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The 20 Best Things to Do In Dana Point, CA for the First Time

Dana Point Harbor

Dana Point, California, is a beautiful city located in Orange County. It is known for its beaches and coastal scenery. If you're looking to learn more about Dana Point, then this blog post has just what you need. We will discuss the top 20 things you should do when visiting Dana Point for the first time. Whether your interests lie with nature and wildlife preserves, shopping along coastal esplanades, enjoying live music on our beaches, or sampling our award-winning wines, there's something for everyone. These are all great places to visit and explore while in town.

San Juan Creek Trail

20. San Juan Creek Trail

San Juan Creek Trail is a beautiful 11-mile trail that follows the San Juan Creek from just north of Portola Hills Golf Course to the Pacific Ocean. Large trees provide shade along much of this natural beauty with "oak and sycamore woodlands, riparian scrubland, chaparral brush, sandstone outcroppings" as well as "excellent birding and wildlife viewing opportunities." Along the way, you can make plenty of water crossings on your way to the beach and plenty of other hiking trails that intersect with this one.

Capistrano Beach Park

19. Capistrano Beach Park

The Capistrano Beach Park, also known by locals as "the City of Refuge," has a long and storied history. When the city was created in 1994 to prevent any development on Mission Bay's dunes during the 20th Century, this park became one of its most prized jewels. It features acres of coastal bluffs overlooking Dana Point Harbour and Catalina Island that are just perfect for hiking, bird watching (over 230 species have been spotted). The beach below offers opportunities for swimming, surfing, kayaking, or paddle boarding; you can even sign up for kiteboarding lessons at Cabrillo Lagoon. Also, one can go for a walk along the shore, play volleyball or basketball, eat lunch at one of the picnic tables and benches under an oak tree while watching your kids play on the playground.

Synaptic Cycle Bicycle Rental, Dana Point, California

18. Synaptic Cycle Bicycle Rental, Dana Point, California

The Synaptic Cycle Bicycle Rental is one of the best things you can do in Dana Point, CA. They offer bike rentals and adult bikes, as well as kid-sized bikes and trailers. Their rates start at $35 a day or $65 if renting for two days. Synaptic Cycle Bicycle Rental is located at 3737 Camino El Estero, and their contact info, including hours of operation, can be found on their website. This bicycle rental company offers a convenient and affordable way to explore the neighborhoods of downtown Dana Point. Whether you are looking for an outdoor adventure or just want some exercise, this is perfect for everyone.

Stack Pancake House, Dana Point, California

17. Stack Pancake House, Dana Point, California

The Stack Pancake House is a local favorite for breakfast or lunch. They offer delicious pancakes, waffles, and more all day long. This restaurant also has a family-friendly atmosphere with its lavish decor and comfortable seating areas. Stack Pancake House is located at 3620 South Pacific Coast Hwy in Dana Point, CA 93108. They are open from Monday- Saturday.

Have a Drink at the Ritz-Carton, Laguna Niguel, CA

16. Have a Drink at the Ritz-Carton, Laguna Niguel, CA

The Ritz-Carton is a great place to have cocktails, wine, or beer. This elegant and upscale restaurant has gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean as well as fantastic food. The Ritz-Carlton is a great place to have cocktails, wine, or beer. This elegant and upscale restaurant has gorgeous views of the Pacific Ocean as well as fantastic food.

Hill Top Park

15. Hill Top Park

According TripAdvisor, Hill Top Park is a beautiful location with an incredible view of the ocean. The Park features two playgrounds and picnic areas and hiking trails that lead to some excellent overlook points for views of Dana Point Harbor or Catalina Island. There's also a community garden where visitors can plant their flowers or vegetables if they're so inclined.

Windansea Beach

14. Windansea Beach

Windansea Beach is one of Dana Point's most famous attractions, and for a good reason. The waves here are some of the best in Southern California, as evidenced by its inclusion in competitions like ASP World Tour surfing events. Besides being a fantastic place to surf or swim, Windansea Beach is also a popular destination for kite flying.

Dana Point Farmers Market

13. Dana Point Farmers Market

The Dana Point Farmers Market is a beautiful place to spend the morning or afternoon. Visitors come for produce, flowers, and baked goods, as well as live music performances. It's also an excellent opportunity to get out of the house with your kids and teach them about where their food comes from. The market is open Wednesday through Sunday from about 09:30 to 18:00 hours, and there's plenty of on-site parking available. Point. They are a non-profit organization that provides high-quality, affordable care for kids aged one to six. Beach Buddies is one of the best child care centers in Dana Point, CA.

Beachy Head Day care

12. Beachy Head Day care

Beachy Head is a beautiful day-care in Dana Point. They provide high-quality, affordable care for kids from one to six years old and have been doing so since 1984. Beachy Head offers extended hours on weekends and holidays as well as before-school drop-off services, which allow parents to work or go out with their children knowing they'll be safe and well cared for. This is the perfect place for your young one to get in touch with nature. They'll be able to play on a playground, go on some excellent trails and even see some incredible animals like goats or chickens. Make sure you stop by this beautiful attraction during your stay in Dana Point.

Pines Park

11. Pines Park

This beautiful area features beautiful trees and plants and various wildlife, such as deer, tennis courts, an outdoor amphitheatre that hosts some live music in the summertime, and basketball courts that are open at most hours of the day. It is a popular place for locals to spend time with friends and family.

Dana Point Bluff Top Trail

10. Dana Point Bluff Top Trail

A must-do when visiting the city is to hike up the bluff top trail, a moderate mile-long walk that offers spectacular views of Dana Point Harbor and Catalina Island. The trek takes about an hour round trip for those in great shape or 40 minutes if you stop at all the scenic viewpoints along the way. Be sure to bring a camera because the views here are breath taking.

Dana Point Nature Interpretive Centre

9. Dana Point Nature Interpretive Centre

The Dana Point Nature Interpretive Centre is a beautiful place to learn about the local wildlife. Visitors can go on walking tours of the nature preserve or come for some hands-on activities like exploring an interactive, live butterfly garden with over 30 different species. They also offer guided hikes and classes in various art forms, which are perfect if you're looking for something new to do outdoors. Tourists should check out The Pilgrim Church while they're here too. Quakers originally built it as their meeting house but now functions as an arts centre that offers children, seniors, family programs and music lessons, and gardening instruction. There are plenty of parks nearby where visitors can picnic or take walks through beautiful natural scenery.

Visit the original Hobie Surf Shop

8. Visit the original Hobie Surf Shop

Founded in 1964, Hobie Surf Shop is the original surf shop. The founder and inventor of the modern-day sport of stand-up paddle boarding, Hobie Alter created a way to make surfing more accessible for kids outside on land with his invention called "Hobie Cat." Today you can find this award-winning company at 411 North Pacific Coast Highway Dana Point, CA.

Dana Strands Beach

7. Dana Strands Beach

Dana Strands Beach is a beautiful beach with plenty of jetskiing and kayaking opportunities. It also has an off-leash dog area, picnic tables, and BBQ pits for visitors' use. In the summertime, Dana Point hosts one of Southern California's most popular events: The Dana Point Festival of Whales. This event is a celebration of the Gray whales that migrate to Baja California every winter. There are also many other events available for visitors throughout the year.

Catalina Express, Dana Point, California

6. Catalina Express, Dana Point, California

Catalina Express, Dana Point, California, is one of the best ways to get off the island and explore more. The boat offers various options, such as whale watching excursions or just going for an enjoyable ride across the water to see some dolphins. The pilot service aboard Catalina Express has been operating since 1951 when William Wrigley Jr. founded it as an alternative to the ferry service from 1920-1945 and was only available during the summer months. The boat's facilities include a snack bar, restrooms (including handicap-access), gift shop, lounge with television monitors displaying views of the horizon, and outdoor seating areas on both decks for viewing and relaxing. In addition to the cruise service, Catalina Express offers a pilot boat for private charters and hourly sightseeing tours that include narration from an onboard naturalist/snorkel guide. These excursions operate seasonally during whale migration (mid-December through mid-April) and the dolphin birthing period (mid-July through October).

Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Watching Safaris, Dana Point, California

5. Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Watching Safaris, Dana Point, California

This is another excellent location to visit while in town. This place offers boat tours where you can explore the coastline and see dolphins and even whales. It's a beautiful experience that your friends will love as well, so make sure to go on this tour with them when visiting Dana Point. While at Dave's dolphin, remember to also book a sunset cruise that's perfect for anyone in your family.

Dana Point Parasail, Dana Point California

4. Dana Point Parasail, Dana Point California

This is an excellent location to visit when in town. It features a beautiful view of the entirety of Dana Point and has many water sports for everyone. Make sure you stop by this remarkable landmark while exploring Dana Point. This tour will take you out on their catamaran and offer breath taking scenery while providing guests with 360-degree visibility.

Doheny State Beach

3. Doheny State Beach

This is a must-see when in town. It's one of the most popular beaches in Dana Point, and for a good reason. The waves here are perfect for surfing, sun tanning, or just taking an afternoon stroll on the beach with your loved ones. Make sure to check this place out if you get the chance while visiting Dana Point. The Park also has plenty of parking spaces available, making it perfect for families or groups looking to spend all day at the beach. While at Doheny, Half Moon Bay Ecological Preserve is a rigorous hike that will take you to rare plants and animals, including some of our state's endangered species. It's not for everyone, but if you're looking for adventure, this is it. You can also spot migrating whales from here in the winter months.

Salt Creek Beach

2. Salt Creek Beach

This is another excellent place to visit when in town. It's a lovely, wide beach with a grassy area behind it and rocky cliffs all around the perimeter of the beach. Make sure to take your loved ones on this beautiful walk. The water here can get pretty rough but do not let this discourage you from coming out for a swim. This beach is located in the city of Dana point and offers a wide variety of surfing, boogie boarding, kayaking, paddle boarding, swimming, and more. Also, this beach is dog-friendly which makes it a great place to bring your pup.

Dana Point Harbor

1. Dana Point Harbor

According to, this is a great place to visit. This is the first stop of many on our list that you should explore. On top of being incredibly scenic, it also has eclectic boutiques and marinas for all your boat needs. Make sure to research the Harbor and all of its shops. The Dana point harbor is one of orange county's few public harbors and provides access to Catalina Island via daily Catalina express ferry service. Visitors can embark on a wide variety of water sporting adventures from the Harbor, including parasailing excursions and whale and dolphin watching charters. Fishing at Dana Point Harbor is fun any time of year - you might even catch one of our famous blue lobsters while you're out on the water. The Harbor also has some of the best spots for seafood in town. From fresh oysters to crab and lobster dinners, all your favorites are waiting.


Making your first visit to Dana Point unforgettable is easy. The city offers various activities, entertainment, and beautiful natural attractions that will please all travelers. The 20 best things to do in Dana Point, CA, for the first time, are just a few of many activities that will delight and entertain you.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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