Staycation: Coastal elegance at Dana Point's Blue Lantern Inn

Posted at 2:48 PM, Sep 02, 2016
and last updated 2016-09-02 17:49:35-04

For a relaxing getaway, it’s hard to beat Dana Point. Located about midway between Los Angeles and San Diego, this sleepy little beach town has a lot to offer. Think of it as a low-stress refuge to unwind from everyday life.

For lodging, we checked into the Blue Lantern Inn. Perched on the cliffs overlooking the harbor, the hotel offers expansive views of the bay, technically called Capistrano Bight. The full moon glinting off the water is amazing.

“The Blue Lantern Inn is special because of the spectacular views, the personal service the guests receive from the staff and the feeling they have of getting away from it all,” said Lin McMahon, manager of the Blue Lantern Inn.

The Blue Lantern is part of the Four Sisters Inns chain, combining the service of a larger hotel with the intimacy of a B&B. The rooms are spacious, with high ceilings and, in many cases, the fantastic view. For really in-depth relaxation, visit the “the Sanctuary,” the inn’s massage room. There are a variety of options, including Swedish, deep tissue and herbal infusion.

A Bountiful Breakfast Included

The inn goes all-out for breakfast, with egg dishes, fruit, sausage, pastries, French toast and other yummies. Guests are poised for the 8 o’clock start. They also offer an afternoon happy hour that features fine wines and an excellent cheese selection. Grab a plate and take the short walk to the back patio, where you can relax and enjoy the view.

“Sisters weekend could not have been more successful! We were able to relax, sleep in and make it easily to surrounding sights, which includes the unique and glorious views! Breakfast was extensive and a different hot selection with fruit and pastries every day,” said Margaret Glasch of Kansas City, Missouri.

Just a block away from the inn, there are hiking trails along the bluff. These zig zag through the nature preserve, past the Dana Point Interpretive Center and through neighborhoods, offering an opportunity to view some incredible scenery, as well as some of the town's beautiful houses – consider it a low budget tour of European architecture.

Down at the harbor, check out the tall ships and their more modern cousins, as well as the neighboring Ocean Institute. Take advantage of the long pedestrian walkway by the harbor. For those indulging in Pokemon Go (no need to fess up, we get it), the harbor area is lure central.

On the food side, Dana Point features abundant casual fare. The Schwack Beach Grill is an excellent option for sandwiches, salads and a nice choice of beers. In addition, you’re only a few minutes from the freeway and excellent choices up the coast.

There’s no shortage of fun water-related activities: surfing, paddle boarding, investigating the tide pools or just lying on the sand. Baby Beach is nestled in the harbor and Doheny State Beach is just a couple of miles south. Plus there is ample fishing, whale watching and even trips to Catalina.

The pristine location means Dana Point is ground zero for a number of events, most notably the annual Doheny Blue Festival in May. But there’s also an art walk and, coming in September, a Tall Ships Festival. In addition, the location makes it a great jumping-off point for visits to Disneyland and other SoCal attractions.

"Fall is the perfect time of year in Dana Point. The summer season is over but the weather is still wonderful. The harbor is not as crowded. It is easier to park. There is not as much traffic,” said McMahon.

On the other hand, you can just hang out by the inn and enjoy the view. Dana Point is a great place to soak in the natural beauty, commune with the Pacific and generally kick back.

Josh Baxt has been writing about travel, science, healthcare and other topics for more than 18 years. Based in San Diego, he is particularly interested in finding hidden gems (and sharing some of them). At this moment, he is thinking about his next great meal.