A few years ago, I was chatting with a colleague about a trip he’d taken over the weekend.
“Have you ever been to Carmel (California)?” he asked.
I said I hadn’t and I asked him to tell me more. He said he enjoyed the scenic white sand beach, a great restaurant he had discovered, and how his girlfriend enjoyed window shopping downtown. “Oh, and it is ridiculously dog friendly! There are dogs everywhere you go, inside and out.”
I didn’t have a dog back then, but I stored this little tidbit to memory.
Within a few months of adopting our dog, Posey, in 2011, we visited the town for the first time with her and realized my friend was right: Carmel is a world-class dog friendly destination!
This town on the Monterey Bay prides itself on welcoming canine travelers and many local hotels, restaurants, and small businesses invite you to bring your dogs with you. This is appealing to pet-loving travelers like us because we don’t have to find a sitter when we are looking for a weekend getaway. Plus Posey is our best friend and it’s just more fun to bring her along. (Never vacationed with your pet? Check out these tips for traveling with your dog.)
Planning a trip to Carmel? Check out some of our favorite dog friendly hotels, restaurants, and things to do in Carmel:
For a small community, Carmel has a higher than usual number of hotels that allow you to bring your four-legged friends with you when you stay. But the best dog friendly hotels welcome your pet as a part of the family.
On our last visit to Carmel, we stayed at the Hofsas House Hotel, a family run lodge near downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea. This Bavarian-style hotel rolled out the red carpet for Posey. In our room we found an assortment of fun and useful things: a cozy, fleece dog bed, some treats (that she devoured immediately!), a frisbee, a collapsible travel bowl, and even a bottle of dog shampoo (great for washing her after a sandy romp on the beach.) The hotel even left us a letter from their “pet concierge” (the family’s yellow lab, “Cajun”). Cajun’s letter welcomed us to the hotel and provided some tips of dog-friendly things to see and do in the area. I’ve stayed at other hotels with Posey, but this was the only place I’ve ever stayed that went out of their way to make traveling pet owners feel welcome. Rooms at the Hofsas House start at $119 plus a $25 pet fee. [Read the full review]
There are lots of restaurants in Carmel that invite you to bring your pets along for your meal. Most of them offer outdoor seating and heat lamps for people dining with their pets, but some restaurants even offer indoor “hallway” seating and cleverly enclosed patios that make you feel like you are eating indoors. When possible, call ahead for a reservation to make sure you get the best possible dog-friendly table.
Casanova is one of our favorite restaurants in Carmel, with or without our dog. Their rustic, farm-style French-Italian cuisine is delicious. Be sure to try their light and fluffy spinach gnocchi. The restaurant is in an old house and has tables hidden in nooks and crannies, many on dog-friendly, outdoor patios. Upon being seated, servers welcome your dog with a dog biscuit and bowl of water.
The restaurant Forge in the Forest is famous not only for inviting your dogs to join you, but also bringing pet owners a dedicated dog menu! The menu features dishes ranging from the $3.95 “Hot Diggity Dog” (hot dog) and “Quarter Hounder” (hamburger), on up to their $12.95 “Good Dog” (half pound steak).
The Mediterranean restaurant PortaBella invites dog owners to sit in their enclosed back patio. Because it is covered on all sides, heated and furnished as their main dining rooms, we felt like we were inside. This is a great option for cold nights.
The famously pet-friendly Cypress Inn (see listing under “things to do”) will allow dog-owners to eat outdoors in their leafy garden patio or indoors at one of a handful of tables the bar and in the hotel lobby. This is another a great option for cold nights.
For a full list of dog-friendly restaurants in Carmel, check out this guide.
The beach! As I’ve noted before, the gorgeous off-leash Carmel city beach is the #1 reason to bring your pup to Carmel.
Wine tasting at Downtown Carmel tasting rooms: Carmel has dozens of downtown wine tasting rooms and most of them (all that I tried!) allow you to bring your dog inside. Save money on tasting fees by picking up the Carmel Wine Walk Passport, a set of 9 tasting tickets that can be used at 14 downtown tasting rooms.
Exploring downtown shops and galleries: Almost every downtown business invites you to bring your leashed dog into their stores. Here are a few stops you won’t want to miss:
The Cheese Shop: The first time we walked Posey by this cheese shop in the Carmel Plaza shopping center, we peered in hungrily, but held back because we were sure the dog wouldn’t be allowed inside. At that moment, we watched another couple with two large dogs walk right in and be greeted enthusiastically at the counter. I cautiously peered in, holding the dog close, and was waved in by one of the staff.
This shop stocks specialty cheeses, cured meat, and wines from around the world with a special focus on California, Monterey Bay, and Central Coast cheesemakers. Counter staff will let you try samples of any cheese they stock and will even shave off small slices off for your dog (though it KILLS ME to watch them toss $40/lb. cheese at my dog, who I know doesn’t appreciate it any more than the unidentifiable, moldy stuff she drags out of the garbage! My dog is disgusting…)
George Rodrigue Gallery: This New Orleans-based artist is well known for his Blue Dog paintings, inspired by one of his own family dogs along with Cajun life and artistic tradition. Because of Carmel’s affinity for dogs, his images have become iconic in this little town and Carmel is home to his only gallery outside of Louisiana. (Note: In researching this post, I learned that Mr. Rodrigue just passed away this past weekend. I send my deepest condolences to his family and friends.)
Diggity Dog: This enormous pet boutique offers nearly anything you would ever think of buying for your dog or cat. They have an entire room full of pet beds of all shapes and sizes, and an almost ridiculous selection of collars, leashes and pet clothing.
Warning: There are loads of delicious-treats strategically displayed at “dog-level” so keep your pup on a short leash or you’ll wind up wrestling things out of their mouth and then buying them like we had to do here with Posey:
Explore Carmel’s “secret” courtyards and passageways: As you walk down Ocean Avenue, be sure to look for doorways that lead you into a vast network of dozens of hidden passages and courtyards. This quirky feature dates back to the 1920’s, when a local landowner decided to build a fairytale downtown. Many of the courtyards now house sculptures, fountains, and tiny pocket parks.
Have a drink at the Cypress Inn: The Cypress Inn is owned by animal welfare advocate and Hollywood actress, Doris Day. From 4:30PM until 6PM Monday through Friday, the hotel hosts “Yappy Hour” in the lounge where pet owners enjoy drink specials and music, and some “yappy” dogs are known to sing along! The event is open to the public, locals and visitors alike. We are always there during the weekend, so we miss the musical event, but at any time their bar is still a great place to have a drink with your pet by your side.
Share a Spa Day: If you (and your dog!) need some pampering, Signature Paw Spa offers grooming, bathing and even massage services for dogs. Signature Day Spa (across the street) offers these same services for the owners.
Dogsitting Services: In case you do come across an activity that does not allow dogs, you’ll need a local petsitter. On our last trip to Carmel, we did a food tour where our dog couldn’t come so we left her with Andrea from Pups N’ Such. She cares for just a few dogs at a time in her home and she will meet you at your hotel to pick up and drop off your pup. Call Andrea at: 831-905-9557
Find more Carmel and Monterey area things to do by picking up the new Moon Monterey & Carmel guidebook.