A dog friendly Guide to Carmel, California’s charming seaside town
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 charm, natural beauty and best of all, zero fireworks during fourth of July. Carmel is perhaps the most dog friendly town in California as a result of which we’ve visited this seaside town several times. This post is my guide to all pet parents to showcase how incredibly dog friendly Carmel is by providing details on a ton of dog friendly activities starting from dog friendly hotels, beaches and finally, dog friendly Carmel restaurants as well as wine tasting rooms that welcome dogs.
So without further ado, let’s get on to this dog friendly guide to Carmel to find out all the fun things that you can do with your dog in Carmel-by-the-sea.
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Dog Friendly hotels in Carmel
a) Cypress Inn
We have been to Carmel four times now with our dog Babu, and have always been amazed at how many dog friendly hotels are present in this small town. Of all the pet friendly Carmel hotels that we’ve stayed, the most memorable one undoubtedly was the elegant boutique hotel Cypress Inn, owned by yesteryear actress and animal activist Doris Day. No surprises that the Inn is the best dog friendly hotel in Carmel 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 in this dog friendly Carmel restaurant since it is insanely popular due to its delicious cuisine (Californian American leaning towards seafood as is the norm with everything in the Monterey Peninsula) and because it welcomes dogs.
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 is 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 Minnelli-esque lady who will charm you with her soulful crooning.
b) Briarwood Inn
Cypress Inn is the most popular and definitely pricey dog friendly hotel in Carmel, and gets booked very quickly, specially for the July 4th weekend. Another pet friendly Carmel hotel, where we have stayed repeatedly, is Briarwood Inn bed and breakfast, a cute little inn minutes away from downtown which welcomes dogs and also has complimentary breakfast.
They do have some restrictions based on your pet’s size, so please enquire before you book! Both times we arrived to spacious, well kept rooms (larger ones can accommodate up to three people) with a fireplace and they had thoughtfully laid out a doggie treat on our bed! We loved our stay there both times and highly recommend it to pet parents looking for more economical options for dog friendly hotels in Carmel.
Dog friendly Carmel: Top things to do with your pup
a) Dog Friendly beaches
Carmel has a fair share of some of the most dog friendly beaches in California. The most popular, and also dog friendly beach in Carmel is undoubtedly Carmel beach at the very end of Ocean avenue, where man and canine can have a jolly good time frolicking in the sand.
Being on the coast, Carmel experiences foggy mornings and warmer afternoons, so do pack accordingly while going to the beach, dress in layers and do not forget the sunscreen. The beach is super popular and gets crowded pretty quickly, so it is best to arrive early to snag a spot in the sand.
If you are looking to leave the crowds behind at Carmel beach, Garrapata beach, a secluded dog friendly beach on the way to Big Sur, is definitely the beach to visit. It’s 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 on this pet friendly Carmel 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.
b) Dog Friendly hiking trails
If you are in the mood to hike in Carmel with your dog, may I suggest Mission trail park and Nature preserve? This is a dog friendly hiking trail trail which meanders through miles of green wherever the eyes can wander. We hiked for only a mile or so of the five miles, but this is definitely one of those non tedious, beginner level dog friendly hike that everyone can enjoy at a relaxing pace! The trail head is close by to downtown Carmel and is either a 20 min walk or 7-8 min drive.
c) Dog Friendly Things to do in downtown Carmel
Albeit small, downtown Carmel is cute as a button and stretches across a few streets and avenues. Every corner that we turned too was beautiful and charming with flowers or secret paths/tiny green Shangri-la like gardens tucked in! Not to mention the extremely cute and quaint store signs, unexpected red doors (my favorite) , cute boutiques and art galleries strewn everywhere! Dogs are allowed almost everywhere in downtown Carmel (unless they sell food/edibles) and as a result you can explore most of downtown Carmel with your dog without any problems!
Simply enjoy strolling around in downtown 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, making it an excellent Bay Area day trip from San Francisco.
Downtown Carmel has many hidden gems that you will stumble upon as your walk around. One of them is a delightful secret garden tucked away in an alley (next to Carmel bookstore) 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! I also highly recommend Dawn’s dream winery which is a cute little dog friendly wine tasting room in downtown Carmel. For more on wine tasting at Carmel, read this excellent guide on Carmel wine walk by-the-Sea!
Dog friendly restaurants in Carmel
Carmel was definitely built for dog-lovers and offers plenty of dog friendly restaurants to choose from. 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.
We explored quite a few dog friendly Carmel restaurants during our repeat visits and loved our dining experience at all of them. Before I start, I must warn you that advance reservations are a very good idea at these pet friendly Carmel restaurants 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.
Some of the places we dined with Babu are as follows:
a) Dinner at 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 dog friendly dining place to all pet parents planning a visit to dog friendly Carmel.
b) Lunch 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 dog friendly Carmel restaurant to dine because of the food alone!
c) Dinner at Cypress Inn, our hotel (with prior reservation) and fortunately we got a seat at the beautiful courtyard at their super popular dog friendly restaurant where dogs simply lounge in the courtyard (wrapped in comfy blankets) near your feet as you dine. You can also reserve an indoor seat since they have a special dog friendly section inside for pet parents.
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!
d) Lunch at a charming dog friendly Carmel restaurant named Casanova, which is closest to Ocean avenue. We loved the mediterranean/french fare and the tiny courtyard where we could relax and enjoy our meal with lots of dogs near tables all around!
e) Dinner at the popular mediterranean joint Mundaka, which again had outdoor seating and mouth watering Tapas as well as delicious Sangria.
f) Breakfast at Village Corner, another dog friendly Carmel restaurant with a welcoming fire-pit to keep you warm on chilly Carmel mornings, which is also one of the very few restaurants open on 4th of July. 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.
There are many other dog friendly restaurants in Carmel and if you are staying at the Cypress Inn, they will provide you with a list of all the pet friendly restaurants in downtown! Bring Fido also has some excellent recommendations that you can read here.
Dog Friendly scenic drive: 17 mile loop
Ending this dog friendly guide to Carmel with one of the best road trips in California that is also, you guessed it right, dog friendly! I am talking about the famous 17 mile drive that loops between Carmel in the south and Monterey in the North that takes you through famous points along the coast such as Lone Cypress and Pebble beach.
This is definitely one dog friendly activity that you must indulge in while coming to Carmel from the north or if you have some time on your hands and want to venture out of downtown.
I hope you enjoyed reading this dog friendly guide to Carmel by the sea, a safe haven for dogs during 4th of July and an excellent place with all things dog friendly! If you enjoyed reading this, do read my other dog friendly destination guides in California for more pet friendly travel inspirations such as trips to Mendocino, Sausalito, Pt. Reyes, Sebastopol (Sonoma), Santa Cruz, Sacramento, Calistoga (Napa), Santa Barbara, Solvang, Los Angeles and many other places.
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