South of Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, halfway up a long steep incline, a small road turns west and leads down through dark and heavily overgrown Sycamore Canyon, eventually winding up at Big Sur’s best beach, Pfeiffer Beach. From the lot at the end of the road, a short trail runs through a grove of trees before opening onto the broad white sands, loomed over by a pair of hulking offshore rocks. The water is way too cold for swimming, but the half-mile strand is one of the few places in Big Sur where you can enjoy extended beachcombing strolls. The beach’s northern half attracts a clothing-optional crew, even on cool gray days.

Back along Hwy-1, just south of the turnoff for Sycamore Canyon and Pfeiffer Beach, the excellent Big Sur Bakery & Restaurant (831/667-0520) makes its own fresh breads and pastries, brews a rich cup of coffee, and also serves full meals—soups, steaks, and wood-fired pizzas.

Map of Pacific Coast through California's Central Coast.
Map of Pacific Coast through California’s Central Coast.