Big Sur elopement at the ocean

Filed in elopement, Guides — March 7, 2021

Big Sur Elopement Guide

If you want an unforgettable elopement, marrying the love of your life where the Redwoods meet the ocean, you need to put the idea of a Big Sur elopement on your radar! The heart-pounding waterfall views, rocky cliffs and towering trees add an earth-inspired sense of romance that I haven’t quite seen anywhere else. It has everything you could want for an adventure elopement.

Big Sur Elopement - groom twirls bride

Table of contents

Big Sur elopement permit

Big Sur elopement locations

Time of day to elope

Season to elope

Nearby airports

Where to stay

Honeymoon ideas

Big Sur elopement photographer

Why Big Sur?

Let me start out by saying that Big Sur is my all-time favorite place in the entire world.  I’ve been to seven different countries and it’s still my favorite place to go. It’s just magical. I’ve never seen anything like it. I would easily go there for an adventure elopement over Ireland or France. 

Do I need an elopement permit?

Big Sur is not a national park. However, there are multiple state parks within it that may or may not require permits. Once you lock down your location, I’ll help you determine which permits you need. Or you can see my top recommendations and their requirements below!

Big Sur elopement at the ocean

Big Sur elopement locations

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Explore trails with ocean views and the gorgeous Mcway Falls at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. This is your chance to have a coastal wedding without the crowds. Keep in mind that Pfeiffer Beach has access to the sandy shores while Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park does not have beach access.

HEADS UP: You need a permit to elope here (and we can help with that)!

  • Ocean views and waterfalls
  • Permit required
  • Open 8 a.m. to sunset
  • No beach or ocean access
  • Separate entrance fee from California state parks 
  • Popular location with a few dog friendly trails 
  • Campground (closed for the pandemic)

Garrapata State Park

Elope where wildflowers meet the waves! This particular spot is known for its coastal views, wildflower trails and beaches. Trails weave in and out of the coast and groves of Redwoods, creating a secluded and romantic environment for your elopement. Plus, sea lions and sea otters are a frequent sight on the coast and you can occasionally spot California gray whales. What a sight to take in on a wedding day! And even better, there’s easy beach access directly off of Highway 1 if you want a beach wedding feel. A permit is required for weddings at Garrapata State Park. 

  • Two miles of beachfront
  • Coastal and forest photograph opportunities 
  • No campground
  • Permit required
  • Sea lion, sea otters and more
Garrapata State Park Elopement
Garrapata State Park Elopement

Andrew Molera State Park

The variety on offer here is insane. There are pristine meadows, sandy beaches and rolling hills. Your elopement photos will look like you traveled all over the world. A gorgeous beach is within a short mile hike from Andrew Molera park. This is a great Big Sur elopement destination, and a permit is also required for elopement ceremonies.

  • Variety of backdrops for photos — meadows, beaches and hills
  • Lush, green meadows 
  • Permit required
  • Beautiful surf and sea shells
  • Scenic hilltops and bluffs 

Ventana Big Sur

If you want an elopement with true west coast vibes, a Ventana Big Sur elopement is it. Ventana Big Sur is a resort that offers both hotel rooms and glamping sites. It would be so fun to get ready here and take wedding portraits in Ventana’s glamping zone. Then we could take a short walk into the stunning Redwood Forest for couple portraits. This location is perfect for the forested feel you might be looking for.

  • All-in-one, curated experience with resort hotel rooms and glamping
  • Close to the Redwood Forest
  • No permit required
  • Art, fitness, biking, yoga and meditation activities 
  • In-suite dining
  • Picnic kits available 

Limekiln State Park

Limekiln Falls is a sight to behold and much of the park has the feel of a fantastical forest with deep, textured greenery.  You can also take in some cultural history and see the 100+ year old preserved lime kilns.

This is great spot in the Big Sur area that doesn’t require a permit for elopements. We would need to find a natural clearing for  a ceremony location at Limekiln State Park but I’d be happy to go up a day early and scout a location.

The park has sadly opened and closed a number of times over the past few decades and even almost closed for good. So, if you’ve got real bad FOMO, take it all in while you still have the chance. 

  • Gorgeous waterfall
  • Cultural history
  • Handful of trails 
  • Small campground
  • No permit required

Glen Oaks Big Sur

Glen Oaks is an adorable lodge with easy access to the nearby woods. But, this is a private elopement venue at Big Sur. If you don’t want to pay for a full elopement ceremony here, you can always stay overnight and get ready. We can find a place for you to elope somewhere else in Big Sur. For those looking to have a more carefully cultivated ceremony and stay in Big Sur, this is the place. 

  • Private venue with lodging
  • Ceremony location by Big Sur River
  • Rustic cabin inns
  • On-site modern restaurant 
  • Gorgeous setting without the hike

What time of day is best for my Big Sur Elopement?

The best time of day for a Big Sur elopement is sunrise or sunset. The golden glow is unbeatable. That being said, I recommend planning for a day full of elopement celebrations. From the vows to photographs and honeymoon hikes, you’ll soak up the surroundings. Mid-day also works for ceremonies with overcast, even lighting.

Big Sur elopement in the rocks

What season is best for my Big Sur elopement?

Big Sur is honestly great for elopements year-round. That’s one of the best parts! Winter is beautiful so I very much recommend the winter season. It’s more like San Francisco  — mild and sunny with beautiful weather. There are also less tourists so you can feel like you have your ceremony and honeymoon locations more to yourselves. There will be no need to think about anything but each other. 

Nearby airports 

Monterey Regional Airport (MRY) is about a 40 minute drive from Big Sur’s center, being 31.1 miles away. There are quite a few rental car company choices right at the airport so you can enjoy that stunning coastal drive as newlyweds. San Jose International Airport (SJC) is about a 2 hour drive from Big Sur. It also has plenty of rental car options. Buses are also available from each airport which go to Big Sur regularly. 

Where to stay

From Airbnbs to lodges, you can go as luxe or earthy as you want. Campgrounds, glamping, expensive lodges…coastal California really has it all. Just be sure to settle on where to stay early on in the planning process.

Here are some recommendations:

  • The Airbnb, @surgrovebigsur has the perfect backyard for a ceremony in the Redwoods and features a five minute drive to epic beach photos. 
  • Wind and Sea is a great wedding venue for intimate, smaller weddings.
  • Treebones Resort is some seriously high class glamping with wood floors and running water, overlooking the Pacific ocean. 
  • Situated within an unbeatable Redwood grove, Ventana Campgrounds is luxury incarnate with showers and a bar. 
  • Hidden Valley Inn is good for groups or staying family and friends. It’s a bed and breakfast with a pool, and even a little pizza place across the street for a very welcome dinner. Cozy!
A couple celebrates their Big Sur honeymoon
This darling couple stayed at the Airbnb, @surgrovebigsur

Honeymoon ideas 

If you haven’t thought of this yet, let me introduce you to the idea of honeymoon adventures. If you’re eloping in a gorgeous, adventurous location, why not explore it all as part of the wedding festivities? I often recommend custom activities to my couples that they end up bringing me along to, for the photo op!

For example, you could start the day at sunrise in the Redwoods, hike to the beach and top it off with a picnic at the waterfall. Any combination like that would make for great memories and breathtaking photos. But, if you’re just a beach person, you could do a ceremony on the cliffs, hike down to the beach and then take photos right there and then. My backwood friends can hike into the forest and say their vows beneath a gushing waterfall — starting their married life with a real crescendo.

An elopement photographer

If your interested in planning your own Big Sur adventure elopement, don’t hesitate to reach out! I love meeting new couples and helping them make their adventure elopement as artful and meaningful as possible. The place to begin our travels together can be found here.

Welcome to our Family

When you work with me or my team, you’re now a part of our family. We want to share in your joy and celebrate your decision to marry. Often with our couples at Big Sur, after an exchange of vows, we encourage you to enjoy a champagne picnic under the unforgettable redwoods. I like to spoil my couples with an Almond Champagne from Wilson Creek Sparkling Wines. We then find a local shop or cafe to add to the coupe’s picnic, and one of my favorite spots in Big Sur is Lafayette French Bakery and Cafe. It’s a wonderful treat after a short hike.

More about our Couples

Some of my favorite shoots have been at Big Sur, and I hope you can now see why. Read the full blogs below to learn more about the amazing couples we’ve worked with here at Heather Anderson Photography:

A non-traditional Glamping Elopement

On the Rocks at Big Sur

Myths and Misconceptions of Elopements


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