Walking along the bluffs is a great way to enjoy Big Sur and perhaps you find no better views but taking the extra time to get down onto a secluded beach is another fine reward. The paths down are generally steep so be prepared for a bit of a workout to get back to your car but there's nothing quite like hearing the roaring crash of waves on an empty beach, and maybe feeling some spray in the process.
Pfeiffer Beach is a beautiful spot in Big Sur at the end of a two-mile long, windy, single-lane road. This beach is not part of Pfieffer State park but there is still a $5.00 entrance fee charged by the US Forest Service. The beach is a great place to see the incredible and rugged coastline in the Big Sur area. The beach is a mixture of rocky areas separated by stretches of sand. You can wander in and out of the coves or just relax on the sand. Be sure to bring your camera -- you'll want to take lots of pictures.
Also keep in mind that even at the peak of summer, Big Sur is cooler than you would expect. Having a change of warmer clothes and a jacket on hand is probably a good idea.
Pfeiffer Beach is a pretty beach with interesting rock formations, located a little off the beaten track. The road down to the beach is tricky to find as it is not signposted off Highway 1. To get to the beach, take Sycamore Canyon Road, a mile or so south from the entrance to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The narrow road winds its way for 2 miles down to the beach. Please take care as it is single lane in some sections and passing can be difficult.
Once you get close to the beach you will have to pay a fee to park your car - it was $5 in Sep 2008. There are toilets in the car park, but be warned they were pretty stinky and filled with flies when we were there.
It is then a short walk down a sandy trail to the beach. Pfeiffer Beach is a popular place for people to bring their dogs for a run and there were a few having a paddle when we were there.
Like a beached seal is how you'll find me on this beach which is seemingly tucked away from the rest of the world. As you are walking in you'll be greeted by a eco-system of ferns which makes you feel like you are in a rainforest in the middle of Hawaii. Then you get there the beach opens up and its your little sanctuary away from it all.
About 10 miles north of San Simeon on Highway 1 is an absolutly kick butt way to start your trip up the wonderful Big Sur. The Elephant Seal Beach will make you feel like you are right in the middle of the Discovery Channel or Travel Channel. You will see hundreds of Elephant Seals hanging out on rocks and the beach, all crammed right next to each other. Some being playful or getting aggressive with each other. All amazing. I can stay here for hours with my camera, but then the Big Sur destination beckons my soul. So with sorrow in my heart, I had to leave.....but not without taking some cool pics!
Beautiful secluded beach along Big Sur coast with awesome natural rock arches and red beach sand. Not commercialized. $8 parking/entry fee. Make sure to grab a sandwidch and drink in advance since there are no restaurants near this beach. The tricky part is spotting the narrow 2 mile access road (approx 1 mile south of Pfeiffer Big Sur Park) off Hwy1 leading to this beach.
One of the outstanding features of PfeifferBeah that gives it a unique character is its interesting rock carved by the elements into a natural arch. The rock around this arch is also carved away into interesting patterns. I spend some time with my binoculars, just examining the rocks themselves. I also love just sitting by the arch and watching the surf as it hits the opening and funnels through all white and foaming, sometimes throwing a large spray up as it surges through. Again, remember that this is a fee area.
This lovely beach is managed by a cooperation of state conservation groups. For this reason it is a fee area, so it is a beach you only want to visit if you are planning on spending some time there. It is well worth the cost, however, if you want a beautiful place to relax. I am not sure how much is actually charged, the information paper we had from our campground said the fee was $8.00 per car, but we were charged $5.00 when we were there in the off season time. Be aware that state park permits are not honored at Pfeiffer since it is maintained by a different group of people. We spend an afternoon at Pfeiffer Beach each time we come to this area. We pack a lunch, take books or magazines, our binoculars and scope, beach chairs or stadium chairs and settle down on the sand. To get to the beach from the parking area you will walk a short, well marked path. Last time we were there, I spent much of my time examining the incredible rocks just off the shore and scanning the ocean. I saw about 7 or 8 seals basking on the far rocky shore of a small island, migrating whales, sea birds, and a sea otter bobbing over the waves while lounging on his back.
This beach is hard to find but is definitely worth the effort once you do. If you are driving up the coast, it will be the first unmarked road after the post office. Once you get on that road, you will pretty quickly start seeing signs for the beach. Keep following the signs a couple of miles until you get to the entrance of the state park- I think it costs a few bucks to gain access to the beach, but it is worth the couple of bucks per vehicle. This beach is really incredible. There are all these rocky caverns with wave frothy waves thrashing through them. The water is so pure and beautiful and the just standing in the middle of the beach and taking in your surroundings is quite staggering. The sand is purple in places too! Or, at least it was when we were there. But, be forewarned, this beach can get insanely windy. Supposedly, it is not always windy, but when we were there, the wind was so intense that it blew the sand into our faces and eyes. So, be sure to check out the conditions before you plan for this beach to be your picnic spot/ sunbathing spot.
I went to Pfieffer beach to check out the ocean views in the afternoon and later at sunset. It's a beautiful location to watch the sunset while sitting on the beach. The Day Use fee is $5.00 per car.