Pfeiffer Beach Keyhole Rock – a look at the varying moods found here

A cave with a light coming out of it.

Pfeiffer Beach Keyhole Rock

Pfeiffer Beach Keyhole Rock – just a big rock in the ocean? Not at all. This bit of geology lends itself to varying moods and emotions. It’s Big Sur in miniature.

Fire in the Hole! Liquid fire pours through the archway in Keyhole Rock on Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur

Fire in the Arch –
A lovely shot of the sun through the sun portal in Keyhole Rock at Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur
Photo by Anita Ritenour – view original


We’re back to the beach this week. And not just any beach, but Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur, that hard to find beach with purple sand.

During the winter (December and January), when the sun is setting in the southwest, it shines through this opening in a large rock just off the beach and creates wonderful opportunities for magnificent photographs such as this one.

Keyhole Rock at Pfeiffer Beach with the moon

A wider view of Keyhole Rock just after the sun has set

We’ve spoken about how to find Pfeiffer Beach in Big Sur on another page, but here we’ll concentrate on the different moods that Pfeiffer Beach can show.

And the photos here don’t really cover all the sides that this wondrous place can show. Fog, full sun, morning, sunset – all these conditions make this interesting rock come alive.

If you wish to see and photograph the beautiful phenomenon, be sure to arrive earlier than just around sunset.

First, it is very popular with photographers and the word is spreading. Finding a good spot can be difficult some days.

Secondly, there are a limited number of parking spots at Pfeiffer Beach, when they’re filled you just have to turn around and be disappointed.

All the information on this day use beach in the Los Padres National Forest can be found here.

Pfeiffer Beach Keyhole Rock

Daylight and high tide view of Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

The Keyhole Arch in daylight and high tide

Compared with the earlier photos, this one almost appears to be a completely different place.

Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer Beach at sunset, Big Sur

Another sunset through the Pfeiffer Beach Keyhole Rock

With many places in Central California, and certainly Big Sur, there should be no “Been there, done that” dismissal.

You haven’t been there, nor done that with this light, with this tide, with this cloud cover or fog. Pfeiffer Beach can be entirely different even within the course of one day.

Hazy and low tide at Pfeiffer Beach Keyhole Rock

Mid-winter low tide at the Keyhole Rock

Not every vacation or getaway has unlimited time or opportunities to stop at every interesting place.

Well, I’ve never had that luxury when traveling. It always seems as if you’re juggling having to be somewhere versus taking all the time that you want to explore an interesting place.

But even if you’ve been to Pfeiffer Beach Keyhole Rock before, another stop might be in order. You never know what you’ll find or what mood the beach might be in. And that’s rather fun, isn’t it?

Elizabeth Taylor at Pfeiffer Beach Sandpiper

A 1965 movie, The Sandpiper, was shot in the Big Sur area. Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton starred. I was looking at a trailer for the movie and spotted this scene taken at Pfeiffer Beach. Famous even back then…

Here’s a wish – I’ve never seen a photo of this rock taken from the opposite side at sunset. Now that would require being on a kayak or using a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) otherwise known as a “drone”. Perhaps someday…

Keyhole Rock, daylight and low tide, Pfeiffer Beach, Big Sur

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