Dana Point was a popular port for trading in the1800s. Today, the harbor is the hub for recreational activities, marine research and festivals. Family-friendly luxury resorts and close proximity to L.A. make Dana Point a relaxing weekend getaway.
The harbor-side Coffee Importers Scoop Deck & Deli (34531 Golden Lantern St.; 949-493-7773; www.coffeeimporters.com) has an extensive breakfast, lunch, snacks and smoothie menu for less than $10 per person. House-made granola, panini, and hummus are on the menu, plus grilled cheese and hot dogs for the kids.
Catch a sunset at the Raya (One Ritz-Carlton Drive; 949-240-2000; www.ritzcarlton.com), located inside the Ritz Carlton. Elegant but not stuffy, the oceanfront restaurant features an assortment of small and large plates, plus house-made chicken noodle soup, steak fajitas and fish.
The Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa (25135 Park Lantern; 949-661-5000; www.lagunacliffs.com) is an intimate, laid-back luxury resort that’s a short walk or bike ride from the beach. While parents lap up pool time or spa treatments, children can mingle in the seasonal Kahuna Laguna Kid’s Club or at the outdoor Splash Zone (watch out for the overhead water soak bucket!).
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel (One Ritz-Carlton Drive; 800-241-3333; www.ritzcarlton.com) offers beach toys, games, movies and beach butlers. At the onsite Eco-Adventure Center, families can join naturalists on excursions to learn about whale migration, native fish and more. Ritz Kids offers numerous activities for babies, kids and teens. In Creative Kitchen ($90 per child), kids learn about the resort’s organic garden and how to cook a meal.
Family amenities at the sprawling, oceanfront St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort (1 Monarch Beach Resort; 949-234-2000; www.monarchbeachresort.com) include the Sandcastle Kids Club (ages 5-12), babysitting, butler service and Father/Son Tee Time at the 18-hole golf course.
Dana Point celebrates its nautical history with the annual Tall Ships Festivals in September, and Dana Point IlluminOcean (www.mydanapoint.com), making its debut Nov. 26. The free, innovative festival features 18 oversized sea sculptures, 40 nights of lights, moving light tunnels, carolers, crafts and photos with Santa through Jan. 4 at Dana Point Harbor.
The calm, pretty marina is also conducive to kayaking and standup paddling. Westwind Sailing (www.westwindsailing.com) offers youth programs and family lessons. Adjacent Baby Beach’s flat water is popular with young families.
Dana Point’s deep underwater coastal canyons within one mile of shore are home to thousands of dolphins. On a cruise with Capt. Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari (24440 Dana Point Harbor Dr.; 949-488-2828; www.dolphinsafari.com), you’ll most likely see pods of dolphins and even whales.
Tour the brig Pilgrim and experience life as a 19th century sailor at the Ocean Institute (24200 Dana Point Harbor; 949-496-2274; www.ocean-institute.org), a marine research facility that opens its doors to the public on weekends. Move cargo, raise a staysail and tie a knot on the tall ship. Don’t miss the institute’s fascinating teaching stations, which include marine life tanks and wet-tables with video-microscopes.
Let’s Go columnist Mimi Slawoff is a mother of three who writes about family fun.