The sun has barely peeked over the mountains to the east, and Dana Point is already up and at it. In the shade of trees at a hilltop park, a group of yogis inhale their way into upward dog. A pair of runners exhale heavily on a nearby paved trail with views of the sea. Down a long, sloping hill, surfboards are heaved overhead, and paddleboards are splashed into the Pacific.
It's a scene that plays out year-round in Dana Point, a once-sleepy town put on the map among the surf-minded set in the 1950s. Since then, Dana Point's appeal has reached far beyond wave worshippers: A bustling harbor, locally owned restaurants, and more than 30 specialty shops attract thousands of visitors each year. Walk the palm tree– and succulent-lined pathways overlooking the water and you might catch a fisherman hauling in the day's fresh catch, a family out for an afternoon sail, or a trio of sea lions basking on the harbor's rocky perimeter.
Left: Surf haven Salt Creek Beach, seen from Dana Point's 150-foot-high bluffs.