Blake Walsh

20 Best Things to Do in Dana Point, CA

  • Published 2021/11/12

Dana point is one of the best surfing points in all of Southern California.

Here, you can do surfingboarding and ride along the waves.

Not only that, but the this city is also home to a lovely public harbor and a great ferry service.

Marine life, evidently, is abundant here and you can see many kinds of species such whales, dolphins, and many more.

Even adventures abound here and you can enjoy lots of watersports!

Interested to discover more about this beautiful city?

Here are the 20 best things to do in Dana Point, CA:

Watch the Sunset at Dana Strands Beach

Aerial View of Dana Strands Beach

Jon Bilous /

This public beach is a postcard-perfect stretch of sand surrounded by undulating hills and boasting jaw-dropping beachfront vistas.

If you’re searching for fun, free activities to do in Dana Point to help you save money on your trip, we strongly suggest you visit Dana Strands Beach.

Aerial View of Dana Strands Beach

Jon Bilous /

It’s a lovely beach with various recreational opportunities and services that provide a stress-free stay, such as seasonal lifeguards and a free parking area.

Relax on the beach while working on your tan, bringing a good read, enjoying a fabulous picnic, or watching the magnificent sunset.

Watch Whales at the Dana Point Harbor

Dana Point Harbor

Mihai_Andritoiu /

The ‘Whale Capital of the World’ is home to many whales, the biggest mammals in the world.

The blue and white sandy Baby Beach is beautiful to look at, along with the scenic mountains and cliffs.

Swimming in these blue waters is also very refreshing.

View of Dana Point Harbor

Anthony Fontanez /

The harbor has restaurants and cafes, where you can buy refreshments.

You can rent out yachts or sailboats to sail on the turquoise water.

Sailing and diving are other enjoyable sports you can do.

Some festivals hosted here are the Festival of Whales, a Tall Ships Festival, the Holiday Boat Parade, and more.

View of Dana Point Harbor

Meandering Trail Media /

Go Picnic at Heritage Park

View of Heritage Park

ESB Professional /

Heritage Park is a lovely blufftop park that overlooks Dana Point Harbor and is next to the expansive Lantern Bay Park.

A large hillside area provides lots of room for picnicking or rolling down the slope with children.

The park provides stunning views of the neighboring harbor and the Pacific Ocean beach.

Parking is available at either the dock below the park or on the street above the park.

The park’s stretch is accessible to ADAs.

Meanwhile, the dog park provides a safe place for dogs to run and play all year round.

Relax at the Salt Creek Beach

Salt Creek Beach

Jon Bilous /

Salt Creek Beach is one of the most famous beaches all over Orange County and has some of the most beautiful beach parks.

It is located near the Ritz-Carlton Laguna-Niguel hotel complex and the championship Monarch Beach Golf Links.

The Salt Creek flows in the Northern end.

View of Salt Creek Beach

Don Graham from Redlands, CA, USA – God bless it!, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

At the Southern side, the Monarch Bay Beach Club abounds.

You can enjoy a variety of activities in the beach, like swimming, surfing, bodyboarding and more.

Your kids will also love the place since it’s a favorite among locals.

View of Salt Creek Beach

DannyS /

Look at Nature-Based Exhibits at the Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center

This center in Dana Point is home to various beautiful nature-based exhibits made by the Dana Point Historical Society and the City of Dana Point.

Such exhibits show how wonderful the geology, ecology and history of the headlands are.

They also show the area’s development and history of the natural wildlife.

Other recent ventures by all environmental groups are also documented here.

The center is a great conservation center and also showcases various endemic species.

Certainly, you’ll have fun at this beatiful place.

Parasailing With Dana Point Parasail

Dana Point Parasail

Anthony Fontanez /

Soar high in the skies at 800 feet above the sea and enjoy a spectacular view of everything around you.

The Dana Point Parasail company operates on the Dana Point Harbor and caters to all your needs.

There are single seater or multi-seater parasailing adventures you can do.

The airborne parttakes about 10 minutes, while the entire trip lasts for an hour.

The boat launch is also an exciting part of the experience.

The parasails are very safe and secure, and all precautions are taken.

Specifically, all passengers are provided with lifejackets to ensure safety.

Visit a Ship Onboard at the Ocean Institute

The Ocean Institute

LunaseeStudios /

There are two ships located on Ocean Institute for your exploration, including a replica of the Pilgrim.

The Maddie James Seaside Learning Center has many exhibits that give really interesting facts about the flora and fauna of the region.

The Pilgrim exhibit is especially well known since it’s an exact replica of the original; it is used in various educational tours.

View of the Ocean Institute

Steve Cukrov /

The opulent ship is open to public on Sundays.

This was founded in 1988, and today is a proud pioneer of hosting camps and lab programs.

Every year, the institute hosts 100,000 children and educates them about nature and marine life.

The naturally abundant beachfront is spread over 2.5 acres of beautiful land and also has tide pools and other natural habitats that showcase how beautiful this areas is.

Paddleboarding at the Doheny State Beach

Doheny State Beach

SoCalPremierPhotography /

This picturesque beach is a State Beach Park near the awesome San Juan Bay.

You can reach the beachfront by the Dana Point Harbor Drive and Park Lantern.

Swimming, surfing, paddleboarding, and other fun activities on this low lying beach should be done.

With twirling tide pools and lashing waves on the beach shore, this beach park is definitely worth a visit.

Lifeguard at Doheny State Beach

Benjamin Clapp /

You can also look at some amazing marine life like starfishes, and more.

The visitor center showcases beautiful exhibits related to nature.

Tent camping and RV camping can be done, too.

This place makes it perfect for a family picnic spot and an overnight stay.

View of Doheny State Beach

Steve Cukrov /

Just imagine having a bonfire here, along with your family.

Toast some marshmallows and spend the night singing and dancing.

Then retire for the night to your comfortable RVs.

Have a Delicious Breakfast at the Stacks Pancake House

Who doesn’t love some delicious and sweet pancakes at breakfast?

This multi cuisine restaurant is your one-stop shop for all your breakfast needs.

Japanese and Hawaiian traditional cuisines, along with some Portuguese influence, make for some great dishes, such as banana macadamia nut pancake, and so on.

Sausage and Eggs, Loco Moco, Kalua Pork, and Brown Gravy are some signature dishes.

Experience the Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safaris

Dolphin and Whale Watching

Sofiia Dorsey /

View dolphins and whales up close and personal here.

The Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safaris at Dana Point helps you do this exact thing.

Look at orcas, blue whales, and gray whales from the company’s rides called Lily catamaran and the Fast Cat vessels, which can accommodate 49 passengers or 12 passengers, respectively.

Go on excursions hunting for many other species, like dolphins, fin whales, minke whales, and humpbackwhales.

Marine naturalists are your go-to guides, and they will give you a great tour while also providing chunks of information about marine life and species.

Picnic at Pines Park

Pines Park

Ann Marie Walkington /

With four great outdoor spaces serving as picnic spots, this park is surely one of the best spaces to go to for a great family outing.

There are bench seatings and barbeque grills available on site.

So pack those meats ad veggies and set off for a great evening with your family.

A Sign at Pines Park

Ann Marie Walkington /

The Pines Park is near to the Capistrano Beach Park.

The park is filled with lots of green trees providing great spots to cool off from the heat.

A kid-friendly place, it boasts of play structures in the playgrounds, such as climbing walls, slides and tunnel slides, making this park perfect for the children.

Explore the City on Wheels With Synaptic Cycles Bicycle Rentals

You can hire bikes from popular brands like Volagi and Focus at Synaptic Cycles Bicycle Rentals in Dana Point for either a half or a full day.

To ensure the safety, comfort, and enjoyment of all customers, the firm has been operating in the region for over 25 years and provides motorcycles adapted to their skill level and excursion requirements.

If you prefer to pick up their bike at its Dana Point site, you can do so.

Full-day and week-long bike rentals are available, as well as extended rentals by special arrangement.

All road bikes have top-of-the-line safety measures, including their components, cranks, and cassettes.

Play Golf at the Monarch Beach Golf Links

View of Monarch Beach Golf Links

Prayitno / Thank you for (12 millions +) view from Los Angeles, USA, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The green pastures of these golfing grounds span over 6,600 yards and has as many as 18 holes to practice those moves.

This award-winning golfing course was designed by one of the greatest architects, Robert Trent Jones, Jr., and continues to be one of the best golf courses in the United States.

It has the Spanish Links theme and a par-70 layout.

For real golf lovers, the souvenir shop is like a golf heaven, where you can buy various artifacts and souvenirs.

Visit the Eco-Adventure Center at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

View of Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel

Joseph Sohm /

The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel is one of the most famous and luxurious hotels of Dana Point.

It may be expensive, yes, but the experiences you will have here are sure to leave you enthralled and astonished.

Why not try this place?

Gaze in Wonder at the Enormous Hide Drogher

The life-sized Hide Drogher art sculpture was sanctioned by a regional artist, F. Benedict Coleman in 1990.

Since then, this enormous public art sculpture has become a major tourist attraction.

Located near the Violet and Amber Lantern areas, it lies along the Blufftop trail.

It stands at a towering 10 feet and is made entirely of metal.

The statue itself is an ode to many of the New England sailors from the 19th centuries.

Become One With Nature at the Sea Canyon Park

This really awesome public park is a favorite among families, as it harbors kid-friendly playgrounds and caters to all kinds of age groups.

The safe play area is especially constructed only for small children.

There is another playground for older kids that is separated from the younger kids to ensure safety.

The dog park near the premises are a great place for many pet owners to walk their dogs.

Admire the Area From Lantern Bay Park

View of Lantern Bay Park

Paul Massie Photography /

Visitors to Lantern Bay Park may enjoy spectacular vistas of the harbor from a small hilltop park available to the public all day long.

Many pine trees in the park provide shade on the warmest days, making it a popular location for picnics and barbecues.

It also has a children’s playground and a grassy area for relaxing and playing pick-up sports and frisbee activities.

Additionally, there are basketball and bocce courts and an underground amphitheater that hosts various events year-round. During the early morning hours of every weekday, the park hosts free or low-cost Yoga in the Park activities.

Buy Fresh Produce at the Dana Point Farmers Market

As a tourist you might ignore this place, but this place is great for buying some excellent seasonal produce, which can be taken back home.

This place features freshly grown vegetables, fruits and meats, fresh bakery products, and many more.

Honey and dips, as well as fresh beverages, can also be bought here.

Surprise your spouse with some fresh and blooming flowers while you are at it.

This premier market is open only on Saturdays, between 8:00 am to 1:00 pm.

Join a Cruise by Catalina Express

View of Catalina Express

TFoxFoto /

Catalina Express is the most luxurious method to go to Catalina Island, known for its scenic beachfront communities of Avalon and Two Harbors.

Since 1981, the passenger ferry service has operated daily trips, now running a fleet of eight luxury boats.

Up to 30 voyages launch daily during the ferry’s peak season, departing from Dana Point Harbor, Long Beach, and San Pedro.

View of Catalina Express

Steve Cukrov /

Each year, the fleet transports over a million people, making it one of the region’s most trusted modes of transportation.

Each excursion lasts around an hour and highlights the region’s picturesque Pacific coastline along the way.

Passengers can upgrade to deluxe lodgings within various vessels’ lounges.

Pay a Tribute to Veterans at the Veterans Memorial Park

Established in 2010 under the guidance of the Mayor and Colonel, Mr. Steven Weinberg, and Mr. Willard A. Buhl, this beautiful park is a reminder of the people who took part in the military service.

Honor the brave souls and American veterans by visiting this park and show your solidarity to the brave hearts who fought in the foreign wars.

The park itself is very aesthetically pleasing, too.

The Pacific Ocean is visible from the benches, which is really ethereal.

The park is open 365 days of the year and is a sight to behold especially on Veterans Day.

Dana Point is a great place to visit if you love nature and wildlife.

Whales, dolphins and other species can be observed here.

So, go pack your bags and get going soon.

Final Thoughts

Dana Point, California, is the ideal vacation place for you and your friends, with a wide range of options for a fun-filled trip.

Take a much-needed break from the daily grind by traveling to Dana Point, California’s sun-kissed city.

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