Biking: Monterey to Santa Barbara - Self Guided Multi-Day
Overview - Monterey to Santa Barbara via Big Sur Self Guided Bike Tour
Cycling down the California coast from Monterey to Santa Barbara via Big Sur on a self guided bike tour avoids much of the urban biking and the less scenic agricultural areas of longer bike tours down the California coast. The first part of a Monterey to Santa Barbara bike tour focuses on the hilly, but spectacular Big Sur coast, with its rugged coastline and towering redwoods. South of Big Sur, cycling through San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County offers a diverse palette of marine wildlife viewing, historic missions, winery areas and surfers plying the waves of the Pacific Ocean off sandy beaches. Our standard Monterey to Santa Barbara itinerary is 6 days, but you can lengthen the number of days by by doing shorter cycling days and/or adding layover days. If you don't mind more aggressive daily mileages, you could also do the tour in 5 (or even fewer) days. It's also possible to end the tour in the Solvang area instead of Santa Barbara.
***ALL CENTRAL COAST OUTDOORS SELF GUIDED BIKE TOURS ARE PRIVATE***
"We had a great time on the cycle tour. The lodging and dining recommendations were great. The directions were very clear and organized and we never missed a turn or felt confused. Pick up and drop off were well coordinated and the bikes and packs were great. Thanks for making it all so easy!!"
Quick Links to Page Contents
- Standard Itinerary
- Alternate Itineraries
- Cost and Availability of Accommodations
- Daily Luggage Delivery Options
- Traffic, Road Conditions and Terrain
- Overview Map
- Start and End Tour Transportation
- Climate Information
IMPORTANT: Due to heavy rains over the winter 2016-17, many sections of Highway One down the Big Sur coast were heavily damaged. During the repair phase (which may take as long as the rest of 2017) portions of the highway are likely to remain closed to through traffic, and this will impact any Monterey to Santa Barbara biking itinerary on the days scheduled for that stretch of coast. Please see our Big Sur Highway 2017 page for more details.
6 Days / 288 Total Miles / Daily Average = 48 Miles / Daily Range = 38-61 Miles
Day One - Monterey to Big Sur - 45 miles (elevation +2748/-2530 ft)
The Monterey to Santa Barbara self guided bike tour begins with a side trip out to scenic 17 Mile Drive to experience the storied golf courses of Pebble Beach. You'll continue through Carmel, enjoying its white sandy beach and beautiful mission. South of Carmel, you'll enter the fabled Big Sur coastline, home to some of the most spectacular coastal scenery anywhere in the world. Here Highway One is often carved out of cliffs and ridges high above the Pacific Ocean with waves crashing below on rocky sea stacks. After crossing photogenic Bixby Bridge and climbing to Hurricane Point, today's cycling route finishes a short distance inland among the redwoods in the town of Big Sur.
Day Two - Big Sur to Ragged Point - 49 miles (elevation +5043/-4941 ft)
Get ready for an epic full day of cycling the Big Sur coast! Right off the bat you'll tackle the biggest hill of the Monterey to Santa Barbara bike tour as you bike above the Big Sur River past colorful cafes and more redwoods before descending back toward the ocean. Rugged and remote coastline dominates the rest of the day, with numerous state parks offering short hikes to waterfalls and panoramic views of the Pacific. After cycling a final set of hills, you'll enjoy a well earned rest at the Ragged Point Inn, perched on a bluff high above ocean.
Day Three - Ragged Point to San Luis Obispo (SLO) - 61 miles (elevation +2228/-2313 ft)
After descending from Ragged Point the Monterey to Santa Barbara bike tour route features more forgiving terrain, but still encompasses expansive ocean views as you cycle past by historic Hearst Ranch and Hearst Castle and a colony of decidedly odd looking elephant seals (a must see stop!). South of Hearst Castle, you'll bike through a series of small coastal towns, each with its own unique character. Cambria features numerous art galleries and restaurants, while Cayucos is focused on its extensive beach and pier area as well as being a popular surfing location. Our self guided bike tour route hugs the coast from Cayucos to Morro Bay, which is a fishing village with a scenic harbor area. The route from Morro Bay to SLO skirts the edge of Morro Bay National Estuary before cutting inland for some hilly, but very scenic cycling. San Luis Obispo (voted happiest town in North America!) features an historic mission and a vibrant, walkable downtown area.
Day Four - SLO to Santa Maria - 43 miles (elevation +1101/-1131 ft)
From SLO the Monterey to Santa Barbara self guided bike tour route heads back to the coast. A short detour along a creekside bike path to the small resort town of Avila Beach beckons before cycling through Pismo Beach, another classic beach town. From Pismo Beach the route veers inland through rich farmland. Watch for artichokes and strawberries! The terrain south of Pismo Beach has some rolling hills, but levels out as you bike through the sleepy town of Guadalupe before the short spin to Santa Maria.
Day Five - Santa Maria to Solvang - 38 miles (elevation +1931/-1662 ft)
Leaving Santa Maria on this Monterey to Santa Barbara self guided bike tour, you'll quickly find yourself in the idyllic vineyards of the Santa Ynez winery region. This is where the movie "Sideways" was filmed, often with actual staff from the winery tasting rooms. Tackling the hills at the south end of Foxen Canyon Road on your bike brings you to the tiny hamlet of Los Olivos and its numerous tasting rooms. From Los Olivos it's a short spin along Alamo Pintado Road (or a rollicking climb and descent on Ballard Canyon Road) to the Danish-themed town of Solvang in the heart of the Santa Ynez wine country.
Day Six - Solvang to Santa Barbara - 52 miles (elevation +2472/-2965 ft)
The last day of this Monterey to Santa Barbara cycling tour starts with a pleasing spin and climb through isolated country behind Solvang past Nojoqui Falls Park before you gain US 101 and bike over Gaviota Pass to get back to the coast. The coastal approach to Santa Barbara on US 101 is actually quite pleasant for biking on a freeway and features expansive ocean views. As you near Santa Barbara, you'll take the traditional Coast Bike Route through Hope Ranch and bike along the waterfront before ending the day among the palm trees and sandy beaches of Santa Barbara.
Adding Layover Days
Interesting layover days on our Monterey to Santa Barbara via Big Sur self guided bike tour can be made in the following locations:
Cambria. There is quite a selection of art galleries, fine restaurants and wine tasting available in Cambria. Hearst Castle is just a few miles north. Try kayaking in San Simeon Cove with Sea For Yourself. There are also numerous hiking trails in and around Cambria, including Hearst San Simeon State Park. To encompass a layover day in Cambria, you would either lengthen Day Two or cut Day Three in half.
San Luis Obispo (SLO). This diverse town offers plenty of galleries and restaurants in its award winning downtown area. The Edna Valley stretches south of town and offers numerous winery tasting rooms and great cycling.
Solvang. Located in the heart of the Santa Ynez Valley Wine Country, Solvang (or one of the towns close by) is the best place for a layover day if you want to experience wine country and/or do some cycling to wineries.
**Please note that all mileages and elevation gain/loss data (in feet) are approximate only and will vary according to hotel location and actual routes ridden.**
Many other options exist for cycling from the Monterey area down to Santa Barbara. Please see below for brief itinerary descriptions to see how they differ from the standard itinerary and click on the links to view a detailed PDF of any of these itineraries. To get more information and/or pricing for an itinerary you are interested in or to begin the process of booking a multi-day bike tour with us, send us a Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire. Or, just give us a call at 805.528.1080! As always, if you don't find an itinerary on our website that fits what you are looking for, please contact us and let us know what your thoughts are.
MONTEREY TO SANTA BARBARA - 7 DAYS
288 Total Miles / Daily Average = 41 miles / Daily Range = 30-52 miles
This is a more relaxed version of the 6 day itinerary. It stays in Cayucos and Pismo Beach in the middle of the tour instead of in SLO, and thus has a more beach oriented feel.
MONTEREY TO SANTA BARBARA - 5 DAYS
288 Total Miles / Daily Average = 58 miles / Daily Range = 45-71 miles
This is a somewhat more aggressive version of the 6 day itinerary. It inlcudes a stays in the delightful seaside town of Cambria as well as Pismo Beach and skips Santa Maria.
MONTEREY TO SOLVANG - 6 DAYS
236 Total Miles / Daily Average = 39 miles / Daily Range = 30-49 miles
Essentially the same as the Monterey to Santa Barbara 7 day itinerary, but omits the last cycling day from Solvang to Santa Barbara. There is no good public transportation from the Solvang area to points like Santa Barbara, but renting a car or hiring us to do a shuttle are always options.
MONTEREY TO SOLVANG - 4 DAYS
236 Total Miles / Daily Average = 59 miles / Daily Range = 45-71 miles
Essentially the same as the Monterey to Santa Barbara 5 day itinerary, but omits the last cycling day from Solvang to Santa Barbara. There is no good public transportation from the Solvang area to points like Santa Barbara, but renting a car or hiring us to do a shuttle are always options.
Pricing below is for our innovative self guided bike tour program. Prices below assume our standard self guided bike tour services and are per person prices for the whole itinerary. The rates vary according to length of itinerary and number of people in the cycling group. If you will be doing the itinerary in less or more than the amount of days listed below, the price will be adjusted accordingly. For number of days below the standard range - subtract $15 per day per person. For number of days above the standard range - add $20 per day per person.
PER PERSON ITINERARY PRICE BASED ON GROUP SIZE
|Itinerary||Total Miles||# of Days||Solo||2 ppl||3 ppl||4+ ppl|
|Monterey to Santa Barbara||288||4-6||$704||$445||$365||$305|
|Monterey to Solvang||236||4-6||$620||$415||$330||$280|
|Monterey to SLO||155||3-5||$500||$330||$240||$215|
Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire (Start the booking process)
Once you've reviewed itinerary options and have an idea of what itineraries or dates might work best for you, the best way to start the process of booking a tour and confirming the price for your group is to fill out the Custom Bike Tour Questionnaire. You can always give us a call at 805.528.1080 as well.
The cost and availability of accommodations on a California coast self guided bike tour can vary considerably and are influenced by location, high season vs. low season rates, and weekend vs. weekday rates. The best way to get a sense for what accommodations for your tour might cost is to first choose a specific itinerary and dates and ask us to email you our lists of recommended accommodations for each stop along the way. Then you can check availability and rates for your specific dates. It can be a challenge to find hotel accommodations for less than $100 per night average, although if you are willing to stay in hostels where they exist, you can average less than $100 per night. Most budget hotel accommodations are in the $70-150 per night range. Mid range accommodations are typically between $150-300 per night. Some places, especially along the Big Sur coast, may sell out months in advance during the busy summer season or other holiday times, and/or may require two nights stays on certain busy weekends. The farther in advance you plan your bike tour, the better chance you have to get the accommodations you want at each stop along the way. Virtually all accommodations we recommend have websites where you can check availability and book rooms.
Daily luggage delivery is not normally included in our self guided bike tour package, but can potentially be arranged for an extra fee. Our standard self guided services include a pannier system for the bike so you can carry just the clothing and gear you need during the tour. We will take your excess luggage (anything you don't carry on the bike), store it for you during the tour and deliver it to you at the end of the tour. If you want daily luggage transfer, be aware that moving luggage down the coast one way can cost a minimum of $150 extra per moving day and often up to double that or more. We usually use a combination of parcel delivery services (in areas farther from our home base in SLO County) and our own staff and vehicles (closer to our home base). Please contact us if you are interested in a quote on daily luggage delivery for your self guided bike tour.
Traffic along the Monterey to Santa Barbara self guided bike tour route is highly variable. Some stretches are on remote roads that have little to no traffic. Much of the cycling route is on Highway One, which has differing traffic volumes on different portions. Highway One also has highly variable shoulders with some stretches (especially through Big Sur coast) that have little to no shoulder. Summer tends to see the heaviest traffic on Highway One. Inexperienced cyclists or cyclists who have a low tolerance for riding with traffic have commented that the busier sections of Highway One during summer seemed hectic to them. More experienced cyclists seem less impacted by the traffic on Highway One. A small portion of the cycling is actually on freeways, but these sections always have a large shoulder, except for two very short stretches on the approach to Santa Barbara. However, motorists are used to seeing lots of cyclists along the route and are normally courteous. Bicyclists doing the Monterey to Santa Barbara self guided bike tour should be comfortable riding with traffic for portions of the tour.
The terrain for the Monterey to Santa Barbara self guided bike tour route is also highly variable. Most days will have some combination of relatively level riding and some hill climbing. Most of the sustained climbs (i.e. 1/2 mile or longer) are of moderate steepness (5-8%) and there are no sustained climbs that average over 10%. The hilliest section for cyclists doing the Monterey to Santa Barbara self guided bike tour is the 75 miles of Big Sur coast between Carmel and Ragged Point. There is very little level riding on this stretch of coast and the vast majority of the route is either climbing or descending. There are two climbs on the Big Sur coast that are just over 2 miles long and gain almost 1000 feet. Each day of the Monterey to Santa Barbara bike tour itinerary has the elevation gain and loss (in feet) listed. Cyclists contemplating doing the Monterey to Santa Barbara self guided bike tour should be comfortable with riding hilly terrain.
The Monterey Regional Airport (MRY) is very close to Monterey and is served by several major airlines. There are flights to Monterey from San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Denver. The nearest major airport to Monterey is San Jose (SJC). Monterey Airbus picks up at the San Jose airport (SJC) and drops off in downtown Monterey. Shuttle time is usually 1.5 hours. If you are flying into San Francisco (SFO), Monterey Airbus also picks up there and drops off in downtown Monterey. Shuttle time is usually 2-2.5 hours.
While it is possible take Amtrak to Monterey, the Amtrak route to Monterey usually involves a transfer to a bus in nearby Salinas.
Santa Barbara Area
Similar to Monterey, Santa Barbara has a regional airport (SBA) served by several major airlines. There are non-stop flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles, Denver, Seattle, Portland and Phoenix. The Santa Barbara Airbus offers transportation from several Santa Barbara area locations to Los Angeles International (LAX) as well. Shuttle time is usually 2-2.5 hours. Amtrak also offers train service from Santa Barbara to the Los Angeles area.