By Courtney Hitchcock
One of the best drives on the California Central Coast is through Big Sur. Deep gorges, cut through rugged mountains and pine forests that extend to the edge of sandy beaches. Cascading waterfalls, plunging into the sea below, are a glorious sight to see. California’s Central Coast is beyond compare in natural beauty. The area has inspired many artists, poets and writers.
Big Sur is 25 miles south of Monterey. It is the home to one of the world’s most unique beaches. Pfeiffer State Beach, also known as “purple sand beach” is known for its rare purple sand. The unusual hue comes from the manganese garnet deposits that are found in the surrounding rocks. With the azure-colored waves crashing against it, the contrast is simply stunning.
The sheer beauty of this beach is surreal. The garnet in the rocks, battered by years of huge swell, created this dazzling display of color. This geological feature isn’t the only eye-catching, natural phenomenon. There is an impressive natural bridge that photographers, from all over the planet, visit in an attempt to capture the sunset, at just the precise moment.
It is the easiest beach to get to in Big Sur. You won’t have to scale a cliff side or cross a river to reach it. Conveniently, just off California Highway 1, you can drive up the one-lane, pothole-laden private road, along the way to park your car.
As you walk from the parking lot, along with the creek, under wind-gnarled Cypress trees, you can almost feel the history of Big Sur. The Pfeiffer family was one of the first homesteading families in Big Sur and called this beach their own private Eden. That’s not to say it does not have a history of tragedy, as well. Warning signs posted at the entrance, caution of fatal riptides that have claimed lives in the past. This threat is very real and it is asked that if you do decide to enter the frigid waters, do so with thoughtfulness and hopefully a wetsuit!
Most people come to this beach for a quick day trip, checking it off their Big Sur to-do list. I recommend coming to this beach early in the morning. It’s best to beat the crowd and before the surging winds.
The downside is, that Pfeiffer State Beach is the windiest beach in Big Sur. The upside is, that it’s one of the best places in the world to watch the iconic sunset into the Pacific Ocean. Bring a blanket, pack a picnic and give yourself the time to explore this magical stretch of the magnificent California Central Coast.