Nepenthe Big Sur

Nepenthe Big Sur is often one of the first destinations for visitors when they arrive arrive at this magical slice of the California Coast.

I have spent many hours here just nibbling on deck food, gazing at the southern Big Sur Coast and having great conversations.

Nepenthe was popular in the mid 60's and before, with vagabonds, and writers like Henry Miller from San Francisco, who wrote "My Life and Times" while he was here, and for artists from around the world looking for escape. This place is still popular for the same reason... a place to get away, to rekindle your romatic spirit, and to remember what it feels like to relax and to have dedicated time together.

Views Down The Southern Coast Of Big Sur

No Maitre'd attention, just casual simple food on a hillside overlooking some of the most fantistic views around.

Built in 1947 from old growth redwood gathered near the Nepenthe site, this has been a family affair and has grown in popularity ever since.

Originally Owned by Actors Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth ... Historic Truth or Folklore?

Yes, it's true that famous actors Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles were traveling back from San Francisco to the movie mecca of Los Angeles, when they decided to take the coastal route that led through BIg Sur.

They discovered a cabin for sale at the end of a forested and windy dirt road. After a brief conversation, it was decided that this place was a perfect escape destination on those occassions when they needed a break from their Hollywood lifestyle.

They found an agent and paid the huge sum of $167.00 for a downpayment for their love shack, but as you might imagine ... they never returned. 

Today, that $167.00 would feed a small group for three for a nice dinner at Nepenthe.

Welcome To Nepenthe!

Nepenthe Big Sur is a "Classic" stop. The famous Ambrosiaburger still sells like hotcakes, but the prices have gone up considerably since the early days when I visited often. Today that burger is $14 and the basket of fries that will feed an army is about $8.

The parking lot can be crowded in the summer months and the wait time can exceed a half hour, but most would say it's worth it. When the weather is hot in the Central Valley of California, the fog that usually sits just off the coast rolls in with a vengeance. I sat her on my first visit, and was stunned to see how fast the fog, that was just a few miles off the coast, can race inland and swallow up the sun.

My own preference is to come here for a sunset cocktail and appetizer when the crowds are fewer, the temperatures are cooler, and the views are better.

For fine dining, reserve some time at Sierra Mar at the Post Ranch Inn, or at the Ventana Restaurant, where the views are even better and the cuisine is decidily upscale.

Even better, visit here in late spring or fall when the crowds are gone, the fog no longer lingers just off the deck, the staff are less hassled, and the pace is more sublime. A trip here in late September even on Saturday is an excellent romantic escape... even if for only a day. 


  • Incediible views where you can hang around for 3 to 4 hours and take in all the Southern coast has to offer
  • Blackbirds and Stellar Jays who hide in the trees and then steal your french fries so fast that you can't stop them ... I mean really fast
  • Reasonable food thats just fine if your not expecting fine dining
  • Seating all around the deck. But the best seating is along the rails near the trees for the most private location. Put up your feet on an unused chair if it's not busy and just relax
  • A laid back ambiance and history that make this a little bit romantic
  • Sometimes you can see Humpback whales just offshore
  • Perfect place for drinks at sunset ... stay and cozy up to the fire and lights as the sun goes down


  • $14 mediocre Ambrosiaburger and $8 basket of fries ... although tasty
  • Crowded after opening ...get here by 11:30 AM or expect a wait
  • Sometimes the parking lot is full and there are no other options for parking
  • Busy and it sometimes interferes with a relaxed mood. Try Ventana ...  more private
  • Staff that get overwhelmed with the crowds and get a little annoyed

Nepenthe Big Sur And The Kevah Cafe

The Kevah Cafe is located just downstairs from the Nepenthe Big Sur Restaurant and shares the same parking area and glorious  views of the 40 mile coastline. 

This is the place where Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton discussed the benefits of the hippiedom lifestyle in the movie the "Sandpiper" filmed here in 1963, and where the dancing scenes on the deck were filmed.

If your in the mood for a nice early breakfast before climbing up those hiking trails in big sur, Cafe Kevah is certainly one of the better choices, and if your travel plans have you arriving between March and early January and you can beat the summer fog. 

The View Of Cafe Kevah From Nepenthe


  • Same perfect 40 mile coast views with better service and slightly better prices
  • Ideal for breakfast
  • Parking more accessible in the morning before the 11:30 AM opening at Nepenthe
  • Casual gift shop with some interesting gift ideas
  • Less crowded...always
  • Self seating so pick your own view
  • Soulful peppermint tea to help you relax


  • Same crowded parking area in the afternoons
  • Limited number of tables so arrive early
  • Limited menu

Cafe Kevah is open from 9:00 AM until 3:00 PM

Highway 1

Big Sur


The Deck At Cafe Kevah

The menu is a bit short on selections, but plenty for the hearty appetite. The highly favored Cafe Kevah's Benendict with blue crab and avocado at $14.25 will make your morning begin with a smile. Combined with one of their home brew teas, you could really call this pure relaxation.

The omelets with  home fried potatoes and hot apple cider are also excellent.

How To Find This Popular Place

It's really easy to get yourselves to Nepenthe Big Sur here. As you drive south along the Big Sur Highway, watch for the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park sign. Drive a little further until you come to a tight left turn on the highway. Watch to the right for the Nepenthe parking sign and make a quick turn into the lot.

It's easy to miss and it's a mile before you get a chance to turn around.

See Google Map Here

The Phoenix ... In Memory Of What Stood Here in 1976

The Phoenix is prominately displayed just outside the Nepenthe Big Sur restaurant and symbolized the ancient heritage oak that lived here on the deck until it's untimely demise. The trunk was hauled off down into the canyon, but an artist crafted this monument out of the original trunk ... all in one piece.

Look for it when you travel here. Surrounded by the aloe vera plant symbolizing the sense of permanence and the rising from destruction.

You Will Likely Want To Return 

Despite the seasonal crowds and the expensive food, everyone seems to come back again and again.

Locals will tell you that it's the negative ions from the ocean breezes that help to create that tranquil feeling that your soul remembers and brings you back. Once you have stayed here for a few days you ... you begin to believe that it might just be true!

If you have the chance don't miss these top places to see while you are here in Big Sur!

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