Outside the 9-to-5: Weekender
Sometimes a weekend is all the time we have for a quick “reboot” from our hectic daily lives. Let’s call these trips “weekenders”; two- to three-day getaways that are just far enough away to get our minds clear and ready for a new week. Crisp air in the mountains with snow-melted streams trickling by, miles away from any other human is a great way to disconnect, but I admit, there are times I just want an easy escape. I’m not talking about a boozy night or a few hits of some friend of a friend’s drug—I’m talking about a real escape; somewhere I can get to with very little effort, unplug and chill out (or adventure, whatever I’m feeling in the moment).
What looks to be plucked straight out of National Geographic, the California coast just south of Monterey is one of my favorite locations to disconnect and reboot. Follow Highway 1 south from San Francisco, and you’ll know when you have arrived in Big Sur by the massive cliffs overlooking turquoise waters violently smashing up against giant boulders speckled along the shore.
Big Sur is not a one-time-see-it-all destination. I have been there over a dozen times, and every time I go there, I discover some breathtaking scene that is new to me. So, what is there to do in this bohemian cultured coastland full of majestic waterfalls and pristine waters? Well, you can bite the bullet and pay a pretty penny to enjoy all the high-class restaurants, resorts and fancy rustic cabins; take the adventurous route and hike through the woods to some beautiful hot springs; or ride a motorcycle down Highway 1 enjoying the scenery with a salty breeze (the third option is on my to-do list).
If you just had a stressful week rushing to meet deadlines at work with your bosses at your throat but you got a hefty paycheck that you’re ready to spend, I would suggest treating yourself, at least once, to the fancy Big Sur vacation. First things first: head to Nepenthe, a classy restaurant and café with an incredible view overlooking the Pacific. Sure, a chai latte will cost you about $6, but as a chai tea connoisseur, I guarantee it will be one of the best drinks you have ever tasted.
Ventana Inn and Spa—here is where the rustic cabins come into play. Also with spectacular views, Ventana is filled with pools, spas, wine, cheese, yoga and a well-dressed steward to cater to your every need—you get what you pay for. Finally, if you seriously need a complete reset and are, again, willing to pay up, Esalen Institute is your place. I have never been myself, but I hear that it is a magical place with hot springs on cliffs, workshops, yoga and meditation classes … it’s basically a retreat. There are some who live here for an extended time, and some who visit only for a couple days. Supposedly it can change your life, if that’s what you’re looking for.
Not into fancy retreats? That’s fine, because there is a perfect weekend hike that takes you straight to Sykes Hot Springs nestled on the side of the Big Sur River. Starting at Big Sur station, park your car in the free parking lot, grab your backpack and jump on Pine Ridge trail for 10 miles, which takes you directly to the springs. There are a bunch of free camping spots along the way to pitch a tent for the night. If you don’t want to camp overnight and would rather save your pennies, there are pullouts all along Highway 1 to park in and walk down to the beach to watch the sunset or set up a picnic. Bixby Bridge is a beautiful, historic bridge that is touristy, but there are some hidden trails nearby that you can scurry down to avoid hordes of people. Campgrounds that seem to be placed in the middle of enchanted forests are scattered along Highway 1, but if you have an adventuremobile, you can also find a large pullout off the highway with a nice view and sleep in your car for the night. Last time I visited Big Sur I did just this and woke up to the rising sun reflecting off the purple waters, the sound of waves crashing and birds chirping. If that isn’t therapeutic enough to give you a nice reboot for the week, I don’t know what is.