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Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching— a Dana Point Legacy

DANA POINT— Dana Wharf Sportfishing and Whale Watching was founded in 1971 by Dana Point legend Don Hansen and was the first whale-watching company in Orange County. Hansen, whose family came by train to San Clemente in 1939 from Iowa during the Great Depression when the young city had only 478 residents, passed away on Jan. 5, 2022. His daughter Donna Kalez and son Michael run the family business today. 


Hansen obtained his captain’s license at age 23. He eventually brought the landing, which was then based on the San Clemente Pier in 1966, to the new Dana Harbor. Hansen built it into a 17-boat fleet of sportfishers and whale-watching boats based at Dana Wharf Sportfishing. When Dana Point Harbor was built, Dana Wharf Sportfishing was the Harbor’s first tenant in 1971. Hansen moved into the new territory with his four boats, the Clemente, Sum Fun, Reel Fun, and the Sea Horse — the Sea Horse is the only original pier boat he owned, still not in service at the landing. It was sold in 2002 when the landing’s flagship 95-foot Dana Pride was built by his oldest son, Michael Hansen, who relocated to Washington to oversee the construction. Seven boats are currently owned by the landing, and the other 10 in the fleet are managed by the landing and operated by his daughter Donna and Michael.


Hansen is also responsible for the honored and annual Festival of Whales, which started in 1971 and celebrated its 52nd year in early March. Dana Point has been called the Whale Watching Capital of the West. The city, the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce, and Visit Dana Point have used that description. There is a greater density of dolphins per square mile just off Dana Point than anywhere else. As a result, there are year-round opportunities to see multiple species of whales, such as the rarely-seen blue whale to the plentiful gray and humpback whales. Other species seen may include minke, fin , killer, and false killer whales. 


In addition to several whale-watching and sportfishing options, Dana Wharf also offers art lessons from famous artists, Wyland, sunset wine cruises, and is involved in many harbor events. 


For more information on Dana Wharf or to book one of its many excursions, please visit 

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  • Some extra fun for kids are the Sunday afternoon kids fishing specials year round, and the Kids Fishing Camp, and after school trips.



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