Strands Beach and Strands Vista Park in Dana Point: Walk the Loop or Play in the Sand

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Strands Beach in Dana Point goes by many names. I’ve heard it called: The Strand, Salt Creek Beach Park, and Strand Vista Park. I call it “pure bliss.” It’s just a beautiful spot beneath the Dana Point Headlands.  If you can imagine the coastline here, it’s squeezed in the small cove between the point of the headland and Salt Creek Beach.

Location: Reach the parking area by taking Pacific Coast Highway to Selva. Turn right past the sign reading “Salt Creek Beach Park.”  MAP TO STRANDS BEACH AND STRAND VISTA PARK IN DANA POINT

Highlights:

  • From the parking lot, you’ll spy a paved path running along the top of the bluff. There’s a funicular at the north end and a flagpole (Memorial Plaza) at the south. In between, you’ll spy an assortment of mosaic sea creatures artistically integrated into the path.

  • The views are the main reason to visit this perfect patch of Earth. Some days you can see Catalina, some days you see dolphins. I always see surfers and watercraft.
  • This beach is staffed by lifeguards during the summer.

You choose from a range of desired activity levels for this outing.

  • Sit in your car to watch the sunset
  • Take a short stroll along the upper part of the park.
  • Walk down the steps to the beach and walk back up the the same stairs (on the north end).
  • Walk down the steps to the beach and continue on the boardwalk south until you reach another set of steps to a winding ramp that makes its way up the to the headlands — follow the sidewalk on Selva back to the parking lot.
  • Do that loop backwards by walking down the winding ramp, across the boardwalk, and up the steps to the parking lot.
  • There’s a funicular near the steps — add that into your plans. (However, I’ve never actually had a chance to ride this funicular. So don’t count on it. It has odd hours and I never seem to hit it right no matter how often I visit — which is VERY often.)
  • Check the tides and go tidepooling.
  • Build sandcastles.
  • You can even COMBINE walks and start at the Dana Point Headlands Nature Interpretive Center, walk down to the beach via the winding ramp on the south side of Strands, walk the boardwalk, head up the stairs by the funicular, walk along the bluff top back to the headlands. If you’re super ambitious, this could easily be combined with the Salt Creek Trail walk.

This is a partially accessible beach outing. Strollers and wheelchairs should be able to easily navigate the bluff top sidewalk. You could potentially make it down to the beach via the funicular (a small elevator) – but you’ll need brakes (or help) on the steep hill to reach the boardwalk. You could have problems if you are at the bottom and the funicular stops service – so be aware of the hours of operation.

Be Aware:

  • If you’re heading down to the beach, there’s no escaping HILLS or STAIRS.
  • If decide to walk down the beach to see the sunset, remember it might be dark by the time you reach the parking lot.
  • This is a SKINNY beach at high tide. You’ll be okay getting from Point A to Point B on the boardwalk, but you might not be able to get all the way across the beach on the sand.
  • The funicular is FREE, but has limited hours of operation.
  • I don’t necessarily recommend this beach for swimming. It’s very rocky and there are experienced local surfers in the water. It’s certainly fine for dipping your toes and playing knee-deep in the waves, but I wouldn’t venture too much further.

Checklist:

  • Parking is free.
  • Restrooms on the south side of the parking lot have showers (push hard to make them work).
  • There are restrooms, showers and drinking fountains at the bottom of the stairs near the funicular.
  • Restrooms, showers and drinking fountains also available on south side of the boardwalk before your winding ramp climb.
  • A few picnic tables and some tiny lawn areas at the the top along the bluff.
  • I’m not the first to give away this secret. The OC Register reported the official park opening in January.  Soon after, Jennifer at Tiny Oranges made her way for a visit. I met with Sharlene from Double the Adventure for a some beach play and she put up a post on it, as well.
  • Bring food and water for the kiddos. No snack bars here!

Comments

  1. Clarisse Reid says

    I love The Strands for walking, reading and watching the sunset. But, what’s the point of having a non-smoking park if the no-smoking laws are not enforced? The locals who smoke there know the rules and choose to ignore them. But, the tourists may not know that the park is non smoking. No smoking signs should be prominently displayed throughout the park. And, when law enforcement officers patrol the park, they should issue citations to smokers, rather than look the other way.

  2. Michele says

    Thanks, Jennifer. That’s really good to know! Thanksgiving was probably the perfect day to go.

  3. Jennifer says

    Love your site!

    We rode the Funicular down and up on Thanksgiving Day last week. In the off season it operates on holidays and weekends and Thanksgiving counts as a holiday!

  4. says

    I host a hike at the Strand on Saturday morning and people get confused on the location. Is there a Selva Road street address number people can input to their GPS to get there?

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