Big Sur Beaches Have Character

A hiking trail along the Big Sur coast in California | William Silver

What does it mean for a beach to have character? To me, it means the beach has more to offer than just a long stretch of white sand. It has interesting things to see and do, like driftwood that may have traveled from across the sea, tide pools teeming with squiggly life, granite outcrops that provide perches for seals and ocean-going birds, the shells and skeletons of exotic sea creatures.

That’s why I say, “Big Sur beaches have character!” They will give you the opportunity not only to lie on the beach and soak up some sun while you read a good book, but also to explore, to discover, and to learn. You can watch for marine life, examine the intricacies of a tide pool habitat, cast your rod in the surf, discover treasures that have washed up on the beach, even watch a waterfall drop into the Pacific Ocean!

Here are some of my favorite Big Sur beaches with character:

Garrapata Beach

Pretty and partly sheltered, it belongs to Garrapata State Park (most of which is on the non-ocean side of Highway 1). The beach is about two miles long – some of it is sandy, some is rocky, and you’ll find tide pools, outcrops and arches, grottos, creeks, and hiking trails.

Things to do at Garrapata Beach (in addition to sunbathing): beach comb, bird watch, look for whales & other ocean critters, explore tidepools, hike the coastal trail, or fish for greenlings and surf perch.

Big Sur, Garrapata State Park, California | Sean Lema

Andrew Molera State Beach

This is where the Big Sur River empties into the Pacific and there’s a pretty little lagoon with a sandy beach where it’s safe to wade or swim. But what really gives Molera its character is the driftwood! The beach is a gathering spot for driftwood and people who visit love to build structures from the it! So you may be walking along, minding your own business, and there – suddenly in front of you – is a little “beach hut”. Very charming indeed!

Things to do at Molera: go horseback riding along the beach, surf, build a driftwood structure, visit the Ventana Wildlife Society, hike the trails along the coast, and fish.

Andrew Molera beach in Big Sur, California | Paolo Tralli

Pfeiffer Beach

What gives Pfeiffer Beach character? It’s a lovely place for sunbathing, relaxing, picnicking, but the thing that really makes it special is its purple sand. It seems there’s manganese garnet in the hillside above the beach! Also, there’s a balloon tire wheelchair available to help get people with mobility problems down to the sand.

Things to do at Pfeiffer: enjoy the rock formations and sea stacks as the surf surges around and through them, catch a fantastic sunset, watch the surfers, check out the wildlife (seals, sea otters, birds, whales), and surf-fish.

Sunset at Pfeiffer Beach CA | Luke L

McWay Falls

There’s a beach here, but you can’t get to it. However, you can follow a trail that will take you through a tunnel under the highway, and then you can perch high above the Pacific Ocean while you enjoy spectacular views of an 80 foot waterfall that drops – either to the beach below (at low tide), or directly into the ocean (at high tide). It’s the only waterfall in the United States that drops into an ocean!

Things to do at McWay Falls: bring your binoculars and search the ocean for migrating Gray whales, sea otters, cormorants, seagulls, sea lions & seals, pelicans, and oystercatchers. Hike through old-growth redwood groves, discover the Indian village sites, or SCUBA dive (if you’re an expert) at Julia Pfeiffer Burns Underwater Area.

McWay Falls, Big Sur, California | Doug Meek

So, there you have it – my favorite Big Sur Beaches. Visit any one of them and I know you won’t be disappointed! And while you’re there, keep your eyes open for California Condors. The Ventana Wildlife Society reintroduced the giant birds to the central coastal area of Big Sur, and I’m happy to report they are doing well! Just one more thing that gives character to Big Sur’s beaches.

Source: Suzi Rosenberg

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