The amazing thing about the West Coast is that it is still mostly wild, open, and astoundingly beautiful country, where you can drive for miles and miles and have the scenery all to yourself.
Big Sur Village
South of Andrew Molera, Hwy-1 cuts inland toward the heart of Big Sur, the deep and densely forested valley carved by the Big Sur River. Consisting of little more than three gas stations, a couple of roadside markets, and a number of lodges and restaurants, the mile-long village of Big Sur (pop. 950) represents the only real settlement between Carmel and Hearst Castle.
At the north end of town, the Big Sur River Inn (46840 Hwy-1, 831/667-2700, $140 and up) has a woodsy, warm, and unpretentious restaurant overlooking the river, and rooms upstairs and across the highway. Next door is a small complex that includes crafts galleries, a grocery store with burrito bar, and the homey Maiden Publick House (Hwy-1, The Village Shops #2, 831/667-2355), which features good beers and pub grub. Continuing south, the next mile of Hwy-1 holds Big Sur’s nicest group of rustic cabins and campgrounds: Besides a handful of quaint cabins in a quiet location, downhill from the highway and right on the riverbanks, Ripplewood Resort (47047 Hwy-1, 831/667-2242) also has a friendly 1950s café on the east side of Hwy-1, serving very good breakfasts and lunches, as well as a handy gas station and general store.
At the south end of the Big Sur village, a classic 1950s motor court has been updated and restored to its original glory (now with free Wi-Fi!) as Glen Oaks Big Sur (47080 Hwy-1, 831/667-2105, $225 and up).
(Hwy-1, The Village Shops #2)