Dana Point Weekend Getaway Guide – When one mentions Dana Point, people may think of whale watching. After all, Dana Point is known as the “Whale Capital of the West”. But Dana Point’s nearly seven miles of prominent coastal bluffs and rolling hills along the Pacific Ocean has more to offer that booking a 1-night stay is not enough to experience it all but if you only have 2 days to spare, check our Dana Point weekend getaway guide to maximize your visit.
disclosure: This post was sponsored by Dana Point.
We visited over the weekend for a birthday getaway for the hubby and our youngest and made tons of memories we’ll cherish over the years. And it may now be our getaway destination for special occasions (paging the hubby, our 10th year anniversary is coming up!).
DANA POINT WEEKEND GETAWAY GUIDE
Read up on our Dana Point Weekend Getaway Guide for tips on where to stay, things to do and restaurants to try when visiting Dana Point below.
Dana Point is a great weekend getaway destination filled with luxurious resorts, fine dining, ocean adventure, beach play and amazing ocean views almost anywhere you go. And when I say view, whether you catch the sunset during dinner, accidentally stumble upon the lookout point overlooking the Dana Point Harbor, or ride the Dana Point trolley, the ocean will seriously catch your eye. Even the back door of one the restaurants we dined at has an ocean view.
WHERE IS DANA POINT?
Dana Point is located in Orange County between Los Angeles and San Diego. It is 30 minutes from John Wayne Airport (Orange, CA) or an hour and 15 minutes away from Los Angeles International Airport. If you’re planning on visiting Disneyland, Dana Point is about 45 minutes away, so plan on extending your vacation to make time for Dana Point.
WHERE TO STAY IN DANA POINT
Laguna Cliffs Resort and Spa
A luxurious resort with all the amenities families will need to make their weekend getaway fun in Dana Point including two heated outdoor pools, a splash pad, a kid’s lounge, bicycle rentals, breakfast buffet during the weekend, and a spa & a 24hr fitness center for the adults. We had a really comfy stay and the splash pad was a bonus.
Make sure to take advantage of the book 3 nights get 1 night Free + $100 credit promotion. It’s only available until 9/4.
READ: Photos and our experience at Laguna Cliffs Resort and Spa Dana Point
DANA POINT RESTAURANTS
Raya – Ritz Carlton
Even if you’ve already spent hours at the beach before dinner, you will step back in awe at the view as you walk in into Raya. It’s oceanside dining at its best with the sunset creeping in as you peruse through the Pan-Latin menu and sip on your champagne. And even with a simple 1-page menu followed by a simple not overly ornate plating, one bite onto their juicy Lamb Lollipop and melt in your mouth Miso Black Cod, it will make you want to order and try everything on their menu.
One of the best meals we’ve ever had and I cannot stop myself from going spoon after spoon of their delectable crab mashed potato. The question now is when do we go back for Sunday brunch? How about lunch? We cannot wait to go back. Kudos to the great service as well! Make reservations ahead and if you wish to have a table beside the window, book closest to their opening time.
READ: Photos and our experience having dinner at Raya, The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.
A nice midday stop after tiring oneself out at the beach, or in our case – pedaling our way to hunger on a Surrey bike at Doheny Beach is Coastal Kitchen. Their tri-tip tacos were really juicy and had a good flavor profile in every bite. And while the Pork Belly Bites may have been snickered at for looking like a 4pc. lechon kawali (a Filipino dish) in the beginning, it turned out to be the best lechon kawali I’ve ever tasted after it I took a bite of it. Yes, it tasted nothing like lechon kawali and looking back, I should have ordered another plate.
Vue Buffet Breakfast – Laguna Cliffs
No need to venture out for breakfast when you’re staying at Laguna Cliffs. A nice breakfast buffet is available at Vue with either indoor seating or al fresco dining with views of the Pacific. A variety of breakfast staples are available from bacon, sausages, scrambled egg, oatmeal, cereals, fresh fruits, muffins, croissants, yogurt and a whole lot more including cook to order omelette, smoked salmon with capers and eggs benedict.
Angelina’s Pizzeria Napoletana
Serving authentic Neopolitan-style pizzas, our trip to Angelina’s was an afterthought and was not part of the original itinerary but a great find nonetheless. Angelina’s served the best Pepperoni Pizza we’ve ever tried to date, even better than the ones we’ve tried in Italy. I got worried when the pizza was placed on our table as the pepperoni slices my picky eater daughter is used to was not what I saw but she scarfed down 4 slices (sigh of relief). And I can assure you that the difference in the pepperoni used was not merely what made this pizza great but the whole flavor combination of the sauce, the cheese, the meat, the crust and maybe even the wood fired oven it was cook from added to the overall goodness of the pizza.
The lil’ one on the otherhand enjoyed their meatballs with us.
THINGS TO DO IN DANA POINT
Ride the Dana Point Trolley
The free Dana Point Trolley is not only a great way to get around town and learn about the different places you can visit but it is also a fun activity for the kids. The girls had so much fun, we did too! It has stops at the various beaches, including Doheny Beach and Strands Beach and even at our hotel (Laguna Cliffs) which is situated in front of Lantern Bay Park where it has a stop. Download the Dana Point Trolley App to learn more about it.
Not very big like other aquariums but there is so much to learn here. Our favorite was looking at planktons through a microscope and seeing the full life cycle of jellyfish. You also get to go on a tall ship and learn about it. Do visit Dana Point during the Tall Ship Festival happening this September 8-10, 2017.
Take in the View at the Breakwater
Walk to the breakwater behind Ocean Institute to be surprised by the magnificent view you didn’t think was there even after a day at Baby Beach. One of the best spots in Dana Point to take it all in. A must visit when you’re in Dana Point. Hold on to the kids and be careful not to do crazy stuff.
Dana Point Lookout Cabana
One of the highest spots in Dana Point is this lookout cabana that offers a sweeping view of the harbor below. A must see!
Rent a Bike at Wheel Fun Rentals
One of the Family Friendly Things to Do in Dana Point is to rent a bike and pedal around Doheny Beach on a Surrey bike that fits four or a double surrey that fits more. The kids had so much and wanted us to pedal another round around the beach. Great way to start a vacation and build an appetite for lunch as well. They may be fully booked by noon so plan on going early.
Where we rented a Surrey Bike. Doheny beach is perfect for surfing, hanging out with friends, picnic by the beach and playing beach volleyball. Parking is $6 for an hour or $15 for the day-use. Doheny Surf Festival also happens every June.
With the breakwater fronting it, Baby Beach offers calm waters for the little ones to enjoy the shoreline and make sand castles. We made an impromptu trip here just to take pictures before checking in to our hotel but the kids ended up not wanting to leave. With wet pants, sandy toes and the biggest grin on their face, I watched the kids enjoy themselves like it’s the best day of their life.
Visiting Strands Beach to Ride the Funicular
Another beach to visit in Dana Point is Strands Beach. The real reason I wanted to come here was to ride the funicular. The kids had a ton of fun though at the beach and were asking if we can go back to the beach again the next day.
Whatever you do, make sure to wait for the funicular. Don’t let people tell you it’s not working until you’ve waited long enough yourself. We ended up walking the stairs down coz’ one of the ladies waiting said it wasn’t working. When we were mid way down, the funicular was on its way up. Fewer people go down the beach using it so you’d have it more to yourself going down compared to the ride up – which of course is also very important as well coz’ that my friend is a very long way up.
Lantern Bay Park
This is a beautiful park in Dana Park that offers a scenic view of the harbor and Doheny Beach. There’s a playground, picnic areas, lots of beautiful trees and even a wedding site. A bonus if you’re staying at Laguna Cliffs is to stroll here after breakfast at Vue since it is located in front of the hotel. There’s also a Dana Point Trolley stop here.
Dana Point is known as the Whale Capital of the West because several types of whales use this point as a navigational landmark on their migrations north or south. So do go on a whale and dolphin watching trip when you visit. Make sure to book ahead of time before visiting Dana Point.
SUGGESTED DANA POINT ITINERARY
9AM – Arrive at Doheny Beach for beach play and bike ride with Wheel Fun Rentals. 11AM – Ride the Dana Point Trolley at Doheny Beach Trolley Stop to Coastal Kitchen for lunch.
11 AM – Ride the Dana Point Trolley at Doheny Beach Trolley Stop to Coastal Kitchen for lunch.
1130AM – Lunch at Coastal Kitchen. The Dana Point Trolley Stop is just walking distance to the restaurant.
1230PM – Ride the trolley back to Doheny Beach to get the car.
1PM – Strands Beach (make sure to ride the fenicular down to the beach and back up to the parking.
345PM – Drive out to check-in to your hotel.
4PM – Nap at the hotel or get a massage at the hotel, make sure to book ahead.
6PM – Dinner at Raya Ritz Carlton.
730PM – Enjoy the sunset (time varies by season). Walk to hotel patio overlooking the ocean for the best view. Get drinks at 180Blu if you’re not traveling with kids.
8PM – Enjoy late night swimming back at your hotel. Check for operating hours, varies by resort.
8AM – Breakfast at Vue – Laguna Cliffs. Adjust accordingly if you have a whale watching cruise scheduled, if not:
9AM – Stroll around Lantern Bay Park.
930AM – Head to your resorts pool or get a massage if you still haven’t.
1130AM – Lunch at Angelina’s Pizzeria.
1230PM – Drive to Dana Point Lookout Cabana for a quick photo opp and to enjoy the sweeping views of the Pacific.
1PM – Drive down to Ocean Institute, they close at 3PM. Make sure to put in your name for a timed tour of the tall ship.
230PM – Walk to the breakwater at the back of Ocean Institute. Amazing view!
300PM – Play at Baby Beach. You can ride a kayak, paddle board or even book a chartered cruise in advance.
5PM – Grab dinner first and get gas and snacks before driving back or flying out.
We hope you visit Dana Point soon!