Only a handful of Big Sur's accommodations offer the kind of pampering and luxury you'd expect in a fine urban hotel; even direct-dial phones and TVs (often considered gauche in these parts) are rare. Big Sur hotels are especially busy in summer, when advance reservations are required. There are more accommodations than those listed here, so if you're having trouble securing a room or a site, contact the chamber of commerce for other options.
Big Sur Lodging at Low Rates -- If you want to stay in Big Sur but can't afford it, consider Treebones Resort (www.treebonesresort.com; tel. 877/424-4787 or 805/927-2390). This new miniresort, on a secluded bluff, shelters guests in oceanside yurts -- circular fabric structures on a wooden frame. Half-tent, half-cabin, Treebones's yurts are spacious and tastefully furnished with polished pine-wood floors, queen-size beds with cozy comforters, electric lighting, gas-burning fireplaces, and French doors that open to a redwood deck with Adirondack chairs and spectacular coastal views. The yurts don't have bathrooms, but shower and restroom facilities are within a short stroll. The main lodge has a heated, oceanview pool and hot tub, and a restaurant that serves nightly dinner by a crackling fire in a casual, community setting. Private, in-yurt massage treatments are also available. Rates start at $145 for two guests, with a 2-night minimum April to October, including a self-service waffle breakfast with coffee and orange juice. Treebones is at 71895 Hwy. 1, 65 miles south of Monterey.
Big Sur is one of California's most spectacular camping destinations. One of the most glorious settings is Pfeiffer-Big Sur State Park, on Hwy. 1, 26 miles south of Carmel (tel. 831/667-2315). The 810-acre state park has 218 secluded sites amid hundreds of acres of redwoods. Hiking trails, streams, and the river are steps from your sleeping bag, and the most modern amenities are the 25¢ showers (for 3 min.) and water faucets between sites. Each spot has a picnic table and fire pit, but no RV hookups or electricity. Riverfront sites are most coveted, but others promise more privacy among the shaded hillsides. Campfire programs and nature walks are available. A store, gift shop, restaurant, and cafe are near the entrance. Fees are $25 per night for family sites; call tel. 800/444-7275 or see www.reserveamerica.com for reservations.
The entrance to the Ventana Campground, on Hwy. 1, 28 miles south of Carmel and 4 1/4 miles south of the River Inn (tel. 831/667-2712; www.ventanawildernesscampground.com), is adjacent to the Ventana Resort entrance, but the comparison stops there. This is pure rusticity. The 80 campsites, on 40 acres of a redwood canyon, are spaced well apart on a hillside and shaded by towering trees. Each has a picnic table and fire ring, but no electricity, RV hookups, or river access. Three conveniently located bathhouses have hot showers (25¢ fee). Reserve a space with a credit card (MasterCard or Visa) for 1 night's deposit. Or mail a deposit check, the dates you'd like to stay, and a stamped, self-addressed envelope at least 2 weeks in advance (earlier during peak months). Rates are $35 for a site for two with one vehicle. An additional person is $5 extra, and it'll cost you $5 to bring Fido. Rates include the entrance fee for your car. Open March through October.
Big Sur Campground and Cabins is on Hwy. 1, 26 miles south of Carmel (tel. 831/667-2322; www.bigsurcamp.com). Sites are cramped, so the feel is more like a camping village than an intimate retreat (romantic it ain't). However, it's very well maintained and perfect for families, who love the playground, river swimming, and inner tube rentals. Each campsite has its own wood-burning fire pit, picnic table, and freshwater faucet within 25 feet of the pitching area. There are also RV water and electric hookups. Facilities include bathhouses with hot showers, laundry facilities, an aged volleyball/basketball court, and a grocery store. There are 81 tent sites (30 RV-ready with electricity and water hookup), plus 13 cabins (all with shower). The all-wood cabins are adorable, with stylish country furnishings, wood-burning ovens, patios, and full kitchens. Rates are $35 to $50 for a tent site for five people (plus $4 extra for electricity and water), $45 to $60 for an RV site for up to five people, $88 to $98 for a tent cabin (bed, but no heat or plumbing) for three, or $125 to $360 for a cabin for six. Rates include the entrance for your car. MasterCard and Visa are accepted. Pets cost $4 for campsites and $12 for tent cabins; pets are not allowed in the other cabins. It's open year-round.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.