Note: (January 2017) The ocean side of Garrapata State Park is open, the park on the east side of Hwy 1 remains closed due to the 2016 Soberanes fire and the severe winter rains of 2016 – 2017. Check here for the latest information about the trails and state parks along the BIg Sur coast.
If you’re looking for some California Beach in a rocky coastline setting, head south on Hwy 1 from Monterey for a few minutes. Garrapata State Park Beach is your first really good chance to get on a wide stretch of beach as you head to Big Sur.
Heading south, you’ll pass Monastery Beach (which the locals call ‘Mortuary Beach’ because the steep beach profile and wave action make it deceptively easy to get into real trouble) but you can do much better by spending an extra 20 minutes heading down to Garrapata.
As you drive down Hwy 1, you’ll see a few cars parked along the roadway, but keep going until you see a longer stretch of road where there’s room for 20 cars or so. This is the easiest place to get to the beach… it’s about a 100 yard walk to the stairs that lead to the sand. Watch for traffic as you walk along the roadway.
The beach is fronted by some of the big rocks you see everywhere along this part of the California coast, and backed by a 40 foot bluff cut away from the rolling hills that run along this part of the coastline.
The Coastal Trail runs along the top of the bluff above the beach and you’ll get nice vistas of the entire beach area and the hills on the other side of Hwy 1.
Like I said, there are some beach stops before you get to Garrapata, but this is your best chance for easy access to a nice stretch of California beach in a beautiful setting.
Kid Factor: (+) Sand, swimming, exploring, rocks to climb, beachcombing, geology. (-) Cold water, surf/waves can be strong.
Photo Factor: California coastline, western sunset, overlooks from sandy bluffs, nearby flora (although very brown as of this writing – Jan 2014- because of prolonged drought).
Fitness Factor: Short trail to 3 flight staircase. No ADA access. Beachside hiking trails generally flat with a few points of incline.