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Things to do in Dana Point

Dana Point has a history in Orange County that began as the primary port for nearby San Juan Capistrano. During its peak in the 1840s, Dana Point staked its claim as one of the few harbors in the area. In 1923, director of the Pacific Electric Railway, General M. H. Sherman and the Los Angeles Times publisher, Harry Chandler, started a real estate development company and in 1926, they began the Dana Point Syndicate. This project bolstered the area and promised modern amenities including sidewalks and electricity, and from this came Lantern Village.

Here are the must-see destinations in Dana Point.

Dana Point Harbor

Dana Point Bucket List

Dana Point Harbor Dr., Dana Point 92629

Dana Point Harbor offers dining, shopping, exploring, and boating. This active harbor is the hub of Dana Point in part because of their amenities. Notable shops in the harbor include Golden Galleon Boutique which has been voted the Best Ladies Fashion Boutique in Dana Point, and the eclectic souvenir shop, Woody Hut. Whatever you’re looking for, from fine art and home décor to clothing and gifts, Dana Point is sure to please.

Dana Point Harbor offers ocean-focused activities including whale watching, fishing, and boating to name a few. Known as the whale capital of the world, Dana Point is a magical place to witness these majestic animals in the wild right here in Orange County.

During the holiday season there is the festive Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade with decorated boats and a slew of instagram-worthy installations along the beautifully decorated marina. March celebrates the migration of the California Grey whale with the always fun Festival of Whales.

The Harbor is also a rental heavy location which allows you to enjoy kayaking, paddleboarding, sailing, and cruises all for an hourly or daily fee without all the hassle and cost of buying your own equipment. Since the 1800s this picture perfect harbor has been a constant for locals and tourists looking to be a part of nature. If you are craving a day in the sun surrounded by gorgeous water, be sure to head to Dana Point Harbor!

Ocean Institute

24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, CA 92629

With their mission to use the ocean as a classroom, the Ocean Institute sets out to teach children marine science. Founded in 1977 and originally known as the Orange County Marine Institute, this non-profit educates visitors about California’s most beautiful ecosystem and has done so for over 110,000 guests annually.

In 1999 the Board of Directors voted to expand and in 2002 they opened a new 2.4 acre six building campus to better accommodate the growth of the non-profit. The Ocean Institute now sees a multitude of eager learners and offers numerous ways for visitors to explore, and most importantly learn, about the surrounding ocean. The Ocean Institute offers virtual tours for those unable to make it on site but there are also programs such as Spring Break camps for 5 to 12-year olds, College Fairs, Whale Tale Dockside Experiments, and sailing adventures aboard the Spirit of Dana Point to name a few.

As a non-profit, the Ocean Institute looks to expand and continue their mission of teaching. One way they have maintained their reputation is through donations from their membership program. This membership program offers various discounts for the entire family to enjoy unlimited educational experiences at a lower cost. Be sure to check out the Ocean Institute for a splashing good time!

Whale Watching

Dana Point is one of the best locations to whale watch, with charters departing daily from the Harbor. There are three primary whale watching tour companies: Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari, Dana Wharf Whale Watching, and OC Ocean Adventures, where you can enjoy the whales with the pros. From gray whales migrating in the winter to blue whales in the spring, head south to Dana Point to see these beautiful animals in the waters of Orange County.

According to CBS Los Angeles, Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari is “the best whale watching in the world.” This cruise experience company offers numerous options to come close to whales and dolphins in a variety of vessels including low to the water zodiac style boats, glass bottom boats, and private charters to fit your individual needs and are offered starting at $65. 24440 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, 92629

For fifty years, Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching Charters has offered an action-filled whale watching experience. Dana Whale Watching Charters is a great option to get out there and enjoy the animals with the pros that also offer experiences like half price Tuesdays, catamarans, and private tours. 34675 Golden Lantern Drive, Dana Point, 92629

OC Ocean Adventures is the third whale watching company in the Harbor where visitors can take in nature from the 63-foot catamaran. This company also offers specialty cruises such as wine tours through the Harbor. Whichever company you choose, whale watching out of Dana Point is sure to please! 34675 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, 92629

Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area

Park where Green Lantern becomes Scenic Drive

The Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area is exactly the place to be for a hike, run, or just a stroll to the beach when you want to get out in the great outdoors for the day. The Headlands Conservation Area Trail System is a series of four conservation parks that cover over 60 acres and connect to various points across the city.

Getting out on the scenic trails and taking in the coastline from Harbor Point Conservation Park while trekking through the well maintained dirt path is one of the most notable activities visitors and locals can do while in Dana Point.

The four conservation parks include Hilltop Conservation Park, Harbor Point Conservation Park, Dana Point Preserve, and the South Strands Conservation Park. The system is designed to create open space for optimal coastal access, connect the public parks and create a space for an active lifestyle, public artwork, and educational programs to further the conservation of wildlife in the area. A 3-mile long trail system interconnects the four conservation parks.

Looking around at the Headlands, trail goers can take in some of the million dollar Dana Point views. If you have a hankering for the outdoors head on out for a dose of vitamin D.

Doris Walker Overlook

34400 Old Golden Lantern, Dana Point 92629

Located in Heritage Park, the Doris Walker Overlook is a place to take in the views on the trails and pay homage to the journalist and the City of Dana Point Historical Society.

The bronze structure adorns an open book to depict Walker’s remarkable impact on the community through her literary tellings. The tribute bears the phrase “Home Port for Romance” on a plaque because of the same titled book she wrote telling the story of Dana Point. This must see spot holds much more than just the beauty that Walker described in her writing, it is Dana Point history.

Doris Walker Overlook sits on Compass Point, surrounded by the beautiful horizon and makes you feel one with the natural beauty while also admiring what Doris Walker meant to Dana Point. If history and getting out in nature for a great view is what you’re looking for, the Doris Walker Overlook is a must see.

Dana Point Arches/Elevator at Blufftop Trail

24606 Santa Clara Avenue, Dana Point 92629

Found past the condo development, The Admiralty, sits the hidden and unfinished remains of the Dana Point Inn. Dubbed The Arches, they now hold the public Blufftop Trail which leads hikers across the bluffs where Dana Point Inn would’ve been.

Lamp posts, an elevator shaft, and the Arches are the only things to mark S.H. Woodruff’s unfinished vision and give Dana Point some mysterious allure among the natural beauty already present.

While many don’t view Dana Point as this history-rich town, the Arches tell a story of the race to develop the picturesque California coast. Now, Bluff Top Trail is home to the Hide Drogher bronze statue which was unveiled in 1990, a mere two years after Dana Point became a city. Hide Drogher statue depicts a 19th century sailor tossing cowhides from the bluffs for trade to the passing ships, yet another depiction of the Point’s history and a great point to visit.

Woodruff wanted the Dana Point Inn to be the centerpiece of the coastal town but now it is the center for hikers and those on the prowl for the perfect view atop the concrete slabs from half a century ago.

I Heart Yoga

34485 Golden Lantern, Dana Point, CA 92629

I Heart Yoga sets out to make yoga more accessible to everyone. Voted number one yoga studio in Dana Point for the last five years, I Heart Yoga offers more than a healthy workout, which is what keeps them on top.

I Heart Yoga offers great adventures like SUP yoga and yoga on the south lawn at Lantern Bay Park three times a day including sunset yoga sessions during the week. Yoga classes offered here are more than just yoga, they are a community of adventurers.

This yoga studio also offers an all-inclusive 3-day, 2-night retreat in Mexico that features their signature yoga classes. You may also purchase wine tours, surfboard rentals, or simply explore beautiful Rosarito.

The I Heart Yoga studio offers memberships for both studio and park classes that fit any budget. They are truly a must visit studio in south county.

Doheny Beach

25300 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629

Doheny State Beach is a must see whenever in Dana Point. Doheny State Beach has a lot to offer novice surfers and families. This state beach offers amenities including picnic areas, barbeques, and showers, making it as great a family beach as it is a surfing beach.

The campground has restrooms, showers, and a dump site; however, the campground does not offer hookups to RV campers.

Doheny is a particularly remarkable surfing location and as the first state beach, Doheny has a long history in the surfing community. Whether you find yourself looking to take the plunge and surf, or you want to watch from the California sand, Doheny is the place to be.

Dana Point Harbor Stand-Up Paddleboarding

34571 Golden Lantern Street, Dana Point

Stand-Up Paddle Boarding is a great workout and a great way to see the coastline. While there are numerous spots to paddleboard, Dana Point is a hub for paddleboarders, both novice and experienced.

If you find yourself here, a great place to launch your board is Baby Beach where beginners can gain their bearings before dealing with the open ocean.

Paddleboarders exploring the harbor have a lot to see and even more to do. Dana Point has great amenities including dockside dining, that many other nearby beaches don’t offer. If you’re looking for a strength workout with blue skies and crystal clear water then look no further and be sure to check out this great experience!

Frisby Cellars

34673 Golden Lantern St Dana Point

Frisby Cellars wine is from Paso Robles but is best tasted in Dana Point Harbor. Tasting from a wine flight consisting of six of the most divine selections, this wine flight option never fails to satisfy.

Their wine club is also a great choice for those who would like to enjoy a glass from the comfort of home. Frisby Cellars brings the vineyard to the Southern California coast.

John Frisby is an Orange County local and Firefighter who wanted to bring the great taste of California wine to an amazing location. If you are looking for quality wine in a sleek tasting room then Frisby Cellars is the mother lode.


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Rebecca has an undeniable love of writing and recently graduated from Cal State Long Beach with a degree in journalism. She enjoys watching hockey, scuba diving, swimming, and working out.