Julia Mina Photography, California Elopement Photographer

The Only Big Sur Elopement Guide You’ll Need – 2024

Table of Contents

If you’re here, that likely means you’re dreaming of a Big Sur wedding or a Big Sur elopement! How exciting! As a Big Sur elopement photographer, I believe you’re choosing an amazing California elopement location! Big Sur is incredibly beautiful, and is such an ideal location whether it be for an intimate elopement or intimate wedding celebration!


With that being said, it can feel incredibly stressful to plan a Big Sur wedding or Big Sur elopement. Where should you elope? Or what are the best Big Sur wedding venues? When should you elope in Big Sur? How do you elope in Big Sur? These are all questions I’m going to dive into, plus more so that you can have the Big Sur wedding or elopement of your dreams without the stress of planning! Don’t fret, I’m about to go over everything you need to know about planning your Big Sur elopement, so stay tuned! First let’s dive into what the word elopement actually means.

Elopement Definition


Today, the word “elopement” symbolizes more than just a way to get married; it’s an intentional, personalized, one-of-a-kind experience focused on the couple and their love. Elopements allow you to craft the wedding day of your dreams without limitations, unnecessary stress, or outside pressure. They bring the focus back to you and your love, allowing you to celebrate and honor your marriage in a way that is authentic to you without distractions.  When you’re eloping, you can plan an epic adventure together in the great outdoors, rediscover each other, embrace each moment, and create memories that will last forever. Check out my “11 Reasons to Elope in 2024: Why You Should Elope“.

Where is Big Sur Located?

Big Sur is located on the Central Coast in California, located in the United States. Big Sur is located between the Carmel Highlands and San Simeon. It’s well known for its beautiful coastline, rugged landscapes, and steep cliffs. 

4 closest major cities/towns to big sur, ca

Here are 4 of the closest major cities/towns to Big Sur, CA along with their approximate driving times:

Monterey, California, CA – Approximately 30 min
Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA – Approximately 40 mins
Pacific Grove, CA – Approximately 45 mins 
Salinas, CA – Approximately 1hr                                

  • Note that driving times are approximate and may vary based on traffic and road conditions.

How to Get to Big Sur California?

Big Sur is easy to get to! Transportation options include by vehicle. While the roads can be winding,  it is easy to access by the main way to get to Big Sur which is Route 1, also known as Pacific Coast Highway.

4 closest airports to big sur ca

These are four of the closest airports to Big Sur, California. I recommend looking into all of these options as pricing varies between them and you may be able to find a better deal to one a bit farther away if you don’t mind driving a bit longer to get to Big Sur!

5 Reasons to Elope in Big Sur

As a Big Sur elopement and wedding photographer, I truly believe that you cannot go wrong in choosing this location for your wedding celebration! Whether for a small wedding or intimate elopement, it truly is perfect. That’s also why it lands in my 3rd spot in the 12 of The Best Places to Elope in California section of my “How to Elope in California: Comprehensive Guide”. Now let’s dive into the top 5 reasons to get married or elope in Big Sur California!

The Epic Coastlines

Big Sur is well known for its stunning coastline and rugged landscapes. It truly does offer breathtaking scenery and backdrops for portraits. It’s also home to the iconic Bixby Bridge, one of the most photographed bridges along the Pacific Coast Highway! 

Conveniently Located

Big Sur is conveniently located between the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Pacific Ocean! It really is a nature lovers dream. If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, you and your partner and even wedding guests can enjoy the many hiking trails and take in the beauty of Big Sur together! It’s also close to San Francisco and Santa Cruz!

Unique and Beautiful Venue Options

Another great reason to get married in Big Sur is the many beautiful wedding venues! Don’t worry, we dive deeper into this below!

Outdoor Activities and Adventures

From beautiful hikes, delicious restaurants, Bixby Bridge, beautiful beaches, and more, you’re sure to have fun with outdoor activities and adventures in and around Big Sur! 

Memorable Experiences

Having a Big Sur wedding or Big Sur elopement means you’ll be creating everlasting memories with your partner and wedding guests (if applicable). Big Sur is unique and so are the adventures and memories to be made here! 

Top 5 FAQ's About Eloping in Big Sur

Bride and groom portraits from their Big Sur elopement
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Q: How much does it cost to get married in Big Sur?

A: This will vary depending on if you’re having an intimate elopement or small wedding. It will also vary greatly on your guest count if you are inviting guests. For an elopement, you can expect to spend anywhere from $2,500 – $15,000+. 

Q:How much is the Big Sur wedding permit?

A wedding permit in Big Sur Costs anywhere from $400-425. This will depend on the location you choose. Most of the State Parks in Big Sur will require a special use permit.

  • I have a planner permit for Carmel sections (Garrapata SP) for elopements under 10 guests. Couples who book with me will receive a discount permit for $50 instead of $400. Only a few vendors have this permit!

Q: The Best Time of Year to Elope in Big Sur?

A: The best time of year to elope in Big Sur is from spring & fall! Big Sur is beautiful all year round, but spring and fall will offer milder temperatures. See more on what season is best for your elopement a little further into this guide! 

Q: Why elope in Big Sur?

A: You should elope in Big Sur because it offers stunning coastlines, fun outdoor activities nearby, is conveniently located, and has tons of beautiful wedding venue options if you’re leaning more towards an intimate wedding versus an elopement! 

Q: Can you get married on the beach in Big Sur?

A: Yes, you can get married on the beach in Big Sur. Most locations do require a permit. Some notable locations are Pfeiffer Beach (no permit required), Garrapata State Park, and Andrew Molera State Park.

Big Sur Elopement Permits

In order to legally get married in Big Sur, you will need a special use permit. Where you get this permit will depends on where you are getting married or eloping. So first decide on your location. 

Once you know where you are going to get married in Big Sur, you can apply for your special use permit. If you are eloping at a state park, you’ll contact the California State Parks. If it’s on public land, you’ll contact the local county office.

California State Parks: [email protected] Phone: 831-667-0507

NOTE: Garrapata State Park & Garrapata Beach is part of Monterey Sector and will require a separate Special Use Permit.

If you would like a ceremony at Garrapata State Park or at Carmel State Beach, contact the Monterey Sector Special Event Office.

Monterey Sector Special Event Office: [email protected] (831) 624-3407

Submit a Marriage License Online here if marrying on public land in Big Sur.

How to apply for your Big Sur Elopement permit:

Step 1: Select Your Location

In order to legally get married in Big Sur, you will need a special use permit. Where you get this permit will depend on where you are getting married or eloping. So first decide on your location. You will need this permit if you are eloping at Andrew Molera State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and/or Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.

Step 2: Select Your Date & Time

Once you know what date and time you’d like to elope in Big Sur, you’ll want to contact the Special Event Coordinator to check if your requested date is available so you can request an application.

  • “Events are not placed on the calendar until after the Special Event Coordinator’s office receives the completed application and applicable non-refundable filing fee.”
Step 3: Complete The Application

Complete your special event application and then mail with the applicable non-refundable filing fee to:

Special Event Coordinator
California State Parks
47555 HWY 1
Big Sur, CA 93920

  • (emailed/faxed applications are not accepted)
Step 4: Return Required Documents

 If your application is approved, the Big Sur Sector office will email your Special Event Permit with instructions that you will then return to them with all of the requested information they need from you! See more details on the California Department of Park and Recreation page!


  • Decorations are not permitted (exception for beaches) aside from one handheld item such as your bouquet.
  • You may not have glass, porcelain, candles, lanterns, bubbles or balloons at your elopement event.
  • Scattering of rice, birdseed, flowers, flower petals, or confetti is not allowed at your elopement.
  • You cannot  release birds or butterflies at your event.
  • You cannot have a fire during your elopement. You can however if you choose to have a campsite elopement inside their designated park fire rings.
The Only Big Sur Elopement Guide You’ll Need R + M Big Sur Elopement Photographer (8)
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Where to Elope in Big Sur?

When it comes to eloping in Big Sur, there are multiple options to choose from. From state parks, beautiful wedding venues, and even options for reception dinner to follow! The options here truly feel limitless and it just depends on what you envision your Big Sur elopement to look like! The first step to really planning your elopement is figuring out WHERE you want to elope. If you’re looking for coastal views, then you’re probably going to want to elope at a state park. If you’re looking for redwoods views, then I recommend eloping at a venue! You can still get the best of both worlds and we can always venture out to the coast for portraits! 

Below you’ll see a map that list’s some beautiful state parks, wedding venues, and even a few restaurants that are great for your Big Sur reception dinner! 

Eloping at a State Park:

  • A very intimate setting right on the coast
  • Looking for more adventure with the possibility of hiking
  • You’ll have to find your own overnight accommodations and dining
  •  Offers epic views but you may run into tourists or locals out and about

Eloping at a Venue:

  • Tons of Redwood options (though you will find some that are coastal or the best of both worlds!)
  • Ideal if you’re looking for more than just a few guests
  • Many times overnight accommodations and dining is available at the venue
  • You’ll have more privacy

Big Sur State Park Elopement Locations

If you’re looking to elope right on the coast with epic views and landscapes, then choosing a State Park might be best for you. Check out these amazing elopement locations that you may want to consider!

Pfeiffer Beach

beach (small & big Wedding)

  • No permit required as it’s not actually a state park! Although there is no maximum guests, there are limited parking spaces (no shuttles) so smaller crowd will be ideal

Pfeiffer Beach is an amazing location to elope in Big Sur! It is located in Los Padres National Forest and is well known beach in Big Sur, for good reason! It has beautiful purple sand and a keyhole arch that makes for a stunning backdrop for portraits! One of the best things aside from the beauty when it comes to eloping at Pfeiffer beach is you do NOT need a permit! Check out this “Pfeiffer Beach Elopement In Big Sur” to see what your elopement here could look like!

Bride and groom portraits from a Big Sur elopement
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Garrapata State Beach

BEACH & COAST (up to 200 participants)

  • Permit required ($400-$850)
 I have a planner permit and can help apply for your permit!

Garrapata State Park is located in Northern part of Big Sur and it is a stunning Big Sur elopement location! If you’re looking for miles of beautiful and dramatic coastlines with beautiful beaches, this location is perfect for you! In early spring, you can enjoy the calla lilies blooming in the valley!

the only big sur elopement guide youll need f d big sur elopement photographer big sur state beach
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Garrapata State Park

COAST (up to 25 participants)

  • Permit required, no beach access
 I have a planner permit and can offer discounts for your elopement (up to 10) & I can apply the permit for you! 

Garrapata State Park is located in Northern part of Big Sur and it is a stunning Big Sur elopement location! If you’re looking for miles of beautiful and dramatic coastlines with beautiful beaches, this location is perfect for you! 

The Only Big Sur Elopement Guide You’ll Need A+C Big Sur Elopement Photographer (8)
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Andrew Molera State Park

COAST (up to 10 participants)

  • Permit required ($425 for 4 hours)


If you’re looking for a state park that may give you more of a private and intimate wedding ceremony experience right on the coast, Andrew Molera State Park might just be perfect for you! Here you’ll have stunning views of the coast with gorgeous hillsides as well! 

the only big sur elopement guide youll need f d big sur elopement photographer andrew molera
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

COAST & Redwood (up to 10 Participants) 

  • Permit required ($425 for 4 hours)

Another breathtaking location for your Big Sur elopement in Partington Cove. It’s located within Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The hike to Partington Cove is considered a “moderately challenging” hike, but the views are epic and absolutely worth the hike! It takes about 40 minutes or so to get there! 

Bride and grooms intimate wedding ceremony at Partington Cove
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Redwood (up to 10 Participants) 

  • Permit required ($425 for 4 hours)

If you love to hike in the redwoods, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is the perfect location for a 2-person elopement! You can stay at Big Sur Lodge which is inside the park and offers a perfect 1 stop location for your elopement needs! 

the only big sur elopement guide youll need f d big sur elopement photographer pfeiffer big sur state park
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Big Sur Weddings Venues

If you’re looking for a Big Sur wedding venue for an intimate elopement, here are some of the beautiful options! Most will give you the redwoods factor, but some are coastal or even have the best of both worlds!

Glen Oaks Big Sur

REDWOODS (ceremony, reception, & Lodging)

Max Participants: 100

Glen Oaks Big Sur is a stunning Big Sur wedding venue. If you dream of eloping or have an intimate wedding under the redwoods yet right next to the coast, Glen Oaks Big Sur is the perfect venue for you! It’s truly such a majestic and beautiful location for your Big Sur elopement. Come see what your wedding or elopement at Glen Oaks could like like on this blog “Glen Oaks Big Sur Elopement”

The Only Big Sur Elopement Guide You’ll Need – Glen Oaks Big Cabin Big Sur Elopement Photographer
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Big Sur Lodge

REDWOODS (ceremony, reception, & Lodging)

Max Participants: 100 (ceremony), 160 (reception)

Big Sur Lodge is another stunning Big Sur venue option. If you imagine your special day being surrounded by the beautiful redwoods and the Big Sur River, then Big Sur Lodge is perfect for you! They have four venues that have indoor and outdoor seating, and also offer overnight accommodations for you and your guests. 

The Only Big Sur Elopement Guide You’ll Need K + T Big Sur Elopement Photographer (4)
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Big Sur River Inn

River (Ceremony, Reception & Lodging)

Max Participants: 160 (ceremony), 250 (reception)

The Big Sur River Inn is a great location for not only your wedding, but for overnight accommodations for you ad your guests with 20 charming rooms! There are beautiful indoor and outdoor spaces for your big day. They even have an onsite restaurant with high ceilings and a beautiful stone fireplace! You can also enjoy their heated swimming pool and general store! 

the only big sur elopement guide youll need f d big sur elopement photographer big sur river inn
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Big Sur Grange

REDWOOD(Ceremony, Reception)

Max Participants: 85

Looking for a quaint little grange tucked into the redwoods? Big Sur Grange Hall is perfect for an intimate and woodsy rustic kind of Big Sur wedding! 

Big Sur Grange - Big Sur Wedding Venues
Photo: via The Henry Memorial Library Facebook Page

Ventana Campground

REDWOODS (Campground Reception)

Max Participants: 2 Per Tent, but can reserve more tents for guests.

If you dream of having a camp wedding experience being surrounded by the redwoods, then Ventana Campground is perfect! Their glamping experience is where luxury meets the outdoors! There’s a glamping bath house, WiFi, and you can even friend your dogs (up to two) for a fee! 

the only big sur elopement guide youll need f d big sur elopement photographer ventana campground
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Henry Miller Memorial Library

REDWOODS (Ceremony & Reception)

Max Participants: 150

Another beautiful Redwoods Big Sur wedding venue is The Henry Miller Memorial Library! If you dream of having your ceremony at a venue that’s surrounded by the redwoods, then this is perfect! Typically they only book weddings from April 20th-October 20th, but you can book outside of this timeframe at your own risk. Henry Miller Memorial Library is full of so much history and charm, and is the perfect Big Sur venue for your special occasion!  

Henry Miller Memorial Library - Big Sur Wedding Venues
Photo: Serena Renner via afar.com

Ventana Big Sur

REDWOODS & COAST (Ceremony, Reception & Lodging)

Max Guests: 175

Ventana Big Sur is absolutely stunning. It offers multiple indoor and outdoor locations, epic coastal views, intimate redwood trails and multiple wedding and elopement packages depending on your guest count. If you’re looking for a luxury experience with coastal views in Big Sur, Ventana is perfect!

Ventana Big Sur
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Post Ranch Inn

REDWOODS & COAST (Ceremony, Reception, Lodging)

Max Guests: 20 (Elopement Package available)

If you’re looking for a beautiful and intimate coastal setting, The Post Ranch Inn is an amazing venue option for your Big Sur elopement! Their are multiple ceremony options including The Post House, Castro House, Cliff House, or Peak House! Or you can even have your ceremony in the magical Redwoods or even your guestroom terrace! 

Big Sur Wedding Venues Post Ranch Inn
Photo: postranchinn.com

Hyatt Carmel Highlands

COAST (ceremony, Reception, Lodging)

Max Participants: 150 (Elopement Package Available)

While Hyatt Carmel Highlands isn’t technically in Big Sur, it’s only about a 30 minute drive and offers stunning views of the Pacific Coast! There are indoor and outdoor venues as well. Their Gazebo Meeting Deck which is pictured offers a stunning space for a beautiful ceremony! Come see what your intimate wedding at Hyatt Carmel Highlands could look like on this bog “Coastal Big Sur Elopement: This Was Their Plan B!

Intimate Big Sur wedding ceremony at Hyatt Carmel Highlands
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Wind and Sea

COAST (ceremony, Reception, & lodging)

Max Participants: 60

  • Special Elopement Rates for up to 12 guests.

If you dream of a gorgeous coastal view for your intimate elopement ceremony that doesn’t involve a sandy beach, Wind and Sea Big Sur is perfect for you! What I also love about Wind and Sea is that they also offer overnight accommodations for you and your guests if you choose to also stay! The modern home is 3,000 square foot and can sleep up to 12 guests with a two night minimum! They have awesome amenities such as outdoor showers, Jack and Jill copper soak tubs, and even a dry sauna! 

Wind and Sea Big Sur wedding venue
Photo: windandseabigsur.com

Point 16

COAST (ceremony & Reception)

Max Participants: 160

If you dream of a Big Sur wedding venue that offers not only the dreamiest coastal views, but lush mountainsides as well, then Point 16 is the perfect location! It is truly such a stunning location, and you can’t go wrong in choosing Point 16 as your venue! 

Point 16 - Big Sur Wedding Venue
Photo: Peer Johnson Photography via bigsuraffair.com

Loma Vista Gardens

GARDEN (Ceremony & Reception)

Max Participants: 210

If you dream of a garden wedding venue in Big Sur, then Loma Vista Gardens is the perfect choice! It gives redwood bohemian vibes, and truly is such a gorgeous venue. There’s just something so romantic about being surrounded by greenery and florals! 

Leslie + Shawn Big Sur Wedding
Photo: lomavistagardens.com Photographer: Unknown

Big Sur Reception Venue Options

If you’re planning a very small and intimate elopement but want to have dinner with friends and family later on, there are beautiful locations in Big Sur where you could have dinner! Several couples that I’ve had the pleasure of capturing have enjoyed dinner with just themselves, or family and friends after their elopements!

Nepenthe in Big Sur
Photo: Julia Mina Photography


Nepenthe is a pretty iconic and well known location in Big Sur! They offer a delicious menu and epic views of the coast! On top of that, Nepenthe’s Verandah’s deck offers views of the the Santa Lucia Mountain Range as well! Imagine enjoying sunset with your new spouse or with guests? Don’t believe me? Check out Nepenthe’s Live Weather Cam! The only downside to Nepenthe is you cannot make reservations. It’s first come first serve. 

Bride and groom walking into Rio Grill in Big Sur
Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Rio Grill

Another great location for a reception dinner following your Big Sur elopement would be Rio Grill! While it’s actually located in Carmel and not Big Sur, it isn’t too far of a drive for a nice dinner, especially if you’re already staying in Carmel to begin with. Rio Grill also has a great menu, and you CAN make reservations online! Or if you want a private space, you can rent their Santa Fe room which can accommodate 45-80 depending on seating style, or The Barrel Room which can accommodate 26-45 depending on seating style! 

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Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Or Opt For Pizza on The Beach!

If you are wanting an even more intimate reception dinner, order a pizza and bring it down to the beach! This couple chose to have the cutest charcuterie board and pizza together on the beach during sunset and it was the perfect way to end their elopement! 

When is The Best Time of Year For Big Sur Elopement?

When it comes to planning your Big Sur elopement, I wouldn’t say there is a “right or wrong” time. It truly depends on what you envision for your day and what is priority to you. Some things to consider when planning on what month or season would be weather, tourist, and cost! 

Activities to Check Out
During Your Time in Big Sur

When it comes to Big Sur, there are plenty of activities and local attractions to check out! From scenic drives, camping, day hikes, the iconic Bixby Bridge, and so much more! Your time here can and will be so much fun! There are attractions for everyone, no matter what it is that you and your partner are interested in.

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Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Where to Stay For Your Big Sur Elopement?

When it comes to where to stay during your Big Sur elopement, there are a TON of options! From local hotels, lodges, and even Airbnb’s, you’re sure to find the perfect place for you and your partner to stay! Let’s get into some of the best places to stay in Big Sur. There are also some options below that are located in Carmel, which is a longer drive but with more options.

Big Sur Elopement Packages

Looking to elope in Big Sur, California and searching for Big Sur elopement packages? Photography packages for eloping in Big Sur start at $4,500-$7500. Keep in mind this isn’t just photos, but the experience. I’m here to help you find the perfect location, give unlimited help, guidance, lodging and activity recommendations, timeline creation, vendor recommendations, and travel and lodging are included in each elopement package! See below for more details!

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Photo: Julia Mina Photography

Elopement Packages

All Elopement Packages include:

*Engagement Session add-on available

Big Sur Elopements Starting at $5000

*Packages starts with 4 hour coverage 
*Payment Plans Available

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Big Sur Elopement Testimonial

“Julia was such a pleasure to work with from beginning to end! She was so kind and having her help throughout the elopement process really made us feel at ease. Our special day was everything we wanted and she captured it beautifully. On the day of, she arrived early and throughout the entire experience she was so easy going and patient. We didn’t have to stress because she drove us around, was organized, and knew the landscape well. It felt like we were just going on an adventure with a friend! She is truly an expert at what she does which is reflected in her amazing photography. I highly recommend her to anyone and everyone. Thank you Julia, you’re awesome!” – Patricia & Allen

Ready to Elope in Big Sur?

I hope this Big Sur Elopement Guide answered all of your questions and left you feeling prepared to plan your Big Sur elopement!

Now that you’ve made it to the end of this guide, are you feeling ready to elope in Big Sur? Big Sur is a coastal dream that also gives you not only coastal vibes, but access to the redwoods as well. It truly is the best of both worlds. 

It can be very simple and easy to plan your elopement although it can be overwhelming at the same time. This is why I’m here as a Big Sur Elopement Photographer and Guide to help you simplify your planning process and take care of things to give you the freedom to dream up your day! 

Are you ready to start planning your Big Sur Elopement adventure? Book your free consultation with me to see if we are a good fit! Not set on Big Sur as your elopement location? Check out my Elopement Guides for other location ideas and the blog for real life Big Sur elopements and inspiration!

7 Responses

  1. This is an amazing guide to help couples find their way in Big Sur. I’d never heard much about it before but it looks incredible. From all the info you shared, it is amazing how affordable it looks and my favorite location has to be Garrapata, thanks for sharing!

  2. Thank you so much for this guide! It’s extremely helpful, I love how you went into detail about the permit requirements, as that’s one of the most confusing parts of elopement planning. Love your work!

  3. Truly an ultimate guide, so much useful information packed in here! I’m sure the couples who consider eloping in Big Sur will greatly appreciate it. Loving the photos too, absolutely beautiful!

  4. This is the best guide I’ve seen on planning to elope in Big Sur. You really made it easy to read and find info, thank you! Your beautiful photos are a bonus!

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I am all about making your day as smooth and fun as possible! Helping couples plan their dream wedding day brings me so much joy and it’s surreal that I’m able to capture it at all. Planning a wedding is overwhelming— big or small! Not all of us are natural born planners (if you are, you do you!!). This is where I come in and bring all of my knowledge and resources to the table so all you need to do is envision your dream day!

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