When thinking about the best day trips – Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano offer fun family adventures in SoCal. With so many stunning locales along the SoCal coast, there are always plentiful options for day trips and weekend getaways from LA. On a recent excursion we headed down to Dana Point to check out all the beach side parks, watch the boats in the marina and grab breakfast at RJ’s Cafe. It only takes an hour to get to Dana Point, the most recognized whale watching spot along the coast. There are a number of whale watching excursions that leave daily from the Dana Point Marina including Dana Wharf and Capt. Dave’s. One of the best places to look out over the marina is from the two parks on either side of Golden Lantern Street along Dana Point Harbor Drive. You can walk up the 180+ stairs from the parking lot of RJ’s incredibly delicious and world famous cafe where the cinnamon rolls reign supreme, to Heritage Park a hillside spanse of grass and sidewalks sure delight every frolicking child. Its a terrific workout for the grown-ups too. On the other side of Golden Lantern Street is Lantern Bay Park noted for its spectacular view of Dana Point. Lantern Bay Park has much to offer and can take up a morning in itself. The Smythe Brothers Amphitheater is located within the park. There are picnic tables, basketball courts, a physical fitness cluster, turf areas and a playground there as well! If you fall in love like Dana Ppint with its quaint community living and hillside views of the water, stay the night! Just at the top of the hill above Lantern Park resides the incredibly beautiful Laguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa. You can look out over the marina from many areas of the hotel including their swimming pool. Want to take it up a notch? Dana Point is also home to the St. Regis Monarch Beach and the Ritz Carlton Laguna Nigel, both high end properties boast enviable weekend stays.
We decided to make another stop on the way back to LA. Just up the 5 a bit is the southwestern style town of San Juan Capistrano – home of the migrating swallows and the Mission San Juan Capistrano. The mission is one of 21 in SoCal and has been a fixture of social life in the town for more than 230 years. The grounds are lovely and there’s a guided audio tour to keep the kids occupied. Its a beautiful place to wander and learn a little California history. One of the fascinating things to note is that every year on March 19th (St. Joseph’s Day) thousands of swallows appear to rebuild their nests in the stone walls. Why they arrive the same day every year no one knows. The locals call it a miracle. Get there for the 11:45 koi feeding – the fish reside in hte large fountain in the center of the mission courtyard. It very grand.
Open Daily: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.
Closed at noon Good Friday and Christmas Eve.
The historic Mission reserves the right to close due to weather conditions.
On rainy days, please call (949) 234-1300 to check hours of operation.
As you can see from the photos below, some of the best day trips from LA can be had in Dana Point and San Juan Capistrano.