Monterey to San Luis Obispo (SLO) Itinerary Zone


If you only have time for a shorter bike tour down the California coast, the coastline from the Monterey Peninsula through the Big Sur area and down to SLO County plays like a highlight reel of the best elements of the coast. The first part of a Monterey to San Luis Obispo 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 offers a diverse palette of marine wildlife viewing, historic missions, sandy beaches and surfers plying the waves of the Pacific Ocean. Adding some time south of San Luis Obispo will bring you into the wine country of the Edna Valley.

Overview – Montery to San Luis Obispo via Big Sur bike tour

Standard Itinerary: Monterey to San Luis Obispo

4 Days / 155 Total Miles / Daily Average = 39 Miles

*** Please see John’s Tour Thoughts and Mileage Calculator for Alternate Itineraries for information about tours within the Monterey to Santa Barbara Zone for different start/end points and/or different numbers of days and mileages. ***

Day One – Monterey to Big Sur – 45 miles (elevation +2748/-2530 ft)

The Monterey to San Luis Obispo 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 bike ride 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 biking the Big Sur coast! Right off the bat you’ll tackle the biggest hill of the Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour as you cycle 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 Cambria – 22 miles (elevation +937/-1202 ft)

After descending from Ragged Point the coastal route in northern SLO County features more forgiving terrain, but still encompasses expansive ocean views as you pass by historic Hearst Ranch and Hearst Castle. Just south of Piedras Blancas lighthouse, the largest elephant seal colony in North America is a must-see stop. Home for the evening is the charming seaside village of Cambria, featuring numerous art galleries and restaurants.

Day Four – Cambria to San Luis Obispo (SLO) – 39 miles (elevation +1456/-1273 ft)

South of Cambria the Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour route veers inland for short while before returning to the coast just north of Cayucos, a classic beach town with a pier, a huge sandy beach and surfers plying the waves just offshore. Our route hugs the coast from Cayucos south to Morro Bay, which is a fishing village with a scenic harbor area. From Morro Bay to SLO you’ll skirt the edge of wildlife rich Morro Bay National Estuary before cutting inland for some hilly but very scenic cycling. SLO (voted happiest town in North America!) features an historic mission and a vibrant walkable downtown area.
Big Sur Coast

**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.**

John’s Tour Thoughts

  • If you want to cycle through a wine country area, the Edna Valley lies just south of SLO and is perfect to explore by bike with an extra day at the end of the itinerary. You could do it as a loop ride out of San Luis Obispo, or end up in the beach town of Pismo Beach.
  • Three day itineraries from the Monterey Peninsula to SLO County are also possible. Options include combining Day Two and Three or combining Day Three and Four in the standard itinerary above.
  • You can also do a three day itinerary with distances more in the 25-45 miles per day range by starting in Carmel instead of Monterey, staying the first night in Big Sur (26 miles), the next night in Lucia (24 miles) or Gorda (37 miles) and finishing in Cambria (47 miles from Lucia or 34 miles from Gorda).
  • If the hills and riding conditions of Big Sur are not your cup of tea, but you still want some more spectacular coastal scenery, consider starting your bike tour in Ragged Point. The coastal scenery south of Ragged Point down to Morro Bay is still quite dramatic, but the terrain is much more forgiving. For more details of tours that start at Ragged Point, please see the SLO County or SLO to Santa Barbara itinerary zone pages. Ben – please do hyperlinks to the SLO County and SLO to Santa Barbara pages.
  • If you want to focus on beach areas, altering the itinerary for overnight stays in Cayucos, Avila Beach and/or Pismo Beach will fit the bill nicely.
  • For those looking for longer daily mileages, a two day itinerary from the Monterey Peninsula to SLO County is recommended.
  • For long distance California Coast bike tours we ALWAYS recommend going from north to south (one way) due to prevailing winds along the coast from the north and northwest.


Adding Layover/Rest Days

Interesting layover days on our Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour can be made in the following locations:

  • Big Sur. This is the best layover spot for hiking. Amazing coastal hikes as well as hikes into the redwoods are available at Andrew Molera State Park and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
  • 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 San Simeon State Park as well as some really nice inland valleys just north and south of town that are great to explore by bike.
  • 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.

Mileage Calculator for Alternate Itineraries

If you are interested in starting or ending at different points than in the sample Monterey to San Luis Obispo via Big Sur bike tour itinerary and/or if you want to increase or decrease the number of days of your Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour to yield different daily average mileages, please use the calculator below to begin customizing your tour.

Metric conversion: miles x 1.61 = kilometers

Please email us to request more information on specific itineraries or to start the process of booking a tour with us.

For shorter itineraries within the Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour zone or longer itineraries that include the Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour zone, please click on the following links:

  • San Francisco to Los Angeles
  • Monterey to Santa Barbara
  • SLO to Santa Barbara
  • SLO County

Traffic, Road Conditions and Terrain

Traffic along the Monterey to San Luis Obispo 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. One short section of the cycling (between Cayucos and Morro Bay) is actually on freeway, but this section has a large shoulder. Summer tends to see the heaviest traffic on Highway One. However, motorists are used to seeing lots of cyclists along the route and are normally courteous. Cyclists doing the Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour should be comfortable riding with traffic for portions of the tour.

The terrain for the Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour route is also highly variable. Highway One from Carmel south to Ragged Point (75 miles) is quite hilly. There is very little level riding on this stretch of coast and the vast majority of this section 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. South of Ragged Point the terrain in SLO County is much more forgiving and features longer stretches of relatively terrain level with a few hills mixed in. Each day of the Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour itinerary has the elevation gain and loss (in feet) listed. Cyclists contemplating doing the Monterey to San Luis Obispo bike tour should be comfortable with riding hilly terrain.


Central Coast Outdoors of San Luis Obispo, California Trip Map

Pricing for Guided Bicycle Tours

We offer three levels of support for guided bicycle tours down the California coast: Support Vehicle Charter, Guided with Bikes and Lunch, and Guided Inclusive with Lodging. Prices for guided bicycle tours down the California coast from Monterey to San Luis Obispo are usually based on a daily rate multiplied by the total number of days on the bicycle tour.

Pricing for Self Guided Bike Tours

Our innovative self guided bike tour program is a good option for more experienced cyclists who can fix flat tires, can carry some weight on the bike and are comfortable without a guide or support vehicle. In our self guided bike tour program we drop off and pick up all the necessary equipment (road or hybrid bike and panniers) at the start and end of the tour, as well as provide itinerary support (recommended accommodations, directions, maps, and detailed daily memos) and excess luggage transfer from start to end of your bike tour. You book and pay for all your accommodations and meals and usually carry just the gear and clothes you need for the days of the tour. 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
ItineraryTotal Miles# DaysSolo2 ppl3 ppl4+ ppl
Monterey to SLO1553-5$460$300$220$195
Monterey to Cambria1162-4$460$300$220$195
Carmel to Cambria972-3$460$300$220$195
Monterey to Pismo Beach1683-5$460$300$220$195

Daily luggage delivery prices – self-guided bike tours

Daily luggage delivery is not normally included in our self guided bike tour package, but can potentially be arranged for an extra fee. Be aware that moving luggage down the coast one way can cost a minimum of $150 extra per day and sometimes up to double that. We usually use a combination of cabs (in areas farther from our home base in SLO County) and our own staff and vehicles (closer to our home base). If we are in transit to meet you on the first and/or last day of your self guided bike tour, we can often waive the luggage moving fee for those day(s). Please contact us if you are interested in a quote on daily luggage delivery for your self guided bike tour.

Booking accommodations for an extra fee

On request we can also book accommodations for your self guided bike tour. We charge a 10% booking fee for this service. Please let us know if you are interested in this service when you book your tour.

Different Routes within the Zone

Some very interesting itineraries combining coastal and inland areas between Monterey and SLO in longer loops are possible. One of our favorites is a four day ride we did in one October for our anniversary. We call this one “Big Sur Back of Beyond.” The start is usually Cayucos, but could also be any of the nearby coastal towns (Cambria, Morro Bay or Los Osos). The first day is a relatively short ride (but with a big climb and descent) over the coastal range to Paso Robles, home to rapidly growing winery region. On Day Two, the route weaves northwest through isolated ranchland and between Lake San Antonio and Lake Nacimiento before winding up at a really unique lodge (called The Hacienda) in a spectacular location overlooking an original California mission.
SLO County cycling

Day Three is our personal favorite as it explores the wild backside of the mountains of Big Sur as you climb through oak savannas and then more steeply along the headwaters of the Nacimiento River. From the summit there is a thrilling seven mile descent to the Big Sur coast. Overnight lodging could be in Gorda or at Ragged Point. The last day finishes along the coast south to your starting point.

We’ve also set up a tour for a much longer loop starting in coastal northern SLO County, heading north and inland via Paso Robles, the Salinas River Valley and Carmel Valley Road to the Monterey Peninsula, then down the coast via the traditional route to SLO County. The whole loop is about 300-325 miles.

Start and End Transportation

Monterey Peninsula

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.

If you are coming from southern California to Monterey before the bike tour, we can often offer a complimentary shuttle from SLO to Monterey the day the tour starts. It is often easier and cheaper to get to SLO from Los Angeles or Santa Barbara via Amtrak than it is to fly or take Amtrak from either Los Angeles or Santa Barbara to Monterey.

San Luis Obispo Area

Similar to Monterey, San Luis Obispo has a regional airport (SBP) quite near town, although it is smaller and currently served by only two airlines (United and US Air). There are non-stop flights to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Phoenix. San Luis Obispo is also well served by Amtrak and has several trains/buses per day north toward the San Francisco Bay Area south toward Santa Barbara and Los Angeles. Many people assume you can rent a car in most of the towns in SLO County, but this is not the case. There are no places to rent cars along the northern SLO County coast (i.e. Cambria, Cayucos, Morro Bay) until you get to the town of SLO itself, where most major national car rental companies are represented.

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