Home Americas Beyond the Boardwalk: Exploring Dog Friendly Santa Cruz, California

Beyond the Boardwalk: Exploring Dog Friendly Santa Cruz, California

written by ParoChak June 20, 2016

Dog Friendly Santa Cruz: So much more than the boardwalk

Santa Cruz, the beautiful coastal town in Northern California is famous for its boardwalk, much like Coney Island near Manhattan. There is a very different side to this sleepy little beach town that includes hidden beaches, redwood groves with some of the world’s tallest trees (coastal redwoods) and a cute little downtown with lots of good eats. What made us choose this town for our weekend getaway is because Santa cruz is extremely dog friendly as well and is a mere 1.5 hrs south of San Francisco. Continue reading this post for dog friendly hikes in Santa Cruz, dog friendly restaurant suggestions and a fantastic dog friendly B&B right in the heart of the giant redwoods, where we stayed. If you are wondering about other weekend getaways with your dog in the San Francisco Bay Area besides dog friendly Santa Cruz, here is my guide to 5 dog friendly Bay Area day trips that will guarantee a fun vacation with your pet!

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Dog Friendly hotels in Santa Cruz: where to stay with your canine buddy

Santa Cruz is riddled with options for dog friendly hotels, i.e. places which allow dogs to stay with/without a fee/night. The thing is if you start searching for pet friendly hotels on the internet, you will come across those same cookie-cutter chain hotels that welcome dogs in Santa Cruz or similar fancier establishments that are in downtown or those that boast of being near the beach and boardwalk. Because of the location, these pet friendly hotels are pretty expensive and all of them charge an extra fee for dogs. On the other end of the spectrum are the dinky motels, that may come cheap but really do not provide an inch of comfort and are simply places to rest your butt after a day out. Not good for you or your fur-baby who will more often than not, be stressed out in a new location. All this underscores the importance of finding a peaceful haven/ place of rest where you and your canine companion can unwind at the end of the day in dog friendly Santa Cruz. A spot of zen far away from the din and bustle of touristy areas which envelopes you in a blanket of utter calm once you set foot in it. Now imagine such a place right in the middle of a lush redwood grove, thick with dense vegetation, greenery and acres of redwood trees standing tall and silent all around. Rustic lodges with modern amenities nested inside with steps flanked by flowering shrubs and a home-cooked morning breakfast served in a lawn amidst the redwoods, with strains of Sitar wafting in the background, lulling you to a state of nirvana. This, my friends, and more is what Redwood Croft, a dog friendly B&B in the town of Bonny Doon has to offer. If you are wondering where to stay in Santa cruz with your dog, I cannot recommend this place enough. Sure, it is pricier than your regular B&Bs but that is a small price to pay for the delicious breakfast, kind hospitality and the tranquility of the redwoods surrounding you.

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Dog Friendly Santa Cruz: Our Bonny Doon B&B experience

Bonny Doon is a census designated town in Santa Cruz and is located at an elevation of 450m, surrounded by several reserves and state parks and about a 30 min drive from downtown Santa Cruz. Redwood Croft Inn, a dog friendly establishment, nestled right in the heart of the Redwood forest of Santa Cruz mountains and is the perfect getaway place for both human and pets. An incredibly warm and hospitable place to both two and four legged beings, owners Sitah and Dale Cummings are the perfect hosts one can ask for. They have two beautiful dogs-3 and 16 yrs old, who were extremely friendly and sweetest to boot. Sitah prepares amazing breakfast for guests every morning and weather permitting, one can have it outside in the balcony surrounded by the giant trees. She happily accommodates dietary restrictions upon prior notice, as she did for S. There are several rooms on the property and ours was a beautiful one with skylights to get a slice of the redwoods peeking from above. The room was beautifully decorated and there were thoughtful touches strewn all around, such as wine glasses with a bottle opener, in case one gets a bottle from one of the local wineries (Santa Cruz mountains are famous for their vineyards) to enjoy. The toiletries in the bathroom (the bath has a charming stone bathing tub and is separated from the toilet) are from a local farm, and the closet has a microwave and mini-fridge. All these amenities, an old-world wood-burning furnace (you can get a room heater if that seems too daunting) and the amazing greenery all around comes at a price which is way too reasonable for what this place offers. Best of all, there is no extra charge for pets.

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One can spend an entire day exploring the property or simply sit back and relax and take in the zen of this calming atmosphere in dog friendly Santa cruz. No matter how much I tried clicking, I don’t think the photos do enough justice to the beauty of this place and the priceless tranquility that it offers. Babu had a blast sniffing and exploring the grounds and we were so happy to have chosen this place over others in noisy downtown. I highly recommend all dog lovers or simply folks who love them some peace, quiet and a lap of mother nature, to stay at Redwood Croft if they get a chance. One of the best places we’ve stayed hands down. And finally in case you are still wondering about that thing of utmost importance, the place does have wi-fi service.

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Dog Friendly beaches in Santa Cruz

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do” goes the famous adage. When in a beach town like Santa Cruz, simply find a beach close by and bum out on the sand. Unlike other parts of California, Santa Cruz has ample dog friendly beaches which welcome dogs on a leash. Beaches are either along Cabrillo Highway (Highway 1) or to the south of the Boardwalk. We picked Greyhound Rock beach, a mere 17 min north of us and made our way down the paved path adjacent to the parking lot, towards the blue water. The parking lot has an overlook which was pretty crowded, but the funny thing was that the trail leading to the beach was oddly empty. That turned out to be a great thing since we got glimpses of an empty beach and fantastic views of the foamy waves hurling against the rocks as we descended to the clear white sand below.

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Greyhound beach turned out to be fantastic gem of a stretch with almost no human in sight (barring another man and his water loving pooch and two sun-bathers) and thus it felt as if the beach belonged to us. We walked along the periphery of the waves, marveled at some of the extremely polished, flat stones and then settled down on one of the dry spots on the sand. Babu ran around, frantically dug up several bunkers to rest in at several times and then finally plopped himself right between us. We rested for some time and then made our way back up to our next destination, a dog-friendly Redwood State Park.

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Dog friendly hikes Santa Cruz: Hiking in Redwood state park

Unlike Redwood country up north in Mendocino, where nary a Redwood reserve can be found in sight that lets dogs in, Santa Cruz springs in a lovely surprise with several of them, the nearest to us being the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. There is an entry fee of $ 10 for vehicles (for the park’s maintenance) and you get a map at the entrance which has all dog friendly hiking trails clearly marked. Since this is also an ecological reserve for wild animals calling the redwoods their habitat and many trails are shared by horses/horse-riders, dogs do not have access to those as they are considered natural predators. The most popular dog friendly trail is a paved pathway (Pipeline Road) that goes right through the Redwoods and leads to the nearest Redwood grove, with trees as tall as 277 feet and about 1500 years old! This state park preserves a 40-acre grove of the tallest tree species on earth, i.e. the coastal Redwoods and the trees here are taller than the ones at the Muir Woods National Monument near San Francisco. We were fascinated to know that the tallest Redwood tree (379 feet) surpasses the Statue of Liberty in height (305 ft) and that they have a very unique growth pattern, i.e. they are self-regenerating. On our way along this Santa Cruz dog friendly hiking trail, we saw several trees that had fallen to the ground, with branches growing vertically upwards towards the sun from the prostate trunk. Our dog friendly hike in Santa Cruz  lasted for a mere 40 min, but if you have more time then do explore further inwards with other plant ecosystems and if you are not traveling with pets, then there are several other options to explore such as the observation deck and ranch and the cable car beach. Plus we also spotted a heritage train chugging along with the Roaring Camp Railroad nearby which should be a fun activity for kids.

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Dog friendly Santa Cruz downtown

Besides going on dog friendly hikes in Santa Cruz, you might also want to explore its cute as button downtown that is very welcoming to pets. Downtown Santa Cruz is a nice few blocks of stores and restaurants, all buzzing with activity. Pacific avenue forms the main artery but the streets around have many local favorites like Penny ice creamery (Santa Cruz’s only ice-cream parlor where the icy desserts are made from scratch) and many charming boutiques selling local, artisanal jewelry and clothes. Overall downtown Santa Cruz is incredibly dog friendly since most restaurants have outdoor seating area and many stores welcome dogs. Here and here are two good resources for all things dog-friendly in Santa Cruz, which are excellent resources to ensure that your pooch has a great time vacationing!

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Finally, here is a separate post on all the tasty, dog-friendly dining spots in Santa Cruz, where you can enjoy a delicious meal without your dog having to sweat it out in the car, miserable and alone. Thanks so much for reading!

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24 comments

Jacky April 30, 2017 at 8:48 am

I’m looking out my window and it’s snowing right now! How much I wished I could visit one of these beautiful beaches and stuff myself on the tasty food! Wonderful post 🙂 I have never really traveled with a dog in tow, but it only now appears to me, that it might be quite challenging. Great resource for pooch owners 🙂

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Leanne September 27, 2017 at 4:25 am

Babu clearly had a fantastic time, as is so deserved! It’s true that there are so many hotels or accommodations that say pet-friendly, only to be met with odd looks from staff and guests, which have always made us feel as though we were guilty. Nice to know about places that truly do welcome dogs, with appropriate amenities. Thank you for sharing! Leanne

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ParoChak September 27, 2017 at 4:30 am

Come visit us in California Leanne, lots of dog friendly cities here!

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Marjorie at DashKitten September 27, 2017 at 7:01 am

This looks the most wonderful place to visit. I love that you can take dog there too, no leaving your best buddy behind!

I love your photographs!

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Debra Bailey September 27, 2017 at 1:22 pm

Ahh, the beach! The Redwoods! I am green with envy! Redwood Croft looks like such a cute little place to stay too. Great recommendations!

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Sadie September 27, 2017 at 3:12 pm

Wow! I love that it’s not crowded. And, those trees…
Another place to add to our retirement list. By the time that happens you will have filled our itinerary!

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Amelia Johnson September 27, 2017 at 4:58 pm

Now I want to go there while my dog is still young…what a friendly and inviting place to visit. I love your writing style…makes me feel as though I am already there. The photos really depict the lifestyle. Thanks for sharing.

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Carol Bryant September 27, 2017 at 6:44 pm

I am dreaming of coming there and having some dog friendly fun. We always take our dogs on our road trips and Santa Cruz looks like a fantastic pet friendly place! Nice photos, too.

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Tenacious Little Terrier September 27, 2017 at 9:20 pm

You find lovely places to stay. I’ve been wanting to stay at a B&B with Mr. N but it looks like most of them don’t allow dogs. How are you finding these places?

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ParoChak September 27, 2017 at 11:44 pm

Hi April, I use BringFido.com and dogtrekker for reference! Both great sites

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Carleen September 27, 2017 at 9:30 pm

Love your photos and what a nice tour of pet-friendly Santa Cruz! I love taking my dogs with me when I travel. Also, those pancakes look to die for!

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Sweet Purrfections September 28, 2017 at 1:29 am

What a beautiful and relaxing place to visit. I’ve never been to Santa Cruz, but based on your photographs and description, it should be put on my bucket list.

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Beth September 28, 2017 at 2:16 am

You always find the BEST places to go! I love seeing the world through your lens!

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Kamira Gayle September 28, 2017 at 1:03 pm

I got married at a Bed and Breakfast and loved the experience. So cozy and comfy. I haven’t visited the Redwoods yet but love your photos. I’ll live vicariously through you until then! LOL thanks for sharing your beautiful adventures. Santa Cruz looks lovely.

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Jenn November 23, 2017 at 12:32 am

Looks the the pups and you had a great trip! We haven’t been to California yet but are looking forward to going next year. It’s so nice you found a quiet beach to enjoy to yourselves

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Tracy November 23, 2017 at 1:21 am

It’s cold here in New Jersey but yesterday as I was walking along the boardwalk everyone was out with their pups. I don’t have a dog, but all the places you visited look great!

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Maloney November 23, 2017 at 1:53 am

I love traveling with my dog, I’m going to remember this place next time we adventure. BTW your baby is adorable 🙂

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Ruth November 23, 2017 at 2:13 am

Your dog is such a cutie. It reminds me of a dog I had while growing up. My experience with Santa Cruz (city and county) is very limited. We explore several spots south of the city and a bit of the city. I didn’t have the opportunity to stop by the best beaches or hike around the redwoods. I know I need to go back. Oh, thanks for the accommodation recommendation. I feel like staying in that place can be a vacation in itself.

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Josy A November 23, 2017 at 5:48 am

This looks like a perfect little doggy holiday! I love that even the beach is named after a doog- a greyhound! 🙂

My sister always travels with her dog, so this looks like a holiday that could spoil both of them!

p.s. Your doggo is SUCH a cutie!

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Faith Coates November 23, 2017 at 10:46 am

I am a petsitting housesitter and I am always charmed by places that are so accepting of dogs. I love areas where we can roam with the dogs we look after and allow them the freedom a dog should have. What a really cool post for us animal lovers.

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Christine November 23, 2017 at 2:10 pm

This place looks so cozy and beautiful! Babu is THE cutest!!! Looks like everyone had a wonderful time. Your photos are really lovely too! I enjoyed reading this post so much!

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Jewels November 23, 2017 at 3:24 pm

Omg! Can I borrow your dog lol… he’s a cutie pie!! Gorgeous photos. Looked like a relaxing trip. Adding Santa Cruz to my ever growing travel list!

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Karolina November 23, 2017 at 9:04 pm

You have an amazing blog here! lovely photos and the fact that you have a dog-friendly perspective just blew me away! Also, gorgeous destination!

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Aireona November 24, 2017 at 2:48 am

It can be so hard to find dog-friendly places (although luckily it is getting easier), so this is a wonderful guide. I will need to pass this along to a friend of mine that travels with her dog all the time.

Reply

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