Dog-Friendly Getaway to Carmel-by-the-Sea
Amber Rose Powers
Food & Wine
Arts & Culture
Road Trip Travel
Carmel-by-the-Sea is one of the most stunning beach towns in the United States. It's a cross between quintessential coastal California and charming Europe with its large cypress trees, white sand beaches, fairytale cottages, art galleries and international culinary fare. Enjoy miles of breathtaking coastline from Pebble Beach down to Big Sur, or drive 15 minutes into Carmel Valley for warmer temperatures, wineries, and fresh farm stands. Known as one of the friendliest dog towns in America, it truly is a Disneyland-for-dogs as they run free on Carmel Beach or dine at one of the endearing outdoor patios with special menus just for your pup. Many hotels and restaurants cater to travelers with dogs, so much that your furry best friend might just get more attention then the high-end cars at Concours d'Elegance show end of summer.
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Where to stay in Carmel-by-the-Sea
The Lodge at Pebble Beach
Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
Continental Breakfast Basket Delivered to room daily
$100 USD Resort credit, to be utilized during stay which can be used on retail, spa, food & beverage and golf at The Links at Spanish Bay or Del Monte Golf Course
Carmel Valley Ranch
This 500-acre stunner is a one-stop playground for golf, farm adventures, spa time and top cuisine, all with epic Santa Lucia Mountains views.
Upgrade at time of booking, subject to availability
Daily Full breakfast for two guests per bedroom
One $100 Hotel or Resort credit to be used during stay
Bernardus Lodge & Spa
A true Wine Country escape in Carmel, with oversized suites and standalone villas, plus a lauded farm-to-table restaurant.
$100 USD equivalent Resort or Hotel credit to be utilized during stay
Daily breakfast credit of $30 per person, for up to two guests per bedroom
Upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
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Things to do in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Head to Carmel Beach at the end of Ocean Avenue for an early morning walk (with a Stationaery or Rise + Roam coffee in hand), to let your dog run free off-leash. Make sure to head to the north part of the beach just under Pebble Beach Golf Links with the rugged cliffs, then walk all the way to the south side of the beach where you can rinse your dog off on the cobbled steps. Walk up the steps onto Scenic Dr and head south down the road to the Carmel River State Beach where it tends to be quieter, but dogs must be on leash. You’ll pass the stunning Butterfly House perched on the cliff, the Clinton Walker House built by Frank Lloyd Wright and many other picturesque cottages.
Walk around downtown Carmel through art galleries, unique shops, hidden alleyways, and make sure to stop by Diggity Dog on Ocean Avenue for all the dog items you could dream of. They often have a celebrity dog photographer on site so be sure to get a few portraits of your pup if possible.
Stop by Cottage of Sweats to pick up treats for you and your dog. The sweetest little shop (literally) in a historic fairytale cottage on Ocean Avenue.
Go for an afternoon wine tasting at Galante Vineyards Tasting Room on Delores Street. It has a fun western theme, great wines and it’s dog friendly.
On the edge of downtown Carmel is Mission Trail Park, a former estate which is now a preserve and has 5 miles of trails to walk with your dog through the Redwoods. Perfect spot for a morning or afternoon hike without having to go far out of town.
Throw your pup in the car and drive along 17 Mile Drive in Pebble Beach. I love to grab charcuterie + wine at the Pebble Beach Market next to the Lodge and pull over at one of the beaches with picnic tables to enjoy along the way. Make sure to check out the Lone Cypress Tree.
Go to the Inn at Spanish Bay at the north end of 17 Mile Drive for drinks outside by the fire pits - arrive about an hour before sunset so you don’t miss the daily bagpiper performance on the bluffs about 30 minutes before sunset.
Head into Carmel Valley for a wine tasting at Folktale Winery & Vineyard’s wine garden restaurant. They don’t take walk-ins so make sure to reserve in advance. There are also a handful of casual wineries in Carmel Valley that you can stop into at your leisure.
Grab some fresh produce, flowers and food at Earthbound Farm Stand in Carmel Valley. Such a lovely spot to sit outside with your pup and soak in some sunshine. Please note, some areas are not dog friendly here.
Take a day trip down to Big Sur - grab breakfast at Big Sur Bakery, hike Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park down to the majestic cove of turquoise water on Pfeiffer Beach (if open), grab lunch at Nepenthe and if you're just not ready to leave, spend a night or two at the all inclusive (and very dog friendly) Ventana Big Sur.
Places to eat & drink in Carmel-by-the-Sea
Stationaery (Breakfast, Lunch, Coffee) - This hidden courtyard gem of a restaurant hits the nail on the head every time. They only serve what is fresh and in season from local sources, have an innovative menu, carry a great selection of natural wines, and have great coffee + matcha (the owner was a coffee roaster in LA). Definitely a locals spot and for those in the know.
La Bicylette (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) - A lovely French-Italian bistro with fresh, local ingredients and a very unpretentious vibe. Reserve a table on the patio or takeout one of their pizzas if you feel like eating in bed or on the beach.
The Bench at Pebble Beach (Lunch, Drinks, Dinner) - One of my favorite places to go sit outside with my dog, overlooking the 18th hole of Pebble Beach Golf Links with gas fire pits and lounge seating. My favorite time to get there is around 3-4pm between lunch and dinner to have a glass of wine and an appetizer. Favorite cocktail here is called the Benchwarmer - it’s like a spicy margarita with a twist.
La Balena (Dinner) - This restaurant is like Tuscany in Carmel. The owners are from Florence so expect Rustic Italian fare on a dimly lit patio off to the side where everything is fresh and organic.
Carmel Belle (Breakfast + Lunch) - A local favorite breakfast and lunch spot where everything is fresh and organic. You have to order inside at the counter (so this one is best to go to with more then one person if your dog is with you) but there are tables outside to dine with your dog.
Rise Bakery (Coffee, Bakery) - I love this little coffee shop and bakery for early mornings as we’re heading down to the beach for a walk. Their pastries are divine and you must try their long fermentation sourdough bread.
Alvarado Street Brewery (Lunch + Dinner) - A favorite spot of both my dog and I, tucked away in Carmel Plaza downtown amidst the shops. I love the local draft beer options and my dog loves the French fries that come with my vegan burger. Ample outdoor seating so it’s always a good option when other restaurant patios are full.
Demetra Cafe (Lunch + Dinner) - This lively Mediterranean restaurant on Ocean Avenue is a staple in Carmel. The food is fantastic and the staff always ends up dancing and singing at one point or another.
Terry’s Restaurant and Lounge (Lunch + Dinner) - A charming local loved restaurant at the Cypress Inn, owned by Dorris Day who was a devout dog lover. Dogs are welcome inside and outside and they have a fabulous Yappy Hour menu for your dog.
The Wine House (Drinks, Light Bites) - I love the rustic chic setting at this wine, beer and light bite spot in Carmel Valley.
Alta Bakery (Breakfast, Coffee, Bakery) - Worth the drive into Monterey for their incredible pastries and breakfast goods. There’s always a line and things sell out fast so make sure to go there early. Enjoy your coffee and pastries with your pup in the gardens behind the shop.
Need to Know
Carmel is easy to reach from San Francisco Airport in under 2 hours, San Jose Airport in just over an hour, fly direct to Monterey Regional Airport only 15 minutes from town, or road trip to enjoy even more of the iconic California coastline in either direction.
For more travel tips, check out Fora Advisor Jody Holman's guide, Local's Guide to a Weekend in Carmel-by-the-Sea.
Amber Rose Powers
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This is part of our ongoing series on travel to California.