For a well-publicized beach, Pheiffer is surprisingly quiet, probably because it is off the beaten path and rather difficult to find. Also, many tourists mistakingly head to Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park or Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park (where McWay Falls is located) thinking that either of those will lead you to Pheiffer. Neither do, but both are equally as beautiful.
To get to Pfeiffer Beach you take a small and unmarked dirt road that veers off the main highway rather suddenly (don’t rely on GPS because it rarely works in Big Sur). It feels as though you are heading down an endless residential back alley with just enough room for two small cars to squeak past each other (wider than Irish back roads). Two miles later you get to the gate where you pay to get access to a tiny little parking area ($10 cash only).
Worried that squeezing your car down the tiny lane will lead you to a long line of cars waiting to get through the gate with no way out? No problem. If you make it onto the endless alley, you’re golden! If there’s a man in a hat at the entrance telling you to turn around… you’re out of luck!
Pfeiffer isn’t much of a sunbathing beach (it’s too windy), or a surfing beach (you’d be smashed to bits on the rocks), or even a swimming beach (the undertow is killer)… it’s a beautiful beach with purple sand, great scenery, and loads of unpredictability. At one point, we watched as two fully clothed tourists thought they were safe as they stood in a “dry” area only to suddenly find themselves waist-deep in water (so much for the hiking boots and jeans).
Don’t let any of this scare you away. A visit is certainly worth the effort… as you can see from the photos below. Also, here are some aerial photos.