Dana Point is one of my favorite little places in Southern California. It is an upscale town with a very laid back feel. There are so many things to do in Dana Point. You will find incredible beaches, delicious restaurants, and super fun activities for the whole family. Recently, we had 24 hours to explore Dana Point, so we hit up our favorite things to do in this Southern California Beach town.
Incredible Whale Watching & Dolphin Tour
Every time we visit Maui we somehow miss whale season, luckily in California whale season is pretty much a year-round event since so many different species of whales pass along the California Coast.
So, we set out on Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari. I loved the fact that this was a smaller boat so you don’t feel like you are on an overcrowded charter boat. There were probably 25 other guests onboard with us, so it was a fun and relaxing environment.
The captain (Captain Steve) set out first to find a whale as he heard from other boats of one in the area. After about 10 minutes we heard the magnificent mammal. It is one of my favorite sounds, as when the whale comes up you can hear it’s loud breath from quite a ways away. We got up closer and got a great look at this fin whale which was around 50 feet long.
After about 20-30 minutes of whale watching Captain Steve decided we should go search for some dolphins. What happened then was the most incredible experience I have ever had on an expedition. We found ourselves surrounded by close to 1,000 dolphins. There were two types of dolphins converging on food, common dolphins, and bottlenose dolphins.
It was such fun seeing the joy on my girls’ faces as the dolphins were jumping all around our boat.
Brunch & Beach
After the Dolphin Cruise, our appetites were quite big. My girls wanted to visit their favorite pancake place, Stack’s Pancake House. We also found a delicious vegan place next door called Vibe that served up some amazing breakfast options.
Beaches in Dana Point
Although Dana Point is less than 7 square miles there are quite a few different beaches to visit.
Baby Beach –
Located next to the harbor is Baby Beach, it’s a great place to take little ones as there are no waves to worry about. You will also find it a great place to enjoy some paddle boarding along the calm waters.
Doheny beach is full of fun. It has some great waves to enjoy boogie boarding. There is also a snack bar, bbq, tables, volleyball, this place has it all.
This is another popular spot with surfers but we really enjoyed the fun (FREE) funicular that takes you down to the beach from the parking lot above, the clean restrooms and showers were also a plus.
Salt Creek Beach
Probably the most popular beach and for good reason, this beach is my personal favorite. We went to Salt Creek on our 24 hour adventure because our hotel offered a nice free shuttle down to the beach (there is paid parking as well). The waves are super fun and are slow and gentle not crashing hard down on you.
One of my favorite parts of this beach is walking down the path through the tunnel and then seeing the breathtaking views of the water below. In addition there is a beautiful grass area and park for the little kids to play.
You will also enjoy watching the numerous surfers take on the waves.
Where to Stay – Ritz Carlton
If you are looking for a truly luxurious stay in Dana Point, then the Ritz Carlton is the place. It has by far the best views of any resort in the area. You will find yourself looking down on Salt Creek Beach from the resort and your room if you have an ocean view.
We were lucky enough to score a fireside ocean view. It’s definitely my favorite type of room at the Ritz. You will find yourself along the ocean with a beautiful fireside table off your room. There is even a nice lawn right in front of the room, which my girls thoroughly enjoyed playing on.
Catch the Sunset
As you can see Sunsets at Dana Point can be stunning. Check the weather app on your iPhone and plan to enjoy a beautiful Dana Point Sunset
Dinner at the Ritz
One of the must-do things to do in Dana Point is to have dinner at the Ritz Carlton. They have some of the finest restaurants in Dana Point and the best views in all of Dana Point. We were planning on visiting 180 Blu for dinner. This tapas restaurant is located outside overlooking the ocean. Unfortunately, the girls were wiped out from the beach and whale watching so it was a room service and movies kind of night.
The room service was actually incredible as it featured several menu items from the resorts top restaurants. I think the Thai Curry Bowl was the biggest hit as mine was devoured by myself and the girls.
Oceanview View Breakfast at Raya
The next morning we decided to enjoy breakfast at the resort. Raya is amazing and I wish I had a chance to eat there at dinner time. There are floor to ceiling windows which give you an amazing view of the ocean.
The breakfast is quite abundant, the girls loved the buttermilk and chocolate chip pancakes. After over indulging ourselves the night prior Mike and I had a very light breakfast and had the oatmeal and fruit plate (both delish) but I think my husband really had his heart set on the chorizo huevos rancheros.
The last part of our visit to Dana Point was some relaxing poolside fun Ritz has two pools to enjoy while on property. It’s a nice relaxed atmosphere very reminiscent of the vibes of Dana Point.
There are so many things to do in Dana Point, we wish we could have done more, but with 24 hours we had to go for our favorites.
Here are a few other things to check out while in Dana Point
- Coastal Kitchen
- The Craft House
- Salt Creek Grille
- The Shwack Beach Grill- (Great for Lunch)
All of these restaurants are amazing Options
Activities to Do in Dana Point:
There are a ton of things to do in Dana Point, here are some of my other favorites for your next adventure.
- Jet Skiing out of Dana Point Harbor
- Rent a Surrey Bike from Wheel Fun Rentals in Doheny Beach
- HIKING- There are some great trails in and around Dana Point. We enjoyed hiking in Aliso & Wood Canyons Regional Park.
- Shopping – The Blue Lantern District is a great place to walk around and do some shopping or even window shopping.
You can check out even more things to do in Dana Point at VisitDanaPoint.org
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