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    Pfeiffer Beach: Enchanting sunsets in the heart of Big Sur

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    Joel Fulleda

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    The beaches on the Pacific ocean coast are not particularly famous for the seaside experience: with the exception of the San Diego area, its surroundings and some well-defined areas of the coast, the water temperature is usually quite cold and, sometimes, the position exposed to the wind does not facilitate the things. So what makes the beaches of this coast attractive? Well, if there is a reason why it would be worthwhile to travel the Pacific coast in one breath touching the beaches of California and Oregon are the scenographic shows they offer, made up of romantic coves and sandy expanses framed between cliffs and stacks.

    Among these Pfeiffer Beach deserves a place of honor for various reasons: its enchanting position, right in the heart of Big Sur, the unusual violet color of the sand, due to the manganese garnet of the surrounding hills, the suggestive rocky conformations on which powerful and thunderous crashing waves, and the imposing rock arch Keyhole Arch, on which the sun, "looking out" at sunset, draws a natural spectacle unique in the world. Furthermore, when the sun goes down, the sand takes on different shades of color, so much so that someone has renamed it "rainbow beach".

    Majestic, romantic and solitary, Pfeiffer Beach is particularly recommended for those looking for unspoiled natural paradises and can't wait to indulge their photographic talent trying to immortalize one of the most beautiful sunsets of one's life. So let's find out where it is and how to visit it.


    • Where it is
    • How to reach us
      • By car
      • By car + shuttle
      • Tickets, timetables and parking
    • What is the best time to visit?
    • Can you take a bath?
    • Attractions in the surroundings
    • Where to sleep?

    Where it is

    First, it is important to note that we are not talking about the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, the nearby state park that has no connection with the aforementioned beach. Pfeiffer Beach, as mentioned, is found in the Big Sur, one of the most scenic areas of the famous Pacific Coast Highway or Highway 1.

    We are located approximately 250km south of San Francisco and approximately 1 hour from Monterey, the largest town in the surrounding area. About 25 km down the road is another attraction of notable importance for travelers to California, the Bixby Creek Bridge, one of the most spectacular bridges that you will happen to cross.

    How to reach us

    Keyhole Arch

    Pfeiffer Beach can be reached by car or with a specially prepared shuttle, but even in this second case you will have to arrive at the pick-up point with a rental car.

    By car

    To get to Pfeiffer Beach you have to want it because the destination is not indicated by road signs, which probably contributed to making it less traveled by mass tourism. Driving along Highway 1, you will then have to take a small street called Sycamore Canyon Road, signposted by the yellow “Narrow Road” sign. Follow it for about 2 miles and you will arrive at the beach entrance. To reach the access point, enter this address (Pfeiffer Beach Day Use Area) in the navigator, or follow these simple instructions:

    • For those coming from San Francisco or the North: Pass Big Sur Station, the visitor center of the area, and turn right after exactly 1 km at the yellow sign indicating the narrow road. Be careful not to turn into the road just above (Pfeiffer Ridge Road) which instead of going down to the sea goes up the hill near a pleasant lookout reachable by a special path, the Buzzards Roost Viewpoint (we'll talk about it later).
    • For those coming from Los Angeles or the South: pass the small village where the Deli and the Chamber of Commerce are located, also pass Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge and get ready to turn left after a few meters.

    By car + shuttle

    It is also possible to arrive with a specially prepared shuttle that leaves from the Big Sur Station (here the address to be entered in the navigator) and operates in the summer period from Thursday to Sunday, from 11 to 19. The cost is 5 dollars per person. add another 10 dollars that you will have to pay to leave the car at the shuttle departure point (free parking here is allowed for only 20 minutes).

    The shuttle is a solution to consider substantially in 2 cases:

    1. especially during the summer weekends the concentration of tourists can be high, the traffic can therefore be intense and the parking spaces can run out, forcing you to wait in the queue at the entrance until someone leaves Pfeiffer Beach to vacate the place, according to the classic first come first system. serves.
    2. it is the only way to get to the beach for those traveling by camper, as large vehicles are not allowed to travel the Sycamore Canyon Road.

    The negative note of this solution (in addition to the not particularly low cost price) is represented by the fact that the return journey of the shuttle is before sunset, which will prevent you from enjoying Pfeiffer Beach at its best.

    Tickets, timetables and parking

    Once you arrive at the access point (Pfeiffer Beach Day Use Area) you will have to pay the entrance fee, which costs 10 dollars per vehicle, and park in the dedicated parking lot. The beach is open from 9 in the morning to 8 in the evening. Bear in mind that only cash is accepted so be prepared to pay cash.

    What is the best time to visit?

    As mentioned, the best time to enjoy the natural spectacle of this beach is sunset, when the sun, going down to sea level, "overlooks" the Keyhole Arch creating a chromatic effect of rare beauty.

    The best time of the year to enjoy this effect is around winter solstice, between December and January, when the particular alignment between sun, rock and sea produces a sort of reddish ray that extends onto the beach. The show lasts a few minutes and many photographers converge in the area to try to immortalize it. Unfortunately, it is impossible to predict the exact dates on which the phenomenon occurs.

    Can you take a bath?

    As already mentioned, the strong point of Pfeiffer Beach is not the bathing experience, indeed I would say that it is not recommended: the beach is in fact frequently beaten by the wind and swimming in the rough sea can be quite dangerous.

    Attractions in the surroundings

    Buzzards Roost Viewpoint

    For all the attractions in the area, I refer you to our guide on Highway 1 and the article on Big Sur, where you will find the places of interest that are worth a stop along the way. For lovers of mountain walks I recommend the nearby path of Buzzards Roost Viewpoint, a walk of about 3 miles that will lead you to a viewpoint from which to admire the sea and the surrounding hills.

    Where to sleep?

    Presumably, if you plan to pass this way, you are traveling the distance between Los Angeles and San Francisco (and you are trying to do it in the best way !!). In this case you will find yourself choosing whether to break the journey into 1 or 2 stops. To find the best solution according to your needs, I would like to point out my guide on the subject: Where to sleep between Los Angeles and San Francisco, to view all the facilities available in the area (not many actually) you can click on the button below:

    All accommodations near Pfeiffer Beach

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