Dana Point Beaches

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Highlights | Logistics & Amenities | Getting There

Dana Point may just be the most romantic spot on the California Coast, as Richard Henry Dana described it over 150 years ago in his classic sea adventure, Two Years Before the Mast. Located halfway between San Diego and Los Angeles in the southern corner of Orange County, Dana Point is a bit secluded but still close to the action.

Dana Point Highlights

Dana Point highlights include Dana Point Harbor, the Ocean Institute, Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching, the Dana Point Marine Life Refuge, Salt Creek Beach Park, Doheny State Park, and Capistrano Beach.

Dana Point Harbor. In keeping with its storied history, the harbor is home to a unique treasure: the ships Pilgrim and Spirit of Dana Point. Dana Point Harbor, the headlands that overlook it, and the perfect beaches that border it offer visitors a rich source of fun and relaxation. Watch the yachts slip in and out of the harbor, stroll the marina, check out the seasonal whale-watching tours (December–April), or set up a sportfishing date. Visit the great shops and restaurants. You can also fish, sign up for a harbor cruise, and watch dolphins. This beautiful harbor and surrounding shops and restaurants are well worth a stop on their own.

The Ocean Institute. Nestled against the bluffs in Dana Point Harbor, this nonprofit organization is dedicated to ocean preservation through education. Be sure to visit the Education Center and climb aboard the Pilgrim for a tour, which is available most Sundays.

Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching. Dana Wharf is the leader in high quality fishing and whale watching experiences since 1958. Whale watching and fishing trips run daily. Dana Wharf caters to both the novice and the expert anglers and whale watchers and is fun for the whole family. Private charters are also available. Be sure to check out the brand new 65 catamaran the Ocean Adventures. www.danawharf.com (949) 496-5794. Logistics and Amenities: Dana Wharf is open daily 5:00AM - 10:00PM and has free, long-term parking for customers.

Dana Point Marine Life Refuge. Low tide brings tide pool adventurers to the far west side of Dana Point Harbor. Please respect this important marine habitat by observing only — don’t touch or remove anything from a tide pool.

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Salt Creek Beach Park. Salt Creek Beach Park (called Strands Beach by locals) is beloved by surfers, swimmers, and just about everyone else. Bluff Park is ideal for a sunset barbeque. Or you can enter the park through the pedestrian gate south of Ritz Carlton Drive to access a paved path above the beach. Rest on a bench and contemplate the blue Pacific, look for Catalina Island in the distance, or haul out the camera. This path joins a trail north for further exploration. Several stairways and paths lead to the beach, or you can keep going east by a golf course and eventually to Salt Creek and a few more miles of trails.

Doheny State Park. As beaches go, Doheny State Park rates four stars and a thumbs up! The warm waters and mile-long white sand beach have been popular for years. Surfers and regular beachgoers flock here. Doheny also draws tide pool explorers and surf fishers. Set up a beach umbrella in the sand or on a grassy area, build a castle, or bike along San Juan Creek Trail. The creek bisects North and South Doheny. The Doheny State Marine Life Refuge is directly offshore for diving and snorkeling. Nearby marshes offer great bird watching. Don’t miss the visitor center at the entrance to Doheny — it features five aquariums, some great surfing photos, and a gift shop.

Capistrano Beach. Located 2 miles south of Dana Point Harbor, Capistrano Beach is a great family destination.

Dana Point Logistics & Amenities

Ocean Institute: Closed during the week for classes but facility tours are available Thursday and Friday at 4 pm. Open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays.

Salt Creek Beach Park: Parking is available at a large metered lot. Bluff Park has picnic facilities and wheel-chair accessible restrooms.

Doheny State Park: Restrooms, picnic areas, volleyball courts, seasonal lifeguards, beach equipment rentals, and food concessions. Parking cost $5 per vehicle the last time we checked.

Capistrano: Restrooms, outdoor showers, parking (metered), volleyball and basketball courts, and fire rings. During the summer, you can buy food and beach supplies at concessions.

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Getting There

Dana Point Harbor: From I-5, take the Beach Cities exit (stay in left lane), which becomes Pacific Coast Highway, and then turn left on Dana Point Harbor Drive. From Beach Cities to the north, take Pacific Coast Highway south.

Ocean Institute: Take Pacific Coast Highway to Dana Point Harbor Drive and follow it to just past Cove Road.

Marine Life Refuge: Park at the Ocean Institute lot and follow the paved path to the shore.

Salt Creek Beach Park: Take Ritz Carlton Drive off the Pacific Coast Highway. Head west to the beach and Bluff Park.

Doheny State Park: Take Pacific Coast Highway to Dana Harbor Drive.

Capistrano: Take Pacific Coast Highway and go west on Del Obispo. Take a left on Beach Road.

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Surf & Weather
Orange County Weather
Orange County Surf Report
Orange County Links
Orange County Beach Safety Info

Local Highlights & Info
Mission San Juan Capistrano
Bolsa Dana Point Ocean Institute Dana Wharf Sportfishing

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