Dana Headlands (kayak)

SA Report: The Whale Effect

Trip date: 4/20/13

Launch: Doheny State Beach, Dana Point

Permit/Pass: Orange County Beach Pass - $55 (if combined with regional parks pass - $80). If no pass, pay at the machine.

Directions: From Interstate 5 take the Camino Las Ramblas exit for Pacific Coast Highway in Dana Point. As you pass beneath the Dana Point welcome overpass slide into the left lane for the left turn onto Dana Point Harbor Dr. After turning, pass through a light but stay left for another left turn onto Puerto Pl. There is no light here so watch carefully for cars coming quickly around a bend in the road. After crossing traffic onto Puerto Pl. watch for turns on your left into the county parking lot. Skip the first (an exit) and turn into the second. Be sure to pay at the machine if you don't have a county beach decal on your windshield.

Portage: From the parking lot you can either carry or cart your boat to the notch created by the beach and the breakwater. Launching here allows you to avoid higher wave action as well as surfers. There are stairs for carriers, and a bank down and around the bushes for wheelers. The latter should be prepared to walk through some at times nasty looking streamflow to get to the beach.

Type: Out and back

Distance: 4.6 miles

Rating: Easy/Moderate (factors: open ocean, rocks).

Synopsis: This is a fun paddle that I like doing early in the morning before the powerboats and jet-skis come out of the woodwork. There are some rocks directly off of the beach that can be a giggle at low tide. After you paddle out past the breakwater and turn west, you have about a mile and a half before you get to the headlands. There are kelp beds concentrated in this area and rocks to goof around in. If you're a sea lion fan, there are usually a few hanging out on the whistle buoy just off the point. Just don't get too close. 


Dana Headlands - Dana Point Harbor


  -- Launch from the area next to the breakwater and paddle along the rocks heading south, keeping enough distance to avoid any fishing lines.

  -- As you cross the harbor entrance head directly for the end of the outer breakwater. After passing it, turn to the west (and a little north) and point your bow toward the prominent rock off the headlands in the distance.

  -- As you pass the rock notice that it is actually in two parts and there's a passage between them that appears wide enough for a kayak. If you decide to go for it (I haven't yet) be sure to time the waves accurately. I've seen a surge rise and fall of fifteen feet in there.

  -- Soon you reach the kelp beds between the headlands and the whistle buoy. Just inshore are reefs that can be fun (though probably not of much interest to advanced rock-garden paddlers), especially at low tide.

  -- When played out, return the way you came - east to the end of the breakwater - or make a bit of a loop by heading out to the red whistle buoy and then turning east toward the harbor entrance, eventually passing offshore of the green buoy a few hundred yards off of the breakwater, and then rounding another red buoy just outside the harbor entrance.