Partington Cove

Beach in Big Sur

Image by Doug Steakley Getty Images

This is a raw, breathtaking spot where crashing surf salts your skin. On the steep, half-mile dirt hike down to the cove, you’ll cross a cool bridge and go through an even cooler tunnel. The cove's water is unbelievably aqua and within it grow tangled kelp forests. Look for the unmarked trailhead turnoff inside a hairpin turn on the ocean side of Hwy 1, about 6 miles south of Nepenthe restaurant and 2 miles north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

The trail starts just beyond the locked vehicle gate. There’s no real beach access and ocean swimming isn’t safe, but some people scamper on the rocks and look for tide pools as waves splash ominously. Originally used for loading tanbark, Partington Cove allegedly became a landing spot for Prohibition-era bootleggers.