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Marine Resources

Habitat                                                                           Sunset

The 7.5 miles of coastline of Dana Point offers access to a variety of marine habitats. The coastal waters and shoreline are rich with animals and plants associated with sandy beach, rocky intertidal, rocky subtidal, and kelp forest ecosystems. Each of these habitats is rich in species diversity and includes the unique boulder fields and bedrock bench tidepool areas around the Headlands and the largest kelp forest in Orange County at Salt Creek.




Beady eyes


Marine Protected Areas(MPAs)                                     Shoreline

Dana Point’s coastal habitats are currently designated as three section so of California State Marine Protected Areas. The marine resources at Doheny State Park are protected by the Doheny Beach State Marine Conservation Area and include an offshore under water park: the intertidal and subtidal areas around the Dana Point Headlands are protected by the Dana Point Marine Conservation Area: and the Niguel State Marine Conservation Area stretches from South Strands to Three Arch Bay encompassing all of the Salt Creek kelp bed. Within these three MPAs it is illegal to take any intertidal marine resources and only certain finfish and invertebrates may be taken under permit.

For more information visit:

The Dana Point Tidepool Interpretive Program (TIP)


The TIP provides an interpretive education program for all visitors to the rocky intertidal areas of the  Dana Point Marine Conservation Area. This program is sponsored by the City of Dana Point in concert with the Ocean Institute.

Unfortunately, at this time, our Tidepool (TIP) Docent Volunteer Program is full; however if you are interested in becoming a Docent at the City's Nature Interpretive Center, please fill out the interest card (PDF).

Tidepool Group Reservation Program                         Bus photo

The City of Dana Point welcomes all visitors to the tidepools of Dana Point. To ensure your trip is enjoyable as well as safe for both participants and for marine life, we require that advance reservations be made for all groups of 15 persons or more who visit the Dana Point Marine Conservation Area. 

Reservation Policy:   Please click on the flyer (PDF)  to find out how to make a group reservation.  For additional information on how to reserve a group visit of more than 15 students at the Dana Point Marine Conservation Area please email Sean Vogt at 

Terrestrial Resources (Headlands Nature Park)

Habitat                                                                       Native Plants

The Dana Point Headlands Conservation Area contains over 150 species of plants and animals that are native to coastal Southern California. Several rare and indigenous plant communities are found on the site, including; southern coastal bluff scrub, native grasslands, maritime succulent scrub, mixed chaparral, and coastal sage scrub. The unique setting and mix of habitats on the Headlands also provides a home for rare and threatened plants and animals. The Headlands are home to the Fedrally listed Pacific Pocket Mouse and Coastal California Gnatcatcher.

Headlands Conservation Area 



Development of the Headlands project site was carefully planned to enhance the public coastal access, provide a range of passive recreational opportunities, preserve the coastal bluffs and other significant landforms and conserve sensitive habitat. The public open space, parks and greenbelt linkages comprise approximately half of the development site.

The primary goals for the conservation parks were to:

  1. Create high quality public parks, recreation and open space areas that maximize coastal access, establish and preserve public views and conserve natural resources including the preservation and enhancement of environmentally sensitive habitat areas.
  2. Interconnect the public parks and open space by establishing an integrated public trail/access system that links to other trail alignments off site.
  3. Encourage public visitors to utilize the parks and open space by implementing a series of scenic overlooks, informational signage, public art, and public visitor recreational facilities that provide a variety of educational, historical, natural and conservation programs.

The four conservation parks that comprise the nearly 60 acres of the Headlands are; Harbor Point Conservation Park, CNLM Dana Point Preserve, Hilltop Conservation Park and South Strands Conservation Park. The CNLM (owned and managed by the non-profit Center for Natural Lands Management) Dana Point Preserve's main objective is to protect the imperiled Pacific Pocket Mouse (a Federally Endangered Species with numbers likely near about 500 left in the wild as of 2014).

Trail System                                                            Trail

A public trail system, approximately three miles in length, links all the conservation parks and public open space areas of the Headlands. The system includes pedestrian trails, coastal and beach access, scenic overlooks, and the Nature Interpretive Center. The trails maximize public coastal access and ocean view opportunities, while conserving the extremely rare resources on the Headlands. These trails implement the policies and guidelines of the Dana Point General Plan and the Local Coastal Plan provide a comprehensive system that reinforces the relationship between the Headlands, the beaches, the Dana Point Harbor and the Pacific Ocean. 

Trail and Park Hours                  Trails

The parks and trails can be reached either off of Green Lantern or at Dana Strand Rd. (terminus of Selva Rd.), with limited parking available along these streets or at the Nature Interpretive Center parking lot.

The trails are open from 7 a.m. to SUNSET daily


Nature Interpretive Center

The Nature Interpretive Center is located adjacent to the CNLM Dana Point Preserve, at the terminus of Scenic Drive (Green Lantern becomes Scenic Drive). The facility includes educational, management and operational space designed as a visitor center for the Conservation Area.

Center Hours: 10 am – 4 pm, everyday except closed on Mondays

For more information please and to schedule a public tour, please email or call (949) 248-3527. 

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Last updated: 11/3/2014 4:16:16 PM