost unreal in its beauty. As you continue on 1, you’ll drive by some of the coolest hotels in California (the Post Ranch Inn, Ventana and Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn). And if you’re hungry, stopping off at Nepenthe is a must. Continuing deeper into Big Sur, you’ll pass a sign for the Esalen Institute, a well-known (and gorgeous) retreat created in the 1960s and often thought of as the heart of the Human Potential Movement—oh, and clothing-optional hot tubs.

Big Sur is a feast for the senses. It’s guaranteed to recharge the mind, body and spirit.

“Big Sur is the California that men dreamed of years ago, this is the Pacific that Balboa looked at from the Peak of Darien, this is the face of the earth as the Creator intended it to look.” —Henry Miller

The starry skies above Big Sur

Point Sur Lighthouse at sundown

Farmlands and Point Sur Lighthouse

Little Sur River as it reaches the Pacific

Grazing land, as shot from above Big Sur

The Santa Lucia Mountains rising from the Pacific

The grounds of the Esalen Institute at sunset

Carved by failure, shaped by inspiration

Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn

The library at Deetjen’s

The final moments of light in Big Sur

The dark skies of Big Sur