Carmel-by-the-sea is a quaint little coastal town in the Monterey Peninsula next to the Pacific Ocean and is known for its European vibes, dog-friendlyness and best of all, zero fireworks during fourth of July. The last two reasons make it a perfect getaway spot for pet parents living in the Bay Area at this time since many fur-babies are dead scared of strange noises, aka fireworks. We spent our last July 4th weekend here as well (read my previous Carmel post here) and headed off to this tiny, yet extremely popular town, this time too. On our last visit, we had stayed mostly around Carmel and explored the city’s beach near Ocean avenue but this time we decided to get out of the town (too crowded with tourists) and venture southwards towards Garrapata beach, a secluded dog-friendly beach on the way to Big Sur. Its a fairly straight road along Highway 1 and once you reach the beach, you get onto a well cordoned off trail that leads to stairways leading up to the beach. It is a white sand beach with lots of kelp around. As is the case with all beaches in NorCal and Central Valley, the water and the weather itself is cold, windy and chilly. So please dress appropriately! Dogs on leash are welcome on the trail and beach. If you arrive in the morning, you will have the beach pretty much to yourself to enjoy the salty air and solitude. This place is an excellent lookout spot for California gray whale migration and has dense, native vegetation all around. Pretty summer flowers blooming all around plus the foamy waves gave us many picture-perfect shots. Here is how we spend our time in Carmel and all the things we did.
Carmel: dog friendly beach
Unlike last year, where we packed in quite a few things in our itinerary, we decided to take things slow this time around and pretty much relaxed for most of our stay. That included simply walking around the pint sized town and dining in one of the many dog friendly restaurants. In addition to my last blog post, I am spreading the love around by reviewing FOUR more new dog-friendly dining places, Carmel’s most well known dog-friendly accommodation (where we managed to snag a room this time around) and last but not the least, I am going to spill the bean on all, yes ALL, the dog-friendly dining spots in this small town. As for how to keep your dog busy, read my past post on Carmel here.
Carmel: dog friendly hotel
We stayed at the elegant boutique hotel Cypress Inn, owned by yesteryear actress and animal activist Doris Day. No surprises that the Inn is extremely dog-friendly with everything geared towards the comfort of your canine companion. The hotel has its own restaurant (Terry’s lounge) with both indoor and outdoor seating welcoming dogs, but advance reservations are recommended since it is insanely popular due to its delicious cuisine (Californian American leaning towards sea-food as is the norm with everything in the Monterey Peninsula) and because it is dog-friendly. Our room, albeit small, was very beautifully decorated and came with a plush blanket and water bowl for Babu (things that I really appreciate). Plus attendants make the rounds in the evening handing over complimentary chocolates to every room, so I guess it cannot get better than this. Breakfast is your typical continental fare and was complimentary, but the best part of the restaurant is its lounge with a fireplace (nesting a real, crackling fire in its hearth) that seals the deal. The lounge is open to all visitors for a drink or for guests to cozy up with their dogs as they listen to live music. On Saturdays, there is a live musical performance by a Liza Minelli-esque lady who will charm you with her soulful crooning. Just lounging in that space with Babu snuggling up to us in front of the fireplace and feeling all warm and tingly was the highlight of our “do nothing and relax” trip.
Carmel: dog friendly downtown
As I mentioned before, the sole purpose of our trip was to relax, unwind and take a break from the humdrum of everyday life. So apart from visiting Garrapata beach, we decided to simply enjoy strolling around in downtown Carmel and take in the pretty sights of flowers blooming, tiny little shops and quaint, delightful signs everywhere. Carmel is such a tiny town with residential areas adjacent to the business center/heart of the city, that everything can be covered within a day on foot if you are simply wandering around. But if you really want to take everything in, slowly and surely, then stroll at your leisure and you will come across many a hidden surprise, such as secret garden tucked away in an alley (see my previous post here) or beautiful gardens in small lanes adorned with local shops and restaurants. Because of the weather, most people dine al-fresco with their dogs and most restaurants here have that option. Finally, do not forget to get some chocolates from Lula’s or peep into the Alice in Wonderland gift shop if you are visiting!
Carmel: dog friendly restaurants
Carmel is akin to doggie haven, this place is of and for dogs, and possibly created by dog-lovers. Almost all restaurants here are very welcoming to dogs with outdoor seating areas or beautiful patios. That is not all, many businesses (those not selling food items) welcome dogs in their establishments and also keep a bowl of water outside for thirsty pooches. This time we explored a few new restaurants which we did not hit up on our last visit and had a great experience everywhere. Before I start, I must warn you that advance reservations are a very good idea if you are visiting with your dog over a busy holiday weekend because all outdoor spots are taken by similar pet parents who are visiting.
First off, we kicked off our arrival evening dinner with Carmel Bistro Giovanni, a small Italian bistro with a beautiful patio and a very welcoming server. S settled for a vegetarian penne pasta while I gulped down my prawns in coconut sauce over linguine with sheer delight, along with my glass of a Monterey Pinot Noir. Like most restaurants around, the food had a Mediterranean influence with fresh local flavors that were light to the palate and featured seasonal, local catch. We loved the food and highly recommend this place to all pet parents planning a visit to Carmel.
For Day two, lunch comprised of some good eats at Basil Restaurant, another very popular spot with locals and visitors, specially dog-owners owing to their heated patio. Advanced reservations are highly recommended. Our food comprised of small plates and entrees (they have excellent vegetarian options) and I enjoyed my carrot-ginger pureed soup, herbed gnocchi and ravioli heartily, while S got some sautéed spinach and savory french toast for himself. Service was incredibly slow, but if you have all the time in your hands then this is a great place to dine because of the food alone!
Our second night’s dinner was at Cypress Inn, our hotel (with prior reservation) and fortunately we got a seat at the beautiful courtyard. Food, wine and service were divine and our server was very friendly and caring. It felt very nice dining outside with a cool breeze caressing our faces, Babu slumped on his plush blanket and with many dog parents with their pooches around us. I again got another pasta dish, aka shrimp scampi after wolfing down some Monterey Calamari while S got a beet salad and vegetarian risotto. I don’t know what it is about Carmel, but I had some of my best pasta there this time around and must have eaten my weight in them! By the way, the photo below of the adorable dog is not Babu, but his doppleganger! We met quite a few Tibetan Spaniel mixes this time in Carmel who could possibly qualify as Babu’s long lost cousins.
Our fourth of July morning, breakfast, i.e. that of our departure was a simple affair at the Village Corner, another dog-friendly spot with a welcoming fire-pit to keep you warm on chilly Carmel mornings. That and Katy’s Place were the only two eateries open on 4th of July morning, and judging by the crowd in-front of Katy’s, we decided to retreat quickly and luckily found a place here. Breakfast was omelette for S and buttermilk pancakes for me and then we headed off north, back to the city! For those interested in some sweet indulgence, Carmel Bakery (open on July 4th as well) , Little Swiss Cafe selling Cheese blintzes (serving breakfast) and Patisserie Boissiere with fresh baked good and french pastries (plus savories for lunch) offer the perfect opportunity to do so and must not be missed. None of these had outdoor seating and were crowded as well, due to which we gave them a miss.
And, finally for those of you who may not/will not be staying at the Cypress Inn, here is the scanned list of the pet friendly restaurants which they so thoughtfully provide, with all the details (L/D=lunch/dinner). Enjoy your time in Carmel and please share your experiences with me, specially if some of my tips appeared to be of help.