By Matt Coker
By R. Scott Moxley
By Charles Lam
By Nick Schou
By Gustavo Arellano
By Gustavo Arellano
By Steve Lowery
By R. Scott Moxley
JAVA POINTThe Coffee Importers. An espresso bar, ice cream shop, bagel/sandwich store and juice bar . . . What more could you want from a harbor-side establishment? And they've got plenty of umbrella-protected outdoor seating. 34531 St. of the Golden Lantern, (800) 399-7773; www.coffeeimporters.com.J.C. Beans Coffee. Though it has a drive-through, this coffeehouse hasn't neglected its interior, which is particularly cozy during the winter, when there's a wood-burning stove going nonstop. Sitting inside is almost like sitting in your old Aunt Millicent's living room. It's even got a slightly out-of-tune piano. But unlike Aunt Millicent's, the coffee here is good. If only all independent coffeehouses were like this. 34114 Pacific Coast Hwy., (949) 496-4700.
SURFING POINTDoheny State Beach. One of Orange County's best known beaches is also one of its most polluted. As the Beach Boys' "Surfin' Safari" and "Surfin' USA" attest, Doheny was considered one of the better surfing places—that is, before the construction of the harbor. It's now a good spot for surf beginners, camping and picnicking. It's also the site of some mighty big music festivals, like the Doheny Blues Festival and the Doheny Days Music Festival. 25300 Dana Point Harbor Dr., (949) 496-6172; www.dohenystatebeach.org.Girl in the Curl. Cute, cute, cute! Owner/surfing instructor Mary Hartmann offers adorable surf/tropical-themed jewelry, bikinis, bags, surfboards and lessons for wahines. Hartmann's brother, the late actor Phil Hartman, who was an avid surfer himself, had a hand in helping her open the store. 34116 Pacific Coast Hwy., Ste. A, (949) 661-4475.Killer Dana Surfshop. Named in tribute for the awesome waves that broke at Dana Point Cove pre-harbor, this popular surf store is owned and operated by second- and third-generation Dana Point surfers. The popular store has also spawned an offspring, Killer Dana Kids, just around the corner. 24621 Del Prado, (949) 489-8380; www.killerdana.com.Salt Creek Beach. Due largely to a "Save Salt Creek" movement in the 1960s, the area was acquired as a beach park for public use. Located next to the Ritz-Carlton, it is a popular surfing and swimming locale with an offshore reef. Pacific Coast Highway and Ritz-Carlton Drive, (949) 661-7013.
SELLING POINTHot Lava. A celebration of some of the finest and tackiest objects to come out of or be inspired by the Pacific islands: Hawaiian shirtorama, Indonesian bamboo furniture, hula-girl bamboo curtains that shimmy in the breeze, and tikis (don't tell the Bradys). Dana Village, 34671 St. of the Golden Lantern, (949) 661-8300.The White Pelican. The store calls itself "a gallery of Native American art and jewelry." Made by various tribes, its wide range of items (turquoise jewelry, pottery, moccasins and the like) are sold at reasonable prices. 34475 St. of the Golden Lantern, (949) 240-1991.
SCHMANCY POINTLaguna Cliffs Marriott Resort. A hotel complex reminiscent of the Hotel del Coronado, except it's located atop grassy bluffs . . . oh, and it doesn't have any of that hotel's illustrious history. It does have a great gourmet Thanksgiving brunch for those of you who don't want to deal with preparing a huge meal. Besides, it's harder to get into a family brawl in a public space. 25135 Park Lantern, (949) 661-5000.The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel. Yes, it has Laguna Niguel in its title, but the Ritz-Carlton is in fact located in Dana Point, overlooking the ocean, next to Monarch Beach. For some reason, the Ritz thought it would sound, well, ritzier if it allied itself with the neighboring city instead. Celebrities such as Mick Jagger, Julia Roberts and John Travolta have stayed here. For those of us who aren't movie stars, a somewhat reasonable option is to show up for sunset cocktails. 1 Ritz-Carlton Dr., (949) 240-2000.St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa. Talk about serious competition for the Ritz: this 400-room resort, featuring rooms starting at a mere $415 per night, is located almost across the street from that hotel. Of course, it doesn't want to just match its rival's standards; it wants to exceed them by being awarded not a four-star rating (which the Ritz was downgraded to several years ago) but five. And how can you argue with a place that has a wishing well called the Well of Desires outside its spa? 1 Monarch Beach Point Resort Dr., (949) 234-3200; www.stregismonarchbeach.com.
SNOOZING POINTThe Blue Lantern Inn. Looking out over Dana Point Harbor, the inn has all the charming little features you expect from a bed and breakfast. Where some places have chubby cherubs as their decorative pièce de résistance, Blue Lantern is the residence of teddy bears—mama bear, papa bear, baby bear and all their extended family. The stuffed animals are a trademark of the owners, Four Sisters Inns, who chose this stuffed animal to promote a children-are-welcome vibe. 34343 St. of the Blue Lantern, (800) 950-1236 or (949) 661-1304.