It's easy to dismiss Dana Point as a city where OC's elite go to look at the yachts they never use. If you're like us Wildlings north of the Wall, attempts at culture in South County come across reminiscent of a lengthy coma.
Of course, we jest; all of sterile South County isn't so bad. Take Dana Point, with pockets of some of the last stretches of OC coast that hasn't been turned into a reality-TV show or a giant Wyland art gallery. The best way to do Dana Point is to head down to Capistrano Beach early in the brisk morning with a few friends, a bunch of firewood and something to grill. Find a spot with a firepit, set up shop, and you can spend the whole day on the beach, watching the excellent water as it colorfully laps onto the shoreside as you drink rum discreetly hidden in a Coke can, chillin' as though you have no job to go to. You'll likely run into tourists from Europe or South America (they always seem to end up in Capo Beach, even though Surf City is thataway). Just beware that they may try to smoke you out.
Speaking of, Huntington Beach may officially be Surf City, USA, but Dana Point is where newbies come to learn how to surf. Little ladies can learn the ways of the waves at Roxy's Girl In the Curl summer camp (www.girlinthecurl.com) at Doheny State Beach (25300 Dana Point Harbor Dr., 949-496-6172), or your aforementioned camping buds can show you the ropes. The waves at this beginners' beach are gentle and fun for those who have never been in the water and it gives you an excuse to say, “I totally did an activity today!”
The locals probably won't be camping while you cook out or in the water while you attempt to surf. The saltier ones will be at Turk's (34683 St. of the Golden Lantern, 949-496-9028), a semi-famous local dive in the middle of the marina that serves up stiff drinks on the cheap while offering excellent fish and chips. The bar is one of the last vestiges of the old guard of fishermen, and locals proudly wave their bare asses to gentrification like Scotsmen on a hill. It's the sort of magical place where you can pay $30 and lose the ability to operate heavy machinery. Of course, what appeals to us most about the dive is the nostalgia of it all—hell, the bar's been a staple for so long the odds are high you're sitting on the same bar stool as your dad did years ago.
For the quintessential South County experience, hit up the annual Dana Point Lobsterfest (www.danapointlobsterfest.org) on Aug. 16. Oh, and if you buy a whale painting at the marina, you should then just kill yourself.