Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur

  • 01 of 05

    What You Need to Know About Pfeiffer Beach

    Hole in the Rock at Pfeiffer Beach
    ©2013 Betsy Malloy Photography. Used by Permission.

    Pfeiffer Beach is a beautiful, unspoiled beach that's popular with locals. It's somewhat unknown among tourists and well worth your time. You'll get beautiful offshore views of rocks and sea stacks and an occasional good surf. This beach also has unusual purple sand, created from manganese garnet particles washing down the hillside. The further north on the beach you go, the more purple it becomes.

    The beach faces west, with dramatic offshore rocks. On a good day, it's an excellent place for sunset photographs. As you can see above.

    Online reviewers say Pfeiffer is an incredible place to be, a must-see sight that's worth the long, winding drive to get to it.

    What Is There to Do at Pfeiffer Beach?

    Most people just play on the sand at Pfeiffer Beach. The purple sand is especially fun for making a sand castle. You can also swim, but there's no lifeguard on duty.

    Pfeiffer Beach is a good place to stop for a few hours during a weekend getaway in Big Sur.

    Continue to 2 of 5 below.
  • 02 of 05

    What You Need to Know Before You Go to Pfeiffer Beach

    Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur, California, USA
    Izzet Keribar / Getty Images

    These tips will help you get prepared and know what you need to take with you.

    • There's an entrance fee, which also covers parking
    • Parking is limited. That controls the number of people, which is both good and bad news. By noon on busy weekends, you'll find the parking lot almost full. With no other parking nearby, parking attendants will turn latecomers away or make them wait until someone else leaves
    • This is a day use beach only. You can't camp or stay after dark
    • Dogs are allowed if they're on a leash
    • No fires are allowed on the beach
    • Restrooms are near the parking lot
    • The nearest place to get food is in Big Sur Village
    • On windy days, blowing sand drives makes the beach unpleasant. If you try to walk in it, you'll end up with sand grains in places you don't want to think about
    • The north part of the beach past the rocks gets almost cut off at high tide. If you settle down there, watch out to be sure you can get back
    • Nude sunbathers sometimes bare it all on the far north end of the beach
    Continue to 3 of 5 below.
  • 03 of 05

    Purple Sand on the Beach

    Purple Sand on Pfeiffer Beach
    Lacey White/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    No one spilled anything purple here, even though it does look like grape-flavored drink mix.

    Manganese garnet washes down from the hillside above, giving Pfeiffer Beach its distinctive purple sand. The further north you go, the more you'll see.

    Continue to 4 of 5 below.
  • 04 of 05

    Clothing Optional Recreation at Pfeiffer Beach

    Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur, California, USA
    Izzet Keribar / Getty Images

    Pfeiffer is mostly a clothed beach, but a few people go to the extreme north end of the beach past the rocks for nude sunbathing. If you see a swimsuit on a rock or log, you'll know you are approaching someone who is likely to be fully undressed.

    What Our Readers Have to Say

    Pfeiffer as a nude beach

    Pfeiffer beach is beautiful. Get there early on weekends as the parking lot gets full quickly, and they stop people from entering. The "nude" section is to the north past the point. Not many nude people there but nobody complains and the rangers say it is ok to go nude. Overall an excellent beach but wish more nudists would go.

    —Guest Steve

    Rating Pfeiffer Beach for Clothing Optional Recreation

    More than 5,000 of our readers voted for their favorite Monterey County nude beach. 52% voted for Garrapata, 24% for Marina State Beach, 12% for North Marina and 11% for Pfeiffer.

    More than 1,000 of our readers rated Pfeiffer Beach in a poll that asked what they thought of it as a nude beach. 35% rated it excellent and 13% said it was good with a few flaws.

    More Nude Beaches Within 40 Miles of Pfeiffer Beach

    Nudity Laws and Pfeiffer Beach

    Pfeiffer Beach is on Federal Land, which means state nudity laws don't apply there. It's run by the company which manages the U.S. Forest Service campgrounds and day use parks in the area.

    Laws regarding nudity at the naturist beach vary by location and fines are stiff in some places. I have made every effort to provide accurate information, but the responsibility for knowing the law at Pfeiffer Beach is yours.

    Nude or naturist beach neophytes, please be respectful of others and read the Nude Beach and topless beach etiquette guidelines before you go to a nude beach and check the nudity laws too.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    How to Get to Pfeiffer Beach

    Turnoff to Pfeiffer Beach
    Adapted from Google Street View

    Pfeiffer Beach is off CA Hwy1 in Big Sur on Sycamore Canyon Road. Don't confuse it with nearby Pfeiffer State Park or Julia Pfeiffer Burns Park. A careless GPS setting will take you to the wrong place. The beach doesn't have a street address, so your best bet is to use the directions below.

    There is no sign on the highway that points to it.

    If you are coming from the north, the turnoff is shortly after you pass Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park entrance.

    The very sharp turn for the entrance to Sycamore Canyon Road is on the right. The easiest way to locate it is to look for mile marker 45.64, which is at the turn, just across from a sign that says Narrow Road. 

    Coming from the south, you'll pass Big Sur village and cross a bridge. When you see a sign that shows a road entering from the left, get ready. Shortly after that, there's a small, dirt turnoff on the right, but don't stop there. Continue until you see a road going left and downhill. That's Sycamore Canyon. If you see a sign that says Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, you passed it. Turn around and use the instructions above.

    After you get onto Sycamore Canyon Road, you'll see a sign that says Pfeiffer Beach. The beach is about 2 miles down the road.

    Pfeiffer Beach is administered by the US Forest Service. Find more information about it on their website.