Big Sur is a hot destination for a number of reasons - and quite literally, at times. In the summer, this coastal shoreline - also named one of the 'most beautiful in the world' by the Washington Times - features California temps that necessitate a day of swimming. However, Big Sur is also home to some of the most dangerous beach conditions in the world, making that seem impossible. So, where, exactly, can visitors to this scenic coastline take a dip? Luckily, there are some options in this Pacific Coast paradise in the form of state park swimming holes.
Can You Actually Swim In Big Sur, On Its Beaches?
While one's first intention when visiting Big Sur's gorgeous beaches might be to run into the surf, this is not recommended. For starters, the power of these Pacific Coast waves alone is something many should be wary of. With strong currents that are capable of sweeping a person out to sea, there's more false security in these crashing waves that outweighs the potential for a refreshing swim. It's far too easy for beachgoers to be knocked off their feet when the tide rushes in, and these rocky shorelines are not places where any swimmer wants to be stuck.
Swimming is not recommended on any beach in Big Sur, and rescues are often difficult due to the ever-churning waters and strong currents that exist just offshore.
Here's Where You Can Swim In Big Sur: Swimming Holes
Many people are familiar with the idea of a swimming hole. In Big Sur, these are far safer for taking a dip than its beach shores and are easy enough to find. Those who enjoy a bit of a hike will also find value in seeking these out, as they offer great scenery along with a refreshing swim. Many of these swimming holes are located near rivers and scenic waterways, of which there are many in Big Sur. From the most popular to some of the more secluded options for a swim, here are some safer alternatives to swimming at Big Sur's beaches.
The majority of the swimming holes in Big Sur are located in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Map the Memories recommends using Lot 3, and then hiking up to the Bixby Creek Bridge, where the hiking trails beyond lead hikers to its most popular swimming spots.
Gorge Swimming Hole
It wouldn't be uncommon for visitors to the Gorge Swimming Hole to find plenty of people around when they visit. This is one of the most popular swimming holes in Big Sur and for good reason. The swimming hole itself is surrounded by rock walls on all sides which, in reality, are just giant boulders. The water does get fairly deep, and there is plenty of room to swim around, even on its most crowded days. As an extra added bonus, this swimming hole also features a small beach where many opt to sunbathe following their swim.
Do not jump off the rocks at the Gorge Swimming Hole, as its deepest point is only about eight feet.
Salmon Falls Swimming Hole
Another great option for a dip is the Salmon Falls Swimming Hole. What makes this option so attractive to potential swimmers is its one striking, natural feature: a waterfall. At the bottom of this beautiful cascade, visitors will find a swimming hole that's absolutely perfect for a summer day following a hike through Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. While the hiking trail to reach it is somewhat moderate in nature and does require a bit of rock scrambling and some wet-water-wading through the river, it's worth it. However, the trail is not difficult to the point where novice hikers should feel intimidated, as this waterfall is also the best in the entire park.
Hikers should have footwear with good traction, as traversing slippery rocks can often lead to slips and falls.
In Conclusion: Where You Should (And Shouldn't Swim) In Big Sur
While Big Sur's beaches might look enticing to someone who is in desperate need of a swim, it's not recommended for anyone - including the strongest of swimmers. This includes popular beaches such as Monastery Beach and Pfeiffer Beach, as well as Garrapata and Andrew Molera State Park beaches. The tides are unpredictable and are far too rough to allow any kind of safe swimming. So much so, that Big Sur's beaches are also considered some of the most dangerous in the world. The Telegraph reports that 11% of all the world's great white shark attacks also happen at Big Sur's beaches, due to its location within the Red Triangle.
Therefore, if the strong currents and powerful waves aren't enough to keep one out of the water, the statistics on Big Sur's shark attacks just might be.
In stark contrast, Big Sur's swimming holes within Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park are safe to swim in, and swimming is also highly encouraged here. With no threats of strong currents or predatory animals, they offer the best swimming in Big Sur, and even along the coast of California.