If you’re thinking about eloping in Big Sur, I say “hell yea!” Big Sur is one of the most beautiful spots in California, so it’s no wonder why you’d want to elope there. But if that’s the plan, I’m sure you’re gonna need someone to point you in the right direction! Which is exactly why I put together this article on how to elope in Big Sur, complete with everything you need to know!
How many guests are invited?
The first thing you need to think about when planning your Big Sur elopement is how many guests you’re going to invite. This will impact what your overall budget is, the locations you can elope at, and how much planning will need to be involved. We’ll go more into detail about your venue options below, but start thinking about how many of your loved ones you want to witness you get hitched!
Best time of year to elope in Big Sur
All four seasons offer different weather/scenery at Big Sur. Keep in mind though – on the coast of California, the weather can always be a bit unpredictable. In the morning you can have foggy, overcast skies, and then by the afternoon the sun is shining and there’s not a cloud in sight. Here is a breakdown of each season to help you decide what time of year you want to elope:
One of the highlights of Big Sur in the spring is that the gray whales are heading back toward the Arctic! You can catch a glimpse of their travels during the months of April and May right off Highway 1, or at the overlook trail in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Spring is also wildflower season in Big Sur, which makes for some pretty great scenery. The weather in the springtime is not bad at all; the temperatures can range from 60-70 degrees Fahrenheit.
Summer is by far the most popular season to visit Big Sur… which means it’s probably not the best time to elope there. With school-age kids being on summer vacation and many families taking their annual central coast roadtrip, Big Sur can get crowded during the months of June, July, and August. Although the weather is to die for, it’s best to avoid eloping at this time if you want some privacy. If you’re set on having a summer Big Sur elopement, than I recommend eloping at sunrise where there will be less foot traffic!
Back to the moderate 60-70 degree weather, autumn at Big Sur is a lovely time to elope. However, keep in mind that the late summer/early fall is wildfire season here, so there are many closures to help keep the park under control. If you want to elope in the fall, you should do so during the months of October or November. The array of colors in Big Sur during the fall are gorgeous!
The most rainy season in Big Sur is definitely the wintertime. So if you want to avoid a rainy elopement, I would recommend choosing a month outside of December, January, or February! But let me tell you, a winter elopement at Big Sur can be so pretty! The temperatures can range from low 60’s to 40’s.
Where to elope in Big Sur
Remember when I said we’d be talking more about venue options? If you’re looking to invite more than 10 guests, it would probably be best to choose a designated venue versus a spot in the state park. Lucky for you, I’m giving you options for both!
If you want to indulge in a post-elopement activity, Point Lobos has both scuba diving and snorkeling options. The offshore area is a part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary and has one of the richest underwater habitats! Aside from the marine amenities, Point Lobos also offers spectacular views, especially at sunset.
This is another spot where you can see the gray whales during their migration! Super cool, right? Garrapata has a two-mile beachfront stretch that would be the perfect place to have your elopement. Located within the state park is Soberanes Canyon Trail, which is a 2.8 mile hike with quite the rewarding view at the top.
Andrew Molera SP offers panoramic views of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, so you can only imagine what you’d see as you elope here. The park is 20 miles south of Carmel and Highway 1 and is relatively easy to access.
Waterfalls, redwoods, and coastline?? This state park has virtually every scenery you could think of, so the options for your elopement are endless. It’s located about 37 miles south of Carmel on Highway 1, and 12 miles south of Pfeiffer Big Sur SP on Highway 1.
This park is located on the western slope of the Saint Lucia Mountains and offers views of the Big Sur River Gorge at its highest points. It’s home to many of Big Sur’s most popular campsites, so you’ll definitely see the most foot traffic here. That isn’t to discredit the spectacular views you’d have if you elope here!
Loma Vista Gardens is a beautiful, whimsical, rustic venue for your Big Sur elopement. They have both full-day and microwedding packages to fit whatever needs you have! You get exclusive and private access to the entire property located in the heart of Big Sur.
Glen Oaks can be both your elopement venue and accommodation spot for you and your guests on your big day. This boutique hotel has a variety of different room options, including individual oak tree cottages! You can get married on-site surrounded by Big Sur’s iconic redwoods.
Another venue/accommodation duo, Big Sur Lodge offers specific elopement packages that are very reasonably priced. Their packages are valid for elopements up to 10 guests, so that’s the only thing to keep in mind. They have four different onsite venues for you to choose from, so you’ve got options!
Can you get married on the beach in Big Sur?
The answer is yes, of course! There are many different beachfront elopement options in Big Sur. Both Pfeiffer Beach and Garrapata State Beach are available for elopements, and no permit is required for either location.
Do you need a permit to get married in Big Sur?
Most locations near Big Sur do require Special Use Permits. Please don’t try and bypass this process; if you get caught, you’ll have to exit the premises during your elopement. I don’t know about you, but I think that would be kind of embarrassing.
There are two different types of permits you can obtain for your Big Sur elopement. The first one is a Standard Special Event Permit that can be obtained up to 1 year in advance and is valid for events that include more than 10 people. The second option is an Elopement Special Event Permit that you can apply for up to 6 months in advance and is valid for weddings with less than 10 guests. You should definitely apply for your permit as soon as you can to make sure it gets approved on time! Applications submitted less than 45 days in advance will have additional fees and restrictions. And if you apply less than 3 week before your elopement date, they won’t even consider you!
To get your Special Event Permit, you have to email BigSurEvents@parks.ca.gov and they’ll give you all the information you need. Depending on the location you want to elope at, permit costs and other fees can be up to $900, so budget wisely!
Where to stay when you elope in Big Sur
Best Airbnb’s for your Big Sur elopement
- Mountain Treehouse in Carmel Valley
- Luxury Tent in Carmel by the sea
- Cottage in the Carmel Valley Hills
Best hotels for eloping in Big Sur
Best campgrounds in Big Sur
Tips for your Big Sur elopement
- When you decide on your location, make sure to visit the location’s website to determine the specific rules so you don’t accidentally break them
- Bring an extra pair of hiking shoes!
- Always layer when you’re in California – bring a sweater or an extra coat
- Download a map of the area or bring a paper one with you. You never know when you won’t have cell service!
- Plan for a sunrise or sunset elopement. These times of day will give you the absolute best lighting!
- If you’re hiking to your location, bring extra food and water ‘cause no one wants to be hangry during their elopement.
Things to do after you elope in Big Sur
Highway 101 is by far one of the prettiest drives in California. Taking the 17-mile after your elopement would be a great experience to have with your new partner. It loops around the Monterey Peninsula and is said to be the most scenic route in all of California!
Carmel-by-the-sea day trip
This is a European style city that everyone should visit while they’re in California! And if you’re a fan of British chocolate, they have a sweets shop that comes highly recommended by everyone in the area. And to end your day-trip, you can watch the sunset on Carmel’s white, sandy beach.
Visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey is home to California’s most impressive aquarium, so it would be a shame not to visit. While you’re doing the 17-mile drive, you can make a quick (or not so quick) stop at the aquarium to see all the marine life it has to offer.
Visit Hearst Castle
Considered a local landmark, Hearst Castle is located on the central coast and is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. This 90,000 sq foot historic estate will blow your mind with the amount of detail and insane views it has!
Now you know how to elope in Big Sur
Next step: book your photographer! Before you ask, yes, I would love to shoot your Big Sur elopement. To get in touch with me, you can fill out my contact form and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!