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Things to Do in Dana Point, California

Breathtaking cliffs, golden coastlines, pristine waters, diverse marine wildlife, and year-round great weather all come together at Dana Point. This picturesque city in Orange County is a truly amazing place you should explore with Capt. Dave’s.

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Go Dolphin and Whale Watching

Year-round whale sightings and more dolphins per square mile than anywhere else on earth have made Dana Point the official Dolphin and Whale Watching Capital of the World®. So what is the best thing to do in Dana Point? You guessed it ⏤ go dolphin and whale watching!

With exceptional customer care and the world’s only underwater viewing pods, Capt. Dave’s offers the most incredible whale watching experience in California. Our 5-star rated safaris allow you to come eye-to-eye with dolphins and whales, without getting wet.

Drive the Pacific Coast Highway

If you enjoy road trips, driving on the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) is a must-do when visiting Orange County. With breathtaking coastal vistas, charming seaside towns, and plenty of foodie destinations, a PCH trip is one of the most adventurous things to do in and around Dana Point.

PCH offers many attractions, so make sure to stop by a few spots to revel in the beautiful sights. If you’re an animal lover, stop by the Elephant Seal Rookery of San Simeon after your whale watching safari to see thousands of blubbery seals frolicking by the sea!

Get Up Close and Personal With Marine Wildlife

To get up close and personal with marine wildlife, you don’t have to drive all the way to San Simeon. Dana Point is home to a large variety of native and migratory marine animals. It’s common for our guests to see gulls, dolphins, and sea lions just five minutes from the harbor.

Getting an intimate glimpse of sea life’s beauty should be among your top things to do in Dana Point. Along with dolphins and whales, you can see many different types of wild sea creatures on our Dana Point whale watching safaris. Here are some wildlife you might see on our tours:


With more than 450,000 dolphins off Dana Point’s coast, you’re bound to see a whole bunch of them while visiting Orange County. Dolphins love Capt. Dave’s boats and often swim over to greet our guests! Some of the most common types of dolphins we see on our tours include:

  • Common dolphins ⏤ These marine mammals are the most common type of dolphin you will meet on Capt. Dave’s safaris. Common dolphins are very social and frequently come over to bow ride with our boats.
  • Bottlenose dolphins ⏤ Larger than their common counterparts, bottlenose dolphins are among the most popular species of dolphin. They are very playful and perform aerial acrobatics when our guests clap or cheer for them.
  • Risso’s dolphins ⏤ Risso’s are unusual looking dolphins that have a blunt head, no beak, and are scarred with lines from head to tail. They are shy creatures and don’t always bow ride with us like common and bottlenose dolphins.


One of the best things to do in Dana Point is to watch whales. In the World’s Whale Watching Capital®, you can see whales all day, every day of the year. Below are some of the different types of whale species you can see up close on our Dana Point whale watching cruises:

  • Blue whales ⏤ At lengths of up to 110 ft and weighing as much as 200 tons, blue whales are the largest known animals on earth. When exhaling, these magnificent creatures produce a water fountain that can be as high as 30 feet.
  • Gray whales ⏤These barnacle-encrusted whales grow to about 50 feet in length and weigh up to an astounding 90,000 pounds.
  • Fin whales ⏤ Fin whales have a unique V-shaped head and curved dorsal fin. As the second-largest baleen whale, fin whales reach 80 feet long.

Other Marine Wildlife

Dolphins and whales are not the only marine animals you’ll see while visiting Orange County. From marine birds to reptiles and unique sea creatures, Dana Point is teeming with marine wildlife. Along with cetaceans, you can also see these wild sea creatures on our ocean safaris:

  • Sea Lions ⏤ Sea lions are among the most numerous marine mammals off Dana Point’s coast. We see California sea lions on almost every trip. Occasionally, elephant seals or harbor seals can be seen, too.
  • Marine birds ⏤ We spot more than 50 different kinds of marine birds throughout our safaris. Brown pelicans, gulls, and arctic terns are frequently seen on Capt. Dave’s cruises.
  • Unique creatures ⏤ You can spot plenty of rare marine wildlife in Dana Point’s coast and waters. Among those are sea turtles, jellyfish, and hydrozoans like Velella.

Cruise the Pacific Ocean

As the largest body of water on earth, cruising the Pacific Ocean should be at the top of your to-do list when visiting Orange County. Unlike other SoCal destinations, Dana Point is not obstructed by oil rigs, tall buildings, and big ships, providing the best views for a Pacific cruise.

Whether a high-speed boat ride or a sunset wine cruise is on your wishlist of things to do in Dana Point, Capt. Dave’s offers six different boats for any cruise experience. All of our six vessels are available for private charters and are operated by a professional captain and crew.

Browse our boats to choose your cruise experience:


ORCA is a 38-feet motor yacht that is ideal for sightseeing. This 6-passenger upscale vessel is fun, fast, and safe for all ages. ORCA is perfect for couples, families, or a small group of friends that are looking for a romantic, intimate, or sunset wine cruise.

Fast Cat

If you’re looking for an exciting thing to do in Dana Point, then you will love cruising the ocean with our Fast Cat. This 24-feet rigid hull, inflatable catamaran can hold 12 people and is perfect for fun, high-speed boat rides. Prepare yourself for a smile-plastered-to-your-face adventure!


If you’re visiting Orange County, you must ride the DolphinSafari ⏤ the OC’s legendary catamaran. Our 35-feet sailboat has a specially designed bow that is so close to the water you’ll feel like you’re in a kayak. This passenger favorite vessel provides a leisurely experience for everyone.


AllsWell is a 31-feet rigid hull, inflatable catamaran that is perfect for adrenaline junkies. Our fastest vessel, this boat provides a high-speed, heart-pounding ocean adventure. AllsWell is a great choice for a small group of friends that are looking for a thrilling good time in Dana Point.


Are you looking for an unforgettable thing to do in Dana Point? Look no further than an ocean cruise on the Manute’a. This 50-feet vessel has the world’s only underwater viewing pods. Our one-of-a-kind catamaran gives you breathtaking views above and below the Pacific ocean.


Lily is a 62-feet luxury catamaran that provides a first-class ocean cruise experience. With a capacity for 49 passengers, our opulent vessel is perfect for hosting special events when visiting Orange County. Indulge yourself and your loved ones while exploring the world’s largest ocean.

Play Water Sports in Dana Point’s Harbor

With year-round Mediterranean-like weather and warm waters, playing water sports is one of the most enjoyable things to do in Dana Point. Dana Point’s harbor is a popular spot for locals and visitors alike for swimming, kayaking, and stand-up paddleboarding.

The harbor offers many amenities for playing water sports. There are plenty of local shops that rent out watercraft for as low as $25/hour. Make sure to build your sea legs and arms at the waveless Baby Beach before you venture out to enjoy the incredible views of the Pacific coast.

Where to Stay in Dana Point

As you look for things to do in Dana Point, make sure to also search for the right place to stay. A prime tourist attraction in Orange County, Dana Point offers many different types of lodgings to accommodate all visitors.

From luxurious 5-star hotels to more affordable inns, you can find the ideal accommodation for every budget. Here are some of the best-rated places to stay when visiting Orange County:

Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort and Club

Nestled on top of 175 acres of seaside cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, this 5-diamond rated resort provides the ultimate laid-back SoCal luxury. Starting from $649/night, the world-class retreat offers a private beach club, ocean-front golf, and plenty of family facilities.

1 Monarch Beach Resort, Dana Point, CA 92629, United States

+1 949 234 3200

Blue Lantern Inn, A Four Sisters Inn

If you want to do plenty of things in Dana Point, then it’s a good idea to stay at the Blue Lantern Inn. From $388/night, this 4-diamond rated boutique hotel provides access to a wide range of outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing, and kayaking. The hotel also offers free bicycle rentals.

34343 Street Of The Blue Lantern, Dana Point, CA 92629, United States

+1 949 661 1304

Best Western PLUS Marina Shores Hotel

Starting from $125/night, the Best Western PLUS Marina Shores Hotel is one of the most affordable places to stay in while visiting Orange County. Located on the Pacific Coast Highway, this 3-star accommodation offers comfortable rooms with ocean views, a fitness center, and a wide range of amenities.

34280 Pacific Coast Highway, Dana Point, CA 92629-2824, United States

+1 949 248 1000

Dana Point Marina Inn

The only hotel located directly in Dana Point Harbor, giving you quick and easy access to all the shops, restaurants, water activities and other things to do in Dana Point Harbor.

24800 Dana Point Harbor Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629


Where to Eat in Dana Point

With fresh coastal cuisine and a distinctly local flavor, finding good food in Dana Point is not a difficult task. From local beach dives to elegant fine-dining establishments, there’s something for everyone’s taste. Add these exquisite restaurants to your things-to-do list in Dana Point:


Raya is an upscale restaurant that offers Pan-Latin gourmet food with stunning Pacific Ocean views. The food is prepared with local produce, sustainable seafood, organic meats, and Chef Richard Sandoval’s signature Latin flavors.

1 Ritz Carlton Dr. The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, Dana Point, CA 92629-4205

+1 949-240-2000

RJ’s Cafe

Voted as the best breakfast in Dana Point for the past 12 years, brunching at RJ’s Cafe is a must-do when visiting Orange County. This local favorite offers high-quality food at reasonable prices in a place that feels like home.

25001 Dana Point Harbor Dr # F120, Dana Point, CA 92629-2962

+1 949-218-5757

Harbor Grill Restaurant

If you love seafood, then eating at the Harbor Grill should be among your things to do in Dana Point. This award-winning restaurant is renowned for the freshness and variety of its seafood and steak options. Savor mesquite-grilled food in a waterfront location with harbor views.

34499 Street Of The Golden Lantern, Dana Point, CA 92629

+1 949-240-1416


What do I need to bring on board a whale watching cruise?

Like any other wildlife safari, it’s best that you come prepared to fully enjoy the experience. Here’s what you need to bring to a Dana Point whale watching cruise:

  • Water ⏤ Bring a large reusable bottle of water to stay hydrated during the 2-3 hour cruise. And yes, all of our boats ⏤ except the Fast Cat ⏤ have bathrooms onboard.
  • Snacks ⏤ Capt. Dave’s offers complimentary triple fudge brownies at the end of our private and public cruises. It’s a good idea to also bring light snacks and sandwiches if your tour falls around lunch or dinner time. We have tasty sandwiches, ice cream, and a variety of snacks and drinks available to purchase when you check in.
  • Sun protection ⏤ With year-round sunshine, wearing sun protection every day is a must thing to do in Dana Point. Make sure to bring sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses.
  • Jacket ⏤ Although sunny all year, it can get cold out in the ocean. Bring a jacket or sweater to stay warm during the ocean cruise.
  • Binoculars ⏤ You’re welcome to bring binoculars on your trip, although they are not required. With magnified vision, you might see cool stuff like lice and barnacles hitchhiking on whales.

Is Dana Point whale watching safe for children?

Capt. Dave’s offers many types of safaris for different age groups. Our signature safaris, luxury ORCA and Lily charters, and annual boat parade are safe for kids and adults of all ages. The high-speed boat tours are limited to visitors over the age of 6, except for private charters.

What is the best time to see whales?

It’s common for people visiting Orange County to ask when is the best time to see whales. Whales dive, dip, and glide in Dana Point’s waters all day throughout the year. Whales go to sleep when the sun goes down, so the best time of day to spot them is before sunset.

What if I don’t see any whales or dolphins?

Capt. Dave’s offers whale or dolphin sighting guarantees. Although we see whales or dolphins 95% of the time on our cruises, there are rare days when we don’t spot any. If you don’t see any dolphins or whales on our cruise, you can come back within a year for a free tour.