Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur: Purple Sand, Sea Caves & Dog Friendly

I literally stumbled upon this state beach during a recent trip up the coast and boy was it awesome. After visiting the McWay Waterfall in Julia Burns State Park I was looking over some pictures of Big Sur I had pulled up on my phone and noticed the rock with a hole, that is a staple of Pfeiffer State Beach. From there I started asking around and found my way here.



  • Beach can be hard to find but if heading South it is the second road after Pfeiffer State Park
  • $10 to park
  • Purple sand is best after rains
  • Dog friendly

Having seen no real signs or roads we pulled into Pfeiffer State Park and asked them where the beach was located. It was about a mile and a half back the way we came down a one lane road. The road was less than two miles but wasn’t paved for most of it and it made for a good twenty-minute drive. When we arrived it was 5 dollars for parking but since the lot was so small you had to wait for people to exit before you were able to come in, especially during the summer. We sat for about 20 minutes and we lucky enough to have a couple of cars exit at once so we could head in.

entrance to pfieffer state beach

After parking you walk through a densely covered area of trees before arriving at the opening to the beach (the middle area in the above photo. Almost immediately you are greeted with the amazing views and sheer beauty of Pfeiffer State Beach. There were a good amount of people at the beach but it wasn’t crowded like a Southern California, and I’m sure the lack of parking helps with that. Once inside you will see by the aforementioned rock with a hole as well as another huge rock sitting in the cove that you are actually allowed to climb on. I walked around for a while and took a lot of pictures of the sea cave. Here is a beautiful picture of the parking lot and cove / rocks from above ( I didn’t take this) that gives you more of an idea of what I am talking about.

ocean pfieffer state beach

After walking around we decided to scale the big rock that is right in the middle of the park. It was not to difficult but many people were having trouble getting down as they were not in any type of shape for scrambling up the rock. Make sure you at least have shoes if you plan to do this. Once you make it to the top of the rock there are many beautiful views of the coastline and the rest of the beach. Also, there are many different flowers and rock formations.

coastline from on top of the rock

It was windy when we were up there which is dangerous as you can easily lose your footing, but all in all it is a pretty safe rock to climb. After exploring for a while we headed down and watched the waves through the little sea cave.

Purple Sand

purple sand

This beach is also home to amazing purple sand (washing down from the rocks above). You will not be able to see it every time you go, but if you head South, especially after a rain, there is a good chance you will see the below view.

purple sand pfieffer

All in all this beach is one of my favorites in California. It is away from the crowd, has an element of adventure and has the beautiful purple sand, what more could you ask for? If you are driving up from the south on highway 1 make sure to look for the turnout on your left right before Pfeiffer State Park (not the Julia Burns one, there are two). Oh, and feel free to bring your dog too.

bulldog on the beach

Let me know if you have been there before and enjoyed it like I did, you can also checkout the rest of the photos below.

Center map

Interested in supporting this blog?

This blog is simply a hobby and labor of love for me. If you have enjoyed the posts consider sharing it with your friends. I want as many people as possible to explore this state and you can help by letting them know about all of the great spots!

About JoshMc

Thanks for checking out the blog, I am happy to be sharing my adventures with you! You can get to know me by reading my about me, which includes a video and additional information on the site, myself and my full disclosure. Also, follow along on Twitter here or read all of my posts on this blog here.

  • Looks like you didn’t find any purple sand? I’m hoping to find some patches when we’re there for Labor Day. I’ve heard the beach is amazing at sunset!,0,2525983.photogallery

  • Thanks for the comment, I agree it is an amazing beach!

  • Jillian

    I am SO stoked that I found your blog. I’m in the middle of planning a trip from San Diego to SF along the PCH. You’re blog has so many rad highlights that I’m hoping to incorporate into my trip. Can’t thank you enough for your traveling spirit!

    • Thanks for the comment and I am glad it is helping you plan your trip! Be sure to let me know what your favorite stop is!

  • Gracie

    Thanks so much for your blog, Josh. It really came in handy on my recent trip exploring the coast from Big Sur to Point Reyes. Pfieffer Beach is an incredible place; thank you for pointing it out. Just fyi, the parking fee is now $10, but still worth it!

    • Thanks for the comment and I am glad you like the blog! Also, thanks for the edit of the cost! I agree though that $10 is still more then worth it for that amazing beach.

  • Kimmer

    Josh. Took your advise and went to Pfeiffer Beach yesterday. Omg. .worth the 20 min wait to get in. Lot was full so waited on the one lane road….stunning, absolutely breathtaking. Thanks for the tip

    • Thanks for the comment! I agree, 20 minutes is a small price to pay for such an awesome spot!

  • Brenda V

    Thanks so much for all your great posts here. I enjoy all of your beautiful pics! We’re headed up this way next week. I’m curious, is this road steep or real narrow? We will be in a large van and I’m wondering if it’s ok to navigate with a larger vehicle. Thanks!

    • The road itself is not steep but it is very narrow in parts so it would probably be hard to navigate with a large van.

      • Brenda V

        Thanks! We opted not to try it, but did enjoy many other beautiful things in Big Sur 🙂

        • Glad you were able to have a good time!

  • Gregory P

    Josh: Thanks for sharing your great photos of one of the most magical spots on the planet. In 1970, as a troubled teen, I would visit this spot alone to “sort things out”. One morning, as I sat atop the “big rock”, I discovered heartfelt gratitude. I became the beauty that was around me. I allowed myself to experience the beauty of “just being”. The shackles of troubled youth fell away, broken by the magical beauty of this place. In not too many years look for my ashes on that rock on the northwest face!

    • Thanks for sharing your story and I am so glad to hear how this area helped you to enhance your life.

  • Kiran Chari

    Josh…. AMAZING BLOG!!! Did the Big Sur trip per your blog… cannot thank you enough!
    Will be doing Avenues of Giants next!

    • Kiran Chari

      My click from the trip…

      • Awesome photo! Thanks for sharing

    • Thanks Kiran! So glad you had fun and you should really enjoy the Avenue of the Giants, it is one of my favorite spots in the state.

  • Ray Austin

    Thanks for all the great tips about finding and enjoying this awesome “Secret” spot. Great read.

    • No problem, i hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!

  • Lucy Brynes

    Just found your blog and absolutely love your adventures! I’m heading up to Big Sur for a camping trip with my dog next week. What are some other great dog friendly spots you would recommend? I have a growing list of places to go but would love some advice from someone who knows and loves the area!

    • Thanks for the comment Lucy. My bull dog isn’t much of a hiker so this is one of the only areas where we really took him on an adventure. Sorry I can’t be of more help!

  • Thanks for the comment and I am glad you liked the beach. Nice photos on your post as well!

  • Erica C.

    Hi- id like to take a trip to California for my sons 16th Birthday. I’m sure he’d love to see the purple sand beach. Can anyone recommend a good hotel/ resort nearby?