Hearst Castle
North America Travel

Visiting Hearst Castle: Everything You Need to Know

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Visiting Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California ia not to be missed. It’s the perfect day trip from San Francisco or LA or stop on your trip up or down the Pacific Coast Highway.

From Roman statues to grazing goats to sweeping views, Hearst Castle truly has it all. And if that doesn’t convince you, William Hearst’s fascinating life story is sure to reel you in.

So what are you waiting for? Here’s my advice on visiting Hearst Castle.  

Top Tips for Visiting Hearst Castle

Pick What You Want to See

Unlike many historic monuments, Hearst Castle is only accessible by a shuttle bus and subsequent guided tour. Unfortunately, these tours only cover a small section of the house, rather than the whole thing. So unless you have the riches and time to be able to take every tour available, you’re going to have to pick and choose what you want to see.

Best Hearst Castle Tour

For a first time visitor, I’d suggest taking the Grand Rooms tour. It will give you a good overview of the bottom floor of the mansion and the life that William Hearst lived there.

Alternatively, if you’re able to come on a Friday or Saturday evening during the low season (March-May & October-December) you can experience the estate as it was in Mr. Hearst’s day – with costumed actors playing party guests and a more detailed tour of the mansion and grounds. If I ever return, I know this is what I’m going to do.  

Buy Your Tickets Ahead of Time

a mediterranean style guest house you can see while visiting hearst castle
This is only the guest house. What???

Especially in the high season you’re going to want to book your tickets ahead of time. You really don’t want to drive several hours just to be turned away at the door, and since even before the summer crowds come along tours often sell out ahead of time, I highly suggest taking a look online and choosing a time and day that work for you before setting off.

If plans change you can switch your tour time for a small fee. So there’s no need to worry about being completely locked in.

Wear Practical Shoes

True, you’re not going to be climbing a mountain. But, there are still plenty of stairs to traverse and a decent amount of walking involved in your tour of Hearst Castle. You don’t have to wear your hiking boots, but be sure to wear something you’ll be comfortable on your feet for a couple of hours in.

Bring Your Camera

a side view of hearst castle with cypress tress in the foreground

Hearst Castle is absolutely beautiful, and you’ll be sorely sorry if you miss the opportunity to photograph it. Be sure to double check your bag for your camera before you leave!

Appreciate the Views

sprawling foggy hills

Hearst Castle is situated on top of one of the highest hills in the area overlooking the Pacific Ocean. So the views? They’re absolutely beautiful.

It’s easy to get distracted by the grandeur of the house and grounds, though. If our tour guide hadn’t reminded us to, I would have completely forgotten to turn around and drink it all in.

You can see for miles from up there, so be sure to take a moment and look out at the sprawling hills and gorgeous scenery.

Wander the Grounds

Although you aren’t allowed to go through the house unaccompanied, you are completely welcome to wander the grounds after your tour is over. So go and explore!

There are all sorts of hidden treasures. You’re sure to see something that you never could have imagined in your wildest dreams.

When you’re done, you can make your way to the indoor pool for a shuttle back down to your car.

an indoor swimming pool with tiled walls

Visiting Hearst Castle FAQs

How much does it visiting Hearst Castle cost?

Hearst Castle tours start at $25/adult and $12/children and go all the way up to $100. There is also an $8 reservation fee per ticket.

You can find full details of how much each tour costs here.

What are the hours for visiting Hearst Castle?

Hearst Castle tours begin at 9 AM and run throughout the day. You can check available tour times here.

What is the best Hearst Castle tour?

For first-timers, the best Hearst Castle tour is probably the classic Grand Rooms Tour.

If you’re visiting in the spring or fall, you could also go for the evening tour, which includes docents dressed up in 1930s apparel to bring the castle’s history to life!

Can you visit Hearst Castle without a tour?

No, you must have a ticket for a tour to access the bus up to the castle. After your tour, however, you’re free to explore the grounds without a guide.

Planning a Highway 1 Road Trip? Here are a few other great things to do:

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MY FAVORITE TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES

Booking Flights: The first place I turn when I’m searching for flights is actually just Google Flights - it’s great to figure out what sort of routes are available. Then, I check Skyscanner and Kiwi for deals. I also love Kiwi for its destination: anywhere feature!

Transportation: I love Omio for figuring out the cheapest way to get from one place to another, and Trainline for booking train tickets within Europe.

Accommodations: I absolutely love Booking.com for finding great hotel deals. After you stay a certain number of nights, you get Genius discounts! For hostels, Hostelworld is my go-to, and I use Airbnb occasionally as well (click here for $40 off your first booking!)

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Tours: I always check Urban Adventures for great day tours of cities first–I’m obsessed with them! GetYourGuide and Viator are also great options. For multi-day tours, I highly recommend Intrepid.

Camera Gear: I use a Sony Alpha A6300 camera with an 18-105 mm lens and a 35 mm lens. My tripod is the MeFoto Backpacker Air and I loooooove it! I also use a DJI Mavic Air and a GoPro and which allow me to capture everything my regular camera can’t.

Addie Gray is a recent college grad and a passionate solo female traveler. Having traveled to more than 20 countries, she now shares her knowledge on budget travel, solo female travel, and travel photography.