The week after completing yoga teacher training my brother flew out to San Diego from Wisconsin and we set out for the adventure of a lifetime: driving up Big Sur to San Francisco.
I loved every single thing about our trip up the California coastline. It was the perfect blend of nature, quirky pit-stops, fresh air and adventure in the city.
Here are a few things I would recommend for any yogi looking for the ultimate California road-trip.
Travel: Take the Breathtaking Drive Up Big Sur
We both agreed the drive through Big Sur was the highlight of the entire trip. The northern California wilderness along the coast is beyond breathtaking!
The initial drive through Big Sur was foggy making it difficult to see how tall the mountain was to our right or how deep the drop was down to the ocean on our left. It was a little spooky, but the mystery was intriguing.
We stopped quite a bit more on the way back since the sky was clear, making for breathtaking scenery. Along the way we saw the most beautiful whales floating just off the coast!
Stay: Get Lost in Nature to Find Yourself
Since I don’t have any camping gear and have been itching to get out in nature, we decided to go “glamping” (glamorous + camping) through Airbnb. Our host set up a tent at Big Sur Campground with a queen-sized bed, space heater and s’mores stuff to boot! I know, it’s kind of a short cut but it was perfect for our time-crunched weekend!
Our campsite was located right next to a stream so we fell asleep to the sound of trickling water. It was the perfect way to enjoy nature without having to haul of our own camping gear!
Nourish: Dinner with a View at Nepenthe
Nepenthe is a quirky little restaurant nestled into the cliff side in the middle of Big Sur. After checking into our campsite we headed there for a bite to eat.
Be prepared to pay for the view. We opted for soup bowls and split the Brussels sprouts.
It’s definitely worth stopping in and checking this place out!
Experience: Esalen Hot Springs
I’m so glad a fellow yogi told me about the Esalen hot springs (http://www.esalen.org/page/esalen-hot-springs)! The Esalen Institute is located in the middle of Big Sur, about 20 minutes from our campground.
Public bathing in the hot springs is only from 1 to 3 a.m. Those staying at Esalen have exclusive access to the springs during the day.
If we thought it was foggy on our way into the campground around 6 p.m., it was hardly visible driving there in the middle of the night! But it was completely worth the foggy drive through the winding
mountain for what we were about to experience.
Together with the other night bathers you park at the top of a hill and walk down through a clearing to the hot springs, located in the middle of a cliff side.
The hot springs are clothing optional. Since I was with my brother, we opted for the swimsuits (most others did not).
You have the option of sitting in a quiet area or silent section. In much need of a daily meditation, I opted for the silent area to rest and retreat.
Esalen is where I had my most profound meditation to date.
I closed my eyes and floated in a tub alone at first, in silence, first withdrawing and then observing. My eyes closed, I could hear the waves crashing against the cliffs where we were perched. The chilly ocean air sprayed me slightly as I soaked in the hot spring water.
It was the perfect setting to find peace, undisturbed. No phone. No car alarms. Just me, the ocean and the healing hot springs.
I spent more than 30 minutes in a meditative state. By the end I was seeing light flashes of colors. I felt like my body was buzzing, connected to the source.
After a few hours of soaking in the magical waters we left lighter, practically floating back to our campsite before heading back to civilization.
See: China Cove & Bird Island in Point Lobos State Reserve
Point Lobos State Reserve was next up the coast on our drive up to San Francisco. It is definitely worth the stop!
There are several trails hike along the water. We took the Bird Island trail toward China Cove per a friend’s recommendation.
You have to park in the lot furthest south in the reserve to access this trail. Once you get to the trailhead, it’s only a 20-30 minute coastal hike to get to China Cove and Bird Island.
The water and surrounding wildlife was stunning!
Explore: San Francisco
After a few more hours in the car we made it up to San Francisco. I couldn’t believe I had finally made it to the city I had heard so much about!
It was a little different than I expected. We stayed the first couple of days in the Mission where we could easily get around the city. I was surprised to find many small neighborhoods patched together vs. a big city like I was expecting.
Every town-home had its own unique character, with vibrant paint, trim and one-of-a-kind fixtures. The city is beaming with character.
In the Mission we checked out shops and even stumbled upon a farmer’s market.
Places we explored around the city:
- China Town.
- Lombard Street.
- The Full House House (sorry not sorry).
- Fisherman’s Wharf & Pier 39.
- And last but certainly not least: The Golden Gate Bridge.
Retreat: To the Woods
For the last couple of days we once again retreated to nature. I booked us a rustic Airbnb nestled in the woods just north of the city beyond the Golden Gate Bridge in Mill Valley. The couple we stayed with always had a fire roaring, keeping the treehouse in the woods cozy.
We were again situated near a stream that provided soothing, trickling sounds of water. I saw a wild deer, which I haven’t seen much of since moving to California from Wisconsin! It was a refreshing sight.
Sip: in Wine County
We were so close to Napa and Sonoma that we had to squeeze in a winery before leaving northern California. My brother had never been to a winery before so he was in luck! Not everyone gets to have their first wine tasting in Napa after all.
The scenery was stunning and the weather was absolutely perfect. There was a light breeze and the temperature was absolutely comfortable.
Life was pretty perfect in that moment enjoying an estate-bottle pinot noir with my brother at his first ever winery experience!
Brother Sister Yoga Photos
The scenic drive and stops along the way made for perfect yoga stretch breaks and photo ops. Little did I know that my little brother would join me in the yoga pose pictures!
For every pose I struck throughout the trip so did my little brother. Mind you, my brother has never practiced yoga. I was impressed and shocked.
Here’s what happens when you and your brother take the same yoga pose throughout your California road trip:
The Trip of a Lifetime
I’ll never forget the road trip up through Big Sur to San Francisco with my little brother. It was better than I could have imagined!
If you ever have the opportunity I highly recommend a road trip up the California coastline through Big Sur and into San Francisco.
Until next time.