Downtown inn upholds relaxed, personal charm with longtime staff!
Sitting atop Dana Point’s celebrated bluffs is a quaint haven with a New England feel—fittingly designed for the community named for author, lawyer, seaman and Massachusetts native Richard Henry Dana Jr. And while the light-blue paneled exterior is reminiscent of Nantucket’s shingled architecture, the views, experience and friendly people of the Blue Lantern Inn are all filled with charm unique to Dana Point.
The Blue Lantern Inn opened its doors in 1990 and has been welcoming guests, both vacationers and conferencers alike, to its rooms with a harbor view ever since. Situated at the end of Blue Lantern Street, and located near the city’s historic beginnings and first-built homes from the 1920s, this 29-room boutique hotel packages the warmth, comfort and amenities of home into an ultimate seaside getaway.
Over the last 24 years, the inn has remained relatively unchanged but has undergone improvements, mostly in keeping with technological advances, as its refurbished bathrooms—equipped with whirlpool tubs—have been accompanied by Wi-Fi upgrades and the introduction of high-definition televisions.
They are seemingly small updates to keep up with the outside world that have only enhanced the Blue Lantern’s uncomplicated, simplistic waterfront allure that has kept visitors coming back year after year, said Lin McMahon, a Dana Point resident who has managed the Blue Lantern for nearly two decades.
“I don’t think we could duplicate our feel anywhere else,” McMahon said, of the Blue Lantern Inn—one of 16 hotels under the direction of Four Sisters Inns, which manages boutique inns along the Southern Californian coastline, in the Napa and Sonoma valleys and in Mexico’s beach resort, Puerto Vallarta.
And although many of the Four Sisters’ locations offer similar sweeping Pacific Ocean views, the Blue Lantern Inn has set itself apart when it comes to serving its guests. Since opening more than two decades ago, the small inn has seen little staff member turnover—creating a family feel amongst employees who treat returning guests to a personalized experience with their local knowledge and familiar faces.
In fact, the inn has employed family members from the start including two of McMahon’s own children, who attended Dana Hills High School, and a local family of three generations that saw grandpa, Frank, in maintenance, mom, Virginia, as chef and now son and grandson, Conor, as a houseman. Laurene Tiller, the hotel’s assistant manager, has also been a longtime fixture of 17 years—a time in which she’s been a driving force to expand the inn’s services to facilitate executive retreats, meetings and weddings.
“I am really very blessed with my staff because most of them have been here from three to seven, eight or nine years.” McMahon said of the Blue Lantern Inn’s 30 full- and part-time employees, many living in Dana Point and San Clemente. “My guests are also seeing the same faces. It is also great to have new people come in and bring something fresh. We are really lucky there is not revolving door.”
McMahon estimates that 60 percent of the inn’s guests are repeat visitors who have taken a liking to not only the Blue Lantern, its staff and amenities, but also to Dana Point’s offerings. “We know a lot of our guests, they come in two or three times a year,” she said. “Some guests I’ve even known all my 19 years.”
With the inn’s proximity to Dana Point’s downtown business district, McMahon is excited to see changes come to Pacific Coast Highway and Del Prado Avenue. She hopes with the future addition of new shops, restaurants and offerings the Blue Lantern’s guests will continue to stay local and explore Dana Point.
“Even with everything going on in town, changes will make it easier to send our guests shopping, and we will always be able to maintain that small-town beach feel,” McMahon said. “What really sets us above is the access to Dana Point, and it will be so nice to have our guests stay downtown.”