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With its towering coastal redwoods, big ocean vistas, and funky bohemian culture (a leftover from the 1960s new age scene), Big Sur has long been a California road trip hot spot.
Whether you’re more of a luxury glamper or a back-to-roots forest bather, there’s no doubt that sleeping in a tent is one of the surest ways to fully immerse yourself in the magic of this special locale.
We’ve done some of the heavy lifting for you and selected our favorite places to bed down in a luxurious, pre-pitched tent, without roughing it too much. The below picks are based on expert-backed research and years of my own personal road trips along the storied and scenic Pacific Coast Highway. Read on for the best glamping sites in Big Sur.
1. Fernwood Resort
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Why you should go: Bed down in the heart of Big Sur (in comfy canvas tents) with an on-site espresso bar and restaurant.
Pros: Location, location, location. Not only is Fernwood Resort an iconic Big Sur locale that’s been around since the 1930s, but it’s also tucked away in the middle of all the outdoorsy action.
Glampers here not only get access to well-appointed tents with plush beds, electricity, heat, and private firepits, but there’s also a wealth of on-site extras, like The Tavern bar and grill, a general store, and occasional live music events.
Cons: Some sites are a bit close together, so bring ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper. Also, since Fernwood offers a host of lodging options, ranging from a regular campground, to RV-friendly sites, and even a motel, you’re not likely to find the adults-only couples-centric vibe at some of our more upscale picks.
What’s nearby: In short, everything. Not only can travelers here walk to the on-site restaurant and bar, but they’re also a stone’s throw from hiking at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and Andrew Molera State Park, fine dining at Nepenthe, and ocean access at Pfeiffer Beach.
2. Saddle Mountain Ranch
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Why you should go: These premium safari-style tents are perched in the rolling green hills of Carmel Valley, a short drive from Big Sur’s coastal paradise.
Pros: These are the tents you likely picture when daydreaming about glamping at your office desk. They’re roomy, ivory-tinted, safari-style canvas setups, each with lamps and heated blankets, private outdoor seating areas, a propane fire pit, and BBQ grill. Some are pet friendly (be sure to double-check when booking), and all are a short walk to a clean well-appointed bathhouse with hot showers, toilets, and sinks.
Cons: This certainly isn’t the closest glampsite to Big Sur on our list. Though, at roughly 45 scenic minutes away by car, it’ll hardly feel like work to commute each day for hiking and beach access (plus, Carmel-by-the-Sea is an adorable town in its own right). Also, the shared bathhouses and nighttime walk to the toilets might be a turn-off for some campers.
What’s nearby: In addition to being a 45-minute drive to the redwoods found at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, these cozy tent cabins are mere minutes from Carmel’s charming beach scene and wineries. Check out Folktale Winery & Vineyards, golf at Quail Lodge, or enjoy the sea lions at Point Lobos State Natural Reserve.
Related read: 10 Best Hikes in Big Sur, California
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Why you should go: Immerse yourself in real, down-home hippie vibes at this right-by-the-beach camping and glamping spot run by locals.
Pros: Not only are these cozy, rustic casitas affordable, but they’re also pet-friendly and a short 5-10 minute walk to a private beach with truly spectacular sunsets. Guests here have use of a shared outdoor kitchen, clean drinking water, communal firepits, outhouse-style composting toilets, and a lovely veggie garden. These sites may not be as fancy as most of the spots we selected for this list, but for the low price and primo location, we feel that it’s well worth a stay.
Cons: We want to emphasize that these sites are rustic with a capital “R.” It’s glamping in the truest sense of the word, with comfortable mattresses set up for you inside a rain-proof structure, but all other amenities are shared, and the entire site is off-grid with no cell service. This might be a no-go for some travelers, but others will adore the opportunity to truly get back to their roots.
What’s nearby: Dabudage is conveniently located roughly 45 minutes south of “downtown” Big Sur, and along the way, road-tripping travelers will pass many of the area’s most famous sights and attractions, like Esalen, the Big Creek Bridge, and Limekiln State Park.
4. Ventana Big Sur
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Why you should go: Often hailed as one of the most romantic and luxurious glampgrounds in the country, Alila’s Ventana Big Sur is forest bathing at its finest.
Pros: Let’s make on thing clear: Ventana Big Sur’s tent cabins are Instagram-worthy style icons. Situated in their own quiet corner of the larger Ventana Big Sur campground (for drive-up car campers), these heavenly canvas safari tents each feature an outdoor deck with seating, a sink, a private firepit, a picnic table, and electricity. Plus, ice, s’mores, and firewood are available for sale on-site, just in case you forget to bring enough.
Cons: When you’re as legendary as Ventana Big Sur, you can basically charge whatever you want, and these tent cabins, though gorgeous, cost a pretty penny. Dogs are allowed, but the resort charges a $75 fee for up to two pups, which includes a dog bed, treats, and a water bowl. Lastly, like many spots on this list, bathhouses with toilets and hot showers are shared, so be sure to bring a warm jacket for those late-night pee strolls.
What’s nearby: The best part about this splurge-worthy glamping destination is that it’s centrally located in Big Sur, with a stunning creek running right through the property. Campers can walk to Big Sur Smokehouse for lunch or motor over to Big Sur Bakery for a casual breakfast with ease. The Henry Miller Memorial Library and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park are both a quick drive away.
Related read: 10 Best Camping Spots in Big Sur, California
5. Camp Carmel Valley
Why you should go: Choose between quaint bunk rooms or glamping-style cabins at this idyllic, rural site in Carmel Valley.
Pros: Set on 115 private acres that were once a boys and girls summer camp, Camp Carmel Valley is an adorable little resort for outdoor-lovers of all ages. Cabin rentals come with a delicious breakfast included, plus basic electricity, private baths, and access to communal campfires. The location is also perfect for families, with an on-site pool, basketball half-court, yard games, and hiking trails. Tie-dying, archery, and yoga are also offered on select dates.
Cons: Though the cabins are pet-friendly, the hosts do charge a $50 fee per dog. This adds a considerable amount to the nightly rate. Also, linens are not included (it’s BYO sleeping bag), and at roughly $200/night, many guests might want to opt for a fully decked-out site instead. Lastly, this destination is about a 1-hour drive from Big Sur proper, meaning that you’ll have easy access to the restaurants and shops of Carmel, but will have to drive a bit to hike in Big Sur each day.
What’s nearby: If you want closer beach access without driving down to Big Sur, check out sandy Monastery Beach, which is right by Point Lobos in Carmel. Interested in wine tasting? Monterey Guided Wine Tours can shuttle you around to the best of the best. Afterward, grab dinner at Treehouse Café or Mission Ranch.
6. Treebones Resort
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Why you should go: With the best sushi in town and phenomenal ocean views, these spacious yurts is Big Sur living at its finest.
Pros: Ocean views, incomparable on-site dining, yoga offerings, and roomy abodes combine to make this location much more like an upscale resort than a glamping hub. Circular yurt tents are well-appointed with plush linens, a sofa, a private sink area, reading lights, and a small table with chairs.
Spacious redwood decks skirt each of the units with Adirondack chairs for ultimate sunset viewing. Into one-of-a-kind architecture? Check out the property’s super-luxe Autonomous Tent Collection, which all include their own ensuite bathrooms.
As for dining, Treebones is host to some of the finest options in Big Sur. Not only do overnight guests receive a complimentary buffet-style breakfast with their stay, but the on-site Lodge Restaurant offers tasty lunch options and delectable chef-driven four-course dinners. Book early if you want to enjoy a special Omakase menu at Wild Coast Sushi Bar – the best on the central coast.
Cons: Treebones Resort sits at the southern edge of Big Sur’s forested redwood slopes and cliff’s-edge vistas, near the small town of Gorda. As such, getting to certain trails, restaurants, and famous sights will be a 45-60 minute drive north along the gorgeous but winding Pacific Coast highway. The resort is also quite pricey, considering that most tents do not include a private bathroom facility (and expect to pay extra for a top-notch ocean view).
What’s nearby: Because it’s situated in the southern part of Big Sur’s coastal majesty, Treebones Resort is quite close to the famous elephant seal viewing area and Hearst Castle in San Simeon. It’s also close to less-trammeled hikes and natural spaces, like Sand Dollar Beach, the Mill Creek Picnic Area, and Mill Creek Trailhead.
Related read: 5 Best Backpacking Trips & Trails in Big Sur, California
7. Buckeye Canyon Glampsite
Why you should go: Enjoy verdant rolling hills and loads of privacy and fresh air at this stunning, safari-style tent in Carmel.
Pros: A large front porch with Adirondack loungers greets guests as they first wander into this huge canvas tent that’s decked out with a king-size bed, seating area, dresser, bedside lamps, and a cute outdoor shower nook. Privacy, quiet, and the simple enjoyment of nature are the name of the game here, as you’ll be the only glamping guest on the host’s ample property.
Cons: Like a few of our top picks for Big Sur glamping, this site is technically located roughly 40 minutes north in the idyllic city of Carmel. As such, visitors will have easy access to wineries, restaurants, beaches, and the legendary Monterey Bay Aquarium – but they’ll have to do a little driving to get to all the hikes in Big Sur.
Also, the bathroom facilities are a portable toilet, rather than an indoor flush-style throne, so the rustic nature of the listing might not be for everyone.
What’s nearby: In short, all the wonders of Carmel and Monterey. Enjoy gorgeous Point Lobos, dine in town at Cultura Comida y Bebida, and sip local vintages at De Tierra’s tasting room. The nearest Big Sur-style coastal hikes are just south of you, at Garrapata State Park.
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