Big Sur has long been a perfect location for romance - with its towering redwood forests and rugged coastline, it's no wonder that so many couples choose to propose here! Its remote location and otherworldliness makes it an ideal location for proposals. If you're thinking of getting engaged in Big Sur, check out the guide below for tips on how to choose a location for your proposal and important things to consider when travelling to this area!
If there's one thing to know about Big Sur, it's that there are countless viewpoints all along Highway 1! From the rocky coastline of Garrapata State Park, to the redwood trails at Pfeiffer Big Sur, to the giant rock formations at Pfeiffer Beach, to the waterfalls of Julia Pfeiffer Big Sur, you certainly have many options when it comes to choosing a spot to propose. Dotted along Highway 1 are also hotels and cabins ranging from the luxury resort of Alila Ventana Big Sur to modern cabins of Glen Oaks to quaint stays like Deetjen's. If you're not hiring a photographer, you can choose any one of these locations!
But there is truly something so special about having your proposal documented - it's a moment of such genuine joy, tears, and happiness. If you are hiring a photographer, you'll want to plan ahead. Choosing a location with your photographer can make a huge difference in the experience and in the photos that are captured, especially because not all locations work. For example, McWay Falls is a gorgeous waterfall over the ocean but is much too crowded for a proposal, doesn't allow professional photography, and has no good viewing points to capture both a couple and the waterfall all in the same photo. Pfeiffer Beach is another popular spot, but is often closed due to flooding or wildfires, and known to be extremely windy. Most locations within Big Sur require obtaining a professional photography permit as well.
What are the best spots for proposals then? Here's the truth: the best locations are the ones that you find simply by exploring! But if you aren't familiar with the area or don't have the time to scout it beforehand, don't worry. As an expert in planning and photographing Big Sur proposals, I've scouted out all the different trails to help you choose the best location for what you're looking for. Most of these locations can't be found labelled anywhere on Google Maps, which means that most of time you'll be the only ones there! This makes for a much more private proposal away from the crowds. When narrowing down a location, I typically recommend considering a few factors:
TIME OF DAY: If you're proposing on the coast, nothing beats sunsets over the cliffs! But sometimes there are other factors to consider. Are you proposing in a spot that's more popular? If so, sunrise might be the best option. Are you proposing in the redwoods? If so, then every redwoods spot is different. Some are best in the morning, others in the afternoon. You may also want to have dinner plans, so if you want to have a dinner with a view, you may want to plan your proposal to be earlier in the day.
ATTIRE: Will your partner want to be dressed up for the proposal? You know your partner best - would they want to be dressed up for the proposal? Or would it ruin the surprise if you asked her to dress up? It can sometimes be suspicious to ask your partner to dress up for a hike, so you may want to have dinner plans as an excuse to dress up.
SHOES: The more dramatic the cliffside, the more steep the trail likely is. I always recommend couples wear comfortable, close-toed shoes. If you know your partner may prefer to wear dressier shoes, then you may want to choose an easier trail or bring shoes to change into.
COMFORT LEVEL: Are you two comfortable with standing on the cliffs, or do either of you have a fear of heights? Though most locations don't require much hiking - 5-15 minutes at most - some overlooks can be pretty steep (especially the dramatic ones!)
DECOR: If you're wanting decor for your proposal, you'll want to choose a location that's flat and easy to set up decor in. Most cliffside locations are not suited for this, but beach locations can be a great alternative! You can even surprise your partner with a picnic on the beach after the proposal. There are companies that can set up picnics for you so that you don't have to worry about bringing anything!
GUESTS: Most trails in Big Sur are narrow, making it very difficult to plan a proposal with guests without your partner seeing them along the trail. If it is important to include guests in your proposal, you'll want to either choose a location that's accessible, or plan a celebration after the proposal.
COORDINATION: There's no cell service in Big Sur, so it's very important that you coordinate with your photographer ahead of time. It can be very easy to get lost as many turnouts look the same. When coordinating a proposal, I always provide detailed instructions, GPS coordinates to the parking location, Google Streetview to identify the trailhead, a map of the trail, and identifiable markers to make sure that you're on the right path. To ensure that we find each other on the day of, I'll also ask for what car you'll be driving, what you'll be wearing, and a photo of you two. This helps me to identify you so I can head out to the trail and be ready in place for the proposal.
No matter where you propose though, you truly can't go wrong in Big Sur!