15 of the Best Dog Beaches in Dana Point, CA

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Between Laguna Beach and San Clemente in Southern California, you will find Dana Point on the western coast. The city boasts over 33,000 residents and has one of the only harbors along the coast of Orange County. The entire area is a popular place for outdoor sports like surfing, swimming, boating, hiking, and biking, with warm temperatures all year long. The historical city was named for the author who made it famous, Richard Henry Dana, who wrote the novel Two Years Before the Mast in 1840.

Many people describe Dana Point as just one big 6.5-mile beach, but there are individual beaches that are popular for their own reasons. For example, Baby Beach is perfect for families with young kids because the water is only knee-deep in most areas. Dana Strand Beach and Salt Creek Beach are perfect for surfing. And Doheny State Beach has something for everyone, including your fur baby. We found 15 awesome dog beaches in Dana Point for you and your pup to try. 

Doheny State Beach

Doheny State Beach is the only oceanfront park where pups are allowed on the beach and in the surf. Your fur baby will have to remain on the leash the whole time you are there but he is welcome to join you in swimming, playing in the sand, and sunbathing. Do not forget to bring sunblock for you both! Located right in Dana Point, Doheny was the first state beach in California in 1931. It got its name from the man who donated the land, Edward L. Doheny.

Some of the most popular activities here include surfing, kayaking, and paddleboarding but it is also great for having a picnic, going on a nature walk, or camping. In fact, it was named the best campground in Orange County many years in a row, with more than 100 campsites to choose from. Each site has a picnic table, fire pit, grill, and a parking pad. Showers, playgrounds, and picnic areas are also located on the grounds. 

Capistrano Beach Park

Just two miles south of downtown Dana Point on the other side of Doheny State Beach, Capistrano Beach is a pup-popular patch of sand. Also known as Capo Beach by the locals, your pooch is welcome here from September 11th until June 14th anytime but the remainder of the year, they are only allowed after 6 PM. However, he must always remain on his leash while you are there. Also, be sure you pack some extra puppy poo bags to pick up after your pup. 

It may not be a huge beach, but it has a nice long patch of sand with picnic tables, volleyball nets, fire pits, showers, and restrooms. This is a popular spot for surfing so you will see a lot of that going on. If you and your pup are skilled in surfing, you can always join them. Just remember to put a life jacket on you and your fur puppy. 

Del Obispo Park Beach

Less than a mile north of Doheny State Beach, Del Obispo Park has about five acres of space to play on that runs right along the San Juan Creek. Your pooch is welcome as long as he is on a leash while you are there, and you need to pack extra doggie cleanup bags to pick up whatever he drops. The beach along the creek is mostly dirt, and a little sand and the water levels depend on the previous rainfall. 

Other fun things to enjoy in Del Obispo Park include a paved nature trail, a playground for the little humans, picnic areas with tables, water fountains, restrooms, and benches. There is a lot of grassy space to run around in too. If you are into sports and have some people with you, why not enjoy a game of tennis, handball, basketball, or softball? You can do all that and more here!

Creekside Park Beach

Keep going north another mile, and you will find Creekside Park, also along the San Juan Creek. Also known as Stonehill Park because it is located at the bottom of Stonehill Drive, your fur buddy will love this place because it not only has a beach but it also has a dog park where he can romp around and play off the leash! The fenced dog park has three sections. One for large dogs, one for small sizes, and one for shy or frail dogs. 

Bring a ball and a Frisbee so you and your pooch can play a game of catch or fetch while you are there. And the surface is packed with sand, so you do not have to worry about mud or dirt. And pup parents have plenty of shaded seating to relax and watch the dogs play. Outside the park, there is a huge playground for human kids, picnic areas, two different trails to explore, and several ball fields. 

Salt Creek Beach

Only two miles to the north of Dana Point, right past the Dana Point Strands Beach, Salt Creek Beach is a long golden sands beach where you can bring your canine compadre to play as long as he is on his leash. This is one of the most popular surfing spots in Orange County, so you will see plenty of surfers any day of the week and remember to keep your pup in the shallows for safety. 

Salt Creek Beach is also a popular family picnic site with tables and barbecue grills, a grassy area for play, restrooms, outdoor showers, and water fountains. There is also a basketball court you can use if you have a ball with you. If you did not bring along any food, there is a concessionaire where you can get something to munch on while you relax and watch the waves. Remember to pack your doggie doo baggies to pick up after your pup.

West Street Beach

West Street Beach is less than three miles to the north of Salt Creek, past 1000 Steps Beach and Table Rock Beach. Like Capistrano Beach, dogs are welcome all the time on a leash except between 9 AM and 6 PM from June 15th until September 19th. This is well-known as one of the county’s best LGBTQ beaches. You will find volleyball nets at both ends of the beach, with a huge patch of golden sand in the middle for swimmers and sunbathers. 

One of the best things here is the lack of crowds. Because it is in a hidden cove and it is more difficult to get to, most tourists and locals go to the other more popular beaches. Similar to the 1000 Steps Beach, you will have to take a long flight of steps to get to the beach, so be forewarned. And then you have to walk back up when you are ready to leave, so save some energy for that. 

Aliso Beach

Right next door, Aliso Beach Park is also dog-friendly with the same set of rules. No pups between 9 AM and 6 PM from September 11th to June 14th. This beach is famous for being the site of The Vic, which is the yearly skimboarding world championship in late August. Also, the beach is one of the easiest to get to, with a parking lot right there by the sand. Next to the parking lot, the kids can enjoy the pirate-themed playground. 

Swimming out past the shallows is not recommended because of the strong surf, so keep your pup on a short leash. Also, keep him out of Aliso Creek because it may contain runoff from the city. If you get hungry, head over to Lost Pier Cafe where your fur baby is welcome to join you for a meal. They also rent portable wheeled barbecue pits that include setup and breakdown, as well as burgers, hot dogs, and beach chairs. 

Treasure Island Beach

Whether you are looking for a secret treasure buried in the sand or you just want to splash in the water, Treasure Island Beach is next, just north of Treasure Island Park. The same rules for dogs apply here, so do not plan to visit until after 6 PM if you are here during the summer. And always remember to keep him on the leash and bring plenty of puppy poo bags to pick up whatever he may drop.

This is a perfect swimming beach because it is protected by a cove, so it has less waves. Many locals come here with their kids for a day at the beach, and others come for scuba diving and snorkeling. There is a lot to see under the water. Bring a snorkel and mask to see for yourself! You can also get some incredible selfies with the fascinating rock arch and other formations. 

Victoria Beach

Right next to Treasure Island Beach, Victoria Beach is one of the most famous, with its 60-foot turret that locals call Pirate Tower. Made from stone, the tower with its odd-shaped windows looks like it grew out of the cliffs itself. Another fascinating sight here is the man-made saltwater pool that fills up when the tide comes in. And this is one pool that your pup can enjoy too! Just keep him on a leash, and he is welcome to play anytime except from 9 AM to 6 PM between June 15th and September 10th. 

This beach is so popular with skimmers that it was named after a popular skimboard company, Victoria Skimboards. Being so popular with the locals, you may expect a crowd of tourists. However, you will not see many here because it is sort of secluded, and parking is scarce. Besides skimming and swimming, you can also enjoy picnicking and volleyball right on the beach. 

Woods Cove

Next up is Woods Cove, which is just to the north of Arch Beach and Moss Cove. Like the others, pups are not allowed from 9 AM to 6 PM from June 15th to September 10th, and he must always be on his leash. Luckily, you can help avoid crowds by coming early in the morning or in the evening. Locals also call the southern part of this beach Lovers Cove, and the northern end is known as Keystone Cove. 

In between, you will find a patch of sand and clear blue waters. However, check the tides because there is not much besides water during high tide. When the tide is out, you and your canine compadre can walk around and look in the tide pools for cool marine creatures like crabs, snails, and small fish. But please do not disturb the wildlife, and remember to bring plenty of doggie cleanup baggies to pick up anything your pup drops. 

Laguna Niguel Regional Park Beach

Head inland to let your pup play in some freshwater for a while at Laguna Niguel Regional Park. Just under 10 miles to the east, the 227-acre park has a 44-acre lake in the middle of it, making it one of the most popular fishing spots in Orange County. The lake is stocked regularly with bass, catfish, and trout. And your fur puppy is welcome to join you anytime all year long, but he needs to remain leashed while you are there. 

There may not be sand here, but the shorelines are perfect for curious canines who like to sniff new scents. Just keep him away from fishermen so he does not scare away the fish. Other activities here include picnicking, playgrounds for the kids, pickleball, volleyball, and tennis courts, horseshoe pits, and even a place to fly model airplanes. You and your pup can also do some hiking on one of the trails or climb up the hill to see a gorgeous view of the area. 

Laguna Beach Main Beach

Head back to the coastline to enjoy Laguna Beach Main Beach, just two miles north of Woods Cove. Although your pup still has to follow the rules of no dogs on the beach from 9 AM to 6 PM from June 15th to September 10th, he is welcome all other times as long as he is on his leash. This is a popular beach, so you will do well to avoid the crowds during those busy times anyway. 

One reason it is so popular is that the lifeguard tower has been featured in many movies and television shows. It is also a spot where celebrities come to play volleyball, basketball, and swim. Take your pooch for a walk on the boardwalk and get some selfies with the public art installations along the way. After you work up an appetite, enjoy a taco on the outdoor patio at Las Brisas, which you can find at the western end of the beach. 

Heisler Park Beach

Another place where you can see some awesome artwork with your pup at the waterfront is Heisler Park. With about a mile of sandy beaches and 45 acres of green space, this popular park has a variety of things to do for everyone. Even your pup. However, just like the others, no dogs are allowed from 9 AM to 6 PM from June 15th to September 10th. The rest of the time, you can bring him at any time of the day as long as you keep him leashed. 

The upper park is full of activities such as lawn bowling, picnic areas with tables and BBQ pits, a gazebo, and the trail that meanders along the interesting art sculptures. Down on the sand, you will find outdoor showers, tide pools, and plenty of cool blue water to splash around in. Heisler Park gives you access to several different beaches, including Diver’s Cove, Laguna Main Beach, Rockpile Beach, and Picnic Beach. 

Shaws Cove Beach

Keep going north up the sand a few hundred feet, and you will find Shaws Cove, where your leashed fur buddy can join you on the sand from September 11th to June 14th, any time of the day and before 9 AM and 6 PM during the summer. The small beach can be reached by walking down 58 steps with six landings where you can stop for some stunning ocean views. The hidden treasure is rarely crowded since it is tucked between private homes.

Locals come for scuba diving and snorkeling, as well as body surfing, kayaking, and swimming. They even have scuba classes there. The tide pools are always full of life during low tide, and there are restrooms for your convenience. During high tide, there is not much land to walk on, so always check the tides before heading to the beach. Also, pack doggie bags to pick up after your pup. 

Crescent Bay Beach

You will find caves, cliffs, and cool rock formations at Crescent Bay Beach right next door to Shaws Cove. Named for its crescent shape, the park also allows pups on a leash from September 11th through June 14th any time, but they are not allowed between 9 AM and 6 PM from June 15th until September 10th. There are two access points to get to the sand. The north entrance has a set of stairs, and the southern end has a long ramp. There are showers and restrooms at the southern entrance. 

You and your canine companion will have a quarter mile of beach to explore and enjoy during the off-season when crowds are gone. During the summer, you can see over 2,000 people in the water and on the sand. The rip currents make it dangerous to go out far, so keep your pup close to you and bring plenty of puppy poo baggies for cleanup. 

The Final Woof

Want to get out on the water with your pooch? Take a guided kayak tour with a local expert who has plenty of stories to tell about the area. The host, Michiel, is a certified wilderness guide and loves dogs. Or go out to sea with the Fun Zone Boat Company on one of their dog-friendly tours. Then you can treat your four-legged friend to a nice meal at RJs Cafe out on their pup-popular patio or What A Dish Cafe, where they even have a special menu for dogs. They are both easy to find in the Dana Point Harbor. 

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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