Magnificent and unspoiled Pfeiffer Beach has a little bit of everything: an expansive sandy beach, rugged bluffs, huge rock formations with “windows”, tide pooling in low tide, and my favorite aspect, unique purple patches of sand! Since the beach has a western aspect, the location makes for glorious sunsets, especially as a setting sun peeks through the “windows” in the dramatic rock formations. I could stay here for hours exploring the various parts of this beach and watching the waves crash into the rocks and through the arches. The purple sand is indeed purple to magenta and striking on a sunny day when contrasted with the blue ocean waters and surrounding rocks. The distinctive purple coloration is due to manganese garnet particles found in surrounding rocks, and it is most apparent toward the north end of the beach. Complete photo album here and more details below. Bring your camera!
Pfeiffer Beach is managed by the Forest Service and includes a fairly large parking area, but it often fills to capacity on warm summer afternoons in the weekend with no additional parking. The access road is virtually impossible to find unless you know where you’re going. The turnoff is inconspicuous, but it’s 1/4 mile to the north of the Big Sur Post Office and Bakery. The 2 mile one-lane road down Sycamore Canyon is windy and requires caution (15 mph speed limit), but the beach is well worth the efforts. The beach is fairly exposed along the coast so it can be windy and chilly so come prepared. This is also not a place to take a swim as there are severe currents, high and unpredictable surf, and cold Pacific Ocean water. I will definitely be returning to Pfeiffer Beach for further exploration and sunset viewing! Complete photo album here.