Destinations Marathons

Destination – Big Sur International Marathon

As promised, here is a write up on one of the marathons in that list of the World’s Best Marathons. Registration just opened for the Big Sur International Marathon this past Sunday and a record 26 hours later, all 3,150 entries were taken. Last year it took 29 days to fill. Obviously, the race has gained a larger following in that time and has attracted a lot more people. If you were one of the people that now holds a confirmed entry, hopefully you can use some of the information here to plan your destination marathon.

Big Sur International Marathon

Starting Line @ Big Sur International Marathon

Here are some of the details about the marathon:

  • April 28, 2013 @ 6:45AM
  • General registration is now closed, but entries can still be purchased through their youth fitness program. Cost is $275 – $145 for the entry and $130 donation
  • There are about 18 hills on the course – one of them supposedly has a grade of 4.47% from mile 9.8 to mile 12!
  • The course has an elevation net loss of 298 feet
  • Average temperatures are 62 degrees for the high and 48 degrees for the low

Getting There

Ok, now how do you get there? The local airport, located about 24 miles from Big Sur, is Carmel/Monterey airport. Monterey is actually headquarters for the marathon, so the airport is only 4 miles from there. The cost for a purchased ticket from NYC for the Friday to the Monday is a rather high $504. Other nearby airports are San Jose (70 miles) and San Francisco and Oakland (110 miles away). Here is an overview of the airfare costs (from NYC) in reaching these airports:

  • Monterey Airport (MRY) 4 miles – $504
  • San Jose Airport (SJC) 70 miles – $338
  • Oakland Airport (OAK) 110 miles – $342
  • San Francisco Airport (SFO) 110 miles – $400

So, the best paid option would be San Jose airport. For some people, they have to purchase the airline tickets outright as opposed to using miles for many reasons (not enough miles, other plans for miles, dates do not work with low availability tickets, etc). In situations such as those, one of the best credit cards to hold is the Delta Platinum American Express ($150 annual fee) due to the fact that it gives you a free companion ticket every year on your cardmember anniversary. This allows you and a running friend (or someone else) to go for the price of one ticket plus some tax (typically around $20). So, you could split the cost of the ticket and it comes down to a very low level (even taking the annual fee into account).

2 Tickets for $400 to SJC using a companion certificate

But what if you want to use miles? Here is what the possibilities are out of our example airport(s) of NYC (you can check availability for your own or to NYC to find out exactly what it would cost you).


Delta does not offer award tickets into Monterey, but they do have flights to San Jose. There is no low availability from NYC to there, meaning it prices out at 40,000 miles for an economy ticket (from all three NYC airports).

Delta flights for all three NYC airports to SJC showing 40,000 miles

Delta flights from NYC to San Francisco

In the case of the Delta flights, you may be better of (if you have a Delta American Express credit card) using the Pay-With-Miles option (where you use 10,000 for every $100 you would like to pay of a ticket) than using miles for an award ticket. In the case of the tickets to San Jose, the cost is $338 while the mileage requirement is 40,000. If you used Pay With Miles (PWM), you would use 30,000 miles and pay $38 instead of using 40,000 miles. As a matter of fact, with the current promotion with the Delta American Express Gold Card, the sign-up bonus is 30,000 miles, so there you go!


United actually has fantastic availability for NYC right into Monterey at low availability. Even from my home airport of Rochester there is a good amount of availability. Coming back it is not as plentiful, but still many options.

Green equals saver availability – look at all that green!

Sample itinerary from Newark to Monterey – actual ticket cost is $530!

With the itinerary above, the actual cost you would have to pay (actually, just about the cheapest to get to Monterey) is $530. It only would take 25,000 miles and $10 for that same ticket! That gives you an actual point value of 2 cents per mile. That is a fantastic redemption rate for a domestic itinerary!

You can get the miles necessary for this by applying for the United MileagePlus Explorer card. Make sure you follow the instructions in that post to actually get 55,000 miles – more than enough for two runners/people to get there! One application and a single purchase allows you to get enough miles for a trip that would have cost $1,000!

American Airlines

American Airlines has flights to Monterey for 25,000 miles, but it has too many connections for departing from NYC – 2 connections before arriving in Monterey. When traveling for a race, I prefer to make as few connections as possible in case of some mechanical problem or weather problem in the different cities I am landing in.

However, if you can go to San Juan instead, the options are a lot better with a lot of availability.

American Airlines NYC to San Juan

To get miles for American Airlines, there are some options at this time. Both of these cards are issued by Citibank but if you use two different browsers (as explained at Million Mile Secrets), you can get 100,000 AA miles (as well as $100 statement credits).

Where to Stay?


The Monterey Marriott is the headquarters hotel for the marathon. The marathon rate is $234 for a Deluxe room and $259 for a Bayview room. There is actually award availability for the hotel, which is not normal with a marathon headquarters hotel. You can stay in a Bayview room for 30,000 points per night and $45. That is not the greatest of redemption rates, but if you have enough Marriott points it is a good way to use them to save $630.

Marriott Award Availability

Marriott Monterey

The best way to get Marriott points is to apply for the Chase Marriott Premier card that gives you 50,000 points after first purchase. For more options, scroll to the bottom of the post for transferable options.

Priority Club

There is a Holiday Inn Express that runs $328 a night for that weekend. You can use Priority Club points for the stay. It would take 25,000 points per night, or 20,000 points and $40, or 15,000 points and $70. This would be a great way to use points with a room that costs that much.

Holiday Inn Express Hotel

The best way to get Priority Club points is through the Chase Priority Club Visa that gives you 60,000 points after your first purchase. Scroll to the bottom for other options as well.


The Hilton Garden Inn also has a marathon rate of $175 per night (prepaid for 3 nights). Alternatively, you can use 40,000 Hilton HHonor points per night. Personally, I would not view this as that good of a deal when you can get it for $175 a night.

Hilton Garden Inn Monterey

Entrance of the Hilton Garden Inn

There are a couple of different ways to get Hilton HHonor points. You can apply for the Hilton Honors Surpass American Express card (40,000 points after first purchase and an additional 20,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months. You can also apply for the Citi Hilton HHonors card which gives you 40,000 points after spending $1,000 in 4 months. You can also get 50,000 points with the American Express Hilton HHonors card after spending$750 in 4 months.


The Hyatt Regency Monterey is also a marathon rate hotel, $235 a night. It is a category 4 so it takes 15,000 points for a free night.

Hyatt Regency Monterey

For points, look below for details on transferable points. Otherwise, you can get the Hyatt Chase card which gives you two free nights after first purchase. I personally would not use those nights for this hotel since you can use them at the much more expensive category 6 hotels. However, you do get 1 free category 4 hotel every card anniversary, so this could be used on that.


Different transferable point programs that you can use for the airlines/hotels listed here are available through Chase Ultimate Rewards and American Express Membership Rewards.

American Express

  • Delta – can be transferred 1:1
  • Hilton HHonors – can be transferred 1:1

There are two cards that you can apply for that can give you Membership Reward points: American Express Premier Rewards Gold card (25,000 points after spending $2,000 in 3 months) and the American Express Platinum card (25,000 points after spending $2,000 in 3 months – there is a $450 annual fee for this card).


  • United (can be transferred at 1:1)
  • Hyatt (can be transferred at 1:1)
  • Marriott (can be transferred at 1:1)
  • Priority Club (can be transferred at 1:1)

You can earn Chase Ultimate Reward points by applying for the Chase Sapphire Preferred which gives you 40,000 points after spending $3,000 in 3 months and the Chase INK Bold which gives you 25,000 points after the first purchase and an additional 25,000 points after spending $10,000 in 3 months.

So what do you think? Do you want to make your next destination marathon the Big Sur International Marathon? Hopefully what I have given here will help you get there for almost nothing!

Some of the links on Running with Miles are affiliate links that pay a commission if a purchase is made. Running with Miles is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

About the author


Charlie has been an avid traveler and runner for many years. He has run in marathons around the world for less than it would cost to travel to the next town - all as a result of collecting and using miles and points. Over the years, he has flown hundreds of thousands of miles and collected millions of miles and points.
Now he uses this experience and knowledge to help others through Running with Miles.