Error message

Lingotek profile ID 4 not found.
Dana Point, California
Behind The Lens/Getty Images

Dana Point

Dana Point
Begin your Highway One odyssey in this scenic town with views over the ocean bluffs

The southern origin of California’s Highway 1 winds through some gorgeous locations, like beach town and whale-watching mecca Dana Point. The town has been wooing whale- and dolphin-watchers and water lovers for generations, earning the designation of Dolphin & Whale Watching Capital of the World®. In the 1950s and ‘60s, the right-breaking waves that tended to form here could produce 12-foot surf breaks known as Killer Dana. A short walk away, California’s first surf shop was opened in 1954 by Orange County local Hobie Alter. 

Today, you’ll still find a Hobie Surf Shop on this stretch of Highway 1, two blocks from where the original one was located, plus boutiques and eateries, as well as Baby BeachStrand Beach, and Salt Creek Beach, as you continue north. Otherwise, the town very much revolves around the harbor, which, when it was constructed in 1966, tamed Killer Dana and created Doheny State Beach. Though a celebrated surfing spot was lost, the formation of the harbor also resulted in abundant options for kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, sports fishing, and whale-watching.

Indeed, you can spot giant mammals breaching and frolicking in the waves year-round. Migrating grey whales are seen from November through April, then blue whales from April through October, along with sightings of humpbacks, orcas, fin whales, and minke whales. Take a paddleboard ride—the harbor’s waveless anchorage is especially kind to first-timers—and you might also spot pods of dolphins, sea lions, and seals. There are also several companies that offer dolphin- and whale-watching cruises. Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari will take you out on a high-speed catamaran that is equipped with Eye-to-Eye Underwater Viewing Pods, which will give you the sensation of swimming underwater with the big fish. Come during the holiday season to double the viewings out on the water: One of the town’s biggest events of the year is December’s Dana Point Harbor Boat Parade of Lights.

Many of Dana Point’s hotels and eateries sit on cliffs above the harbor (like the Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort and the Blue Lantern Inn) or on the water itself, such as the sustainable and locally sourced seafood offered at Waterman’s Harbor, or the mesquite-grilled fresh catches at The Harbor Grill. For a classic view, stroll along the Bluff Top Trail and, while looking out over the water for whales, check out the statue honoring 19th-century hide droghers—tradesmen who literally tossed hides over the cliffs to merchant ships anchored below. And if you’re looking for an ultra-luxe experience, check in at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, a longtime Dana Point oceanfront institution.

Insider tip: Check for music festivals, surfing competitions, and more on the Visit Dana Point upcoming events calendar.

 

 

Dana Point OC_Hero_HuntingtonCouple_Mansfield_1280x642_sized
Scott Mansfield

Southern California

Discover Orange County

Whether it’s manicured beach towns or celebrated theme parks, all framed by oceanfront towns and luxury yachts, “The OC” stands out as one of the state’s most iconic destinations. The always-amazing Disneyland Resort, roughly a 1-hour drive south of L.A. and 2 hours north of San Diego, continues to be one of the best-loved theme parks in the world, while Knott’s Berry Farms and other OC attractions amp up the fun meter.

“Surfing is like golf. . . it keeps knocking you down. But when you stay with it and catch that wave. . . magic.” — actor Dennis Quaid

Shop at spectacular South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa, or get the surfer look in Huntington Beach, aka Surf City, USA. 

Dana Point VC_California101_OrangeCounty_Stock_RF_EHT85D_1280x640
Jon Bilous/Alamy

Orange County’s Best Beaches

Visit these four idyllic, sun-drenched stretches of sand in Southern California

With 42 miles of sandy coastline and a string of small, eclectic beach towns, Orange County delivers the quintessential Southern California...

Montage Laguna Beach
Mike's Birds/Flickr

Montage Laguna Beach

Craftsman grace and timeless coastal beauty

With works by noted California artists in the lobby and guest rooms and a classic wood-and-stone Craftsman design, the ultra-luxurious oceanfront...

Orange County

4 Incredible Resorts in Orange County

Enjoy unparalleled views, world-class golf, fine dining, and much more at these high-end destinations

With long stretches of golden sand, prime surfing spots, excellent dining, and top golf courses, the good life doesn’t get much better than along...

The magic of Disneyland, walking through the tunnel underneath the train station to Main Street, it just transports you to other places and other times.
John Lasseter
Dana Point 1_SpotlightAnaheim_Opener_gty_RF_139695934_1280x640_downsized_0
Carsten Erler/Getty Images

Spotlight: Anaheim

Dana Point vca_maps_orangecounty
Amazing attractions, shopping and dining in the one-of-a-kind Orange County town

With its laid-back vibe and unbeatable attractions, this vibrant city on the northwest side of Orange County has become a popular destination for...

Dana Point vc_luxuryminute_pelicanhill_supplied_coliseumpooloceanviewday_1280x640
Courtesy of Pelican Hill

The Resort at Pelican Hill

Indulge in Mediterranean elegance, world-class golf courses, and five-star service at this Newport Beach resort

Tuscan elegance paired with panoramic ocean views is central to the eternal allure of...

Dana Point VCW_D_OC_T4_Shopping_Manley1280x642
Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

O.C. Shopping

Discover boutique brands and bargains

Shopping in The O.C. is almost as legendary as surfing. Start at expansive South Coast Plaza, California’s largest luxury shopping complex, with...

Dana Point vc_irvine_irvinespectrumcenter_st_rm_486307227_1280x640
Mitch Diamond/Getty Images

Irvine

This centrally located Orange County city is the perfect home base for shopping, dining, and kid-friendly exploring

Irvine’s central location—45 miles from Los Angeles, 85 from San Diego, and 15 minutes from...

Dana Point VC_IrvineSpectrumCenter_Stock_Irvine-Spectrum-Center-at-Dusk-CMF-8483_1280x640
OC Stock Photos 2016

Irvine Spectrum Center

With a Ferris wheel and Spanish ambience, this shopping center expands the definition of “mall”

Southern California is known for its sunny, open-air shopping centers, but this outdoor mall in the heart of Orange County ups the ante with...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Where to release your inner fashionista

Shopping is an art form in California. Whether you're in search of the perfect cocktail dress or an authentic Mexican piñata, you'll find it here. Want to sample fresh produce? Try our farmers...

Dana Point Shopping_SpecialFeature_preview_686x885_0
Dana Point VC_GreatWolfLodge_Supplied_FamilyFun_1280x640
Courtesy of Great Wolf Lodge

Great Wolf Lodge

The hotel-meets-water-park chain brings its all-weather family fun to Orange County

At first glance, a completely indoor water-park hotel might seem unnecessary in sunny Orange County. Fans of the Great Wolf Lodge brand, however,...

Dana Point VC_GreatWolfLodge_Supplied_LodgeFlowrider_1280x640
The Howlin’ Tornado water slide at Great Wolf Lodge near Anaheim is as tall as a six-story building.
Orange County is the cultural center of the surf world and Huntington Beach is like the heartbeat.
Corky Carroll (Orange County surf legend)
Dana Point FF_VCW_D_OC_T10_BalboaBeach_Mansfield
Mission San Juan Capistrano, founded in 1776, was the first winery in California.
Dana Point monarchbeachresort_1280x642
Courtesy of Monarch Beach Resort

Monarch Beach Resort

Relaxed sophistication in charming Dana Point

Beyond the Mediterranean–style exterior of this perfectly manicured resort, you’ll find posh but not ornate contemporary rooms and suites. This...

Dana Point VCW_D_OC_T7_IMG_5467_1280x642
Harriot Manley/ Sunset Publishing

Crystal Cove State Park

Stroll a perfect beach with an intriguing past

In 1912, an early Laguna Beach artist described finding a rugged coastline “with cove after cove and headland after headland, golden cliffs and...

Santa Ana
Liz Boyd/Alamy

Santa Ana

Orange County’s largest city boasts a walkable downtown with an emerging arts and culinary scene

Not showy or sassy like some of Orange County’s more touristy towns, Santa...

SPECIAL FEATURE
Unleash the kid within at California’s ultimate playgrounds

From Disneyland classics to beachfront carousels, the Golden State’s best-in-class theme parks deliver something for everyone. Take a tram ride to tour movie back lots at Universal Studios...

Dana Point AmazingThemeParks_preview_868x686
Lucas Himovitz
SPECIAL FEATURE
Get into the coastal vibe

Maybe it’s the sun-streaked hair, the frequent smiles, the eyes always gazing west, looking to the horizon to see when the next set might roll in. It’s the unmistakable look and vibe of a...

Dana Point VCW_TI_8_hero_Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 11.35.53 AM
Dana Point VC_Questionnaire_GregLong_Mason-Mashon-Photo_California-Day-Dream-LR-338_1280x640
CLIF Bar/Mason Mashon

California Questionnaire: Greg Long

Although he’s traveled the globe in search of big waves, this professional surfer will always call California home

California native Greg Long has carved out a name in the world of competitive big wave surfing by conquering the most challenging waves on the...

Dana Point VC_Questionnaire_BrianHuskey_Supplied1_1280x640
Courtesy of Brian Huskey

California Questionnaire: Brian Huskey

The Top Chef alum loves riding his bike to work, taking road trips, and vacationing at Lake Tahoe

Brian Huskey first came to national attention in 2013 when he competed on season 11 of Bravo TV’s Top Chef, set in New Orleans. The...

Pacific Coast Highway South

SPECIAL FEATURE
From Gold Rush history to the 8th wonder of the world, visit these favorites

If there was ever a box of chocolates—and all of them delicious—it’s the rich collection of natural treasures, fascinating...

Dana Point McWayFalls_JPB_SP_preview_686x885
Amy Meredith/Flickr
Dana Point CTTC_Pelican_Golf3-047_sized_0

Golf in Orange County

Tee up at top courses, with some ocean views

With ideal Southern California weather and some of the country’s most celebrated courses, Orange County justly earns the nickname “California Golf...

Dana Point FunFact_Great Park Balloon above the Palm Court Arts Complex_sized
Every year, the Orange County Great Park Balloon dons a smiling jack-o-lantern mask, marking the unofficial start of fall in Orange County.
Dana Point VCW_D_T9_Great Park Balloon above the Palm Court Arts Complex_sized
Courtesy of Orange County Great Park

Orange County Great Park

Explore an impressive urban park

Turning former military land into a roughly 1,300-acre/526-hectare green space, this Irvine park is as ambitious as it is...