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ICONIC CITY | Our Guide to Dana Point, California

Visit Dana Point

Visit Dana Point

Visit Dana Point to experience a city filled with rich culture, excellent dining and ocean views.

Named after Richard Henry Dana Jr., a Harvard-trained lawyer, seaman and author of the sea journal “Two Years Before the Mast,” Dana Point is a quintessential coastal California city. From the prominent coastal bluffs to the Dana Point Harbor that’s home to more than 2,500 boats and 50 shops and restaurants, it’s not hard to find a reason to love the southern Orange County city.

Like most visitors to the area, as soon as I arrived in Dana Point for the first time, I was struck by the laid-back vibes and stunning ocean views, finding beauty all around me. From the lush greenery to the adorable squirrels running up every tree, to the gracious welcome from the locals, I felt right at home in Dana Point.

With so many great options for accommodations, dining and fun things to do, you may require more than just one visit to Dana Point to get the most out of the ICONIC city.

WHERE TO STAY

Marriott

Photo Credit: Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa

LAGUNA CLIFFS MARRIOTT RESORT & SPA

Perched atop the ICONIC Dana Point cliffs is Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa, providing unparalleled views of the harbor below and an enticing central location within the city. Adorned with sophisticated-yet-beachy decor, my room at the Laguna Cliffs Marriott was spacious and inviting and complete with all of the amenities I could imagine. I enjoyed my morning coffee from the balcony of my comfortable guest room, watching the calming ocean that is reflected in the decor throughout the resort, and in the fine food at Outer Reef.

Waldorf

Photo Credit: Visit Dana Point

WALDORF ASTORIA MONARCH BEACH RESORT

Inspired by both the sand and the sea, sat atop a 150-foot seaside bluff, the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort offers 175 acres of luxury seaside living. The AAA Five-Diamond resort is complete with ocean views and ocean-inspired decor, with plush bedding and spacious rooms that help you get the most out of your stay in the coastal town.

Ritz

Photo Credit: Visit Dana Point

THE RITZ-CARLTON, LAGUNA NIGUEL

You’ll find Dana Point’s Ritz-Carlton atop of a coastal bluff overlooking the ocean at Laguna Beach. Adorned with local artwork and an artistic surfboard display, The Ritz-Carlton embraces the culture of Dana Point, sharing the history and natural beauty of the area through expert-led eco-adventures, like whale watching and E-bike tours.

Blue Lantern Inn

Photo Credit: Visit Dana Point

ICONIC: BLUE LANTERN INN, A FOUR SISTERS INN

Overlooking Dana Point Harbor is the ICONIC Blue Lantern Inn, a small, 29-room luxury hotel with thoughtfully designed guest rooms and amenities. Each afternoon, the Inn provides a  wine + cheese hour that you can enjoy while taking in the stunning ocean views, plus a chef-prepared breakfast for two each morning. The Inn also offers bikes to borrow, so you can leisurely explore all that Dana Point has to offer.

DoubleTree Doheny Beach

Photo Credit: Visit Dana Point

SPECIAL MENTION 

DOUBLETREE SUITES BY HILTON HOTEL DOHENY BEACH – DANA POINT

If your goal of traveling to Dana Point is to enjoy a fun day at the beach, the Hilton DoubleTree is just a short, under half-mile walk away from Doheny State Beach. The hotel’s pet-friendly rooms offer excellent views, and the hotel’s restaurant Doheny Surf is a great choice for getting a taste of modern California cuisine.

WHERE TO DINE

Laguna Cliffs Marriott - Outer Reef Plate 2 - Dining

Photo Credit: Visit Dana Point

OUTER REEF

Chef John Tesar is behind the excellent cuisine at Outer Reef, the coastal seafood restaurant at Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa, and he has impressive accolades to back up his culinary expertise. Tesar was awarded with a Michelin Star for his excellent work at Knife & Spoon at The Ritz Carlton Grand Lakes in Orlando, and he is a five-time James Beard Award nominee for “Best Southwest Chef.” Featuring Chef Tesar’s interpretation of coastal seafood, guests of Outer Reef enjoy inventive dishes like Pounded Dry-Aged Tuna, Black Cod Milanese and Kimchi Glazed Pacific Halibut, plus a generous (and delicious) breakfast buffet in the mornings. 

Glasspar

Photo Credit: Glasspar

GLASSPAR

While you’re in Dana Point, you can’t miss trying the best of the best when it comes to seafood. Glasspar is a refined seafood hall with a creative menu and preparation by Chef Rob Willson, putting his extensive experience—13 years working with the Ritz Carlton and serving as the Executive Chef of The Montage since 2010—to good use. On Wednesdays-Sundays, Glasspar offers the opportunity to bring fresh fish home with you through their excellent fish market.

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Coastal Kitchen

Photo Credit: Coastal Kitchen

COASTAL KITCHEN

If you are a history-buff (or just like really good seafood), I recommend you take time to enjoy a meal at the Coastal Kitchen, which is located in the first commercial building in Dana Point, dating back to the 1920s. The comfortable and friendly restaurant is just a quick jaunt from the harbor a and choice dining for lunch, dinner and drinks.

Giana

Photo Credit: Giana

GIANA BAKERY & PROVISIONS

Whether you prefer sweet or savory, Giana Bakery & Provisions has something for every taste. The bakery has wafting smells of freshly-baked bread, made using only responsibly-sourced and organic ingredients. Giana also offers sandwiches, salads and sides, traditional Italian meats and cheeses, as well as imported wines, and a full-service dining room with tasty pizzettas and decadent pastas.

Craft House

Craft House, Photo Credit Knife & Spork PR

CRAFT HOUSE

You’ll find Craft House right off of the Pacific Coast Highway, offering gourmet dishes and drinks under the direction of Chef Blake Mellgren, who was born and raised in southern Orange County. Chef Mellgren opened Craft House in March 2016 with a focus on sourcing local and sustainable seafood, and a commitment to excellent dining.

WHAT TO DO

Dana Wharf

Photo Credit: Visit Dana Point

DANA WHARF SPORTFISHING & WHALE WATCHING

What better way to spend an afternoon than by boarding a boat, exploring the ocean and looking for whales and dolphins? I encourage you to do just that with Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching, located in Dana Point’s harbor. I joined the 51-year-old whale watching company for a tour during my stay in Dana Point, and while we didn’t see any large whales, I was not disappointed by the numerous dolphins and the incredible facts I learned from the on-board naturalist. Dolphins are in the area year-round, and do not migrate, so you’re likely to spot at least a few of them during your tour.

Photo Credit: @caitlyn_nieblas and @captdaveswhalewatching

CAPTAIN DAVE’S PRIVATE CHARTERS

If you want to watch whales in style, Captain Dave’s offers private charters (including a private yacht that seats 6) for up to 24 guests at a time. By exploring with a private charter, you have control over the speed of the boat, so you can stop and focus on dolphins or whales for as long as you’d like to. Plus, the only other guests on the boat are ones that you have personally invited. Captain Dave’s also has boats with underwater glass-viewing pods, so you can watch the sea creatures from all of the angles.

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Yoga

Photo Credit: Visit Dana Point

IHEARTYOGA

You may have done yoga before, but have you ever done yoga on a paddleboard? iHeartYoga offers just that, with their unique 90-minute paddle and yoga workshop. With the water moving underneath you while you pose, you’ll engage muscles that you don’t normally. If paddleboarding isn’t your thing, iHeartYoga also offers classes on yachts and in their studio.

WestWind Sailing

Photo Credit Westwind Sailing

WESTWIND SAILING

Set sail for adventure with Westwind Sailing, which opened in 1987 with a focus on safety and fun. Sign up for a private lesson to learn how to sail safely or get a refresher course if you have sailed before. This isn’t just for adults—kids can enroll in classes with Westwind Sailing, too, so bring the whole family!

NIGHT LIFE

StillWater

Photo courtesy of StillWater Spirits & Sounds

STILLWATER SPIRITS & SOUNDS

End an eventful day at Dana Point Harbor with great drinks and food at StillWater Spirits & Sounds. Chef Javier Romero prepares locally-sourced produce, meat and fish with his tantalizing coastal-inspired menu. With a wide selection of beers on tap (more than 54 varieties!), wines and spirits, there are sure to be libations that suit your tastes.

Marriott

Photo Credit: Visit Dana Point

LAGUNA CLIFFS LOCAL MUSIC

The Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa is not just a great choice of accommodations for your stay but also a source for entertainment, with live local music In the OverVue Lounge & Deck, which has excellent ocean views. You’ll find a live local band playing every Wednesday-Sunday night during the Sunset & Libations Happy Hour.

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