We really looked forward to getting to our Dana Point hotel, the Doubletree Suites by Hilton. We’d booked a sunset whale watching cruise, and after a short drive from La Jolla, we’d all day to explore the beach and other delights of Dana Point. It seemed odd to be breaking our latest PCH drive just at the exact place where the Pacific Coast Highway officially starts – but that’s right here, less than a mile from our Dana Point hotel, at the junction of I-5 and Highway 1.
All Photos (c) Donna Dailey
The Doubletree was really easy to find, and that was a bonus. You do need good directions, but if you print them out from the hotel’s website, you can’t go wrong. There’s plenty of room to pull in, and the valet guy made us feel really welcome. He told us how to walk to the harbor, where best to cross the road to get to Doheny State Beach (which is right in front of the hotel: see map below), and where we’d end up if we walked south along the beach – the answer being San Clemente, about five miles away.
The friendly welcome continued inside the hotel at the reception desk, which sadly isn’t always the case these days. Here they clearly made an effort to treat you as a guest and not a job of work to be got out of the way. The reception area was big and bright, with some stylish décor, and there was a nice, thoughtful touch – chilled water, flavored lightly with citrus fruit, was always available just inside the door.
Our room was 416, which was right on the corner at the front of the hotel. With a balcony on each side, we had two different ocean views, which was fabulous. The walls were pale brown, and the chairs and bedding a delicate green. It was simple and relaxing. We liked the concealed fridge and microwave, the desk, the Jacuzzi in the bathroom, and little extras like some chamomile tea, and Wolfgang Puck coffee.
We didn’t get chance to sample dinner at the hotel’s Tresca restaurant, as we wanted to eat down at the harbor after our sunset whale watching cruise. But we did look in on the lively Vivo Bar on the 4th floor, with its ocean views (that's the view from our balcony, above), and in the morning breakfast in Tresca was excellent. The service again was friendly, the coffee terrific, and we both liked the sound of the ranchos hueveros. It’s a dish we know and love, and this was a tasty one.
We’d love to have stayed at least another day in Dana Point. We really enjoyed walking on Doheny State Beach, and wandering round the harbor. The whale watching cruise was fantastic, too. And the hotel was impressive. To be honest, we normally choose more intimate inns with character, family-run guesthouses, and the occasional luxury splurge. But someone local recommended the Doubletree to us – and we were glad that they did. It left us wanting more – the ultimate test. So we drove out of the hotel and right onto the start of the Pacific Coast Highway.
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