27 Pup Popular Dog-Friendly Beaches in California

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California is a well-known western US state on the Pacific Ocean. It boasts almost 40 million residents and is the most populated state in the United States. Not only is California known for its beaches, but it is also popular because of its warm weather all year long. Another thing that makes it so well-known is that it is the home of Hollywood, where the largest and oldest film industry happens to be. And with Hollywood comes fame, so it is home to many of the rich and famous. 

The state is also where many important inventions were made, including skateboards, diners, the internet, and personal computers. Even the fortune cookie was invented in California! But what is most important to many is the beaches. With over 400 beaches along 840 miles of coast, residents and visitors can take advantage of the wonderful weather. But sometimes, finding the best dog-friendly beaches can be difficult. We listed 17 of our favorite dog beaches in California here for you to try. 

Tolowa Dunes State Park Beach

Kellogg Rd, Crescent City, CA 95531, USA

In the far northwestern corner of California, Tolowa Dunes State Park has a wonderful dog-friendly beach between Pacific Shores and Crescent City. This 4,000-acre recreational space features dunes, forests, rivers, and freshwater lakes, as well as the Pacific Ocean. The park was named after the Indian tribe that lived in the area until the 1850s. As long as you keep your pup on a leash, he can join you on the beach. 

Besides the stunning sandy oceanside, you can also find some great waterfront play areas for your dog around Lake Earl, the Smith River, and the Yontocket Slough as well as many other ponds and creeks throughout the park. Although your pooch is not allowed on many of the trails, there are a few that he can enjoy. If you like to fish, bring your gear and your California fishing license and try your luck at the salmon and steelhead trout in Smith River and Lake Earl.   

Samoa Dunes Recreation Area and Off-Leash Beach

Samoa, CA 95564, USA

About two hours south but still in northern California, Samoa Dunes Recreation Area is another sandy pet paradise that pup parents love to play in too. This place is surrounded by water with the ocean to the west, South Bay to the south, Humbolt Bay to the east, and Arcata Bay to the north. After the 4,000 acres of the Tolowan Dunes State Park, this 300-acre park may seem small. But who cares? Dogs can be off-leash here!

The main beach area, Samoa Beach, is right in the middle of the jetty, with the Pacific on one side and the bay on the other. Be sure to bring along some beach toys, a ball for fetch, and a frisbee to toss around. Without being tethered to a leash, you can do anything! Pack a lunch and some drinks, along with plenty of puppy poo bags to pick up after your pup and get to the beach!

Sinkyone Wilderness State Park Beach

Whitethorn, CA 95589, USA

Just over 100 miles to the south on the coast, Sinkyone Wilderness State Park is part of the southern section of the Lost Coast, which is a rugged and wild area between the King Range National Conservation Area and Highway 1 in Rockport. This 10-mile stretch of sand includes over 7,200 acres of forests and 60 miles of trails. And as long as you keep your pup on a leash at all times, he can join you anywhere except on some of the more rugged trails. 

Although there are many beaches along the coast, it never really gets hot enough for humans to swim but your pooch will love getting his paws wet and splashing in the ocean. Being such a wild area, you will see many different wild creatures, including elk, sea lions, seals, deer, and maybe even bears. Keep your distance and keep your pup on a short leash. Also, watch for whales off the coast during the winter months. 

Cooks Beach

6901 Doubloon Way, Gualala

Also known as Glennen Beach or Bourns Landing, Cooks Beach is a beautiful sandy beach about 150 miles south of Sinkyone Wilderness State Park, located just past Anchor Bay. It has its own little unnamed cove that protects it from most of the wind, but the waves can be pretty rough sometimes, so keep your pooch on a leash and in the shallows. Like the other beaches in northern California, it hardly ever gets over 75 degrees F, so your fur baby will probably be the only one getting in the water. 

In the back of the beach where the Glennen Gulch Creek flows, you will find lots of tide pools filled with fascinating marine creatures like crabs, snails, anemones, and starfish. You can even find a small cave in one corner of the sand. However, there are no restrooms, water, or other amenities, so pack your own water and plenty of doggie bags. 

Russian Gulch State Beach 

8794 Shoreline Hwy, Jenner, CA 95450

On the Sonoma Coastline, about an hour down the sand, Russian Gulch State Beach is just north of Bodega Bay at the end of the Sonoma Coast State Beach. The dog-friendly beach is made up of millions of gorgeous pebbles of all colors and shapes – the perfect spot for rockhounds! One popular feature here is the cave called the Devil’s Punchbowl at the back of the beach. It is about 60 feet deep and very dangerous, which is why it has such a foreboding name. 

It also has a stunning waterfall to visit if you feel like walking. Just take the four-mile Russian Gulch Waterfall Loop Trail. Be sure to bring plenty of water and puppy poo bags. You will often see gray whales from the upper section of the park from November through April. If you plan to get into the water with your pup, be prepared. Not only is it cold, but it is also rather dangerous with riptides and high waves. 

Sutter’s Landing Regional Park

20 28th St, Sacramento, CA 95816

The most important thing to know about Sutter’s Landing Regional Park is the huge dog park where your fur buddy can play off the leash. Also, it is not on the ocean. Instead, you will be traveling inland to the east about 130 miles to visit this great place that memorializes Captain John Sutter, who settled here in 1839. The main park has 167 acres with several gardens, basketball, and bocce ball courts, a skate park, hiking, and restrooms for public use. 

The large dog park has several acres with a separate section for small and shy dogs, an agility course with ramps, jumps, and tunnels to run through, and a water play area where your fur puppy can swim with the other dogs with no leash holding him back. Bring water toys and your pup’s favorite ball for extra fun, and pack your own poop bags because they do not supply them here. 

Goat Rock State Beach

CA-1 & Goat Rock Rd Jenner, CA 95450

Head back to the coast about 120 miles to get to Goat Rock State Beach in the Sonoma Coast State Park, where you will find 17+ miles of clean golden sand along the ocean with some incredible rock formations. The park itself boasts more than 5,600 acres with several parks, beaches, and trails to explore with your fur buddy. All beaches allow pups except for Pomo Canyon and Willow Creek. However, he has to be on a leash in most areas. 

In the northwestern end of the beach, the Russian River joins the Pacific Ocean. This area is popular with families because of the shallow water in the riverbed here. It is also perfect for curious pups that love splashing around in the water. But the main attraction here is the Goat Rock, which some say looks like a goat. It is about 2,200 feet high, and although you cannot climb it, you can get some great selfies here.

Dillon Beach

1 Beach Ave Dillon Beach, CA 94929

On the southern end of Bodega Bay, about 30 miles south of Goat Rock Beach, Dillon Beach is proud to allow pups to play off the leash as long as they are friendly and voice-controlled. Although it is part of Dillon Beach Resort, the beach is open to the public as long as you pay a $10 parking fee. There is a private section that is only open to guests of the resort, but the rest of the beach is open to off-leash pups and pup parents. 

Most tourists do not come to this beach because of its location (they think it is private), so it is often empty aside from local surfers and dog lovers. One of the best parts of this beach is Lawson’s Landing store, gift shop, and cafe. You can grab some necessities, souvenirs, and lunch all in one spot that is dog-friendly. Just be sure to ask permission before bringing your canine companion inside.

Kehoe Beach

Pierce Point Rd Inverness, CA 94937

Right across the Tomales Bay, Kehoe Beach is not far from Dillon Beach on the Point Reyes National Seashore. In fact, anywhere north of the Kehoe Beach Trail, your canine companion is welcome to run around and splash on the ocean side as well as the Tomales Bay side. Although there are some spots your pup is not allowed, these beaches here are not on that list! And he can be off the leash in some of these places. 

Also, on the southern end of Point Reyes National Shoreline, Santa Maria and Limantour Beaches have pup popular beaches along Drakes Bay, and Point Reyes Beach has a long stretch of dog-friendly beach on the ocean. Just make sure he is on a leash at all times, and watch out for rogue waves. Always bring puppy poo bags to pick up after him and keep him away from the wildlife, especially in the marked snowy plover areas.

McLaughlin Eastshore State Seashore

Berkeley, CA 94720, USA

Time to head to San Francisco, where the weather is a little bit warmer, and beaches are more popular to humans as well as dogs. The McLaughlin Eastshore State Seashore includes almost nine miles of shoreline in the San Francisco Bay from Marina Bay to the McLaughlin Eastshore State Park across from Treasure Island, which is also dog-friendly. That is 1,855 acres of uplands, tidelands, shorelines, and parks. The first one, Marina Bay Park, is a small 11-acre space with picnic areas, a beach, and restrooms. 

Then, there is the Point Isabel Dog Park, with 23 acres of space for your pup to run off the leash. Albany Beach and the Albany Bulb are also popular with the pups. The Cesar E. Chavez Park is a 90-acre space where all friendly voice-controlled canines are allowed to be off their leashes. It is one of the largest off-leash dog areas in the state, so don’t skip this one!

Carmel City Beach Central California

6006 San Antonio Ave, Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93921

Although Carmel State Beach does not allow dogs on the sand, Carmel City Beach does. This is one reason why it is one of the most pooch-popular places in central California. Your pup will love running around without a leash on the beautiful white sand, and he is also allowed to swim, but you should keep him in the shallow water. It is such a stunning place, it has been posted as one of the best 21 beaches in the world. 

It is a good idea to pack your own poop baggies,, although the beach does have doggie bags at the top of each set of stairs leading to the sand. You should also bring extra water so he does not drink the saltwater. Pack a lunch as well,, and you and your pupster can spend the whole day there enjoying the awesome weather. While you are there, take your fur buddy on the Carmel Beach Walk that runs between Scenic Road and the beach. But he will have to be on a leash for that.

Morro Bay Dog Beach Central California

Toro Creek Rd and Cabrillo Hwy, Cayucos, CA 93430

Sandwiched between the northern and southern sections of Morro Strand State Beach in central California, Morro Bay Dog Beach has about a mile of soft, clean sand for your pup to romp around on without a leash to hold him back. You may also hear the beach called Toro Creek Beach because it is at the end of Toro Creek Road, just south of Cayucos. There are no fences to keep your poochie in though, so he should have excellent recall or be on a leash. 

Be sure to bring doggie bags to pick up after your pup because this place is busy. Since it is one of the few off-leash dog beaches, there will likely be other pups and their pup parents there, especially during the summer months. This is good because your fur baby will have plenty of other fur babies to play with. But if your dog is not a fan of crowds, you may want to choose a different beach.

Shoreline Park Beach

Shoreline Dr & Santa Rosa Place, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Another 100 miles to the south in Santa Barbara, Shoreline Park is a fantastic place to play the day away with your fur puppy because it has a huge sandy space where your dog can swim without being hooked to a leash. The long beach is just down the steps from the cliffside Shoreline Park where you can also play and have a picnic. But up in the park, your pup needs a leash. On the beach, he is free to roam!

Like other parks, if your canine companion is not voice controlled, you should keep his leash on anyway for his safety as well as others. You do not want him running out to sea or bothering the other beachgoers. And keep him in the shallows because the surf gets pretty rough sometimes. Bring a lunch and pack plenty of doggie cleanup baggies to pick up after your pup so you can stay all day. 

Leadbetter Beach

801 Shoreline Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Stick around because right next to Shoreline Park, Leadbetter Beach is not one to pass up. With almost 18 acres of soft white sand, you and your furry friend can stretch out and enjoy a day on the beach without feeling crowded, no matter how many people are there. And, you do not have to worry about packing food because the park has a cafe where you and your fur puppy can have a meal at one of the beachfront tables with a stunning view of the water. 

During the busy season, there is a lifeguard on duty, but all other times you will be swimming at your own risk, so be sure to check the water conditions before diving in. Other fun activities here include surfing, paddleboarding, kayaking, and sailing. Just keep your buddy on a leash and bring puppy poo bags to pick up anything he drops while you are there. 

Rosie’s Dog Beach Southern California

5000 E Ocean Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90803

Another place to take your fur baby in Southern California to swim off the leash is Rosie’s Dog Beach in Oceanside. Located between Roycroft and Granada Avenues on Ocean Boulevard, you and your cuddly buddy can take advantage of the gorgeous sunny and warm weather all day long. But there is no fence to keep him in line, so make sure he is voice-trained. There are four acres here, but if your pup does not have good recall, you may be chasing him around. 

You will find that they have waste stations for pup parents with cleanup baggies and poop scoopers to make cleaning up after your pooch easier. However, it is always a good idea to bring your own just in case they run out. You can park on the street or in the lot, but some of these spaces charge a fee and only take debit cards. Also, you are only allowed one dog per adult. 

Huntington Dog Beach Southern California

100 Goldenwest St, Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Right in the heart of Huntington Beach is a beach that makes all pups and pup parents happy. After all, it is a dog beach, which means it is where pooches can play off the leash any time of the year they want to. Huntington Dog Beach is just off Highway 1 (the Pacific Coast Highway) sandwiched between the city beach and Bolsa Chica State Beach. That gives you and your cuddly canine about two miles of soft sandy beach to explore and enjoy. 

Although parking will cost you two dollars per hour, there is no charge at all to use the beach. That means if you walk or take a bike, you do not have to pay a penny to enjoy the sun and surf all day long. However, if your fur puppy is not voice-controlled, you may want to keep him on a leash because there are no fences here. It does have cleanup bags, drinking fountains, picnic tables, and restrooms. 

Coronado Dog Beach Southern California

200 Ocean Blvd, Coronado, CA 92118

Also along Ocean Boulevard, Coronado Dog Beach is a dog-friendly beach in the village of Coronado. The scenic beach is popular with locals as well as tourists, especially those with dogs. No need for a leash unless your doggo does not have good recall. You can let him swim, run on the beach, dig in the sand, and just chill in the sun with you while you enjoy the stunning views on this 1.7-mile dog beach. 

The beach has strict rules about surfing and dogs,, so you should check the map to determine exactly where your pooch can be leash-free. The eastern section is for surfing only from Memorial Day until Labor Day, and the middle section requires your fur baby to be on a leash. At the western end of the beach is where your canine companion can play without restraint. Do bring your own doggie bags and water because they run out often.

Jack London Square Beach Northern California

472 Water St, Oakland, CA 94607

You may know Jack London Square in Northern California for its great restaurants and shops, but it also has a very nice beach where you and your fur puppy can play. Actually, there are two pup play areas at the square. The Estuary Channel Park is located at the far eastern end of the square between the aquatic center and the multi-purpose lawn. There are benches, trees for shade, and doggie bag dispensers at this fenced park.

The other dog section is right on the waterfront at the landing along the San Francisco Bay Trail. There is plenty of space to let your pooch run around, but there is no fence, so he needs to have good recall. The square also has several pup popular eating establishments like Farmhouse Kitchen, Seabreeze on the Dock, and the Waterfront Cafe and Bar. You will need to keep your canine companion leashed and ask permission before bringing him inside any establishment.

Esplanade Beach Northern California

Esplanade Ave and W Manor Dr, Pacifica, CA 94044

Pacifica is a nice little beach town in northern California between San Francisco and Half Moon Bay. The city has more than six miles of beach, but the most pup popular one is Esplanade Beach near the Land’s End Apartment Complex. It is the only dog beach where your canine companion can play and swim without a leash. The off-leash dog section is at the northern end of the beach. Your fur baby is welcome on the rest of the beach as long as he is on a leash. 

If your pooch is not voice-controlled, you may want to leave his leash on because there are no fences or barriers to keep him where he belongs. For instance, he can swim out too far or get too close to the dangerous bluff area if he does not have good recall. There are no doggie bag dispensers, so you will need to bring your own, and you will want to pack extra water for you both as well. 

Clam Beach County Park Northern California

1100 Clam Beach Rd, McKinleyville, CA 95519

With a name like Clam Beach, you probably already figured out that it is a great place to dig for clams, and you would be correct. In fact, you may see locals out there digging for razor clams. However, Clam Beach County Park is more well-known for being dog-friendly. Located along Highway 101 (Redwood Highway), the large stretch of sand in McKinleyville is just south of Little River State Beach and west of the Six Rivers National Forest.

The best part is that your pupster is allowed off the leash on the high tide line and wave slope. Everywhere else, he has to be leashed,, but he is still welcome. There is a lot of space here for fishing, swimming, sunning, and playing ball with your cuddle buddy. They also have 13 campsites if you want to stay overnight. But they are first come, first served, so you have to get there early if you want a spot. 

Bayfront Park Northern California

498 Sycamore Ave, Mill Valley, CA 94941

Bayfront Park is a large community park with a beach on the Pickleweed Inlet of Richardson Bay. The beach itself is not like all the others on the ocean, with lots of sand and open space. This is more of a natural area with grass as well as sand, but it also gets muddy, so bring a towel. You will also need to bring your own cleanup bags to pick up after your pup. It is located in Mill Valley just north of Golden Gate National Recreation Area and San Francisco. 

The park also has picnic tables, a large open field, a trail to explore, and a soccer field. Another wonderful feature of Bayfront Park is the dog park section, where your poochie can play and romp in the water without a leash. But since it is not fenced, make sure he is voice-controlled or keep him on a leash so he does not run off. 

Ocean Beach Northern California

2801-2879 Great Hwy, San Francisco, CA 94132

With more than 3.5 miles of soft white sand on stunningly clear blue water, Ocean Beach is another place your pup can play leashless. At the northern end of the beach past staircase number 21, all pooches are welcome without a leash. You can find this large patch of pup popular play space just southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge in front of Golden Gate Park, which is also dog-friendly. In fact, it has four off-leash dog parks. 

Bring a ball and frisbee so you can play a game of catch or fetch with your fur baby or just hang out and watch him enjoy digging in the sand and splashing in the water. However, you will need to keep him in the shallow water because the water is really cold, and the waves can be rough. Do remember to pack extra water for you both and poop baggies to pick up what your pup drops.

Olde Port Beach Central California

443 Front St, Avila Beach, CA 93424

Along Front Street in the small town of Avila Beach in central California, you and your best furry friend can enjoy Olde Port Beach just west of downtown between Fisherman’s Beach and the Cal Poly Pier. Although it is not as busy as Avila Beach, it is a very popular beach with pup parents, locals, and tourists, so do not expect it to be just you and your dog here. It is a leash-free beach, too but if your pup gets overwhelmed in crowded areas, you may want to keep him leashed and find a quiet area to play. 

During the weekdays, the beach is calmer, and during the off-season, you may even be one of the few who venture out to the ocean. If you have a small boat, they have a ramp where you can launch a kayak, canoe, or other small vessel. One thing to note is that during high tide, there may not be much sandy space to play on. Check the tide schedules before visiting. 

Mitchell’s Cove Beach Central California

W Cliff Dr and David Way, Santa Cruz, CA 95060

If you are visiting central California near Santa Cruz, the only beach in the city of Santa Cruz to welcome dogs off the leash is Mitchell’s Cove Beach. However, these off-leash hours are only from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. and after 4 p.m. Keeping this in mind, if you plan to do some swimming, the water is warmest after 4 p.m. anyway. And your dog is still welcome between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., he just has to be on a leash.  

During low tide, you and your cuddly canine compadre can explore the tide pools and caves. Just do not let him disturb any wildlife you encounter. It is a perfect place to spend the day on the sand,, soaking up the sun and tossing around a ball or frisbee, too. Swimming here is good too since it is calmer than other beaches. 

Arroyo Burro Beach Central California

2981 Cliff Dr, Santa Barbara, CA 93109

Whether you call this Hendry’s Beach or Arroyo Burro Beach, this county park has everything you and Fido need to enjoy the whole day from 8 a.m. to sunset. Besides the golden sand beach and clear blue water of the ocean, there is also a place to play in the Arroyo Burro waters. This is perfect for those small dogs that are not great swimmers because it is very shallow at this section of the watershed.

The off-leash section of the beach is from the Arroyo Burro watershed to the east in front of the Douglas Family Preserve, which is also dog-friendly. There is tons of room to play fetch or toss around a frisbee. On the other side of the creek, he will need to keep his leash on. If you want to grill up some burgers or something, the park also has picnic tables with barbecue pits. You can also fish if you bring a license.

The Original Dog Beach Southern California

4960 Santa Monica Ave, San Diego, CA 92107

Where the temperatures are warm all year long, and the sun is almost always shining, Southern California is where you will find the most beaches in the state. It also means there are more dog-friendly beaches, of course. In fact, you will find one of the first dog beaches in the country, The Original Dog Beach in San Diego between South Mission Beach and Ocean Beach. Make sure you pack extra water along with his favorite ball to toss around because he needs no leash here. 

There is quite a strong current at the beach sometimes,, so you will want to keep him close to you or put a doggie life jacket on him for safety. They do have a lifeguard,, but it is unclear whether they will rescue dogs. The beach is typically busy, but there is always room for more. After working up an appetite, stop by Wild Things Pizza & Beer for a slice and a brew. 

Country Kennels Dog Water Park Southern California

25817 Washington Ave, Murrieta, CA 92562

Last on the list, Country Kennels Dawg Water Park is not a beach, per se, but it is certainly a popular place for pups to play in Southern California. In the small town of Murrieta is where you will find it, and you will understand why dogs love it so much once you see it. The dog boarding and grooming shop allows the public to bring their pooches to play there from 1 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. 

It may be the only actual dog water park in the state, so you will see lots of fur babies there. You will need to book your time because only a certain number of pups are allowed to play at one time for safety reasons. There is a diving dock, water spouts, and even a shallow sunbathing area. And you can even get your dog groomed afterward if you want to.    

The Final Woof

If your pooch needs a more thorough cleaning, take him to Wag‘N Tails, where they will give you all you need to get your pup clean, including shampoo, conditioner, towels, brushes, and even a blow dryer. For a more exciting adventure, water-loving dogs will enjoy a day on the river at Truckee River Rafting in Tahoe City. Take a self-guided rafting tour on five miles of the Truckee River. They allow dogs up to 50 pounds. Or you can take your fur puppy on a bigger boat to see some whales, dolphins, and other sea creatures. Monterey Bay Whale Watch has 20 years of experience, so they know where to go and allow pups on a leash!

Photo of author
Patty Oelze is a freelance writer who is also in the process of getting her PhD in Psychology. She has been writing about dogs and other critters for about 10 years and has a plethora of animals at her home including several cats, some chipmunks, a dozen raccoons, two foxes, one coyote, and herds of deer. She and her husband have been living in the Missouri Ozarks for years where she enjoys taking care of wildlife, fishing, photography, boating, and of course, writing.

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