Here’s something to do… Go to the beach, and play with purple sand!

You’ll find purple sand and nature’s raw beauty at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, California. (By the way, this beach is sometimes confused with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, which is also an amazing place where you’ll find the McWay Waterfall). During a drive in Big Sur, make sure you stop at both places, they’re relatively close to each other.

The source of the purple color is large deposits of quartz and manganese garnet that are found in the surrounding hills. You’re more likely to see the purple and violet color in the sand after rain storms.

Aside from the purple sand, this beach is also famous (and a favorite among photographers) because of the rock (Keyhole Rock) in the water that has a natural tunnel going through it. You can photograph this rock at any time. It’s always beautiful. At sunset, you’ll be able to photograph the rectangular reflection of light on the water. Unfortunately, I only had my iPhone (an old version, at that) since this was a spur-of-the-moment road trip. I’ll be better prepared next time. We had a spectacular sunset, though. So I have the highest-quality digital picture in my mind.

We were there without a plan, but it’d be nice to take a picnic basket to enjoy the sunset. It’s a super-romantic place. My husband caught my picture below when there was no one around. I was just kneeling on the beach, feeling thankful and reflecting on how lucky I am to be able to travel and see this amazing world of ours.

A couple of other travel tidbits: You can bring your dog! I wish I had a dog, I would’ve totally brought him here. Also, swimming is not recommended. There are strong currents and big waves can develop at any moment.

A little history: Pfeiffer Beach is not a state park, but sits on Los Padres National Forest land. The Pfeiffer family was one of Big Sur’s pioneering families who immigrated from Germany. In 1848, Mexico ceded California to the U.S. via the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War. In 1869, Michael and Barbara Pfeiffer settled at the mouth of Sycamore Canyon. They were farmers. Years later, in 1933, the couples’ son, John Pfeiffer, declined a developer’s offer to buy the land to build a subdivision. Instead, he sold 680 acres to the State of California. I’ll say that was lucky for us, nature lovers.

To get to Pfeiffer Beach: You’ll be driving on the magnificent Pacific Coast Highway 1. The beach is just outside Big Sur State Park, about 1 hr south of Monterrey. It’s easy to miss the beach entrance – You’re looking for Sycamore Canyon Road, which is just past mile marker 45.64. From San Fran, the turnoff will be on your right, past the ranger station. We drove from Santa Barbara, so we were heading north. The turnoff for us was on the left, past a post office. You’ll drive through Los Padres National Forest and arrive at the entrance of the beach. There’s a small parking lot, which can be full at times. Take this into consideration if you want to catch the sunset, as you may have to wait for a spot to open. Go early. Parking is $5 per vehicle.

Cheers, 
G.