Doheny State Beach is a marine life protected beach in California’s expansive state park system. It is arguably the most popular beach for surfers, local sunbathers, and world travelers looking for that California feeling. Located in the pristine surfside city of Dana Point, this beach is formed from flowing waters from the Santa Ana Mountains to the north. Here, waters deposit into the mouth of the San Juan Creek which form a freshwater lagoon right on the Pacific Ocean.
The beach itself is over 62 acres in size and was originally donated by the oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny for public use on May 31, 1931. Hence the name being Doheny Beach, in recognition of this gift. When Mr. Doheny donated this slice of paradise Doheny Beach became California’s first ever protected and government-run state beach. Since its inception the beach has grown in facilities with a super popular, large campground on the Southern side of the park, various access points to protected tide pools, and a visitor center that homes many small aquariums for a closer look at the vast marine life under the water’s surface.
Like many other state and national parks throughout the country, Doheny State Beach offers year-round interpretive education programs. When you attend a program you can get hands-on lessons in marine life, bird life, animal life, water quality, insects, and Native American studies for the entire family. Most Ranger-led programs are free and simply require prior reservations to attend!
Doheny State Beach Location & Directions
Address: 25300 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point, CA, 92629
Hours: 6:00AM – 10:00PM
Doheny State Beach is approximately one mile north of I-5 and about three miles from the San Juan Capistrano Mission.
More than 850,000 visitors come to Doheny State Beach each and every year. Surfers love hitting the world class waves on the northern side and beach bums enjoy the beach camping options on the southern side. The state-managed campground has 122 designated spots from single use tent sites to RV friendly sites and finally one large group campsite. The campsites tend to go fast since it is such a beautiful campground, so here are some tips you need to know before heading out to Doheny State Beach.
- The park is open year round from 6am to 10pm for day visitors. If you want to stay overnight at the campground, check-in is 2pm and check-out is 12pm.
- Dogs are allowed at Doheny Beach. But only in the campground and picnic areas. Unfortunately furry friends are not allowed on the sandy beach itself in order to protect marine life present. Make sure you keep your dog on a leash, and have them snuggle up with you in your tent at night.
- The campsites are what is considered ‘dry camping’. What does that mean exactly? It means there are no electrical, water, or sewage hookups provided. RVs can utilize the dump station equipped with potable water on site.
- There is one large group campsite available. This site is perfect for family reunions, birthday parties, or just a large group of friends. The price tag is $300 for a night which may sound steep. However the campsite can hold 12 vehicles (with an option for $15 each extra vehicle) and 40 people in tents only.
That leaves us to reservations. Reservations are required for this popular campground. You can actually make a reservation up to six months in advance which I definitely recommend since they sell out quickly. Reservation tips include:
- Go online at https://www.reservecalifornia.com/CaliforniaWebHome/ and enter Doheny State Beach in the search bar. Not a fan of online systems? You can always call 1-800-444-PARK for over the phone service.
- Make sure you have all the needed information prior to making a reservation. Information required is: dates of camping, type and size of camping equipment, i.e. a tent or pop-up trailer, number of campers, alternative camping dates just in case your dates are sold out, phone number, method of payment, and mailing address.
- Please note the first deposit is non-refundable.
When you are staying at Doheny Beach you may want to do more than get a tan. If you are up for more, here are some activities to get that energy out. If not, well, it is the beach bum life after all.
- Surfing, Stand up Paddle Boarding, and Kayak Surfing: Body surfing is allowed all along the front beach coast line. Those who enjoy standup paddle boarding and kayak surfing will need to stick to the area south of The Hammer along San Juan Creek.
- Rentals: Nearby is the Wheel Fun Rentals shop. You can rent bikes, tandems, boogie boards, family cycles, and more. It is a great way to explore the beach and pretty affordable.
- Volleyball Courts: There are many beach volleyball courts throughout Doheny Beach. They are first come first serve except for courts 1-7. Those volleyball areas are available for reservations at the price tag of $150 per day or $75 for a half day. I think I would just try my luck and show up early.
- BBQ: Scattered about Doheny State Beach are day use picnic areas equipped with BBQs for some delish food action. If you are planning a party or larger get together Picnic Areas 5 and 6 are available for reservations. They house up to 25 people with four tables and four BBQs at each site. Day use fees are $50 Monday through Thursday and $75 Friday through Sunday.
- Hiking: Along the entire beach is the just a bit over 3-mile Doheny State Beach Walk. This paved path is great for bicycles, rollerblading, strollers or just a nice stroll. Just a little bit to the north is the Heritage Park area. Here you can do a short one mile hike with massive views of the harbor and a waterfall located on the street end of the park when in season.
Doheny Beach truly is everything The Beach Boys sang about. Good waves, white sands, and family bonding. But please always pack out your trash, leave no trace and do your part in protecting this lovely gem in Southern California.
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Kaitlin is a former ballerina who now travels around the country in an 18-foot converted school bus. Her and her husband have welcomed 34 sweet children into their home the past eleven years. Although they would not be a forever home for all of them, they adopted their daughter buckets and are legal guardians to their son monkey. Follow their crazy adventures on Instagram @runawaymusbus