Purple Sand Beach -

Purple Sand Beach AKA Pfeiffer Beach (The Only Purple Beach in California!)

Headed to the Big Sur California area? Looking for the purple sand beach? Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur California is the place! 

On our last trip to San Francisco, I wanted to head south and go to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the 17-mile drive, and check out the Big Sur.  I was pretty excited to explore the Big Sur purple sand beach. 

In this post, we are going to focus on the purple sand beach in Big Sur known as Pfeiffer Beach.  We will give you Pfeiffer Beach directions and tips, as well as all the fun things to do at the coolest purple sand beach in California.  We will also dig into why Pfeiffer Beach purple sand is so awesome! 

Let's explore why Pfeiffer's purple sand beach is the best beach in Big Sur!

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How to Get to Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur California

Big Sur Purple Sand - Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer purple sand beach is a little tricky to get to.  If you are exploring the Big Sur area you will probably want to make a few stops before you get to Pfeiffer Beach.

The iconic Bixby Bridge is a must-see on your way to the purple sand beach.  You will also want to stop at Point Sur State Historic Park to tour the lighthouse station. 

From Bixby Bridge, you will drive an additional 30 minutes and head past Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. 

It is a tricky entrance to get to Pfeiffer Beach. It is a hidden beach in Big Sur.  You will turn sharply and drive down a one-lane dirt road to get to the beach.  I was really questioning our GPS!  Don't worry this is the correct way to go! 

Pfeiffer Beach Address:

9100 Sycamore Canyon Road, Big Sur, CA, 93920

Check Road Conditions

Road closures can sometimes happen.  Flooding can occur or sometimes fires in the area will cause this area to shut down.  Hopefully, you will be able to visit the purple beach with no problems. 

Renting a Car or RV for the Big Sur California

Pfeiffer Beach Purple Sand

The closest major airport to the Big Sur is San Jose.  You may be beginning your adventure here or driving a little further from the San Francisco Airport. 

Rent a Car or RV

Your best bet is to rent a car from the airport so that you can drive down HWY 1.  Another great idea is to rent an RV.  There are not a lot of accommodation options near the Big Sur area.   

An RV is very convenient in this area.  However, driving to Pfeiffer Beach in an RV would be very difficult because of the narrow road leading to the beach. 

Best Time to Visit Pfeiffer Beach

Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur

Peak season is during the summer months which is a great time to visit Pfeiffer Beach.  I prefer to visit the purple sand beach in the off-season of September and October.


The weather in the Pfeiffer Beach California area is awesome from April through October ranging from the mid-'70s to 80 degrees.  


One of the main reasons I like visiting during the off-season is there are fewer crowds.  This beach is not huge.  It could easily get crowded!

If you visit during peak season you may get turned away because the parking lot can fill up. (Don't give up come back 10-15 minutes later and see if you can get in.)

Best Time to Visit the Purple Sand Beach

If you are visiting the purple sand beach during the summer months make sure to arrive early or late.  The most popular times are from 12 -2:30 pm.  It may be difficult to get a parking space during those times.  Right before sunset is a great time to visit as well. 

Tide Chart

You also will want to consider the tides.  If you can visit during low tide you will be able to see more tide pools. It is pretty impressive to visit during high tide because the waves crash into Keyhole Arch. 


Parking and Admission Info for Pfeiffer Beach (Purple Sand Beach)

Big Sur Pfeiffer Beach parking

There is a big parking lot near the purple sand beach entrance.

Does Pfeiffer Beach Cost Money?

After you travel down the dirt road, you will come to a pay station.  You will need to have cash.  The price to enter is around $12.  

There is plenty of parking spaces on site.  There are also bathroom facilities near the parking lot. 

Tips for Visiting the Purple Sand Beach - Pfeiffer Beach

Big Sur Rock - keyhole arch Pfeiffer Beach

I am going to hit some common questions people have about visiting the purple sand beach in California. (Pfeiffer Beach, CA) 

Is Pfeiffer Beach Worth Visiting?

Yes! Pfeiffer Beach is one of the best Big Sur beaches.  It is gorgeous! Plus, hello how many purple sand beaches have you heard of?  It is actually one of the top tourist stops along the Big Sur. 

Why is Pfeiffer Beach Famous?

Pfeiffer Beach, CA is famous because of its purple sand beach as well as its gorgeous rock formation known as the Keyhole Arch.  

Can you Swim at the Purple Sand Beach? (Pfeiffer Beach)

It is not recommended to swim at any beach in Big Sur. There are very strong currents just offshore. 

Accommodations Near Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur Area

Big Sur Purple Sand Accommodations

Most of the accommodations available in the Big Sur are camping and cabins

There are a few luxury resorts nearby such as the Post Ranch Inn and Carmel Mission Inn. 

Day Trip to Big Sur Purple Sand Beach

For us, we knew camping wasn't an option since we had flown into San Fran.  We decided to do a day trip to Pfeiffer Beach and ended up driving back to Monterrey to stay in a hotel.  Carmel-by-the-Sea is also another area to consider. 


What Causes the Sand to be Purple?

Pfeiffer beach purple Sand

Have you ever heard of a beach with purple sand before? I guess the biggest question I had about the purple sand beach was, “why is the sand a Pfeiffer Beach purple?” 

After doing a little research I found that the purple color is caused by Magnesium garnet that has eroded from nearby cliffs. The purple color is more pronounced just after it rains. 

How Many Purple Sand Beaches are There?

In case you are curious like me, I wanted to know how many purple sand beaches there were in the world and I found that there is 1 in New York, 5 in Canada, and 1 in California.   

Things to Do at Pfeiffer Beach Day Use Area (Purple Beach)

Things to do at Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur

The Pfeiffer Beach purple sand may be the biggest draw to visit, but there are actually a lot of fun things to do at Pfeiffer Beach.  

You can spend hours exploring Big Sur Pfeiffer Beach.   I am excited to share what we did. 

1. See the Pfeiffer Beach Purple Sand

Purple beach big sur

Let's talk about the purple sand beach! When I heard there was a purple sand beach in California, I was excited! 

Where is the Purple Sand Located?

When we arrived I was a little confused because when I walked out onto the beach I really didn't see a purple beach.  It looked pretty normal.  It wasn't until I was walking towards the back of the beach I noticed the purple hue in the sand.   

Seeing the purple sand beach was at the top of my list of things to do at Pfeiffer Beach.  I am glad I got to see it! 

2. Key Hole Arch

Keyhole arch Pfeiffer Beach California

Keyhole Arch is just as impressive as the purple sand beach.  In fact, Keyhole Arch may be one of the most beautiful sites along the California coast. 

Located just beyond the shore is a beautiful rock formation with an arch in the center.  Waves come crashing through.  You can seriously watch it for hours! 

Best Time to Visit Keyhole Arch

No matter what time of year you go Keyhole Arch is impressive.  December is the most popular time to visit. The sun sets in just the right spot allowing the light to shine directly through the arch. 

3. Photography

Pfeiffer Beach big sur purple Sand

Pfeiffer Beach is beautiful.  It is a photographer's dream.  We were lucky enough to come at sunset and capture some great shots of Keyhole Arch.  

Photographers Dream

I know I mentioned that the best time to visit the purple sand beach was from April – October but that is not true for Keyhole Arch. If you are a photographer, the best time to visit Keyhole Arch is December and early January. 

There is a time between December and January when Keyhole Arch puts on a light show.  As the sun sets the light shines directly through the arch. 

This has become a really popular spot for photographers so don't be surprised it is really crowded! 

When we went there were a lot of photographers lined up on the purple beach.

4. Explore Tide Pools

Tide Pools at the Purple Sand Beach in California

Does the Big Sur Have Tide Pools?

Yes, Pfeiffer Beach has tide pools, when the tide is low.  If you happen to visit the purple sand beach during low tide you are in for a treat.  You can almost walk out to Keyhole Arch.  There are many tide pools located all around the rock formation.

It would be really fun to see how many sea creatures you can find in the tide pools at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur! 


5. Walk Along the Beach

Beach with Purple Sand - California big sur walking along the beach

Pfeiffer Beach is so beautiful one of the best things you can do as you visit is just walk! 

Walking along the purple sand beach is a beautiful experience.  You can look out at the ocean and admire the waves crashing in.  This purple beach will not disappoint you. 


One thing to mention, and maybe this isn't a problem all the time, but when we went there were tons of what I think were sand fleas.  They jump as you walk along the sand.  That was annoying.  

6. Have a Picnic on the Beach

Pfeiffer Beach Ca - Picnic on the purple sand beach

A picnic on the Pfeiffer Beach sand is the perfect way to enjoy both the purple beach and the view of Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer Beach! 

Pack a Picnic at Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California

You can bring everything you need in a cooler and easily walk it down to the perfect spot.  The sunset is the best time to enjoy a lovely picnic.  

You will want to bring a really thick beach blanket or beach chairs to sit on.  

7. Don't Swim at Pfeiffer Beach CA

Purple Sand Beach Big Sur - no swimming

I know we were listing things to do at Pfeiffer Beach California but here is one you should not do. 

Important Tip

Here is an important tip!  Swimming is not recommended at all of the beaches in Big Sur.  The purple beach is no exception.

There are strong currents just beyond the break of the waves.  It is very hard to rescue because of the currents in this area so it is better to stay out of the water.

8. Play in the Sand at the Purple Sand Beach

Purple Sand Beach in California - build castle

Playing in the sand is one of the best beach activities ever.  Making a sand castle is the perfect thing to do at Pfeiffer Beach California.

Purple Beach Castle

Seriously, my little guy did not want to leave! He could have stayed all day building a sand castle! If it has just rained you could build a purple sand beach castle. 

We decided to build our castle closer to the water, it wasn't the Pfeiffer Beach purple sand! 

What To Bring to Pfeiffer Beach California

Big Sur Beaches - Purple sand Beach

Pfeiffer Beach the purple beach California area is amazing and like other beaches don't forget to bring your beach gear. 

Purple Beach Gear

A few things to bring to the Big Sur purple sand beach are: 

One thing that is nice about this purple beach is you aren't planning on getting too wet so you don't have to bring as much stuff. 

Big Sur Stops

Bixby Bridge Big Sur

After you check out the purple sand beach make sure to see all of the other amazing Big Sur sites.  There are so many beautiful areas in the Big Sur! 

  • Bixby Bridge
  • Point Sur State Park
  • Pfeiffer Beach State Park
  • Sand Dollar Beach
  • Andrew Molera State Park
  • Julia Pfeiffer State Park
  • Garrapata State Park
  • Mill Creek Beach Area
  • Willow Creek
  • Limekiln State Park Beach
  • Kirk Creek
  • Partington Cove

I wish I would have had more time to visit all of these Big Sur Beaches and attractions. A day trip to Pfeiffer Beach CA was not enough time!  

Are you Ready to Visit the Purple Sand Beach?

Best Beaches in Big Sur - Purple Sand Beach

Hopefully, this post gets you excited about visiting the Pfeiffer purple sand beach area!  It is such a fun area to explore with lots of fun things to do! I still think visiting a purple beach with purple sand is so cool! 

Have so much fun visiting the Pfeiffer Beach Big Sur California area! Pfeiffer Beach is one of the best beaches in Big Sur and is worth a visit! I know you will love it! 

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  1. I would love to see this purple sand beach in Big Sur! Will have to check out Pfeiffer Beach the next time I visit. So cool how the environment changes the color of beaches…we have a pink beach in Minnesota.

  2. How stunning is this purple sand beach in Big Sur??? I’ve seen black sand, not my favorite because of the texture, but never purple! How was the texture of this type of sand?

  3. I am just fascinated by this purple sand beach in California! I was born and raised in Calfornia and have never made it to the Big Sur area although I hope to some day (I moved away from the state over a year ago). It seems like a magical place!

  4. We had no idea that this existed! Purple Sand Beach sounds like a fantastic place to visit and explore.

  5. While we have a pink beach and a black beach herd in Minnesota, I’m thinking we should have a purple beach (Skol Vikings!). Your guide to the purple sand beach in Big Sur (Pfeiffer Beach) is fascinating and would love to visit.

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