Tidepools and Sea Cave (P.O.I.)

Trip date: 9/14/2014

Location: Dana Point Marine Life Refuge

Permit/Pass: None required, but parking can be limited on busy weekends.

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. Going straight through another light brings you to a turning circle past which you'll continue on as the road veers left and dead-ends at the parking lot for the Orange County Ocean Institute. Park here, then follow the sandy path next to the institute at the base of the cliffs out to the metal gate. Take the steps that drop you down onto Dana Cove beach and begin the hike by heading toward the cliffs to the west.

Maps/Guides: Tide tables

Synopsis: This is a Point Of Interest that feels more like a hike due to having to negotiate rocks virtually the entire trip. The views of the ocean are spectacular, and if you manage to take this hike at the time of a good minus tide you'll be rewarded with great tidepooling (please respect the environment by being careful where you step and returning everything to its original position). The sea cave is a fun bonus and a good spot for photos.

Trail sequence: (Follow the base of the cliffs)

Type: Out and back

Distance: 1.3 miles

Profile: NA

Rating: Easy-Moderate (factors: rocks, scrambling) 

Notes: Bring water shoes, and be sure to consult tide predictions before taking this hike (best at low tide), and be aware of the change while you're out there playing. This is a short hike, but it is rocks pretty much the whole way. There is often a vestige of a trail at the base of the cliffs but this changes with the tides and cliff conditions. When you reach the tidepools access to the cave will depend upon some fairly easy scrambling.

Track: Tidepools and Sea Cave - Dana Point Marine Life Refuge

Turn by turn:

  -- After passing through the covered steps down to the beach, head over to the west side of the cover where the beach ends and the rocks begin. Work your way toward the base of the cliffs and look for the use trail that comes and goes. You will likely pick it up and lose it several times during the hike.

  -- Depending upon how comfortable you are standing at the base of these cliffs (there is some rockfall now and then) follow the headlands to the west, negotiating the rocks and the narrow sections (might be a concern at high tide so be sure to know the tide tables for this hike).

  -- A little over half a mile brings you to the tidepools. If you've picked a day with a good low tide, there will be excellent foraging and marine life viewing out on these reefs. 

  -- Continuing toward the northwest, head for the large rock outcrop at the base of the cliff. As you climb around the boulders here the terrain drops a bit and brings you to a narrow, shadowed entrance to the cave. If the tide is low you may be able to stay dry. If not, you may have to walk through some water to get into the cave.

  -- Once in you'll notice that there is a second, much larger entrance. From here you may choose to explore further along the reefs. Otherwise, turn around and head back the way you came.

  -- When you return to the cove and the Ocean Institute, a good option is to walk through their native plant garden and then along the paved marina sidewalk - good for boat viewing.

Photos: 9/14/2014, 10/25/2015 

Video: Youtube