Dana Point Headlands Nature Preserve is a wonderful place to enjoy nature. This preserve was saved from developers with a deal that lets them build on 86 acres of the Dana Point Headlands. Fortunately, most of the ocean view bluff top and prime mesa acreage will stay as nature intended.
The headland trail is a little over a half-mile long with several lookout points along the way. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Oceanside to the South, Laguna Beach to the north and north-west to Catalina Island. The views from the headlands are absolutely amazing.
Dana Point Headlands Nature Preserve is a prime spot to view migrating whales from shore and it doesn’t cost a dime. From December through April gray whales pass by Dana Point on their way to Baja California. February through early March is the best time to view whales from the bluff. During the summer there a chance of spotting a Blue Whale.
More information about whale watching along with facts about animal and plant life that call the headlands home can be found at preserves Nature Interpretive Center. Public walks are offered from the center at 9 am on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Saturdays of every month. The center is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm.
Four parks covering nearly 60 acres make up the Dana Point conservation area. Harbor Point Conservation Park which is mostly off-limits to the public, Dana Point Preserve, Hilltop Conservation Park, and South Strands Conservation Park. A three-mile trail system connects the park areas including a section of the wide sandy beach of Strands Beach.
Plan on spending about 45 minutes at the Dana Point Preserve. From there head down to strand beach where you can spend the rest of the day relaxing on the sand soaking up some Southern California sunshine.
Dana Point Preserve Parking
Unlike many Southern California beaches, there is plenty of free parking. We recommend parking at Strand Vista Park and walking up the hill to the nature reserve. On the return trip take the zigzag trail down to Strand Beach and follow the beach to the Strand Beach Funicular Cable Car. Then take the cable car or steps back to the parking area.
The Strand Beach Funicular Cable Car runs adjacent to a steep series of steps from the public parking area. The funicular is operational weekends and holidays during the off-season. Starting on Memorial Day it runs daily from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m during the summer season. Rides on this fun little railway are free.
Free parking is also available at the end of Dana Strand road and there are a small parking lot and some street parking at the Dana Point Nature Interpretive Center 34558 Scenic Dr, Dana Point, CA 92629. Dogs are not allowed on the beach and on the Nature Preserve trails. You can walk your four-legged friend along the bluff trail at Strand Vista Park and gaze at the 40 million dollar homes below.
Dana Point Headlands Nature Preserve is a great place for a day trip. Nearby Dana Point Harbor offers a good selection of dining options, whale watching trips, and daily excursions to Catalina Island.