Driving Big Sur can be rather disconcerting for the driver because the passengers are gasping in wonder and exclaiming - "Look at that!" - around every turn. There really is that much beauty and wonder in this section of California coastline.
If you plan on driving Big Sur and exploring its beaches, be sure to allow extra time for frequent stops to view the spectacular scenery. There are numerous pull-outs along the route which allow this to be done safely. Besides, if you wanted to make "good time" you'd be on Highway 101, right?
The beaches of Big Sur are definitely not like those of Southern California - broad and sandy with a city in the background. These are mostly rocky beaches at the foot of steep slopes leading to 3000 foot peaks within one or two miles.
Generally speaking, Big Sur beaches are more of a destination of nice trail walks than the usual beach trip. There are some nice sandy places, like Andrew Molera beach or Pfeiffer Beach. The water is cold year-round and many days are foggy.
But don't let any of that put you off. Just know what to expect and your breath will still be taken away by the grandeur of the place.
Big Sur beaches are indeed special places, but unfortunately, criminals are there as well. Unattended vehicles have been a particular target where the thieves will break a window and take whatever valuables are there. Takes 30 seconds at the most.
Wallets, credit cards, cash, jewelry, electronic devices will all probably fit into a small backpack that you can take with you when you're down by the beach. It might be a hassle, but that's the stuff thieves want, not your socks...
It's hard, especially here, where your attention is riveted on the scenery. It's a good habit to have, not only here. Who doesn't look like they belong? What doesn't look right? Check out the parking area before you stop. If something hits you as "wrong", drive on and...
911 works here. Let the sheriff sort it out. If you have information about a particular crime or criminal, you can call:
831-647-7702 - This is the Sheriff's Coastal Station, or
888-833-4847 - This is an Anonymous Tip Line.
The trunk is safer than the passenger compartment, but if they break a window, they can just pop the trunk from inside the car. If you will be using the trunk (and you really should be taking valuables with you, right?) put those things there before you leave your hotel or meal stop. Don't do it in Big Sur. The bad guys will be watching.
Note Well: Winter (or Spring) storms can wreak havoc with California Highway 1 causing landslides which block the road for weeks at a time. The road was completely closed for several weeks during the late winter and spring of 2012. There is almost always road work going on here. It is a very good idea to check the CalTrans site for current road conditions before you set out.
How to read California mileage markers (no, not a beach, but important for finding where to turn for the beach)
Andrew Molera State Park
Pfeiffer Beach (not to be confused with Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park or Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park)
Also see: Pfeiffer Beach Keyhole Rock