How to Plan Your Big Sur Elopement
Dreaming of a California elopement on an epic coastline? Then this blog is for you!! Big Sur is one of the most popular elopement locations in California and one of my favorite spots as well. It has beautiful sunset views, rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, picturesque coastlines, blooming wildflowers, and epic hikes in all directions. What more could you ask for?? In this guide, I share ALL the details on how to elope in Big Sur: locations, permits, accommodations, and so much more!
Table of Contents
- FAQS About Eloping in Big Sur
- Where is Big Sur?
- When is the Best Time of the Year to Elope in Big Sur?
- 6 Best Locations for Your Big Sur Elopement
- Big Sur Wedding Venues
- Important Things to Know When Eloping in Big Sur
- Big Sur Wedding & Elopement Permits
- Best Places to Stay in Big Sur for Your Elopement
- Best Places to Eat in Big Sur
- Best Big Sur Elopement Activities
- Big Sur Elopement Photographer
- Big Sur Elopement Packages
- Additional Elopement Resources
- Big Sur Elopement Inspiration
FAQS About Eloping in Big Sur
Can you elope in Big Sur?
Yes, you can elope in Big Sur.
Do you need a permit to elope in Big Sur?
Yes, depending on the location, you will need a permit (more on this later).
When is the best time of the year to elope in Big Sur?
Typically the late spring-early fall (May – October) is the best time of the year to elope in Big Sur.
How much does it cost to elope in Big Sur?
If you are eloping in an area that requires a permit, it will cost $300-$400 depending on the park.
Can we bring our dog to our Big Sur Elopement?
Dogs are not allowed on State Park trails but are allowed in the picnic or day-use areas, some campgrounds, and on paved roads throughout the park. Dogs must be on a leash at all times.
Where is Big Sur?
Okay, so where the heck is Big Sur?? Big Sur is located on the Central Coast of California between Carmel and San Simeon. You will reach this iconic destination by driving the famous Highway 1 which is one of the most beautiful drives. You’ll be driving along the rugged coastline and through miles of coastal redwood trees on your way to Big Sur giving you tons of opportunities to pull over to explore, hike, and take tons of photos. Because of the area that Big Sur is in, there are endless opportunities for outdoor activities to make your elopement trip that much more special!
When is the Best Time of the Year to Elope in Big Sur?
Fall (September – October)
In my opinion, fall is the best time of the year to elope in Big Sur. The crowds have left and the fog has disappeared. Prices start to decrease, the beaches have far fewer people on them, and the weather is perfect.
Winter (November – February)
Winter in Big Sur is a bit colder but the biggest concern is that this is when Big Sur gets the most rain. If you don’t mind a little rain, this is the quietest time in Big Sur. If you plan on eloping in Big Sur in the winter, just be prepared with warmer clothing and an umbrella and of course, have a backup plan just in case.
Spring in Big Sur is absolutely stunning as the waterfalls are abundant, the wildflowers are blooming and everything is super green. The temperatures start to warm up a bit during this time of the year but there is also a chance of road closures due to mudslides because of the winter rain.
Summer (July – August)
Summer is definitely the busiest time of the year in Big Sur so if you want to avoid crowds during your elopement, it’s best to skip the summer months. There is also a lot of fog during this time of the year which can drastically affect the views. But if you love that moody and romantic feel, then this is stunning for elopement photos.
6 Best Locations for Your Big Sur Elopement
Located in Northern Big Sur is Garrapata State Park and it is one of the more popular elopement locations. At this park, you will find a beautiful beach, dramatic coastlines, and blooming wildflowers in the spring making this an idyllic location for your elopement ceremony. There are also plenty of areas in this park that are a bit more secluded if privacy is super important to you during your elopement.
Entrance Fee: $10 per vehicle per day
Bixby Bridge is one of the most iconic locations in Big Sur. I would recommend stopping at the pull-out on Highway 1 right before the bridge to capture some portraits with the bridge in the background. This bridge is highly photographed for a reason so definitely check it out!
Entrance Fee: None
Another state park in the Big Sur Area is Andrew Molera. This is the least developed park in the area making it a great spot for some hiking and exploring. The park covers nearly 5,000 acres of land and provides some beautiful elopement locations with far fewer people.
Entrance Fee: $10 per vehicle per day
Glen Oaks is a super cool Big Sur elopement location because it is actually a lodging and event center nestled in Big Sur’s Redwood Trees. This is the perfect place for a super accommodating elopement experience. They have beautiful areas to have your ceremony and then they have the most perfect modern yet rustic cabins to stay in. It’s super secluded and immersed in nature making for a more intimate feel for your elopement.
McWay Falls is probably the most well-known and iconic backdrop for photos in the Big Sur area. You will find McWay Falls in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and it is 1000% a must-see if you are in the area. This 80ft waterfall cascades over the jagged cliffs right onto the beach. Due to the danger of getting down to the beach, there is no access to get down there. But, the best views are honestly from up above. You can enjoy your elopement ceremony at the McWay Falls lookout during sunset and I promise it WILL NOT disappoint!
Pfeiffer Beach is one of the best places to elope in Big Sur if you are actually wanting to have your ceremony on the beach. This beach is located within Los Padres National Forest and is known for its super unique keyhole arch and purple sand. And no permits are required to elope here making it super easy!
Big Sur Wedding Venues
While there are so many epic elopement locations in Big Sur, sometimes it’s nice to have a venue that is all yours for the day. The public locations tend to get very busy, especially in the summer months so if you are looking for a more private ceremony, consider one of these amazing venues.
The Wind and Sea Estate is a modern and luxurious 3,000 sq ft. home that sits right next door to McWay Falls. It offers a modern chef’s kitchen, an outdoor yoga area, Jack and Jill copper soak tubs, and a dry sauna. And it has some of the most insane views making for the most beautiful backdrop for your elopement ceremony. This home can sleep up to 12 people so it’s perfect for the couple who is wanting to include some friends and family on their big day.
Alila Ventana is a beautiful coastal resort in Big Sur surrounded by towering Redwoods that offers packages for both weddings and elopements. They have three different areas you can have your wedding or elopement and each of them is stunning. Imagine having your elopement ceremony overlooking the ocean in a grass meadow or on a private terrace. This is the perfect venue for the couple that is wanting to elope but still wants more of a traditional wedding venue experience.
Wow, where do I even begin with Lomas Vista? This magical wedding and elopement venue is a historic property in Big Sur nestled in the forest. This event space within the forest overflows with cacti, flowers, succulents, and fruit trees creating the most whimsical setting. I seriously cannot recommend this wedding venue enough!
Big Sur Grange is a banquet hall tucked away in the forest off Highway 1 that hosts elopements and micro-weddings. The beautiful red brick exteriors of the banquet hall nestled between all of the beautiful redwoods provide a stunning backdrop for your ceremony. One of the things I love the most about this venue is that rental fees are put back into the community to help with the venue’s local events, which include fundraisers, craft fairs, theater programs, and farmer’s markets.
While Big Sur Affairs technically isn’t a wedding venue, they are a full-service Big Sur wedding planning company that can bring your dream elopement to life anywhere.
Important Things to Know When Eloping in Big Sur
- PLEASE LEAVE NO TRACE: This place and the ecosystem are so beautiful and we want to keep it that way. Respect the area and don’t leave anything behind.
- Bad Cell Service: The area doesn’t have the best cell service so make sure to download a map or directions so you know where you are going. Also, make sure to coordinate with your vendors ahead of time.
- The roads are windy and there can be lots of traffic: If you get car sick, this might not be the elopement location for you. Highway 1 is no joke and extremely windy. Oh, and there can be lots of traffic in the summer months so plan ahead for that.
- It can be pretty cold: If colder weather and coastal winds are your thing, then this might not be the best elopement location for you. The weather is pretty similar year-round and doesn’t tend to warm up at all.
Big Sur Wedding & Elopement Permits
Once you decide that you want to elope in Big Sur, one of the most important things to do is to figure out if you need a special use permit. Some areas require one while others do not.
I recommend applying for your permit about one year before you plan on eloping. It’s a busy elopement location so the sooner you apply for the permit the more likely you are able to secure your desired date.
Below are the links to permit info for each of the state parks in the Big Sur area:
- Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Wedding & Elopement Permits
- Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park Wedding & Elopement Permits
- Andrew Molera State Park Wedding & Elopement Permits
To obtain a special use permit for your Garrapata State Park elopement, call 831-624-3407 or e-mail the Special Events Coordinator at BigSurEvents@parks.ca.gov.
Limekiln State Park is the only state park in the area that doesn’t require a permit for your elopement!
Best Places to Stay in Big Sur for Your Elopement
- Big Sur Blue Cottage with Ocean View
- Mountain Tree House
- Big Sur Dream Home
- 5 acres pool/spa, walk to all Big Sur has to offer
- Loma Vista Gardens – Forest Yurt
- Glen Oaks Big Sur
- Alila Ventana Big Sur
- La Playa Hotel
- Hyatt Vacation Club at Highlands Inn & HYATT Carmel Highlands
- Big Sur Lodge
- Big Sur Campground & Cabins
- Ventana Campground
- Fernwood Campground
- Kirk Creek Campground
- Treebones Resort
Best Places to Eat in Big Sur
- Coast Big Sur
- Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn Restaurant
- Sierra Mar
- Big Sur Roadhouse
- Big Sur River Inn & Restaurant
Best Big Sur Elopement Activities
If you’re visiting the Big Sur area for your elopement, I highly recommend taking advantage of some of the fun things there are to do. And don’t just stay for one day, stay for 2 or 3. There is so much to do and see and if you’re already there you might as well make the most of it. Here are some fun ideas that you can do on your elopement day or on your trip:
- You obviously have to drive the iconic Highway 101 and stop at some of the pull-offs for the most epic views.
- Set up a romantic cliffside of the Big Sur for sunset.
- Spend your day exploring one of the many hiking trails in the area.
- Explore the charming coastal town, Carmel-by-the-Sea.
- Soak in some of the local hot springs.
- Spend a couple of hours at Sand Dollar Beach Sand for some beachcombing (aka looking for sand dollars that have washed ashore).
- Explore Point Lobos State Natural Reserve
- Walk Among the Redwoods at Limekiln State Park
Big Sur Elopement Photographer
Hi there, I’m Meg, your Big Sur Elopement Photographer!
I’ve always wanted to be a photographer and to be able to call this my full-time job is an absolute dream come true. Creating captivating, authentic images just sets my soul on fire and I have so much gratitude for this art. I love capturing moments. I’m the girl who takes my film camera everywhere I go because I just want to look back and remember what I was feeling at that moment. I love being able to look at a photo and travel back in time.
Being a photographer has allowed me to find the moments of beauty in everyday life and there is nothing I love more than allowing people to see themselves as a piece of art.
Big Sur Elopement Packages
Whether it’s the San Francisco Courthouse or your favorite national park, this package is for you!
+ Coverage options starting at 2 hours through the full day
+ Planning that includes location scouting and curating a timeline
+ Online gallery with high-res downloads
+ 20 guests or less
+ print rights
+ Travel in California is included
+ International packages available
+ Online slide show & gallery to share with family and friends
Starting at $2550