The Funicular at Strands Beach in Dana Point

A couple friends sent me a video of something that I didn’t know existed in Southern California.    An actual tram that transports you down a long steep slope and then ends at a ramp where you can continue the trek to the beach.

 I had to investigate this myself since I was given a general idea of where it was. As it turns out, I found it quite easily near Dana Point in Orange County.

We zeroed in on it at Strands Beach which is only a few miles north of Dana Point Harbor, however it was closed. It was only open until 5:00pm and from what I understand, as of right now, only the weekends.

The other option to get to the beach was to take the long stairway to the bottom.

Bring on the Stairs!!

Since the view from top was only of the ocean, our curiosity killed us on what the actual beach looked like.  So, like daring out-of -shape ninjas, we began our journey down the stairs…and there were a lot of them.   Finally arriving at the end of the stairs, there was still a paved trail to go before you actually touched the sand.  I had to stay up with the dog and couldn’t take pics but I’ll have to come back one day this summer to snap a few.   

One of us did make the trek and reported back that the beach was stunning. Even though it was high tide, there was still plenty of sand for chairs and family activities.

Except for the harbor and neighboring Doheny Beach, Dana Point is known for its location high above the coastline.  On this beach, the view was spectacular because of the towering cliffs that spanned as far you can see.

It was a cool day and the water was still chilly but even with that, it still looked inviting to take a swim. 

So now back to the stairs.

I am here to report that, walking the stairs up, isn’t really that much fun unless you are super fit and love getting your heart rate going.  It is pretty steep, but they managed to make it easier by breaking up the amount of stairs at given sections. Sometimes you will walk up eight stairs, then two, then, five, then a landing area.

The landing area is handy as you can stop and look at the view or fake like you are looking at it, while actually trying to catch your breath.  Whatever your reason, the setting is amazing.

So we made it up the stairs no worse for the wear but agreed that we still wanted to come back and check out this tram.

A few weeks later, we were up in the area and decided to go take a look again. This time, the tram was working!!

Bring on the Funicular!!

The Funicular is what they actually call  this tram and a new word that I learned for the day.

The definition of a Funicular is: “A  type of cable railway system that connects points along a railway track laid on a steep slope.”

That is exactly what it was and we were ready to try it, but first, a little bit about it.

The Funicular was built in 2007 and is open to the public during daylight hours. As of today it was only open on the weekends though.   It holds no more than 8 people and is about a two minute ride each way.

The California Coastal Commission built it with the intent to make it easier to access the ramp leading down to the beach.  Also, for families who had tons of chairs, beach equipment, toys, etc.

It operates on the weekends year-round during daylight hours and all week between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

When I rode it, there were only three others on the ride down and one on the way up. I am sure in summer it is packed.

During the ride you get a nice few of the ocean as you descend. It is a remarkable view made even better as the vehicle moves so slowly.

Leave it up to the affluent Dana Point to have in its city, what is basically an elevator to the beach.  I have seen steeper cliffs in Northern California where they make you hike your butt up and down if you want to get to the beach.

Not here, we have the wonderful Funicular.

I know it is better for my health to walk, but heck after a day at the beach with sun beating down on me, a nice cool ride up the hill sounds just about right.

Story and Photos: Debbie Colwell