Big Sur, California, is as much a state of mind as it is a dreamy escape for city dwellers to connect with raw nature, and experience the charm of unspoiled coastline. Although my wife and I were born and raised in Southern California (Laguna Beach area), we had only ventured to Big Sur a couple of times as children. As fate would have it, this trip allowed us a rare opportunity to enjoy this magical destination without interruption from crowds, or people at all for that matter. (You may have read about the closure of Highway 1 — near Pfeiffer State Park — from the South, but listen closely, this turned out to be a blessing rather than inconvenience; there is still so much to see and do!). After scouring the web to find our ideal Big Sur retreat, Glen Oaks Big Sur captured our hearts and imagination, serving as our mid-century inspired, home away from home.
Rooms and Cabins at Glen Oaks Big Sur
Arriving at Glen Oaks Big Sur was nothing short of rewarding — passing by Garrapata State Beach, Bixby bridge, and Andrew Molera State Beach set the scene for what was ahead. A small, quant property residing parallel to Highway 1, Glen Oaks is lined with dense redwoods and enough flora to provide clean and crisp air normally found in the mountains.
During our four day/three night stay, we treated ourselves to a Fireside-king room, part of the adobe motor lodge portion of the property. Right away you get the feeling of being somewhere unique and noticeably different — it’s rare to find design-conscious rooms in the woods that are decorated with mid-century furniture accents and touches of modernism. Not only were the rooms aesthetically pleasing, they were very clean and spacious — we had a couch, corner chair, closet area, and large reclaimed-wood dresser. An upgrade over the queen room, our fireside-king room also had a private back patio with overhanging trees, plants, and stone table for morning coffee. Since it was warm for our stay, the back patio was perfect for unwinding and enjoying a bottle of pinot. Another nice touch, the property has a large fire pit (pre light) and benches, ideal for stargazing or listening to the Jays.
The rooms do look simple at first glance (and they are designed that way), but their features continued to surprise us. Glen Oaks is undoubtedly an eco-property, therefore they provide only the necessities. Remember, the idea is to enjoy the nature around you without getting caught up in too many luxuries. With walls constructed from brick (painted white) and large redwood beams, we didn’t hear much from our neighbors. However, this is a motor lodge and you should expect road noise in the evenings and mornings. (Again, there are very few people in Big Sur at the moment, and you’d be selling yourself short by not visiting while this lasts.)
With all of the natural materials and textures, the gas fire place lined with river rocks provided an eco feel, and atmosphere for relaxation — it’s Big Sur after all! The bathrooms were a pleasant surprise as well. The floor was made from individual stones, which lead to a spacious glass shower. A natural, solid wood vanity and uber-modern sink tied the bathroom together like something you might see in Dwell magazine. Both my wife and I prefer a more firm bed so we slept great all three nights in the room. If glamping sounds just OK to you, but you want more comfort and luxury, the fireside king at Glen Oaks will make you smile.
Other than the fireside queen and king rooms, Glen Oaks Big Sur also has five cabin options that will change the way you think about camping in the woods. Their modern design with rustic decor will likely surprise you in a very good way — we could only dream of owning a cabin as stunning as these, yet alone visiting one. Think Mill Valley meets Malibu with the tranquillity of Big Sur. NOTE: the redwood cabin with river view is something special; never before have I seen a beautiful, modern cabin leading to a person beach with a flowing river just steps away… this is heaven in California.
Of course, an ‘experience’ isn’t complete without customer service, and Glen Oaks didn’t disappoint. We were greeted by Andrew at the front desk, who provided us with every detail we needed, and even helped us plan our adventures while in Big Sur. Its safe to say he went above-and-beyond to make us feel comfortable. Especially in Big Sur (with so much to see), the locals can be an invaluable resource for planning your trip, so be respectful and you will be rewarded. Andrew also set us up with a reservation at Big Sur Adventures where we rode electric bikes for over 20-miles along Highway 1 — with no traffic! Once the highway opens up to traffic again, this opportunity will be gone indefinitely. So go, now!
Roadhouse Big Sur
Directly across the road (Highway 1) from the fireside rooms, is the Big Sur Roadhouse featuring California cooking with fresh, local ingredients. Much like Glen Oak’s designer rooms, the Roadhouse is beyond stimulating in appearance. It’s apparent that a San Francisco architect/designer (Steve Justrich) likely dreamed this place up. From the furniture, decor and picture-perfect patios, to the vintage coffee machine and mind-blowing fireplace, the Roadhouse is a seriously rad place to hangout and enjoy the good vibes. Did I mention they serve homemade donuts to their guests? After three days of coffee and donuts on their patio overlooking a grove of redwoods and the Big Sur River, it’s no wonder we didn’t want to leave.
We tried both the breakfast and lunch menu during our stay. There really aren’t many dining options open in Big Sur, so having a restaurant on site was a luxury. Even so, the food was very good — we favored the larger lunch menu with tasty tacos and a refreshing Cobb salad. After a quick hike (five minutes) to their on-site redwood grove and private river beaches, I couldn’t have asked for better food options — everything was fresh and the portions were very fair. We also watched a young girl “put the hammer down” on a massive, home-cooked burger as well; we might need to try that next time.
And much like the staff at Glen Oaks, Everyone working the Roadhouse was incredibly accommodating and kind. We could feel the hospitality here, and believed the staff were happy to help us while making our stay memorable. Oh, and their barista skills were on-point — americanos, espressos, lattes… you name it. Thanks guys!
Even with the closure of Highway 1 south of Pfeiffer State Park’s entrance, There are so many places to see and activities to do in Big Sur. Unique to Glen Oaks, you have access to acres of prime hiking trails, the Big Sur River, and redwood groves; you really don’t have to leave the area if you don’t feel like it. And as my wife and I learned from our adventure, it really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. From riding electric bikes down a deserted Highway 1, standing at Mcway Falls with no other humans in sight, and swimming in the Big Sur River on a hot, sunny day, Our trip to Glen Oaks Big Sur will be remembered for life.