Our Honeymoon, Part 1: Big Sur

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Big Sur was very wonderful, but there’s so much hype and die-hard fans that I felt at times I was just tracing the steps of other vacations Instagrammed before us (ha!) because there isn’t a huge amount of ground to cover there. I almost wanted to not share the photo of the famous waterfall because of how over-saturated the internet is with that same image lately. But it’s so beautiful. Like, breath taking and aw-inspiring and I couldn’t believe it was right there in front of me. All of Big Sur is breath taking and I felt like I was in The Hobbit half the time, in fact. We stayed at Deetjen’s and I kept expecting gnomes to pop out everywhere. The only downsides are that everything is ridiculously expensive and the winding drive up the 1 is wonderful the first time but the pits the millionth time you drive on it, wondering if you will careen off of the side of the cliff this time, since everything is pretty spread out. Will isn’t huge on hiking and that’s the best thing to do there, we only did two very easy ones, so there was a lot of down time and I read many New Yorkers cover to cover (I was really behind on my subscription after the wedding). If I went back I’d go with someone who was into hiking and hike my heart out. Like everything, you have to do it twice to find the better way of doing it. The coast was so great, I’d love to go back and stay somewhere not so far up the winding 1.

The very best thing we did was kind of surreal and was something nearly every Big Sur-loving person ever told me to do – the hot springs at Esalen. They open up their hot springs for a very low rate (normally this place ain’t cheap) from 1am to 3am to 20 people every night. The hot springs sit on the edge of a cliff and overlook the ocean and you can see every single star in the sky. It was surreal because Will and I normally are in bed by 10 and always asleep by 11, unless we are out drinking, which is pretty rare. We went to bed at 9 (sort of) and woke up at 12 to prepare, and drove the scary windy drive in the dark and waited in the parking lot with strangers for someone from Esalen to meet us and walk us down a very long path through the grounds to the hot springs. It’s clothing optional, and the changing rooms are co-ed and you have to take a shower before hand. I had been psyching myself up all day to go nude, but I think the shower is what made me chicken out. I was delirious from the weird sleeping schedule and had no idea what to expect, so we kept our bathing suits on at first. But after a while we realized everyone was naked so we took our suits off in one of the hot springs. It felt incredibly freeing (not to mention more comfortable in hot water) but also so strange, I’ve never been naked in front of strangers before besides briefly in changing rooms at gyms or for doctors. At the end we got out and showered in front of strangers and inside my head I was screaming THIS IS HAPPENING WHOAAA! If I ever went again I’d go naked from the get-go as I don’t have a lot of opportunities to do something like that in an environment that I feel comfortable doing it in.

Besides the whole naked thing, the experience is surreal as it’s very quiet and a lot of just sitting back, staring at the stars and having time to be alone with your thoughts. Maybe it was because I was tired, but I had a sudden head spinning moment thinking about how we were on a rotating planet hurling through space and how crazy the stars were (so many shooting stars!) and how everything was just lit by moonlight and how the sound of the waves crashing into the rocks was real and not my white noise app I sleep with every night (true story). The fog rolled in and we watched it rise up and eventually cover most of the stars, and by that time it was time to go. We went back to our cabin and slept til the morning, and it all felt like it was just a dream. I can’t recommend this enough, please go someday.

We stayed in Big Sur for two nights and then we were off to Ojai, more on that later!

All photos by Kate Miss, taken on a Honeywell Pentax Spotmatic with Kodak Portra 160 film.


  1. says

    Such beautiful photos, Kate. I’m TOTALLY guilty of posting that waterfall pic like 100 times on all my social media accounts haha. But you’re right, once you’re there, standing in front of it, it’s so ridiculously beautiful, you can’t NOT take a photo. And you’re making me regret not going to Esalen! I’ll admit, the one thing holding me back was the naked bit, but you’ve convinced me that I must go next time.

  2. says

    I felt the same way about being naked the first time I went to onsen in Japan! The first experience was nerve wracking but I got over it pretty quick. It was also weird the first time I went with friends… but then I was like “ENJOY THE VIEW LADIES” and just strutted my stuff. Now I hate wearing a swim suit! I wish there was more naked swimming culture in North America, ha.

  3. Kelly says

    GORGEOUS pictures! Absolutely stunning. but you’re right about it being small — i definitely know where almost all of these pictures were taken! are the trail, creek and beach shots at andrew molera?

    and i’m so glad you did esalen and lived to tell the tale. I DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT THE SHOWERS. i would have freaked. good for you for doing it but now i know i could never deal!

  4. says

    Amazing! I’ll get myself out there someday, mainly because of the fact that everyone and their mother has gone there and posted amazing photos of it. I need to see it in person!

    Buuuut I won’t be doing any naked stranger stuff.

  5. justagirlLaura says

    This sounds AMAZING! Really, truly incredible.

    (Also, don’t know why I’ve never thought of it/heard of it but OF COURSE there’s an app for white noise! Downloading immediately for the guest room with no tv at Thanksgiving. Thanks!)

  6. says

    Is it bad that I didn’t even notice the waterfall in the picture and I had to Google what this Big Sur waterfall looked like before I could even see it in your image?

    I was too focused on the amazing, swirling ocean in the forefront and trying to decide if it was going to be too dangerous to swim in that current.

    And rock out the nakedness! People aren’t even looking anyways! (Although, co-ed showers… I would hesitate on that one too!)

  7. says

    I got used to the naked group showering in Iceland! They make you do that before you enter any of the hot springs there! I’m glad to hear an honest review of Big Sur – I have been wanting to go for such a long time, but it’s SO expensive!

    • says

      Of course after I went I talked to the couple friends I hadn’t consulted beforehand and they gave me all the cheap tips, particularly camping. So I really want to go back with a group of friends and camp for sure!

  8. Shelly says

    I didn’t notice the waterfall the first time either! The pic is breathtaking though, that water looks beautiful, powerful, and scary. Do you watch The Mindy Project? That photo reminds me of a Danny Castellano quote: “I fear the ocean out of respect.” Heh. Big Sur is on my bucket list, I hope to make it there some day. Congrats on the nudity, my first experience was on a nude beach in Greece. I was determined to do it and I did (nervously) go topless. I hope to have the opportunity again, I feel like I’d be less afraid next time knowing I’ve already conquered it once. May I ask what white noise app you use? I use Relax Melodies but am interested to try another app if it sounds good.

    Looking forward to more honeymoon photos!

    • says

      I was trying to think of another nude situation and a nude beach came to mind, which sounds more scary to me as it’s in the blinding daylight! But maybe if everyone is staring at the ocean and I’m just on a towel sunbathing I’d do it? Maybe just topless as I’m basically non existent in that department anyway, ha! I’d like to think so, but I’m such a wuss!

      I use Simply Noise, which comes with white, pink, and brown noise. They make other apps that are specific sounds like nature sounds. I like the brown noise best and you can make the sound oscillate, which is ocean-sounding.

  9. says

    These pics are absolutely gorgeous! Big Sur is on my list and after seeing these pics I’ll be rearranging my priorities to make time for that visit, can’t wait! It looks amazing :)

  10. says

    Ah, such beautiful photos! We want to get married in Big Sur but it looks like that won’t be happening after all (unless we elope which I secretly would much rather do).
    I have this crazy (dumb?) idea to go on a quick camping trip there. I’ve heard/googled people camping in their Prius which apparently is a thing, and it makes the trip sound so much more affordable!

  11. Judy says

    I dated a guy in high school whose family had a standing reservation for camping in Julia Pfeiffer and it was awesome! So beautiful, my favorite part was swimming at the gorge. Were there many other people at Esalen when you went? I’ve never heard of it but now I definitely want to try it out.

  12. says

    The photos are AMAZING!!! Im in love with the color of them, not sure if its the film or the editing, whatever it is, they are so dreamy and beautiful! Mazel Tov on the wedding!

  13. Megan says

    You captured Big Sur so beautifully, it is such a magical place. I grew up in the redwoods but there is something different about those, the way northern and southern california comes together in Big Sur is so crazy and surreal. It’s like a bermuda triangle there. I went for my honeymoon too and stayed at Deetjen’s, was so happy to have picked such a chill “do nothing” kind of place to honeymoon after wedding craziness. I had some especially intense stuff happen during my wedding so Big Sur was the perfect place to do some much-needed healing.

    I like that we are not the only ones that had to do the pre-Esalen nap, haha! No way I could have stayed up that late. When we went the fog came in early and it was a white-knuckle drive both there and back to Deetjen’s. I think we were in second gear the whole time. The whole thing still feels like a dream! Love your take on public nudity, there really is something freeing but still so super weird about it. Congratulations on the wedding and glad you had a nice relaxing honeymoon!

  14. says

    I just got back from my own honeymoon, during which we spent two nights at Deetjen’s. Imagine my surprise when I opened the guest journal in our room and found your and Will’s note on the very first page! What a great place.

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