A landscape of ocean, green hills and dramatic cliffs as well as the mildest climate you could ever ask for, always brings me back to Dana Point.
For anyone who likes to spend their days relaxing or walking on the beach, boating, taking in the sights of the harbor, or shopping at boutiques and their evenings dining at some of California's most fabulous restaurants, or sipping a fine California wine watching the perfect sunset while perhaps catching sight of a few frolicking dolphins, Dana Point is the place to visit.
Located along the California coast about midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, this beautiful city is named after Richard Henry Dana (1815-1882), a sailor and author famous for his novel, Two Years Before the Mast. In it, he refers to Dana Point as "the only romantic spot in California."
Here are a few of my favorite things to do while visiting Dana Point:
Dana Point Harbor: I never tire of visiting any of the thirty intriguing shops that are loaded with unexpected treasures. Visitors discover custom-designed jewelry and Indian artifacts, art collectibles, hand-formed chocolates, unique gifts, toiletries, fragrant oils, designer perfumes and sunglasses, 'ecologically sound' gifts, leisure clothing for men and women, full service hair salon, art
gallery, unique cards, tee shirts, international coffees and teas, and quality
Seventeen different restaurants are at the Harbor to please every palate. Catalina Island is just a boat ride away. Catalina Express offers many departures / arrivals times.
Dana Point beaches
Laguna Beach -
save a whole day just for this funky beach town
State Beach Salt Creek Beach Park
The beautiful panorama of Dana Point harbor as seen from Blue Lantern St.
Mission San Juan Capistrano - named for St. John of Capistrano, Italy, a theologian of the 14th century, is the seventh mission founded November 1, 1776, the Feast of All Saints, by Fr. Junipero Serra. If you visit during the spring you may be in time for the annual return of the swallows. Every year around the 19th of March, the world pauses momentarily and focuses on this compelling phenomenon of nature - the return of the Swallows to Capistrano. The Old Spanish Mission has become world famous as the haven of the swallows, those romantic symbols for nature's migration with the seasons. The Mission is located 2 1/2 blocks west of Interstate 5 on Ortega Highway
The Tallship Pilgrim - a full size replica of the hide brig immortalized by Richard Henry Dana in his classic novel. Dana said of the Pilgrim, "The vessel I am going on is small, but strong and a remarkably fast sailer having been built for the smuggling trade."
The Ocean Institute - a non-profit educational organization dedicated to ocean awareness and preservation through education. The Institute owns and operates the brig Pilgrim, the Spirit of Dana Point, and the Research Vessel Sea Explorer. The new Ocean Education Center, which has replaced the Institute's old laboratories now has student capacity from 78,000 to 135,000 students annually.
Dana Point restaurants and bars
CiaoPasta - one of Orange County's favorite Italian Restaurants! Located across the street from Mission San Juan Capistrano, patrons can enjoy
the downtown atmosphere while dining on incredible authentic pasta creations, meat and fish dishes and delectable desserts. Ciao Pasta is owned by Chef Pasquale
Manta who trained in his native Southern Italy at the age of 20. Indoor and outdoor patio dining with a full bar and extended wine list. 31661 Camino Capistrano,
San Juan Capistrano.
- seafood restaurant on a cliff above Dana Point Harbor - a view to die for! 34344 Street of the Green Lantern, Dana Point. Lunch, Dinner and Sunday, Brunch
Reservations and Information 949-496-6146.
Swallows Inn - Good Ol' Time Bar, authentic Orange County Cowboy Saloon. Originated 40 Years Ago. Lunch & Hors d'oeuvres. Dancing & Live Music 6 Nights A Week. Regulation Shuffleboard Table, 31786 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano.
Dana Point hotels
Blue Lantern Inn - very romantic! Situated at the top of a cliff overlooking the harbor, 34343 Street of The Blue Lantern, Dana Point 800-234-1425.
Doubletree Guest Suites at Doheny Beach - across the street from Doheny Beach State Park, this resort-style hotel is a quarter-mile from the harbor and a half-mile from the shops and restaurants of Dana Point, 34402 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point 949-661-1100.
About the Author... Dunstan Ireland has traveled extensively over the past 35 years. Visit him for articles, tips, tools, and valuable travel resources at