Sea caves are mystical to me; the allure is that it is an adventure only accessible during low tide…but better yet, a chance to explore a cave! A sea cave in Dana Point is icing on the cake, because the beach is already gorgeous, so the trip to the cave is amazing! Especially during winter, when I yearn for the good ol’ beach days of summer, the call of the ocean speaks loudly to me.
It has been raining lately, so we haven’t been to the beach in awhile. But a picture I found lately reminded me of our trip last year this time to Dana Point and the sea cave, so of course I wanted to revisit.
[Warning: Please do NOT attempt this adventure unless it’s very low tide. Some even prefer negative low tide. It can be very dangerous. My motto is always to be safe than sorry! And please wear good shoes; there are lots of rocks to maneuver through!]
I checked and double checked the tide charts for Dana Point. I used this site here. Today was our lucky day! The lowest tide (for the next 7 days or so ) was set at 3:40 pm, so we planned to reach the cave around then.
So off we went. We began at the Ocean Institute, address 24200 Dana Point Harbor Dr., Dana Point, CA 92629 or here
Walk behind the Institute, enjoy the beautiful views and walk down this set of stairs under the green enclosure. It is a short 1 mile trip round trip, but beware, there are lots of rocks to maneuver through, so be sure to wear appropriate shoes. It was a cloudy day today, but the temperature was perfect. Apparently everyone thought the same thing, because immediately we noticed quite a crowd of people along the same path. Some stopped short for family photos, and others went to explore the tide pools along the way, but some continued on the path toward the cave.
There is a sandy pathway along the rock wall to the right where others have traveled (see below). But the pathway becomes more and more rocky quickly.
Below, I’m looking back at the rocks I traveled through. Some of the rocks were unstable, others had seaweed draped over it, and others were just slippery. I told the kids to pick the biggest, flattest, most sturdy rocks to walk on, and not to jump nor rush. This photo reminded me that I was going extra slow and being extra careful I don’t twist my ankle…
This goes on for awhile. One can go at a leisurely pace, going closer towards the rocks to explore tide pools, or just walk and enjoy the constant crash of ocean waves and salty air. Go for a bit further, until it seems like you can’t go any further because you’d have to swim! Look carefully to the right to see a slit in the rocks. That’s the entrance to the cave.
As you get closer the entrance gets bigger, until you enter and it opens up into a majestic cave. The first time I saw the cave, I was awe-stricken. This time, the beauty is just as inspiring!
And there’s the cave! Big enough for a large group of people…
I made a collage below of the views from left to right as you look out the cave. To the left, there’s a collection of huge rocks with water everywhere. One could climb these, but it’s very slippery. I know because I slipped a few times on the algae and barnacles, and I was wearing my hiking shoes and going extra slow. The rocks are constantly getting refreshed by the ocean waves, so it’s just too slippery for me to climb beyond where I was. To the right I see much of the same. It does veer off into a separate little cave, but it’s nowhere as big as the main cave. One could just sit here and enjoy the beauty here.
And we did. For a long time. I loved every moment of it! I took so many photos and caught the crash of waves on that rock below. The water was clear greenish blue. When it swelled, it was a marvelous sight and the thunderous noise was deafening. One cannot dispute the power of nature here! At this spot, I could just enjoy and forget everything else in the world.
But it was getting late, so it was also time to go. As much as the kids liked exploring the ‘pirate cave’ (they called it this because someone once told them this was where pirates used to smuggle goods and hide it), they were asking for food, so it was time to make the journey back.
But before we made it all the way back, one of my most enthusiastic critter loving kids insisted on looking at the tide pools, so of course I happily obliged. This was one of our favorites. Here we found many sea anemones, hermit crabs (crawling around quickly), barnacles, and seaweed. It was wonderful to explore!
After that it was a short trip back on the rocks. But suddenly, the sun came out…just long enough to smile at us and allow us to take a few pictures of our shadows high fiving each other.
It was an awesome day to remember! Overall it took us about 1.5 hours for this roughly 1 mile trip. It took us longer because we spent a good amount of time enjoying the views in the cave and we were cautiously slow navigating the rocks with kids. And we enjoyed exploring the tide pools!
We got back quickly to the Ocean Institute and bought some souvenirs for the kids at the shop there. They loved their day! We did too!
Thanks for following us on our adventure! And on to the next…