Big Sur is an experience rather than one tangible place. Its raw beauty is awe-inspiring, its quirky residents endearing. There are no traffic lights, banks or shopping centers, and when the sun goes down, the moon and stars are the only streetlights. And in summer even the streetlights go out as the coast is often shrouded in dense fog. If you have a choice, try visiting in the spring and fall when the crowds – and fog – are dispersed.
Although it’s only 90 miles from Carmel to San Simeon, driving along this narrow two-lane highway is slow going. Allow at least four hours to cover the distance as you’ll want to stop at the many state parks lining the road. Traveling after dark is perilous and futile, since you won’t be able to see any of the countryside. Day or night, watch out for cyclists.