The name "Big Sur" is derived from the original Spanish-language "El Sur Grande", which translates as "the Big South". And so it seemed to early settlers in Monterey. The coastal area to their south was huge and unexplored, and its coastline was especially treacherous to ships.
The Big Sur region, about 90 miles (145 km) in length along California's coastal Highway 1, lies between the San Francisco Bay area and the Los Angeles area. For the purposes of this guide, the Big Sur region's northern end is at Carmel, approximately 130 road miles (210 km) south of San Francisco and adjacent to Monterey. Its southern end is at San Simeon, approximately 240 road miles (385 km) north of Los Angeles and near Cambria, Morro Bay, and San Luis Obispo.
Again for the purposes of this guide, the Northern Big Sur Region extends between the Carmel River Bridge and Point Sur Lightstation State Historic Park. The Central Big Sur Region extends from Andrew Molera State Park, which includes the mouth of the Big Sur River, through the Big Sur Valley, and south as far as Esalen Institute. The Southern Big Sur Region extends from Big Creek Bridge to San Simeon.