Why Elope in Big Sur?

Big Sur is undoubtedly one of the best places to elope in California. So much so, that it often hits the lists of being one of the best places in the US to visit. One of the best parts about Big Sur is the remoteness that this coastal stretch offers visitors. You won’t even feel like you’re in California, but instead, have been transported to somewhere such as New Zealand. 

Known for its hikes, dramatic cliffs, turquoise water, and blooming wildflowers, you really can’t go wrong with eloping in Big Sur. In this costal stretch, you’ll have the opportunity to experience the Pacific Ocean like you’ve never experienced it before. Exchange vows on the cliffside, eat a romantic dinner at a local diner, then finish the night off watching the sunset over the horizon. Can you picture a better day than that?

A bride and groom snuggling on a beach in California for their elopement.

Best Places to Elope in Big Sur

Big Sur has a variety of different elopement locations to choose from for your elopement or small wedding. With multiple parks and public lands, you have endless scenery options to choose from. From dramatic cliffs and crashing waves, to open meadows and redwood forests, you’ll surely be able to find something you love. 

Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach is one of the best places to elope in Big Sur. It’s located within the Los Padres National Forest and is one of the most visited beaches in Big Sur. Pfeiffer Beach is known for its iconic keyhole arch and purple sand. It can be an adventure simply just trying to find the beach, but it should definitely be considered for your elopement, specially during sunset. Plus, there are no permits required to elope at this beautiful spot. Score!

Ancient Redwoods

The redwood trees are a must-see if you decide to elope in Big Sur. These ancient redwoods trees will make you feel like you’re in a forest fairytale right on the coast. With so many different hidden locations, it’s not hard to find a secluded and intimate elopement location within these beautiful trees.

McWay Falls in Big Sur, California

McWay Falls

McWay Falls is located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and is undeniably Big Sur’s most iconic waterfall. With the waterfall being 80 feet high, it’s pretty hard to miss it. Unfortunately, there is no access to get down to the beach with the waterfall due to its danger, but you can still have your ceremony and watch the sunset at the McWay Falls lookout. It makes the perfect backdrop to any ceremony and photo.

Loma Vista Gardens

Loma Vista Gardens is stunning elopement location located in the heart of Big Sur Valley. It’s an outdoor venue surrounded by cacti, fruit trees, succulents, and redwoods. It’s a great spot for an intimate elopement with friends and family, especially if you want to celebrate with a small dinner after. Loma Vista Gardens is the perfect Big Sur wedding venue for the rustic, plant-loving bride.

Andrew Molera State Park

Andrew Molera State Park is known for its trails surrounding the coastal cliffs of Big Sur. This is a great area to visit in the late spring to see all the wildflowers, or in the fall to take a cool, unpopulated hike around the coast. It’s also known for Molera Point, a lookout within Big Sur that allows you to see the entire coast and its rolling hills. It’s truly one of the best places to elope in Big Sur.

Carmel River State Beach

Carmel River State Beach is an absolutely breathtaking white sand beach in Carmel. The beach only stretches a mile long, but it’s definitely a sight to see. With 360 views of beautiful Big Sur, it’s the perfect elopement location for anyone looking for a small white sand beach on the coast of Big Sur.

Glen Oaks Big Sur

Glen Oaks Big Sur has to be one of my favorite Big Sur elopement locations, hands down. Glen Oaks is a lodging and event center located right in the middle of Big Sur’s towering redwoods. For lodging, Glen Oaks has cabins that are super modern and comfortable, but rustic and woodsy on the outside. It’s the perfect location if you want to elope near redwood trees in a quiet and secluded area.

Garrapata State Park

Garrapata State Park is located in northern Big Sur and is another one of the best Big Sur elopement locations. It’s a beautiful place for a ceremony or couples portraits. In Garrapata, you’ll find a beautiful beach and dramatic coastline that stretches on for miles. It’s a great option if you’re wanting an area that’s a bit more secluded.

The Best Season to Elope in Big Sur

Fall

Fall is the best time to elope in Big Sur. More specifically, the months of September and October. In the fall, the crowds disperse and the fog is lifted (literally). The beaches are less crowded, prices go down, and the weather is nice. Generally, fall is a great time for any California elopement.

Winter

If crowds are your main concern, winter is the perfect time for your Big Sur elopement, specifically in December. However, this is Big Sur’s rainy season, meaning that rain is very likely for your elopement. It’s important to plan ahead and create backup plans in case the weather is bad.

Spring

Spring is absolutely beautiful in Big Sur. This when the waterfalls are at their peak, the wildflowers are as bright as ever, and the temperature starts to warm up. However, if Big Sur gets a super rainy winter, during the spring, there could be slides and major potholes that close down the highways and back streets.

Summer

Summer is the most popular season in Big Sur. There is also a ton of fog during the mornings that doesn’t go away until midday, so if you’re not a fan of fog, I recommend choosing a different season to exchange your vows. However, if you love the Pacific Northwest feel and love those foggy images, summer is the best season for you.

A bride and groom walking on the beach with birds on their wedding day.

Big Sur Elopement Permits

Depending on where you decide to elope in Big Sur, you may need a permit. 

What you first need to know is that there are multiple state parks within Big Sur, and each has their own rules and regulations for obtaining an elopement permit. Here’s what you need to know about each state park in Big Sur, and their permit rules.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park | Andrew Molera State Park | Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

All these state parks have very specific rules for what qualifies as an elopement.

You can apply for your elopement permit as soon as you have 1 year left before your wedding date. You can also submit one 30 days before your elopement, but there will be extra processing fees. I always recommend applying as soon as you can. You’ll have a better chance of securing your date, and you’ll have much less stress leading up to your elopement.

The permit costs $300 and can be obtained by emailing the park office to receive an application. You can find everything you need to know about obtaining an elopement permit at any of these parks here.

Garrapata State Park

The permit for Garrapata costs $400 for 1 hour with 25 guests. You must submit your permit 60 days before your elopement, or you will be charged an extra processing fee if you submit it after this deadline. You can find everything you need to know about obtaining a permit here.

Limekiln State Park

Limekiln State Park is the only state park in the area that doesn’t require a permit for your elopement! Score!

*There are so many different areas and state parks within Big Sur. Be sure to check out the state park’s website about permit rules and regulations. Since COVID, many state parks have been changing their rules and price for elopements.

The Best Places to Stay for Your Big Sur Elopement

Best Airbnbs in Big Sur

Romantic Wine Country Treehouse

Quaint Countryside Cottage

Big Sur Dream Home

Serene Redwood Haven

Best Hotels in Big Sur

Post Ranch Inn

Glen Oaks Big Sur

Big Sur River Inn

Big Sur Lodge

Best Camping in Big Sur

Pfeiffer Big Sur Campground

Ventana Campground

Andrew Molera State Park

Fernwood Campground and Resort

The Big Sur bridge in California.

Big Sur Elopement Tips

#1: Prepare for no cell phone service. There is rarely any cell service in Big Sur, so be sure to download hiking maps and everything else you need to use offline.

#2: Prepare for wind. Big Sur is known for being fairly windy, so dress accordingly!

#3: Wear shoes with traction. The costal cliffs can be slippery, rocky, and steep. Always wear shoes that have good traction and are comfortable!

#4: Brace for the long drive. Big Sur isn’t super close to large major cities, and Big Sur itself is fairly large, so be prepared to drive around 30 minutes to get to each location in Big Sur.

#5: Get your permits early. You can see everything you need to know about getting elopement permits above, but be sure to get them early to avoid late processing fees.

McWay Falls in Big Sur, California

Big Sur Elopement Packages

I personally offer Big Sur elopement packages and specialize in elopements in California. To view all the information about my California elopement packages, click here.

Big Sur Elopement Package Pricing:

  • 4 hours – 1.5 days of elopement coverage
  • A hands-on Big Sur elopement planning experience with unlimited assistance
    • personalized Big Sur elopement locations
    • vendor recommendations
    • permit assistance
    • customized elopement timeline
  • Online gallery with full resolution and printing rights
  • 24-48 hour sneak peaks 
  • Travel fees to anywhere in California already included
  • Starting at $3,000

Want more elopement inspiration? Check out this Yosemite elopement guide, beach elopement at Sunset Cliffs, these Los Angeles wedding venues, and more resources to help you plan your elopement!

NEED HELP PLANNING YOUR DREAM ELOPEMENT?

Snag your FREE elopement guide to help you plan your dream elopement in California, Alaska, or even Spain! Learn everything you need to know about how to plan a “just us” experience.

A free guide all about how to elope, created by a California elopement photographer.
A girl holding a camera and smiling.

ARE YOU READY FOR AN ELOPEMENT EXPERIENCE LIKE NO OTHER?

I’m Brianna, a California elopement photographer who inspires, encourages, and empowers couples to push traditional boundaries and create experiences they’ll remember forever.

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