Location: 26 miles south of Rio Road in Carmel; one-quarter mile south of the California State Parks ranger station
Hours: 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily
Cost: $5 per vehicle
More information: www.campone.com or (805) 434-1996
Pfeiffer Beach is a treasure, so maybe it's fitting that it takes a bit of a hunt to find it the first time.
First off, don't confuse it with the other Pfeiffers - Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, close but separate entities.
Pfeiffer Beach is in the heart of Big Sur, down Sycamore Canyon Road. Except that Sycamore Canyon Road isn't marked - or at least it wasn't on a recent trek. A better guide: Heading south on Highway 1, go about a quarter-mile past the hard-to-miss California State Parks ranger station. Make a hard right onto the probably-unmarked road and you'll quickly see a big sign telling you that Pfeiffer Beach is two miles down the road. It's a mostly one-lane road that can be pretty busy, so take it slow. (That may make you less offensive to the people who live along the road and probably would rather it stayed less traveled.)
At the end of the road there are parking lots and restrooms - and the reward - an incredibly beautiful beach. A short path shaded by a tangled web of cypress trees spills out onto the crescent of sand.
Rocky cliffs form the backdrop. Ahead, just offshore, rock formations rise from the blue-green water. Large holes carved into the rock by the powerful currents provide picture windows to the sea.
Take a hike. Take a nap. Take a dip. Unfurl a blanket. Unpack a picnic. Unwind.