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Community Overview

City of Dana Point, California

Welcome to the beautiful City of Dana Point, California.

While the City of Dana Point is a younger community, having been incorporated in 1989, its history spans centuries. Native Americans roamed the land, with the first Europeans arriving in the late 18th century. In 1776, Father Junipero Serra established Mission San Juan Capistrano (named for St. John of Capistrano, Italy) in the area, which was dubbed Capistrano Bay by the Spanish settlers.

Hipolito Bouchard, an Argentine pirate, raided the mission in 1818 after anchoring in the cove at Dana Point. Richard Henry Dana, Jr., a Harvard-educated lawyer and seaman, boarded the Boston merchant ship, Pilgrim, in 1835, setting out for San Francisco. The ship anchored in the cove at Dana Point, coming into contact with the pirates. Instead of raiding the Pilgrim, the pirates traded with the merchant ship.

Dana recalled his adventures on this voyage in his classic sea journal, “Two Years Before the Mast,” where he described the Capistrano Bay as “the only romantic spot on the California coast.” Residents paid tribute to the admirable author by naming the area Dana Point in the late 19th century, soon after his death.


In the 1920s, developer Sidney H. Woodruff acquired a large amount of land here for a resort town. The development abruptly stopped with the 1929 stock market crash and the ensuing Great Depression era. Oil tycoon Edward Doheny also invested in the development of the area, in Capistrano Beach, during this time, but also felt the burn of the Depression. In 1931, Doheny donated 40-plus acres of oceanfront property to the State of California, ultimately establishing the first state-run beach, aptly named Doheny State Beach Park.

Pioneer surfers discovered the opportunities of Dana Point by the 1950s and ‘60s, with the first mainland retail surf shop established here by Hobie Alter in 1954. Dana Point attracted many early surf legends, but remained a fairly undeveloped California community.

Dana Point Harbor was dedicated on July 31, 1971 and quickly became a hub for shopping, dining and recreation. Residential development soon followed, transforming this quiet seaside community into a thriving center for living, working and visiting.

The City of Dana Point celebrated its 20th anniversary on January 1, 2009.

Today, Dana Point, as well as its communities of Monarch Beach and Capistrano Beach, is the permanent home to approximately 38,000 residents and millions of annual visitors. The City works to preserve its rich historical roots and picturesque backdrop, while simultaneously improving the quality of life for its people.

There is no doubt about it; Dana Point is definitely “Harboring the Good Life.”

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