McWay cove, a beautiful sandy bay with blue waters and gushing waterfall into the ocean
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Place

McWay Cove Beach

By Pat Dorri | Updated on 6 November 2023

While you can't head down to the shore of McWay Cove Beach, you can most certainly enjoy incredible views from the overlooks surrounding it. Found within stunning Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, along the Big Sur coastline, you can marvel at the secluded cove, gushing waterfalls and towering cliffs from a distance.

A quick overview of McWay Cove Beach, California
Street Address📍CA-1, Big Sur 93920
Facilities at this beach

🕒 Opening hours (Inaccessible, enjoy from overlooks)

🚗 Parking (Up to $10)

🚻 Public restrooms

Where can I find the McWay Cove Beach along the Pacific Coast Highway?

McWay Cove Beach is located in Big Sur, along the Pacific Coast Highway, and part of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. When driving along the Pacific Coast Highway, McWay Cove Beach is about 15 miles south of the Big Sur Ranger Station.

Parking can be limited, especially during peak tourist seasons, however check out either a spot at the entrance to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, or alongside the road, north or south of the entrance.

Monterey is the closest major city to McWay Cove Beach, around an hour away at a distance of about 40 miles.

Why we love visiting McWay Cove Beach

There are plenty of reasons why you should make a stop at the overlook of McWay Cove Beach found in Big Sur along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway.

The views from the overlook trail, especially during sunset, make McWay Cove Beach a visual treat, with its location within Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park providing an opportunity to explore other trails and local natural wonders.

How we rate the different aspects of McWay Cove Beach
FeatureOur rating
Natural beauty and scenery⭐⭐⭐⭐
Cleanliness and water quality⭐⭐⭐
Peace and quiet⭐⭐⭐
Activities on offer⭐
Accessibility⭐

McWay Cove Beach is inaccessible to the public, so you admire from further afar. This restriction means the cove is untouched and pristine.

The overlook from the trail provides great views of the cove, waterfall, and coastline. A popular photography spot, many visitors time a visit with the incredible sun set.

McWay Falls is the centerpiece of McWay Cove, one of the few waterfalls in the world that empties into the ocean. The unique positioning and scenic backdrop make it an iconic feature of the California coast.

McWay Cove Beach is in the heart of Big Sur, known for dramatic cliffs and redwood forests. This location is a haven for nature enthusiasts.

Beautiful view of the scenic McWay Falls in evening light at sunset on a beautiful sunny day from top of a hill in Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Big Sur, California
Take in the beautiful view of the scenic McWay Falls.
canadastock/Shutterstock.com

Our guide on the Pacific Coast Highway start and end has plenty of amazing views and attractions, including McWay Falls. Check it out to see where else to stop off and admire along the way.

What else is there to do near McWay Cove Beach?

After you've enjoyed viewing the incredible views over McWay Cove Beach, why not check out some of these other local attractions?

  1. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park - A haven for nature lovers, this park showcases incredible redwoods alongside views of the Pacific Ocean.
  2. Partington Cove - This hidden nook of Big Sur reveals a quiet marine cove.
  3. Waterfall Overlook Trail - Perfect for those seeking a quick yet rewarding hike, this trail showcases seaside waterfalls.
  4. Saddle Rock Ranch Overlook - From here enjoy panoramic views of Big Sur's wild coastline.
  5. Ewoldsen Trail - As you journey along this path you can expect to see plenty of ancient redwoods and coastal vistas.

Common questions about visiting McWay Cove Beach

The beautiful views over McWay Cove Beach are the reason it makes this setting so impressive, however as you can't head down directly onto the beach here are some things to bear in mind.

Is McWay Cove Beach accessible and open year-round?

❌ No, McWay Cove Beach is inaccessible to the public, so you admire from further afar.

Can I enjoy water sports at McWay Cove Beach?

❌ No, you can not enjoy water sports at McWay Cove Beach.

Is McWay Cove Beach easily accessible for those using wheelchairs or strollers?

❌ No, McWay Cove Beach is not accessible for those using wheelchairs or strollers.

Is there anywhere to buy refreshments at McWay Cove Beach?

❌ No, you can not buy refreshments at McWay Cove Beach.

Are dogs allowed on McWay Cove Beach?

❌ No, dogs are not allowed at McWay Cove Beach.

Are there any changing facilities at McWay Cove Beach?

❌ No, there are no changing facilities or showers at McWay Cove Beach.

Are there any beach chairs or umbrellas to hire at McWay Cove Beach?

❌ No, there are no beach chairs or umbrellas to hire at McWay Cove Beach.

Is there anything else to watch out for when I visit McWay Cove Beach?

There are designated trails that offer breath taking views of the waterfall and cove, however it's crucial to stay on these paths, for safety and to protect the landscape.

While Big Sur is a popular tourist destination, it's pretty remote with limited services, especially when you go further south. Ensure you have gas and supplies when you set off exploring, and download any offline maps.

Aerial view of McWay Falls as the waterfall empties directly into the ocean
The incredible views of McWay Falls are sure to leave a lasting impression.
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