39 Things to Do In Dana Point, California

Want a So Cal digital nomad experience, without the hectic crowds of LA or San Diego? Dana Point is your spot. This charming seaside town is packed with things to do to help you keep the balance between work and play. Dana Point comes with world-class beaches, renowned surfing, and is quite literally the dolphin and whale-watching capital of the world. 

I would say Dana Point rivals Yellowstone when it comes to wildlife encounters. The marine life in this area is really immeasurable. 

In this post, I’ve curated a list of 39 must-do activities in Dana Point that will take you from its sparkling waters to its picturesque hilltops, through its bustling markets, and onto adventure. This is the ultimate Dana Point experience. 

Disclaimer: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. WE MAY RECEIVE MONEY IF YOU CLICK AND PURCHASE THROUGH LINKS ON THIS PAGE.

Dana Point historical landmark sign

39 Things to do and see in Dana Point, California

Arts, Culture & Museums

palm tress and Dana Point Lantern District archway with cars driving through
Dana Point Lantern district sign

Dana Point’s distinct districts and sea-faring culture are what make it an irresistible  destination. Kick off your adventure by checking out these local attractions. 

The coastal charm here is simply irresistible. The harbor itself is a bustling scene of boats gently bobbing in the water, palm-fringed promenades and lovely boutiques. It’s also the hub of Dana Point’s aquatic heart, where you’ll find sailing, whaling, and all-things-fun in the water. 

Another cute part of town farther inland, but a distinctly different experience. An adorable neighborhood featuring boutique shopping, scenic dining scenic, and even more of that relaxed, nautical charm I just can’t seem to get enough of. 

Whimsical art gallery featuring  Laura Seeley’s animal and beach inspired art. 

This is the place to experience marine science and maritime history up close. Visitors can explore aquarium exhibits, historic tall ships, and engage in hands-on activities. Offers special events, workshops, and whale-watching opportunities, as well as summer camps for children.

A historic Spanish mission, a landmark of California’s Spanish history.

The Old Town tour takes sightseers along quaint streets, adobe buildings, and learn about the mission. Worth the visit for its architectural beauty and cultural heritage.

This is within the Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area. The interpretive center and the surrounding trails are part of a larger natural area and encourage a better understanding of the local flora, fauna, and marine life.  Exhibits, educational programs, and guided nature walks certainly deepen a person’s appreciation for the uniqueness of the area. 

AKA, the SHACC- it’s a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving Dana Point’s heritage as a legendary surf spot. They claim to have the world’s most significant collection of surfboards, photography, and surfing memorabilia. Even non-surfers can appreciate admiring a well curated slice of local history. 

Tours and Adventures in Dana Point

It’s not a trip to Dana Point without a whale-watching tour! Check out these other seafaring  adventures available from the Harbor. 

#7 Whale-Watching

Unforgettable. I had the best time on this whale watching tour. What makes it really special was our ship had a unique underwater viewing pod (think of shoving yourself into a torpedo tube). As I laid on my stomach peering through the clear window to the underwater world I was amazed to see so many dolphins from the superpod swimming directly next to the ship. It was such a gift to look at the dolphins eye to eye as they swam with us. It was really magical! On this trip we also saw a fin whale which was my first time to see one. 

#8 Ferry to Catalina Island

The scenic voyage to Catalina Island is an adventure in itself. It’s a smooth and comfortable journey across with large window seats givign you a spectacular view of the coastline and high cliffs. Watch for dolphins and whales along the way! A must-do.

#9 Sailing

Surrender to the wind and waves in traditional seafaring style- on a sailboat. Both seasoned sailors and first-timers can experience the thrill of sailing in Dana Point via rentals, guided tours, sailing schools, regattas, and more.

Dolphin Super Pod in Dana Point, on whale tour
Dolphin Superpod
Rare fin whale appearing at surface
Fin Whale


Dana point has deep roots in surfing culture thanks to the gorgeous beaches and reliable waves. Surfline’s Surf Report has current beach conditions, as well as recommended spots for all skill levels.

#11 Kayaking & Paddleboarding

Glide peaceful waters in a kayak or paddleboard. You might even encounter marine life up close! A lot of these rental places have a combination of surf, ski, and paddle equipment, so you’ll likely be able to rent your ride of choice from most of the shops included on our list. 

Surf board overlooking Dana Point Harbor
Sail Boat Dana Point

#12 Boating & Jet Ski

Looking for thrills or like independent exploration? Rent a boat, jet ski, or get your adventure on with whichever water sport suits your fancy. 

Dana Point Beaches

Dana Point’s stunning beaches draw visitors from all around- who wouldn’t want gentle surf, sun-kissed sands, and the delight of dolphins nearby? 
Each beach presents its unique allure, catering to different preferences and activities. Here’s a snapshot of what each one has to offer.

Beache Dana Point, says Wild in the sand
Sports net at sunset on the beach Dana Point

Vast, white sand beach, clear blue waters, and a favorite for surfing and bodyboarding. Also a great place for walking trails.  While not directly along the beach, the Salt Creek Trail runs through the Salt Creek Corridor Regional Park. Enjoy scenic views of the surrounding hills and greenery.

Here gentle waves meet pristine shoreline to attract campers, picnickers, beachcombers, families, and, well, just about everyone! Doheny State Beach is understandably popular, known for its tide pools, beachy fun options, and restaurants shops nearby. Take a long walk on the Doheny State Beach Walk or the Doheny Beach Trail. 

 State beaches (like state parks) require a permit, but it’s worth it here.

Dana Point, California beach with bird
Alise wearing Tales From An Untamed Soul tshirt with ocean behind her
Baby Beach earns its name with its petite size, tranquil waters, and appeal to families. The calm shallows inside the harbor create a safe space for small children to play, but also ideal conditions for stand-up paddleboards and kayaks.
Parking is free, albeit limited.
(Let’s keep this one a secret, just between you and me!)
This gem’s hidden in a residential neighborhood south of the Ritz Carlton. Stairs and slopes limit access for some, but the reward is quiet, romantic, and silky, soft sand.
Simply dreamy.
Free parking + funicular (cable car) offers a lift down to the beach during the busier summer months and weekends.
Tip: Best to leave rocks and shells where you find them- this is a marine reserve area. and trust me, you won’t want any excess weight to carry back up those stairs.

Situated beneath a private beach club, the general public can enjoy the beach by parking at Salt Creek Beach Park. 

Capo beach is, of course, beautiful and another great choice for swimming. Relaxed atmosphere, beach volleyball, and super easy to access from the parking lot. 

Follow the staircase behind the Ocean Institute down to the shore and let the salty sea guide ye to Pirate’s Cave.

A small entrance opens up to a surprisingly large sea cave to explore. Enjoy the ocean view though the mouth of the cave. Wear reliable shoes and plan your venture for low tide.

Alise, a digital nomad and life coach, smiling with a coffee mug in her workspace, featuring a laptop, ring light, and desert scene backdrop.

Are you an aspiring digital nomad? Or maybe you are a digital nomad and you’re feeling stuck. Our expert, Alise Saunders, helps people like you start businesses, plan their digital nomad journey, and get on the road. Are you ready? 

Hiking & Trails in Dana Point

Whether you’re going for a leisurely stroll along the beach or venturing up seaside cliffs, you’re in for some breathtaking views. 

Dirt path leading toward ocean at horizon

For a postcard-worthy vista, walk Bluff Top Trail. A fairly easy cliffside path showcases a rare view of the sparkling harbor below. Historical markers along the trail tell the story of Dana Point’s past. Don’t forget your camera.

The Dana Point Headlans loop is about three miles long and connects all the conservation parks and open spaces. Stunning ocean views and a chance to appreciate the local flora and fauna.

Lovely hike that can be as long or as short as you want it to be. Paved and unpaved sections combine natural beauty, urban scenery, and of course, ocean views. 

Out and back trail with sweeping views of the surrounding hills and ocean. Mixed-use trail, so expect cyclists. 

Circles past the statue of Richard Henry Dana Jr., author of “Two Years Before The Mast”, Dana Point’s namesake. 

  • I think we are so blessed to have an earthly experience, to enjoy the sensualpleasures that this diverse, endlessly astonishing existence offers.What better way to take advantage of the opportunity to be alive, in human form—with the gifts of sight,

  • In April of 2021 Gregg and I (Alise Saunders) set out on an epic journey! With no home to return to, having sold or gifted most of our belongings, with our two cats in tow, we stuffed what was left

  • In 2012, I moved my family hundreds of miles to take a job I thought would catapult my career to the next level—and had a big wake-up call. Though I had always been a serious, driven person who prized career

  • Gregg and I are manifesting big changes in the world, which can happen easily, as the universe is abundant and vast. Our purpose is to help others realize and achieve their wildest dreams through our blog and supporting KIVA, a

  • No self-confidence was harmed in the taking of these photos. I believe in loving all of yourself, something I’m learning to do more each day. When it comes to the photos posted on this site, I will not edit away

  • My nature detox changed my life and helped me heal my body. And it all began in the unexpected paradise of a charming horse farm in Humboldt, TN.

Health and Wellness Activities in Dana Point

Just being by the ocean nourishes my soul, and inspires my overall well-being.  Seaside yoga or a luxury spa session is the perfect complement to the natural therapy of the sea. 

Gregg and Alise Saunders spa day in Dana Point

#25 Spa Day

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo.

#26 Yoga

Cycling in Dana Point

With stunning landscapes and favorable weather, Dana Point is a dream for cyclists. Enjoy a variety of trails and routes for a long haul or just a  short spin. 

Gregg Saunders near ocean with bike

#27 Resources and Routes

Lists the top 9 bike rides around Dana point. 

Synaptic cycles showcases some local routes.

Bike Map has 253 cycle routes.

#28 Shops and Rentals

Start LLC for $0 at IncFile

Drives and Sights

Pacific Coast Highway image of road, with cars, and ocean view

I will never get tired of driving along the coast for a scenic drive. The Pacific Coast Highway takes you along some of Dana Point’s best sights and onto adventure. Check out these other drives and sights you won’t want to miss: 

#29 Start of Pacific Coast Highway

The Pacific Coast Highway officially begins here in Dana Point and stretches 1,650 miles up to Washington State. An incredibly scenic journey along the coast. 

#30 Scenic Drive from Seal Beach

See soaring cliffs and serene beaches on this gorgeous stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway.  Highlights along the route include Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, and state parks with beach access. 

#31 Doris Walker Overlook in Heritage Park

Named after local historian Doris Walker-Smith and one of the best vantage points in the city. Shady pines overlook the harbor below. 

Events in and around Dana Point

The city regularly hosts a variety of events, with music festivals, surfing competitions, and celebrations of all that makes Dana Point unique. I’ve highlighted some of the most exciting annual events here!


March – Come and celebrate the return of the California Gray Whale with the local community! Features a parade and special whale-watching opportunities.

April – Experience the windswept coastal atmosphere while sipping fine wines and indulging in delicacies. 


September – 3-day music festival that’s typically at the end of September and often features some big names. 

September – This event pays tribute to Dale Velzy, the first commercial surfboard shaper, and features a surf contest, luau, and live music.


June- September – In nearby Laguna Beach, Sawdust Art Fest showcases local artists and musicians in a unique artist village. This event is on-going and you can catch it on the weekends from the end of June to September 

June – Free event that brings art, music, and the community together in the Lantern District. 


December – Holiday festivities including a craft fair, entertainment, and a tree-lighting finale. Santa and carnival activities are available for families. 

Year Round

Saturdays – 9am – 1 pm in the La Plaza Park. Features California farmers and craft vendors. Come for fresh produce, art, and handmade soaps and gifts. 

Saturdays – 8 am – 12 noon. Recognized as one of the best farmer’s markets in Orange County. Local honey, flowers, produce, artisanal foods, and homemade treats. 

More places to See Nearby Dana Point

It’s the digital nomad’s prerogative to eventually pack our cats, bikes, and bags to head on to our next great adventure. As you continue your journey from Dana Point, here are some additional wonderful places to discover:

Nearest towns

Laguna Beach

Beautiful beaches, art galleries, and the annual Pageant of the Masters festival. For all my fellow bird enthusiasts, be sure to check out Bird Rock to see a variety of shorebirds, part of the California Coastal National Monument. Hike the 26 miles of trails in Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. There are so many beaches with various recreation opportunities. I recommend starting at Heisler Park, with walking trails, picnic tables, and right on the water to view the tide pools. Venture to the south shoreline for the most famous sea cave, which can be explored at low tide from Thousand Steps Beach. As for shops, I really enjoyed the Laguna Iguana and Ryan’s Art for the Soul.

La Jolla

Known for its rugged coastline, boutique shopping, and dining options, La Jolla is also known for Seal Beach/Children’s Pool where you can find many seals and shorebirds. I’ve visited multiple times and it’s always amazing to see nature so close. Torrey Pines is a great place to stay, play a round of golf at the infamous course, or enjoy nature at the State Natural Reserve. This area is one of my favorites to kayak, and the wildlife sightings are plentiful. Head to Whale View Point to catch a glimpse of passing whales or inhale the breathtaking scenery at Windansea Beach


Famous for the historic Hotel del Coronado, beautiful beaches, and charming downtown area, Coronado Island has so much to offer. The USS Midway Museum, Tidelands Park, and Seaport Village are a few of my faves. 


Home to the San Diego Botanic Garden, Moonlight Beach, and Swami’s Beach, Encintias offers great access to San Digeo and the surrounding areas.  Who doesn’t love 36,000 sq ft of Orchid heaven? If you’re a plant lover you have to check it out. If you are looking for a unique zen experience, check out the infamous Self-Realization Fellowship Temple founded by Paramahansa Yogananda sharing the teachings of Kriya Yoga. The nearby meditation garden is a place of peace to practice your meditation skills. 

Heart-centered Business Insurance
Heart-centered Business Insurance

Can’t Miss Activities

Iconic desert scenery about 2 hours from Dan Point. An absolute must. I (Alise) spent time living in Joshua Tree as a child. I can’t say enough about how beautiful it is. Joshua Tree National Park is a sacred place to me and one I feel everyone should visit. 

Crystal Cove State Park is one of Orange County’s largest remaining open space and natural seashore. 3.2 miles of beach and 2,400 acres of wilderness. The hiking trails here range from easy to strenuous, and there is even a historic walking tour for history buffs. Of course there are tide pools and beach activities too. 

Located in San Clemente, this park offers a beach experience with areas for picnicking and hiking.

full guide to Dana Point, California

Virtual Tours

Can’t wait to start your Dana Point Voyage? Take a virtual tour of the area to really ignite your spark of adventure. 

Join Chip Hammontree as he takes a visual trip around the best of Dana Point. 

Use this interactive map to explore the Lantern District in Dana Point.18 stops with quick summaries you can enjoy from afar or while you are in the Lantern District for an all-inclusive experience.  

How to Work to Travel

Everything you need to know about traveling

This ebook will bring to life what you need to begin your digital nomad journey. 


These items will make your travels memorable.

Heading to Dana Point you’re going to need a few essentials to have the best time: 

  1. A body board is a must for fun in the surf, and this one is inflatable, taking up minimal space like traditional ones. 
  2. It’s so weird to change clothes after swimming, so this changing robe is just the fix you din’t know you needed. 
  3. I feel like a good beach blanket is hard to find. But this one is so versatile, it can also be used as a tent, or for shade. It comes with ground stakes, so no searching for rocks to hold it down either. And, bonus… there is enough room for two people. Woah! What a concept! No need to buy a separate yoga mat, it doubles as that too. But if you want something more durable, check this military grade beach blanket out. 
  4. It’s time to get Zen hangin on the beach with this non-slip yoga mat. I love it’s 10mm thickness with extra wide layout and shoulder strap. 
  5. Are you ready to read a book that will change your life? Besides my own of course, I highly recommend Untamed by Glennon Doyle. I love reading at the beach, on my Kindle or a paperback! The Kindle Paperwhite is one of the best Kindles’ out there, and it’s even waterproof, perfect for the beach. 
  6. Are you ready for the smallest, compact everything chair you’ve ever seen? This chair folds up to the size of a water bottle. This one is a bit more affordable. This one reclines and has storage. 
  7. Don’t forget the Stanley cup, known for keeping hot things hot and cold things cold. 
  8. Don’t run out of power on the beach. The INIU portable charger is the one Gregg and I use throughout our travels. 
  9. Wildlife can sometimes be seen from the beach, so these waterproof binoculars will help you get a closer look. This  monocular holds easily in one hand, and had a cool phone attachment to capture images and share with friends. 
  10. I love having a romantic picnic on the beach. The ALLCAMP insulated collapsible picnic basket is perfect for a beach lunch. If you need a larger cooler, the RTIC has a variety of sizes and options, with a reputation of being one of the best cooler brands on the market. Gregg and I travel with a Yeti cooler, the M series, and love it. 

 WE INDEPENDENTLY OWN THIS BUSINESS AND SITE AND THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE ARE OUR OWN. The information provided on this page and on this website may be inaccurate. You should make contact yourself before booking or going to ensure they are open, get pricing, and other details pertinent to your trip. The information provided through this website is for informational purposes only and has not been evaluated by the FDA and is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any illness or disease. It is not professional advice, nor is it intended to create any type of relationship between us. You should not act on any of the information on this website without seeking professional legal, financial, medical, mental health, travel, or other professional advice or care. By accessing or using this website, you agree to abide by the Terms and ConditionsPrivacy Policy, and Affiliate Policy. Content may not be reproduced in any form.