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See California: Magnificent Big Sur

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California’s signature Pacific coastline – Big Sur – unfolds itself beautifully on Hwy 1.

About 25 miles south of Monterey, it’s common to see motorists pull off the road into turn-outs taking in the magnificent view. Being high above the water offers views that a sea-level road doesn’t offer. It seems to strike awe in travelers as they gaze off into the distance.

Luckily, the day I drove into Big Sur it was a crystal clear, cloudless sky. Easy to see far, it was bright and warm. I pulled into turn-outs to photograph what others were photographing, such as glimpses of whales’ water spouts in the distance.

Oil painter Coraly Hanson of Santa Cruz and a fellow painter were in action at one of the turn-outs. Six times Hanson painted various scenes along Big Sur, all at different times of the year, using different shapes and different sizes of canvas.

“I’ve done a few commissions of large paintings of Big Sur,” Hanson said. “This one is a different design than I’ve done before.”

She said every day you are here the colors change because of the weather and the conditions.

“I just try to be an honest painter and paint what is here,” she explained. “God did a good enough job – I don’t have to fake it.”

Over the past 14 years she has also painted in Lake Tahoe, Hope Valley and the Sierras. Her studio at home is filled with 300 paintings and her paintings have been featured in several galleries.

Her biggest challenge on this clear day was getting the values right (dark to light) of near and far objects to show perspective.

Conditions changing daily is something painters and photographers appreciate. A second day along Big Sur proved what a difference clouds make.

Numerous campgrounds, lodging, gasoline stations, restaurants, cafes, galleries, and hiking trails in the area are available. State Parks that make exploring easy with designated scenic trails and beautiful beaches also dot Big Sur.

The Esalen Institute, an alternative education center that brought attention to Big Sur in the early 1960s, is still open. Offering 550 workshops a year, learning focuses on realizing human potential and transforming consciousness.

Founded by Michael Murphy and Dick Price in 1962, the institute has been associated with recognizable celebrities such as Timothy Leary, Ansel Adams, Joan Baez, Ray Bradbury, and Ida Rolf, just to name a few.

According to the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, the name Big Sur was historically derived from the unexplored and unmapped wilderness area along the coast south of Monterey: El Sur Grande, The Big South. Today, we know Big Sur as the 90-mile stretch of rugged coastline between Carmel and Hearst Castle, with Highway One winding along its length and the Santa Lucia Mountains and Pacific Coast on either side of it.

If you want to disconnect from technology, 99.9% of Big Sur has no WI-FI or cell service. So it’s an easy break! If RV’ing, be sure to check if there are electric and water hook-ups, since not all campgrounds do.

Big Sur is unarguably one California’s most stunning stretches of coast. To plan a visit, go to www.bigsurcalifornia.org.

Four men climb down the hill next to the famous Bixby Bridge built in 1932.
Four men climb down the hill next to the famous Bixby Bridge built in 1932.
Oil painter Coraly Hanson of Santa Cruz and fellow painter in action.
Two visitors spot a whale spout in the distance.
Two visitors spot a whale spout in the distance.
90 miles of winding, breath-taking views.
Clouds create a pastel look to the waterscape.
The sun makes the water sparkle.


Sun shines through a cypress tree on a cliff.
Sunset seen from Limekiln State Park.
See California: Magnificent Big Sur via @sacramentopress

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