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Best things to do in San Simeon

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Where in the world: USA  /  California  /  San Luis Obispo County  /  San Simeon

Top 15 things to do in San Simeon

1. Friends of the Elephant Seal Visitor Center

Driving along Highway 1 in California, close to San Simeon and four miles north of the Hearst Castle, you can see Friends of the Elephant Seal Visitor Center. With over 5000 births per year, the estimated total colony size of 25,000 seals makes this site the largest mainland rookery (birthing place) for the Northern  Elephant Seal species. Protected from storms and predators, with wide sandy beaches and shallow rocky areas, this location is ideal for the seals. Depending on the time of year, you can witness the birth of baby seals, hear the iconic roar of male seals during the breeding season, or watch young seals spar with each other on the beach and in the surf.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
Learn more about Friends of the Elephant Seal Visitor Center

2. Hearst Castle

It took William Randolph Hearst, the famed newspaper magnate, nearly three decades to complete Hearst Castle, one of the largest houses in the United States. Architect Julia Morgan envisioned the house with 56 bedrooms, 61 bathrooms, 19 sitting rooms, tennis courts, movie theaters, an airfield, and the world's largest private zoo. Part of a state park since 1958, the house Hearst called his "Enchanted Hill" now offers public tours, attracting visitors with its considerable collection of art and antiques. The estate's focal point is an outdoor swimming pool, rebuilt three times to suit its owner's tastes. The centerpiece of the pool, which offers expansive vistas of the mountains and the ocean, is the facade of an ancient Roman temple Hearst imported from Europe.
Suggested duration: 2h 30 min
Tours from $13 › Learn more about Hearst Castle

3. Piedras Blancas

Take in ocean views, spot elephant seals, and check out an historical lighthouse at Piedras Blancas. Use the signs along the viewing areas to guide yourself or take a guided tour that provides information about the lighthouse's history, fishing and wildlife in the area, and the scenery. A boardwalk provides easy access from the large parking lot to areas for viewing elephant-seals and other wildlife. Reserve your place in advance if you want to take the tour, and be prepared for windy weather.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
Learn more about Piedras Blancas

4. Big Sur Self-Driving Audio Tour in California (Highway 1, Pacific Coast Highway)

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Purchase one tour per car, not per person. Everyone can listen together!Experience the iconic Big Sur road trip with a self-guided driving audio tour! As you drive, learn about the fairytale cottages of Carmel, the purple sand at Pfeiffer Beach, & the enormous elephant seals at San Simeon. Drive over Bixby Bridge, marvel at McWay Falls, & enjoy the rugged coastline along the Pacific Coast Highway / Route 1. Big Sur is the most scenic segment of the Pacific Coast Highway(a must-do road trip), which you can start in either Monterey or San Luis Obispo.Within 30 min, we'll send you two things: a unique password & an app. Download the app, enter a password, & download the tour. When you arrive, head over to the first stop. Stick to the route & speed limit for the best experience.No expiration — The tour comes with lifetime validity!This isn't an entrance ticket. Check covid rules & opening hours before your visit.
Suggested duration: 2 to 3 hours
Tours from $15 › More about this tour at viator.com ›
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Best tours in San Simeon

5. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur

Featuring forests, granite cliffs, 2,500-year-old sequoia trees, and a 24 m (80 ft) waterfall that drops into the Pacific, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park offers hiking, camping, and scuba diving. The camping areas overlook the ocean, providing opportunities for whale watching. See the remains of McWay house, dedicated to the memory of Julia Pfeiffer Burns--a famous rancher of Big Sur. If you wish to camp at the site, you'll have a picnic table, fire ring, and restrooms provided. Make sure you take water, firewood, and clothes for changeable weather.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
Tours from $404 › Learn more about Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

6. Pfeiffer State Beach, Big Sur

The unspoiled Pfeiffer State Beach is a hit with locals but lesser known among tourists. Take a narrow road off the highway to reach this rugged oasis. Make sure to drive slowly, watching out for cars coming from the other direction. The beach's tranquil atmosphere and small crowds come at the cost of limited parking. You may have to wait for a spot. Once there, take a stroll, admire the dramatic views of offshore rocks and sea stacks, watch the waves crashing, and look for deposits of the area's unusual purple sand. You might even see a whale in the distance. Bring a sweater; it can get windy here.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
Tours from $13 › Learn more about Pfeiffer State Beach

7. Pinnacles National Park, Paicines

Pinnacles National Park is an American national park protecting a mountainous area located east of the Salinas Valley in Central California, about five miles (8.0 km) east of Soledad and 80 miles (130 km) southeast of San Jose. The park's namesakes are the eroded leftovers of the western half of an extinct volcano that has moved 200 miles (320 km) from its original location on the San Andreas Fault, embedded in a portion of the California Pacific Coast Ranges. Pinnacles is managed by the National Park Service and the majority of the park is protected as wilderness.

The national park is divided by the rock formations into East and West Divisions, connected only by foot trails. The east side has shade and water, the west has high walls. The rock formations provide for spectacular pinnacles that attract rock climbers. The park features unusual talus caves that house at least 13 species of bats. Pinnacles is most often visited in spring or fall because of the intense heat during the summer. Park lands are prime habitat for prairie falcons, and are a release site for California condors that have been hatched in captivity.

Pinnacles was originally established as a national monument in 1908 by President Theodore Roosevelt, and was redesignated as a national park in 2013.

Suggested duration: 8 hours
Learn more about Pinnacles National Park

8. Big Sur Monterey California Coast McWay Falls from San Jose

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Transportation by driver guide using full size sedan car or SUV at additional cost. This is unique way of visiting one of the most scenic areas in the U.S. The driver guide will stop at places you wish to enjoy in Santa Cruz, Monterey, Big Sur, Bixby Bridge, River Inn, Pfeiffer state park of Coastal Redwoods, Nepenthe, McWay Falls and many other places. This is a private trip not a group tour. For the return trip, the driver guide will drop customers off at the Salinas Amtrak station for the Coast Starlight train at about 6:00 p.m. reaching San Jose Diridon station in an hour a half.
Suggested duration: 8 hours
Tours from $385 › More about this tour at viator.com ›

9. Piedras Blancas Light Station

Piedras Blancas Light Station is located at Point Piedras Blancas, about 5.5 miles (8.9 km) west by northwest of San Simeon, California. It was added to the California Coastal National Monument in 2017.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
Tours from $15 › Learn more about Piedras Blancas Light Station

10. William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach

William Randolph Hearst Memorial State Beach is located near the historic town of San Simeon along California State Route 1, in San Luis Obispo County, California, United States. It is named for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst (1863–1951), whose family is closely associated with the area.
William Randolph Hearst memorial State Beach is located in northern San Simeon, California directly below Historic Hearst Castle in San Luis Obispo county. William Randolph Hearst State Beach or as it is locally known “The Cove” was once home to the Hearst Family newspaper empire, and was the hub of Trade and shipping in the area. Before the 1800s the land was known to be inhabited by the Chumash. However the known written history of this beach begins way back in the mid-1830s when mission San Miguel was built, and by the early 1850s a small Portuguese whaling village had been built on the peninsula jetting out into the sea. Over the course of ten years, the small village managed to hunt down some three hundred and seventy whales though records of what type of whales was not kept it is assumed the majority of the whales were gray and humpbacks as these are the whales that are commonly spotted in the area. This village was short lived, because only ten years after it was built a severe drought caused the town to move to find fresh water. George Hearst Bought nearly fifty thousand Acres establishing the ground work for Williams Empire. The Hearst Family owned all the land as far as the eye could see from their castle until the early 1950s when the family donated a huge section of land to the state and sold miles of shore line to be used for public use. If you visit the beach today the pier George Hearst build in the 1800s no longer exists, but a new on was built in the 1900s just a few hundred yards down the beach that now stands in its place. now the beach is a California state beach.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
Learn more about William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach

11. McWay Falls, Big Sur

McWay Falls is one of the only waterfalls in the region that empties straight into the ocean. Rising 24.3 m (80ft) above the shoreline of the Pacific, this "tidefall" is accessible via the state park's 1.03 km (0.64 mi) roundtrip trail. Pause at the vantage points along the way to take in views of the ocean and the cascading waters themselves. For a different vantage point, you can reach the beach below the falls via boat.
Suggested duration: 30 minutes
Tours from $13 › Learn more about McWay Falls

12. Private Tour of California's Central Coast (San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles-Cambria)

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- Your Tour Will Be Customized for Your Interests and Group Dynamics.- Ask Questions and Send Requests by Call, Text, Email, Facebook, or WhatsApp, and Hear Back Directly from Your Guide.- The Entire Itinerary Will Be Designed to Fit in Your Schedule and Needs for a Truly Relaxing Vacation.- Recipient of 2020 Traveler's Choice, Certificate of Excellence for 2019, 2018, and 2017 by TripAdvisor, and 5 Star Reviewed by Google.- 10 Years of Tour Guiding Experience - Enjoy the Stunning Natural Scenery, Wild Life, Local Food and Wine Tasting at Picturesque Vineyards and Quaint farms.- Tour the beautiful Central Coast such as Morro Bay, Elephant Seal Rookery, Big Sur, Hearst Castle, Wine country, Art and Historical Attractions or Local Favorites- See, Feel, Hear, Taste, and Experience More When You Travel with an Excellent Guide.
Suggested duration: 300 to 315 minutes
Tours from $299 › More about this tour at viator.com ›

13. Bear Gulch Caves, Paicines

Suggested duration: 2 hours
Learn more about Bear Gulch Caves

14. San Simeon State Park

Suggested duration: 2 hours
Learn more about San Simeon State Park

15. Highway 1 Self-Driving Audio Tour (Pacific Coast Highway)

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Recommended: Purchase one tour per car, not per person. Everyone listens together!Welcome to the GPS-enabled driving tour of California’s famous Highway 1, the Pacific Coast Highway! This self-guided audio tour stretches between San Francisco and Los Angeles, one of the most beautiful coastlines in the world! This self-guided audio tour allows you to explore Highway 1 with maximum flexibility and value.Within 30 min, we'll send you two things: a unique password and an app. Download the app onto your phone and enter the password. Then download the tour inside. Start at the first stop and follow the instructions! Stick to our route for the best experience.This tour doesn’t include entrance to attractions along the route. Check opening hours before your visit.No expiration — The tour comes with lifetime validity!
Suggested duration: 5 to 7 hours
Tours from $25 › More about this tour at viator.com ›

Best tours in San Simeon