Ocean Institute


Mission Statement

Using the ocean as our classroom, we inspire children to learn.


The Ocean Institute is a highly respected ocean science, maritime history, and experiential education nonprofit located in Dana Point Harbor. The modern waterfront campus is adjacent to a federally-protected Marine Life Conservation Area. It encompasses 33,000 square feet of hands-on exhibits, science labs, and a live collection of 1,100 specimens of local marine life. Central to its unique identity throughout California and essential to its experiential mission, Ocean Institute operates two impressive tall ships. Spirit of Dana Point is a 118-foot schooner built in 1970, and Pilgrim is a 130-foot square rigged brig built in 1945 in Denmark. Pilgrim is a replica of the ship made famous by Richard Henry Dana Jr. in his epic memoir "Two Years Before the Mast," that chronicled his 1830's journey along the California coast. Ocean Institute also operates the 70-foot research vessel R/V Sea Explorer. Over forty years, the Ocean Institute has impacted the lives of two million California students. The Ocean Institute has mastered a continuum of structured academic programs for students from elementary through high schoool, and inspires over 100,000 students and the general public each year to learn with a hands-on approach to ocean-related science, research, and conservation. Ocean Institute's programs are based upon STEM principles that align with California education standards.

Program Details

The Ocean Institute offers a variety of camps, events, and outreach initiatives. The camps are immersive educational journeys that take place in our unique coastal setting. Engaging learning experiences and explorations in our learning labs, along shore, and aboard our vessels enable campers to expand their horizons and see the world in a new way. Both winter and summer camps are available and include the option for overnight stays. The family program is another option for our guests. Along with camps, the Ocean Institute also hosts a speaker series of experts in the fields of oceanography and marine biology. These leaders help to stimulate the communities thoughts and actions as informed citizens and stewards of a precious natural world. As a conservation-focused organization, the Ocean Institute strives to inspire the community and provoke tangible change. In particular, the teen programs are designed to expose the next generation of scientists, leaders, and consumers to global issues facing our oceans, current research, and the tools needed to better understand our changing world. These programs range from half-day conferences to year-long internships, with the goal of catalyzing a career in science. Similarly, outreach programs seek to allow youth of all backgrounds the opportunity to engage in hands-on science and spark an interest in pursuing STEM. The Adopt-A-Class program provides a profoundly meaningful academic and life-changing opportunity for students from Title I schools in low socio-economic communities to gain access to the ocean. Since its creation in 2001, Adopt-A-Class has continued to expand enrollment, serving underserved students throughout Orange County, Los Angeles County, and San Diego County. More than 100,000 students have benefited from the program this far. Adopt-A-Class continues to foster and document its impact to include students advancing their interests in ocean science as high school interns with the Ocean Institute. Another growing program is Ocean Institute's Girls in Ocean Science (GIOS). Founded in 2005, GIOS provides girls with access to the ocean and inspires their curiosity through unique hands-on science experiences. As women are still largely underrepresented in many fields of science, GIOS encourages young women to consider pursuing science-based degrees. Female scientists mentor 200 middle and high schools girls in hands-on scientific workshops aboard the 70-foot research vessel and in onshore labs. Our campus provides the perfect platform for young women and their scientist mentors to delve into ocean concepts, ecosystems, and human impacts on the ocean. Relationships are formed between the girls and the scientists that benefit these students as they proceed with their academic goals. Beyond camps and various programs to inspire youth, the Ocean Institute seeks to engage the larger community through two main festivals. The Tall Ships Festival started in 1984 and is the Ocean Institute's premier annual event, drawing thousands to Dana Point's beautiful harbor. This festival celebrates California's rich maritime history and our connection to the ocean. It consits of a variety of activities, ranging from listening to gruff pirate songs about life on the high sceas to learning how to tie a bowline. Our other large community event is the Jazz Festival, which is the Ocean Institute's biggest fundraiser of the year and proceeds directly support the Adopt-A-Class program. The festival consists of gourmet food, top jazz musicians, and a beautiful sunset over Dana Point Harbor. In addition to all these camps, initiatives, and festivals, the Ocean Institute is also open 7 days a week for walk in visits and tours of the facility and live species.
Primary Issue
24200 Dana Point Harbor Drive
Dana Point, CA 92629
United States
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