comScore
Pfeiffer Beach picture in Big Sur
Eric Lowenbach / Getty Images

Details

  • Beaches, Natural Wonders Type
4.4
Overall
US NEWS LOGO

Scorecard

  • Value
    4.0
  • Facilities
    2.5
  • Atmosphere
    5.0

Read about how we rank Things to Do.

If you're on a tight itinerary and don't have time to traverse any state park trails, head to Pfeiffer Beach. Located about 7 miles south of Andrew Molera State Park next to Los Padres National Forest, Pfeiffer Beach is secluded in feel, offering expansive shorelines covered by towering, vegetation-heavy bluffs and striking rock formations. The beach's most famous rock formation, however, is located a few feet out into the ocean. The Pfeiffer Keyhole Rock is hard to miss thanks to its distinguishable arch. It's also considered the most-photographed attraction in Big Sur after Bixby Bridge. At low tide, visitors are able to wade through the water and take a Pfeiffer Keyhole Rock look at the surrounding tide pools. But the best time to see the rock is at sunset when the sun shines brightly through the keyhole, creating a spectacular photo op.

Although it's secluded, Pfeiffer Beach can get crowded; some recent visitors reported having to wait in line just to secure a parking spot. But despite the inconvenience, travelers said a visit to the beach to see the unique keyhole rock was worth the hassle. Many strongly suggested bringing a jacket, as the area can get windy and also said that even if you're not a photographer, you should bring a camera or make sure your phone is charged to capture the impressive scenery.

The beach is located off of Highway 1, but there are no entrance signs, and the road to get to Pfeiffer Beach is also unmarked. Sycamore Canyon Road is only distinguishable by its conditions (it's the only paved, ungated road west of Highway 1 between the Big Sur Post Office and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park). When driving south, keep your eyes out for a yellow Narrow Road sign and make the turn. Entrance to Pfeiffer Beach costs $10 per vehicle. There is no camping allowed and due to the geography of the beach, swimming is considered dangerous. Although they share the same name, Pfeiffer Beach is not located in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. The beach is open daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Powered by Viator

Hotels Nearby

  • Thing to Do
  • Hotel
Post Ranch Inn

Post Ranch Inn ...

  • 2.5 Miles Away
  • 5.0-star Hotel Class
Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort

Ventana Big Sur, an Alila Resort ...

  • 3.1 Miles Away
  • 4.5-star Hotel Class
See all hotels in Big Sur »

More Best Things to Do in Big Sur

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park picture in Big Sur
Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Andrew Molera State Park picture in Big Sur
Beaches, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Pfeiffer Beach picture in Big Sur
Beaches, Natural Wonders Type
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park picture in Big Sur
Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Garrapata State Park picture in Big Sur
Beaches, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation, Sightseeing Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Sand Dollar Beach picture in Big Sur
Beaches, Hiking, Natural Wonders, Recreation Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Limekiln State Park picture in Big Sur
Hiking, Natural Wonders, Parks and Gardens, Recreation Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
|

#1 Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

Named after one of Big Sur's most beloved pioneers, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is a favorite among both locals and tourists. A feast for the eyes, the park ...

Read more » lucky-photographer / Getty Images

#2 Andrew Molera State Park

This 4,800-acre park is the largest state park on the Big Sur coast and offers multiple activities and attractions, not to mention several hiking trails. Named after the man who brought ...

Read more » Allie_Caulfield / Flickr

#3 Pfeiffer Beach

If you're on a tight itinerary and don't have time to traverse any state park trails, head to Pfeiffer Beach. Located about 7 miles south of Andrew Molera ...

Read more » Eric Lowenbach / Getty Images

#4 Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Not to be confused with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or Pfeiffer Beach, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is adjacent to the Los Padres National Forest and covers 1,600 ...

Read more » Gary Denham / Flickr

#5 Garrapata State Park

Situated between the base of the St. Lucia Mountains and the rugged Pacific coastline, this 3,000-acre state park is overflowing with trails highlighting the park's diverse landscape. From ...

Read more » Ingmar Wesemann / Getty Images

#6 Sand Dollar Beach

A great option for those who don't want to work up a sweat on the trails but want to experience Big Sur's beauty from outside the car is ...

Read more » Skyhobo / Getty Images

#7 Limekiln State Park

Located about 7 miles north of Sand Dollar Beach, Limekiln State Park is one of the smallest state parks in Big Sur, but it packs some serious history. The 716-acre ...

Read more » Photo Courtesy of California State Parks

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park picture in Big Sur
Andrew Molera State Park picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Beach picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park picture in Big Sur
Garrapata State Park picture in Big Sur
Sand Dollar Beach picture in Big Sur
Limekiln State Park picture in Big Sur
Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park picture in Big Sur
Andrew Molera State Park picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Beach picture in Big Sur
Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park picture in Big Sur
Garrapata State Park picture in Big Sur
Sand Dollar Beach picture in Big Sur
Limekiln State Park picture in Big Sur

McWay Falls is the star attraction at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. The 80-foot waterfall used to fall directly into the ocean until a landslide created the beach it now graces.  lucky-photographer / Getty Images

Get your fill of coastal views at Andrew Molera State Park. The 8-mile-long Andrew Molera Loop takes visitors  on the edge of the coast with smaller trails leading down to secluded beaches. Allie_Caulfield / Flickr

It's not uncommon to see hordes of photographers at Pfeiffer State Beach, especially at sunset. The keyhole arch rock is considered to be one of the most photographed natural attractions in Big Sur after Bixby Bridge and McWay Falls. Eric Lowenbach / Getty Images

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is the only state park in the region that doesn't offer coastal trails or coastal access. But that doesn't mean it's lacking in attractions. The Buzzard's Roost Trail, pictured above, snakes through the Big Sur Valley, as well as redwood groves.  Gary Denham / Flickr

Of all the state parks in Big Sur, Garrapata is the hardest to find. There is no sign indicating its presence, only turnout points on the highway leading to certain trails. On the upside, it is by far the least crowded. Ingmar Wesemann / Getty Images

Sand Dollar Beach is heaven for treasure hunters. On the southern end of the beach, visitors can find serpentine or jade if they look hard enough. Skyhobo / Getty Images

Limekiln Park got its name from a limestone business that used to operate out of the park's forest. Venture down the Limekiln Trail and you'll see four old limekilns that once provided materials for making cement.   Photo Courtesy of California State Parks

×

See full list of Best Things to Do in Big Sur »

Explore More of Big Sur

Find the Best Price

Enter your check in and check out dates to find the best price

PriceFinder powered by TripAdvisor Primary Logo