Why We Love O.C. | Natural Marvels in Dana Point and Laguna Hills

Whale watching in Dana Point and the sprawling Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park in Laguna Hills
Humpback whale seen during Captain Dave's Dolphin and Whale Watching Safari in Dana Point, California; Photo by Craig Dewitt

Dana Point

With the city’s unique harbor shape, it takes Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari only a few minutes to get out to the nutrient-dense waters that attract a variety of wildlife. Whale-watching is one of the highlights of Dana Point, as the cliffs of the Headlands serve as a landmark during migration.

“Being on a trip with Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari is an incredibly unique experience. We have five different vessels to choose from. The one that most of our customers choose is the Manute’a, because it has the world’s only underwater viewing pods, two Eye Spy Dolphin Nets up front that allow you to lay down and dangle above the dolphins and whales, and a hydrophone for hearing the animals. Another favorite vessel is Fast Cat, our newest zodiac style boat, for a super-fast, smile-plastered-to-your-face experience that will get you within hands reach of the animals. All our boats are smaller, for a more intimate experience.  And every guest receives some of my triple fudge brownies,” said Gisele Anderson with Captain Dave’s Dolphin and Whale Safari.

Laguna Hills

The allure of Aliso and Wood Canyons Wilderness Park

Photo courtesy of OC Parks

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The park covers 4,500 acres, stretching from the 73 tollroad to Coast Highway.

➜ Tons of Trails Enjoy more than 30 miles of trails, paved and unpaved, for all types of hiking, biking, and equestrian use. Select trails allow dogs on leashes.

➜ Ancient Life You’ll find a wealth of marine fossils on the Pecten Reef Loop Trail.

➜ Water and Wildlife The park is designated as a wildlife sanctuary, and there are two year-round streams within it.

 Volunteer-led There are usually plenty of programs, including fitness hikes, yoga hikes, and tot walks.

 Insider Tip If you plan to visit on a weekend, make sure to get there early. Parking is limited ($3 daily).

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