Discovering the Adventure
Big Sur Beaches South

They're Beautiful, But Big Sur Beaches South, North, and in Between Can Be Dangerous!

Before you visit Big Sur beaches South - or any beach in Northern California - please follow this link to our Beach Safety Tips. You'll find suggestions for keeping you and your family safe at the beach! Use your Browser's Back Button to return here when you're finished.

Big Sur Beaches South: Sand Dollar Beach Picnic Area

Sand Dollar Beach; Photographer UnknownSand Dollar Beach; Photographer Unknown

Pure white sand, a long and wide beach, good surfing and fishing, picnic tables and BBQs; what more could you want?

The beach is even dog friendly, as long as your pooch is on a leash!

Located just across from Plaskett Creek Campground, Sand Dollar is well protected from both north and south winds, so it's often warmer than most NorCal beaches.

No wonder it's so crowded on the weekends! There's something for everyone at Sand Dollar Beach!

Four Things About Sand Dollar Beach

  • There are restrooms and water, but no food, no stores - so bring lunch and snacks if you plan to spend some time
  • It's a day use only beach, and there is a vehicle fee (currently $5.00)
  • This is one of the few places along Big Sur where swimming is actually allowed - be aware, though - the ocean can still be tricky and there's no lifeguard here!
  • No nudity here either

Things To Do At Sand Dollar Beach

  • Picnicking
  • Enjoying the scenic views - photographing them too
  • Enjoying the wildlife
  • Ocean fishing (California Fishing License required once again)
  • Swimming
  • SCUBA diving
  • Surfing - Sand Dollar is a popular surfing spot & is a pretty good place for beginners (again, though, be aware!)
  • Camping (at Plaskett Creek Campgrounds)

Still want more Big Sur Beaches South? Keep going, the best is coming!

Big Sur Beaches South: Jade Cove

An Insider's Secret: Who knew there was jade in California? It was many years before I discovered this little secret!

Jade Cove is a wonderful, almost clandestine treasure trove - not because of its nice beach (there isn't one), but because it's a terrific place to hunt for California Jade.

Travel a short distance south of Sand Dollar Beach and look for the Jade Cove sign. There's a pullout where you can park and take the short path down to the boulder-strewn "beach." Be careful on the trail as it's fairly steep.

As a beachcomber, you may very well be able to find bits of Jade along the shoreline, especially after a storm. Look around among the tidepools, the course gravel, and the boulders. Give it some thought: "Where would I hide if I were a piece of Jade and had been tossed up on the beach by a wave?"

But, seriously, your odds are better if you're a diver. The waters are part of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, but you don't need a permit to dive here. Just check with the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary for the regulations governing your activities.

Important Information for You to Know: There are regulations re the collection of any type of gem or mineral in the state of California. Here's what you need to know about collecting Jade:

From the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary website: "Jade may be collected (meaning removed) from the area bounded by the beach access stairway at south Sand Dollar Beach, the westernmost tip of Cape San Martin, and from the mean high tide line seaward to the 90-foot depth line ("the authorized area")."

As long as you are collecting no more than you can carry and it's for personal use, you should be good to go!

Four Things About Jade Cove:

  • There are no facilities at Jade Cove, and no drinking water
  • It's a day use only area, but there's no fee
  • There's no swimming allowed - the currents are much too strong!
  • You won't find nude sunbathers here (although SCUBA divers may be changing in or out of wetsuits)

Things To Do At Jade Cove:

  • Taking in the scenic views
  • Looking for wildlife
  • Hiking and Backpacking nearby
  • Fishing in the ocean (greenlings, blue rockfish, lings . . . California Fishing License always required!)
  • Landing your hang glider - this is a designated hang glider landing site!
  • And, of course, SCUBA diving and hunting for Jade (be aware there is a lot of kelp in the cove - that and the currents can make this a dive that requires caution)

Big Sur Beaches South:
Willow Creek Picnic Area and Beach

Willow Creek; CC Zachariah BorenWillow Creek; CC Zachariah Boren

Willow Creek is a rocky little beach that's about two miles south of Jade Cove. There's a large turnout Vista Point for lovely scenic views, and a road that will take you on down to the beach.

Willow Creek makes a nice stopping off place for a picnic lunch, especially when you're traveling South on Highway 1.

Four Things About Willow Creek

  • There are restrooms here, but no food or stores
  • It's a day use only area, operated by Parks Management Company, but there's no fee
  • There's nothing to prevent you from swimming here, but there's no lifeguard.
  • You won't find nude sunbathers here (although surfers may be changing in or out of wetsuits)

Things To Do At Willow Creek:

  • Picnicking
  • Taking in & photographing the scenic views
  • Looking for wildlife
  • Fishing in the ocean . . . California Fishing License always required!
  • Surfing

Big Sur Beaches South:
Point Piedras Blancas; Elephant Seal Beach

Elephant Seal Beach; © Elin BeckmannElephant Seal Beach; © Elin Beckmann

Travel about 20 miles south of Willow Creek and you'll find one of the most interesting spots along the Big Sur coastline!

Point Piedras Blancas is the home base of an elephant seal colony.

Although the seals don't live here (they spend most of their lives living a solitary existence traveling thousands of miles of the ocean in search of food), they return to this same spot every year for birthing, breeding, and molting.

An Insider's Secret: Although there are elephant seals present almost any time of the year, the peak seasons are Winter (between December and February - birthing and breeding season), and early Summer (April to June - peak molting season).

Four Things About Point Piedras Blancas:

  • There are no facilities here, but just to the north is the little community of Piedras Blancas where you'll find restaurants, restrooms, gas stations, etc.
  • There's a walking path with interpretive signs telling you about the elephant seal colony and its history; also the blue-coated docents from Friends of the Elephant Seal are often available to answer questions
  • No swimming here, and no actual beach access - this is a place for sightseeing the best kind of sights - nature in action!
  • The only nudity you'll see here is the elephant seals during molting season . . . (just my little joke!)

Things To Do At Point Piedras Blancas:

  • Taking in the scenic views
  • Watching the wildlife - as if elephant seals weren't enough, there's more! (See "Other Wildlife" below)
  • Walking the self-touring path to learn about elephant seals
  • There are guided tours available for tour buses and school groups through the Friends of the Elephant Seal

Other Wildlife at Point Piedras Blancas

Thanks to the elephant seals that set up their rookery here, and the prolific kelp beds in the area, and annual migrations - Point Piedras Blancas is one of the best marine wildlife viewing areas on the coast.

Here's a list of some of the marine life you might see:

  • Gray whales on their annual migration
  • Harbor seals
  • Orcas, an elephant seal predator, are occasionally spotted
  • Sea lions
  • Bottlenose dolphins
  • Sea otters
  • Great white sharks (another elephant seal predator)

Well, I hope you've enjoyed our little tour of Big Sur's beaches as much as we have. Big Sur is truly a place not to be missed!

And if you haven't checked out our other Big Sur Beaches pages yet, give these a try:

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