Big Sur tourism grapples with Pacific Coast Highway closure

Big Sur tourism grapples with Pacific Coast Highway closure

Even as 35 miles of the Pacific Coast Highway reopened in California's Monterey County following a landslide that has cut off some of the state's most scenic and popular stretches of coastline for more than two months, the impacted region's tourism industry is still holding its breath as it battles with revenue losses and awaits a total reopening of the highway this fall.

"We've never had a situation where the road has been closed more for than a couple weeks," said Mike Freed, co-founder and managing director of Passport Resorts, which owns the well-known luxury property Post Ranch Inn in Big Sur, one of the tourism areas hit hardest by the road closures.

In order to maintain the resort's business, Post Ranch Inn has developed the option for guests to fly to the property via helicopter from Monterey Regional Airport for $250 per person, roundtrip. For those who stay three or more nights at the property, the helicopter transportation is included.

Indeed, rather than close up shop, local businesses have gotten creative in promoting new and unique ways to visit the area.

Hotel Carmel and La Playa Carmel in nearby Carmel-by-the-Sea recently partnered with Big Sur Adventures, an e-bike rental shop in Big Sur, to offer bike trips along the stretch of Pacific Coast Highway (also known as Highway 1) that is now unreachable by cars. Until Pfeiffer Canyon bridge is fully repaired, which is slated for mid- to late Septembter, these businesses are touting the rare opportunity to bike along the cliffs without cars.

A daily shuttle runs from noon to 7 p.m. between Andrew Molera State Park and the trailhead at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, and those interested can rent an e-bike from Big Sur Adventures for a half day ($50) or a full-day ($75). The recommended ride is 18 miles.

Another bright spot for Big Sur is the news that Alila Hotels & Resorts will be unveiling its first North American resort there this fall when the Ventana Inn reopens as Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort.

"We are incredibly proud of the camaraderie and resilience of the Big Sur community," said Kristina Jetton, general manager of Ventana Big Sur. "With our fall reopening, we want people to know that not only is Ventana coming back in new and exciting ways, but that Big Sur as one of the world's great destinations is back and more enchanting than ever before."

Despite the optimistic entrepreneurial spirit in the region, Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California, said that tourism businesses in the Central Coast, including the famous Hearst Castle, have reported an approximate 20% dip in sales due to the closures.

While it's been an unprecedented and trying time for the Big Sur and Central Coast tourism industry, Beteta urged visitors not to write the region off.

"In some ways, there's never been a better time to visit because it's kind of like an experience you get during the high season that was 30 years ago," said Beteta. "The value is exceptional."

As far as what kind of appeal Big Sur and Highway 1 traditionally have with domestic and international travelers alike, "it's right up there with some of our big icons," said Beteta. "Highway 1 is a definite top of mind aspirational bucket-list type of trip."

Regular updates on road conditions and Caltrans projects are being provided by the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce at


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