Finding Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur
On our recent Highway 1 road trip, I was determined to find the Pfeiffer Beach, the beach with the beautiful keyhole arch and purple sand. I had drooled over photos online for weeks leading up to the trip and done a ton of research online to make sure I’d be able to find it. I mean come on, purple sand! The thought of it just blows my mind! And that arch…..I just had to see this beach. I had read online that it was difficult to find and that the parking was very limited so I was pretty nervous about missing out on getting to experience this place, especially since the one day we had in Big Sur just also happened to be the foggiest day we had on our entire trip to California.
Luckily, Pfeiffer Beach wasn’t that hard to find, there was plenty of parking as we had arrived at 11 on a Tuesday and the one way road that leads to the beach wasn’t as terrifying as I had read from several reviewers online.
To find it:
While you might be able to put the address in your GPS, it’s technically located on Sycamore Canyon Rd, most likely your GPS will not be working while in this area. Big Sur has very limited cell reception and about 99% of the time, you will have none at all! If you’re driving south on Highway 1, look for mile marker 45.64 and a yellow sign that says “narrow road” which will be on the right. The road is unmarked, is a sharp turn and also a decline. If that sounds too complicated to keep track of while driving, just note that after you pass Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, it will be about a mile and half from there, so keep that in mind if you need a landmark. Once you find the road, it’s about a 2 mile drive to get to the parking lot that to the beach.
What you need to know:
It is $10 to park at Pfeiffer Beach, so make sure you bring cash. There are restrooms here as well. Come early if you are visiting in the summer or on the weekends, parking is pretty limited. It can get very windy, although while we were here, it wasn’t too bad. It was chilly in May though so we were glad we had brought our jackets! The road leading down to the beach starts out as a two lane but quickly turns into a winding, one lane road. Just drive slowly and pull over at the pull offs for other cars and you will be fine. We had no issues with sharing the road with other drivers as everyone was very courteous. I wouldn’t recommend driving a huge vehicle down it though. There was one behind us and he looked like he was having a really rough time! I wouldn’t even think about swimming here, the waves were pretty rough and the water was cold.
The purple sand! Well firstly, it’s just gorgeous! But also, keep in mind, it’s a product of the manganese garnet in the hills behind it so it may not always be as purple as other times. I’m told its best after a rain, it didn’t rain when we were there and it was still very beautiful.
Pfeiffer Beach was by far my favorite beach in Big Sur and definitely one of my favorites in all of the beaches I visited while in California. Not very crowded, beautiful soft(and some purple!) sand and lots of beach to explore. Take some time to look around while you’re there, I could’ve spent all day here, but we only had a couple hours.
Pfeiffer Beach is a must-see while visiting Big Sur and is definitely worth the chase. Whether you pack a picnic, have lunch and make a day of it or just stop by to admire its beauty, you won’t be disappointed by this slightly hidden gem.