Allie and I have spent a large amount of time exploring Dana Point, one of the lesser known coastal towns in Orange County, California. Dana Point is a little less trendy than the other coastal towns, which can make finding fun things difficult, so here are my favourite things to do in Dana Point to hopefully help your trip planning!
What to do
The Dana Strands Beach, commonly called Strands Beach is located at the bottom of a gated community. There is a parking lot at the top of the hill where you can park for free, but then you need to walk down the hill to the beach. The hill is really long and steep, the trek back up is pretty intense but down is okay! Two options: walk down the hill or take the stairs.
The beach itself is absolutely beautiful. It has become one of my favourite beaches in Orange County! Strands is a very clean beach and there were lots of surfers in the water. This is also a fun place to walk and look at fancy houses.
Dana Point Headlands Trail
Dana Point Headlands Trail is a short walk through the nature preserve that overlooks Dana Point. It is really, really high up which gives you an amazing view of the city and down the coast in either direction. There are many lookouts along the walk with lovely views and benches to sit and enjoy!
Dana Point has an amazing harbour jam-packed with yachts and boats of all different sorts. You can rent stand up paddle boards, single and double kayaks and jet skis in the harbour. I recommend not going out onto the open water with the kayak or paddle boards since as of summer 2017 there is a bit of a shark problem happening off the coast of Dana Point. If you are looking to have a nice relaxing day, however, going for a little trip around the harbour is a great activity. You can soak up the sun, see some boats, and maybe see one of the sea lions that live in the harbour.
Where to eat
Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern
Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern is located just across the road from the main restaurants in the harbour. It has some amazing classic, American food. It is a medium-fancy place and a little on the pricier side, but if you want to have a classic American meal this is a good place to have that.
Harpoon Henry’s is a seafood restaurant located in the Dana Point Harbour. We don’t eat seafood so our selection was limited, but we have gone with Allie’s family while they were visiting and they loved their meals. We always split the nachos, they are huge and extremely filling.
Harbour cruise wine tasting
If you want to have an evening on the water, there is an amazing wine tasting harbour cruise in Dana Point year round. You get to try many different kinds of organic wine and are provided with cheese and crackers to go alongside. It can be a little chilly on the water so keep that in mind. Also, if you go on your harbour cruise in May, June, or July it could be a little hazy and foggy, meaning you won’t get the best view and it may be extra cold on the water.
If you’re lucky the captain may even take your boat out of the harbour and you can experience a bit of the open sea and view the beach from a unique angle.
180blu is the rooftop cocktail bar at the Ritz Carlton Laguna Niguel. The bar looks out over Salt Creek Beach with an endless view of the Pacific Ocean. The menu includes small plates and desserts from the attached restaurant Raya and hand-crafted cocktails created by 180blu’s mixologists. I recommend going to watch the amazing sunset. If you go on a weekend you might even catch live music!
Boneyard Beach Cafe
Boneyard Beach Cafe is located right on the sands of Doheny State Beach. It also happens to be the only cafe on Doheny and it serves beer and wine! During our trip, I was completely obsessed with their garlic and rosemary fries. Check the hours before you go, because outside of the main summer season they very have limited hours.
The Coffee Importers
The Coffee Importers is located at the Dana Point Harbour. There are two locations side by side; one serves healthy food options, smoothies, and juices, the other serves ice cream and coffee. They share the same seating area outside on a patio overlooking the boats in the harbour.
Overall, Dana Point is a quaint beachside town with some great things to see and do.