The Dana Point sea cave is not a secret, but as a selling point to the young adventurers I told them, “We are hiking to a “secret” sea cave today.” Their eyes lit up and their minds began to work in overdrive.
“Where is the sea cave?”, inquired one adventurer. I told her, “It’s nearby in Dana Point.”
“Oh. Do we swim there?”
Silly kids. This is a hike.
Parking near the Ocean Institute we quickly used the restrooms (there are none on the trail) and set out on foot.
Disclaimer: Only attempt this hike during a minus-tide. I checked the tide charts several days earlier and noticed the lowest tide was exactly one hour after school let out. Perfect.
The hike is on a rocky trail below the cliffs and is inaccessible when the tides are not low. Do not attempt this hike unless you have plenty of time on both sides of the lowest tide. With four kids it took me 25-30 minutes of walking time each way. Our total trip time was about 1.5 hours including the time we spent exploring the cave.
Mostly dirt with many rocks small and large (some boulders) makes the trail so flip-flops are not be the best hiking shoes.
Even though the day was cool we were warmer on the trail than expected since the sun was baking us along the cliffs. A hat will help.
The Sea Cave
The cave is at the base of the tall sandstone cliffs between the Dana Point Harbor to the south and Strands beach to the north.
The first entrance we reached is the smallest. The adventurers looked in. A few were a bit scared to enter, but with encouragement their fear waned.
Hopping on rocks, avoiding the tide pools, we went in and the exploring began. The cave is large with a rocky/sandy/floor with shells and other ocean goodies scattered around. Part of the fun is closely inspecting the ground to see what “treasures” are found.
An unexpected feature of this hike was the considerable amount of trash left when the ocean recedes. I did my best to pick up pieces here and there and put them in my backpack. I did not have a trash bag with me this day.
Seemingly, out of nowhere two men walked through the cave carrying trash bags.
We greeted each other and I mentioned their bags. They told me they walk to this cave often when the tide is low, but they do an hour-long loop. And they pick up trash as they walk. I like these guys, getting their exercise on and making a difference all at the same time.
So good they even took the trash I had stashed in my backpack.
We continued to explore all areas of the cave and the adjoining smaller cave. We are on an adventure after all.
We examined the rocks and pools and saw many mollusks, snails, and anemone.
Thirty minutes later it was time for us to say good-bye.
What to Bring:
- Water - there is none on the trail (no drinkable water that is)
- Shoes: Non-slip / I don’t recommend sandals
- Camera (optional)
- A trash bag any size to pack out litter seen on the trail and in the cave.
- Travel Time Round Trip: 1.5 hours
- Little ones can do this, but bring a snack and have a backup plan to carry them out if they tire
- MANY boulders and rocks to walk on. Rocky almost entire hike.
Reminder Disclaimer: Only attempt this hike during a minus tide. Study the tide charts
Please note: This is a Marine Protected Area and this means it is prohibited to take any living marine resources from inside the tidepools.
Parking: Dana Point Harbor Parking (click on the photo thumbnail to see the parking map and park near the Ocean Institute)
Have you been in a sea cave before?