Big Sur, California

It boasts a plethora of activities, such as hiking the 3,379-foot-tall Manuel Peak at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, excavating jade at Sand Dollar Beach, or exploring Monterey County’s oldest redwood groves at Limekiln State Park. One can also witness the graceful cascading of McWay Falls directly into the ocean at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, or embark on treks at Andrew Molera State Park and Garrapata State Park, which take visitors to the brink of the coastline. For those seeking picturesque sunset spots, Keyhole Arch Rock at Pfeiffer Beach is known to be one of the finest on the central coast. In short, with a multitude of awe-inspiring attractions, Big Sur is always packed with endless possibilities and guaranteed to keep boredom at bay.

Pfeiffer Beach

If time is of the essence and your schedule is packed, bypass state park trails and head straight to Pfeiffer Beach.The most famous of these formations is the Pfeiffer Keyhole Rock, situated just a few steps into the ocean. With its unmistakable arch, this natural wonder is the most photographed attraction in Big Sur, second only to Bixby Bridge.

During low tide, taking a stroll through the tide pools to get a closer look at the rock is highly recommended. However, the sunset is the definite highlight, as the sun streams brilliantly through the keyhole, creating a truly breathtaking spectacle. While the beach may be off the beaten path, be warned that it can get crowded, and parking can be an issue. But don’t let the crowds deter you, for a glimpse of the unique keyhole rock is well worth any hassle. Remember to bring a jacket, as the area can be quite windy. And whether you’re an avid photographer or not, be sure to carry a camera or have your phone fully charged to fully capture the amazing scenery on offer.

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park stands distinctively apart from its neighboring spots, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park and Pfeiffer Beach. Situated adjacent to the majestic Los Padres National Forest, the park sprawls over a sprawling 1,600 acres on the western slope of the splendid St. Lucia Mountains. While the stunning redwood groves, serene meadows, and picturesque waterfalls are synonymous with most state parks in this region, it is the park’s exceptional location that distinguishes it from others. While treks along the coastal edge are a common sight in nearby Andrew Molera State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, and Garrapata, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park is further inland and does not provide many oceanic views.

Sand Dollar Beach

For those seeking a leisurely way to take in the breathtaking beauty of Big Sur, without breaking a sweat, Sand Dollar Beach represents an excellent choice. Situated just 7 miles south of Limekiln State Park, this expansive shoreline boasts Big Sur’s largest unbroken expanse of sand. Alongside Andrew Molera State Park’s beach, this crescent-shaped haven serves as a favorite surfing spot among locals and tourists alike. With an extensive variety of fish to catch, it is no surprise that this beach is also a popular fishing spot. For nature lovers, beachcombing at Sand Dollar beach is a must-do activity, as it is one of the best spots in the region to find sand dollars washed up onto the shore. And at the southernmost point of this striking and well-rounded attraction, there is an abundance of mineral-rich rocks.

Andrew Molera State Park

Andrew Molera State Park spans across 4,800 acres and stands as the largest state park on the Big Sur coast. The park boasts a multitude of activities and attractions for visitors to indulge in, including an array of hiking trails. Andrew Molera, the man who introduced artichoke to California, is the eponym of this nature’s haven.


The park is home to secluded beaches, mystical redwood groves, picturesque meadows and the Big Sur River, which runs for 20 miles and along its embrace, several hiking trails are present. With its flatter geography, visitors can indulge in biking and horseback rides throughout the park, adding more thrill to their adventure. The beach at Andrew Molera State Park is a surfer’s paradise, deemed to be one of the best surfing spots in Big Sur, open and safe to surf.

Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park

This stunning park boasts an array of seven marked trails that transport adventurers to breathtaking spots, including secluded coves, cascading waterfalls, winding creeks, and towering redwood forests. As one of the few locations in Big Sur that permits scuba diving, the park is a true sanctuary for water enthusiasts.

Of the seven marked paths, the Waterfall Overlook Trail boasts the shortest distance and the highest traffic. The shoreline, enclosed by rugged cliffs draped in shrubs, wildflowers, and cypress trees, is a sight to behold.

The waterfall, cascading from atop of the cove’s granite cliffs, plummets 80 feet down into the ocean. The cove is also a breeding ground for gray whales migrating through Big Sur from December to February and March to May. In the past, some of them have even ventured into the mouth of the cove.