The Best Dog-Friendly Beaches in Northern California

the best dog friendly beaches in california

Have you ever seen anything as happy as a dog playing on the beach? Me neither. Sometimes I borrow my neighbor’s dog just to take him to the beach and watch him go nuts chasing after his tennis ball into the roiling surf, completely oblivious of the chilly water and crashing waves.

It’s not only fantastic exercise for the dog, it’s cathartic for humans as well, being able to bring so much joy to a dog’s day. So open your day-planner right now, find a free weekend, then call your dog over and let him know that he’s about to have the best beach getaway a pooch could ever hope for.


the best dog friendly beaches in northern california (17)Slurps Up for Dogs in Santa Cruz

Santa Cruz offers more dog-friendly beaches than any other city or town on the Northern Coast. Many of the beaches in Aptos, Capitola, and Santa Cruz allow dogs on a leash, and one—Mitchell’s Cove Beach off West Cliff Drive at the intersection of Almar Avenue—even allows dogs off-leash from sunrise to 10am and 4pm to sunset.

If you’re planning a trip to Santa Cruz with your pooch, your best bet is to download the Santa Cruz County Visitors Council’s Dogs at Play in Santa Cruz County which lists all the dog-friendly parks and beaches in the entire county (it’s very handy).


the best dog friendly beaches in northern california (12)Four-Legged Fun in Dog-Friendly San Francisco

My sister lives in Sacramento and makes frequent trips to San Francisco because both she and her dogs (Toula, a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, and Buster, a Borderdoodle) have a ball in this pet-friendly city. First she takes them for a stroll to the off-leash area along Crissy Field—with incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge—to play with the other dogs.

Then it’s a short drive to the off-leash area at Ocean Beach for some serious ball-throwing exercise, or to nearby Fort Funston, one of the best and most popular doggie parks in the Bay Area, with plenty of sand dunes, trails, and wide-open spaces where dozens of happy and sociable dogs play daily.

On day two, when it’s time for some serious shopping at Union Square, she drops them off at Wag Hotels near downtown San Francisco for some paw-dicures, dog play sessions, and swim time in the pet pool (well, Toula’s not into the swimming part—it’s a short-leg thing).


the best dog friendly beaches in northern california (14)Secret Tahoe Dog Beach

Just about all the beaches in Lake Tahoe are off limits to dogs, but here’s a little secret: Near the Zephyr Cove Resort in South Lake Tahoe there’s a place called North Beach that’s part of Tahoe National Forest and allows dogs (and boy-howdy do dogs love this beach). You can park at the Zephyr Cove parking lot, then walk about 100 yards north to the beach.

Our favorite pet-friendly Tahoe inn is Tahoma Meadows Bed & Breakfast Cottages on Tahoe’s West Shore. It’s one of the few properties in Tahoe that welcomes pets, and they even provide a doggy welcome basket for each visiting pooch. Be sure to check out their “Adventures with Your Dog at Lake Tahoe” page on their website at (click on “Pet Info”).


the best dog friendly beaches in northern california (4)Canine Bliss in Carmel

My stepmom and dad love taking their dog Pogo (a Hungarian Kuvasz) to Carmel-by-the-Sea, so I asked her to write about their last trip: “We had a lovely time in Carmel with Pogo. I have never been anywhere that dogs are so ubiquitous—there were breeds of every kind.

We ate dinner one evening at Forge in the Forest. They have an outdoor area, laughingly referred to as the ‘dog pound’, which is where we ate beside a roaring fire in the fireplace. The waiter brought Pogo a water bowl, and there were even menu items for dogs.

Carmel Beach is a beautiful off-leash dog run. There were many dogs there, and Pogo loved the beach (the water, not so much). That evening we enjoyed a nice dinner at Flaherty’s. We were welcome inside with Pogo. Overall it was a very enjoyable vacation for the three of us.” Tip: Right now LocalGetaways is offering a special $129 rate at the pet-friendly Carmel Mission Inn.


the best dog friendly beaches in northern california (15)Mendocino Loves its Mutts

If you really want to spoil your pooch (and yourself to boot), head over to Mendocino for a luxurious getaway to the Stanford Inn by the Sea. Longtime owners Joan and Jeff Stanford, who love to travel with their dogs Murphy and Gypsy, always make sure that animals of every ilk get the royal treatment here.

At check-in dogs get a welcome treat, stainless steel food and water dishes, pick-up bags, and even “dog sheets” to protect the furniture. There are three nearby beaches that are dog-friendly, and Joan and Jeff will tell you everything you need to know about where to play with your pet in and around Mendocino. It’s a wonderful place to go for a relaxing seaside getaway with your pet.


The dog-friendly beaches and hotels mentioned above are just a fraction of the places in Northern California that allow pets. For an excellent resource on “paw-tested” pet-friendly getaways in California I highly recommend, run by Roxanne and Dave Kendrick.

For more insider tips on fun things do, see, and explore in California, the place to go is, where you’ll always find best California travel deals.

– By Matthew Richard Poole

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on Sep 17, 2014