Marina loop (kayak)

Trip date: 2/8/2014

Launch: Dana Point Harbor - "Baby Beach"

Permit/Pass: No permit or fees required, but the lot can fill up quickly on busy days.

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 before veering right along the north side of the marina. Continuing straight through another light brings you to a turning circle past which you'll drive a few yards to a left turn into the parking lot for the "Baby Beach." The launch area is at the east end of the beach.

Portage: If you manage to find a parking spot close to the launch area it's a very short trip to carry or cart your boat down to the beach. Otherwise you may want to park next to the ramp and unload before finding a parking spot.

Type: Loop

Distance: 3.1 miles

Rating: Easy (factors: rocks, boat traffic)

Synopsis: This is a great paddle for getting your feet wet in open water. The bulk of the trip occurs inside the breakwater and marina but if you time the tides right there are some fun rocks in which to play outside the harbor where there is little bit more ocean swell. A great trip to build skills for novice paddlers and an enjoyable sunset paddle for anyone.


Marina loop - Dana Point Harbor


  -- As you launch from the Baby Beach area be sure to consider wind strength and direction. There are flags flying over at the Marine Institute that can guide you, but they are often in the wind-shadow of the headlands so be mindful and watch as many indicators as you can. This is important because the wind can come up in the afternoon in this cove, and the trip described here heads downwind first, leaving what could be a very demanding return leg for those who are not prepared.

  -- After noting the weather conditions, the rest of the paddle is pretty straightforward. I usually paddle over toward the Marine Institute to look at the tall ships moored there, then head down the outside channel, staying close to the breakwater where there are narrow kelp beds to be explored.

  -- As you near the end of the breakwater you can either head outside the harbor or just turn here to head back up through the marina. If you're going out, evaluate the conditions (in light of your skill level) and work your way along the northeastern jetty toward the rocks just off Doheny Beach. Be sure to evaluate boat traffic before crossing the channel.

  -- When finished outside, return along the jetty and make a hard turn to paddle back inside the harbor. Once again, consider boat traffic before turning back toward the west and paddling through the marina. If it's windy, stick to the left (south) side of the channel to get into the lee of the boats.

  -- After you cross under the bridge the wind often picks up. Be prepared to paddle harder if necessary, and stay alert for boats returning to their slips.

  -- As you pull past the slips and back into the open western end of the harbor turn right along the rental dock to return to the launch area.