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What To Do in Capistrano Beach for a Relaxing 3-Day Getaway

Recharge with a low-key trip to Southern California

The Vacationeer
Stunning wild flower-lined hiking trail, sunrising above the horizon ahead, Dana Point, California.

Approximately halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego, there’s an under-the-radar beach town called Capistrano Beach, affectionately referred to as “Capo Beach” by locals. This charming district in Dana Point is near plenty of things to do — an hour from all the bustling excitement of Los Angeles and only about 30 miles from Anaheim, a major tourism destination and home to Disneyland® Resort.

Yet it’s a peaceful, secluded, not-so-crowded escape where you can simply relax, bask in the natural beauty of California’s southern coast and forget about the rest of the world for a while. 

Beautiful aerial view of Capistrano Beach, California, coastline.    

The area offers plenty of parks, beaches, hiking and biking trails, golf courses, fishing, easy access to water sports, dining, regional history and culture, and more to explore. To help you make the most of your vacation, here are some suggestions for what to do in Capistrano Beach, including recommendations for things to do nearby.

Day One: Unwind

What better way to use your first vacation day in Capistrano Beach than for decompressing? Spend the day immersed in this coastline’s world-famous natural beauty, breathing in the fresh air and soaking up the Southern California sunshine.  

Morning: Take some time in the morning to experience the area with a short walk along Bluff Top Trail. It’s an easy trek with stairs, offering an opportunity for a little light physical activity in the great outdoors to help start your stress melting away. Relish the stunning panoramic views of Dana Point Harbor and its surroundings.

Beautiful stair walkway leading down to the beach, sunset painted skies overhead, Dana Point, California.    

Plus, there are interesting plaques along the way providing historical information about the area, an impressive sculpture called “The Hide Drougher” and architectural remains with an intriguing backstory.  

Afternoon: Hit the beach, of course. The Capistrano Beach area, along with the rest of Dana Point, has more than six miles of sandy shoreline and some of the most beautiful beaches in the state. And, as a bonus, they tend to be much less crowded than other, better-known Southern California beaches.

Capistrano Beach is perfect for enjoying the sand and sun or various beachside sports and fitness activities. Or, head to Doheny State Beach for swimming. If you’ve come to surf, Salt Creek Beach or Strands Beach is the place to go. Baby Beach at Dana Point Harbor is perfect for families, with calmer waters, easy access to restrooms and an assortment of family-friendly restaurants nearby.

Gorgeous Souther8n California coast vista, Dana Point Harbor, California.    

Evening: End the day unwinding with a 90-minute sunset wine cruise. Orange County Wine Cruise offers early-evening cruises in the Dana Point Harbor aboard a luxury 63-foot catamaran.

You’ll sip, sample, and learn about wines from The Organic Cellar, a purveyor of organic, sustainably produced wines.

Plus, there are tasty snacks, a sea breeze and breathtaking 360-degree views of the harbor at sunset. And it’s all in a casual, relaxing atmosphere, ripe with romance for couples.

Day Two: See the Sights

Spend the second day of your vacation in Capistrano Beach, seeing the popular sights the area offers. Here are a few ways to treat yourself to the natural wonder and culture of this quieter corner of Orange County, California. 

Morning: Your Southern California getaway comes with an amazing opportunity to see whales, dolphins, sea lions and other ocean life up close. You won’t want to miss it. Book a fun, expert-guided tour with Captain Dave’s Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari.

Regal Sea Loin sunning itself on rocks alongside birds and beautiful blue waters, Southern California.    

The boats even have underwater glass viewing pods, providing better views of the water’s wildlife than you can get with other boat tour companies. These exciting trips out to sea are available every day, all year round, so you can take part no matter when you plan your Capistrano Beach vacation.

Afternoon: Mission San Juan Capistrano is a historic gem in the small city of San Juan Capistrano, just 10 minutes up the road from Capistrano Beach. This historic landmark, cultural center, museum of historical and religious art and artifacts, and gardens are considered the birthplace of Orange County. No vacation to the area is complete without a visit.

Then, the Blas Aguilar Adobe Museum, dedicated to the area’s history, and the Los Rios Butterfly Garden are both within a few blocks of easy walking for a convenient way to cap off the afternoon.

Evening: Head back to Capistrano Beach, right to Capistrano Beach Park, before returning to your hotel for the evening. This quiet beach offers some of the most spectacular sunset views around. Adding to the breathtaking scene are the glimpses of Dana Point Harbor and San Clemente Pier off in the distance along the shoreline.

It’s such a simple, soothing way to end a day spent out and about, seeing the sights in the area.  

Beautiful image of lush coutyard taken through an arch way at Mission San Juan Capistrano, California.    

Day Three: Explore San Clemente

Only about five miles and 10 minutes down the scenic Coastal Highway, you’ll find the charming little city of San Clemente. It offers an assortment of enjoyable activities when you’re looking for things to do near Capistrano Beach, California.         

Morning: Start the day with a visit to Casa Romantica Cultural Center and Gardens in San Clemente. Tour the home, which showcases historic Spanish architecture, as well as the art gallery and 2.5 acres of beautiful gardens and ocean vistas. You’ll get interesting insights into local and general California history while enjoying this stunning setting. And don’t miss the chance to pick up some unique souvenirs or gifts for family and friends back home in the gift shop, too. 

Afternoon: Follow up your art and culture fix with some pleasant open-air shopping. You can easily spend hours scooping up great bargains at Outlets at San Clemente. It’s Orange County’s only coastal outlet shopping destination, with more than 60 designer brand stores and savings of up to 70% compared to regular retail locations.

Picturesque walkaway along San Clemente shoreline, California.    

While you’re here, have lunch at Asada Cantina and Kitchen, a beautifully appointed restaurant with an extensive menu of delicious Mexican food and drinks.

Evening: Head over to the charming San Clemente downtown, a welcoming, pedestrian-friendly place to wander around and get better acquainted with this small city’s flavor. The tree-lined streets, plazas and outdoor seating areas are flanked by various stores, restaurants, drinking establishments, entertainment and more to discover.

Choose from more than 30 house-made wines at Rancho Capistrano Winery, which also offers a delectable upscale dinner menu. Or, if you prefer to end the day with something sweeter, visit Paradis San Clemente for handcrafted ice cream from a beloved regional brand in the Los Angeles metro area.

Read "Great American Road Trips Begin with Hilton Grand Vacations" for more ways to explore the Golden Coast. 



The Vacationeer

The Vacationeer is a collective of Hilton Grand Vacations storytellers whose goal is to inspire travelers to go further. We're always on the lookout for new destinations to explore, useful travel tips, and unique ideas to help you plan the most memorable vacations possible.

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