Doheny State Beach near Dana Point Harbor is one of my favorite spots in Orange County.
We like to hang out at the harbor for breakfast, walks, and visits to the Ocean Institute.
I always seem to be walking through Doheny State Beach or driving past it on my way to the harbor.
How to Get to Doheny State Beach: The beach entrance is where Del Obispo turns into Dana Point Harbor Drive after you cross Pacific Coast Highway on your way to the harbor. I get to Doheny from all sorts of directions (Moulton to Golden Lantern, Crown Valley Parkway to Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), I-5 to PCH. Look at the map to see what makes the most sense for you. Taking the “Beach Cities” exit off Interstate 5 takes you right under the pedestrian bridge over PCH. Turn left onto Dana Point Harbor Drive and make an immediate left at the light. (Address: 23500 Dana Point Harbor Drive, Dana Point) MAP TO DOHENY STATE BEACH IN DANA POINT
Things to Know about Doheny State Beach
A California State Park offering day use areas for picnicking or beachgoing, plus a beach campground and day use area with fire pits.
The Visitor Center / Interpretive Center at the entrance booth has an aquarium and small displays of local wildlife. Consult the calendar for interpretive programs for families and kids.
A great spot for large gatherings with reservable picnic areas — many in the shade.
You can spend the day here and even walk over Dana Point Harbor and shops.
There are restrooms!
- Ocean bottom is rocky at this beach
- In recent years, witnessed a rising number of people experiencing homeless sleeping on the grassy area
- Access to fire pits and day use area can be impacted by high surf or storm surge
- Big events like the Doheny Blues Festival and Ohana Fest make the park extra busy and hard to navigate during the event – make sure you check the park calendar before you go.
- $15 day use fee for parking (or use your CA State Parks annual pass). Here’s my post all about How to Buy a California State Parks Pass.
Things to Know about Dana Point Harbor
One of my favorite places for family strolls because you never know what you are going to see. Park near the restaurants at the dead end of Golden Lantern and walk the sidewalk all the way to the Ocean Institute or across the bridge to the small island where many of the yacht clubs are located. I wrote a post about all the walks you can do at the harbor with route maps.
Coffee Importers is a local favorite, but hidden from view from the parking lot. Go down the stairs and grab your breakfast below El Torito (or get ice cream for dessert from the Scoop Deck Ice Cream Shop under Harpoon Henry’s).
Best calamari steaks around are at Harpoon Henry’s — the Harborside Patio has a happy hour menu that makes it budget-friendly for families.
You can walk from the harbor shops to Doheny State Beach.
Public restrooms are a little bit hidden, but right by the Harbor Grill.
- Parking is free, but can be a challenge on busy weekends or during the summer
Here are posts I’ve already written on the area:
- Dana Point Headlands Nature Interpretive Center
- Visit the Ocean Institute in Dana Point for Learning about Local Nautical History and Marine Animals
- Baby Beach in Dana Point Harbor
- Dana Point Tide Pools – Marine Protected Area (MPA) and State Marine Conservation Area (SMCA)
- Heritage Park doesn’t have a playground, but it’s nice for walks and views.
- Lantern Bay Park does have a small playground and restroom.
- Dana Point Bluff Top Trail for a short walk with views of the harbor.
Lots of people have covered the surf history, special events and activities related to this beach/park/campground/picnic area. Here are the top online sources I consult when planning a visit:
- Huell Howser – California’s Golden Parks (see the video online!)
- Doheny State Beach Interpretive Association
- Doheny State Beach (Official California State Parks page)
- Dana Point Harbor
- City of Dana Point
- The Ocean Institute
Originally posted in September 2010.