15 Great Dog-Friendly Beaches in Capitola, CA You Have to Visit

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Not too many people have heard of Capitola. It is a small town in midwestern California on Monterey Bay between Santa Cruz and Rio Del Mar. Just about 45 minutes from downtown San Jose, Capitola has the small-town feel while still being close to the city. The population here is also small, with less than 10,000 residents, although it can get a little bit crowded during the summer when tourists come to visit. 

One thing the city is noted for is the Venetian Court. It was the first condo community in the US back in 1924 and is on the Register of National Historic Places. With an average high of 70 degrees F and low of 48 degrees F, beaches are popular but not for swimming since the water never really gets warm enough. However, people flock here to play in the sand, soak up the sun, and do some surfing or fishing. We found 15 of the best beaches in Capitola, CA where you can bring your fur baby. 

New Brighton State Beach

With Pleasure Point to the west and Pot Belly Beach to the east, you know this area is packed with fun! And your canine companion is welcome to join in on that fun at New Brighton State Beach as long as you keep him on his leash the whole time you are there. With more than 90 acres, New Brighton State Beach has plenty to offer, including hiking trails, nature walks, and lots of open space for picnics and playing.

During the summer, it is a great spot for swimming as well as surfing, paddleboarding, and kayaking. Just remember to bring doggie bags to pick up after your pup. There is also a campground with 109 campsites featuring picnic tables and fire rings. The park even has a dog park! In the northern section of the park, Ozzi & Josh’s Dog Park is completely fenced and leash-free so your pup can run free with the other dogs!

Pot Belly Beach

Right next to New Brighton State Beach, Pot Belly Beach is also dog-friendly for leashed dogs and has plenty of sand to explore and enjoy. It may not be as large as the others with just a few acres but it is big enough for those who want to get away from the bigger and more crowded parks. The easiest way to get here is to park at one of the state beach parking lots and walk on the sand. 

The area is always clean and pristine due to the homes nearby with attentive owners. Please bring your own puppy poo bags to pick up anything your dog drops and help keep the beach clean. Whether you are here to swim, fish, or get out on the water, Pot Belly Beach is perfect for all that and more! Bring a picnic lunch and have a meal on the beach or you can grab something at an eatery nearby. 

Seacliff State Beach

Just past the private Known Las Olas Beach to the east, Seacliff State Beach has over a mile of golden sandy beach with azure blue waters to enjoy. It is certainly warm enough to swim here during the summer and Fido will even enjoy getting his paws wet when it is cooler. Although he has to stay on his leash, you and your fur puppy can enjoy splashing in the waves, playing in the sand, and just soaking up the sun. 

Three is a one-mile trail you can explore as well as several dirt paths to walk along in the northern section of the park. The pier is one of the most incredible attractions here, with its concrete ship at the end. Even though the ship is closed to the public, it is an awesome sight to see and a great place to spot unique marine animals. There is also a campground, lifeguards, restrooms, picnic areas with BBQ pits, and a cafe. 

Rio Del Mar Beach

Your canine companion is also welcome to join you at Rio Del Mar Beach, just to the east of Seacliff State Park over Aptos Creek. As long as he is leashed, you and your pup can partake in any of the fun activities here, such as swimming, surfing, beachcombing, and paddleboarding. You and your dog should both wear proper life jackets if you go out further than the shallows, though, because the rip current and waves can be dangerous. 

If neither of you is experienced in the water, you can play in Aptos Creek instead where the water is calm and shallow. Besides water sports, the park also has fishing areas, picnicking with tables and grills, walking trails, and playing on the sand. For your convenience, there are several restrooms, lifeguards, and it is ADA-accessible. You can even spot some whales and other creatures out in the water if you keep an eye out for them!

Hidden Beach

Next up is Hidden Beach, which is a cozy little spot just to the east with a nice little patch of sand and grass, perfect for families with pups. Sheltered by high cliffs, the water here is much more swimmable for all. The name fits the beach because it can be difficult to find. To get to the beach, you can park at Rio Del Mar and walk down the sand because Hidden Beach only has 8 parking spots, and they fill up fast! 

With a tot lot for the kiddos and picnic areas for barbecuing, the 1.5-acre park is fun for all. But if you want to swim or play on the sand, walk down the ramp, and you have about ½ mile of warm golden sand to play on. The small park also has restrooms, water fountains, and several benches to sit and watch for whales out on the water. 

Sumner Beach

Affectionately known as Beer Can Beach to the locals, Sumner Beach is a nice place to bring your pooch for the day right next to Hidden Beach. And despite the name, alcohol is not allowed here, although it seems like the rules are broken in that aspect. It got its name from the beer cans found along the beach on Sundays and Mondays, so someone is not afraid of getting fined! However, the residents and other locals pick up regularly, and you should too. 

Another rule that is not quite clear is the leash law. Some say it is leash-free, while others say your pup should be leashed. Keep a leash handy, just in case. If you do not have a kayak or board to paddle in, you can get to the beach by taking the staircase on Vio Palo Alto or the trail from Sumner Drive by Dolphin Drive. There are no amenities here, so keep that in mind!

Manresa State Beach

A little further down the beach, the 138-acre Manresa State Beach is also pup-popular as long as your fur puppy is on a leash. Monterey Bay here is beautiful, and the whole place is often filled with shore birds like snowy plovers, pelicans, and kites, and you can often see otters, dolphins, and whales in the distance. There are dangerous rip currents here though, so be careful if you let your pup go out past the shallows.   

Because of the larger Sunset State Park right next door to the south, which does not allow dogs, Manresa State Beach is not as crowded. So it is a great place to bring pups that do not like crowds. You won’t find concessions, rental shops, or fancy showers here but you will find a sunny stretch of sand almost four miles long! There are also two campgrounds with a total of 64 sites, awesome fishing spots for flounder and halibut, and lots of picnic tables. 

Hooper Beach

Go west from Capitola, just past the Wharf Road Pier, and you will find another dog-friendly spot called Hooper Beach. In fact, you can walk to it! Just remember that dogs are only allowed on the west side of the pier, and they must be leashed. Backed by steep cliffs and gorgeous summer homes, the beach may be a little small, but it is stunning. The sand is always clean (thanks to the locals) so bring plenty of doggie doo baggies to pick up after your pup. 

Named after Harry Hooper, a local Hall of Fame Red Sox baseball player, you will find that the main people who go here are pup parents, so you and your canine companion will fit right in. All the other tourists hang out at Capitola Beach, which does not allow dogs. Pack some snacks and beverages and spread out a blanket on the sand for a fun day with your pup at the beach. 

Privates Beach

Although some are put off by the name, Privates Beach is not actually a private beach. Not anymore. The beautiful beach opened to the public in 2018 when the California Coastal Commission made the park owners open the gates during the day. Located less than a half-mile from Hooper Beach to the west, this unspoiled space runs along the Opal Cliffs, where you can get access through Opal Cliffs Park. Or you can just walk down the sand.

Not small by any means, there is a half-mile of soft sand to run around in as long as your fur buddy is on a leash at all times. Also, bring doggie bags to pick up after him. During low tide, this place is full of tide pools where you can see cool marine creatures like sea stars, crabs, and urchins. Also, the staircase just getting to the beach is a sight to see and has perfect views of the water. 

Pleasure Point Beach

Less than a mile west of Privates Beach, Pleasure Point Park is a small corner park on a bluff over one of the most popular surfing spots in the city of Santa Cruz. It has shaded benches and several picnic tables, as well as a restroom and water fountains. There is also a long concrete walkway with picnic tables and benches dotted here and there so you can have a snack with a stunning view of the water, just keep your pooch on a leash while you are here. 

The upper park has Mutt Mitt dispensers for your convenience but you should bring your own anyway just in case. Head down the steps to the sand, and during low tide, you and your pooch will love searching through the tide pools and playing in the shallow water. Bring sunscreen and a cooler with water and food because there are no amenities down on the beach at all.  

Moran Lake Park Beach

Moran Lake Park is just a few minutes walk from Pleasure Point and has access to both Monterey Bay and Moran Lake, which is more like a lagoon. The park has almost 10 acres of space that includes a sandy beach, plenty of parking, and a nice walking trail that takes you along the northern side of the lake. Your pup is welcome to play on the beach and in the lake as long as he is leashed at all times, and you must pick up after him. 

Across Cliff Drive, you can walk down to the sand where the real action usually is. This is a popular local beach, so it can be crowded at times. Many people come here to surf, so if you enjoy that, bring aboard. Make sure you and your pup have live vests, though, because the rip tide is dangerous at times. There are restrooms and drinking fountains, as well as picnic tables and benches alongside the lake.

Corcoran Lagoon Beach

A little further west, Corcoran Lagoon Beach is also known as 21st Avenue Beach because you will find it on East Cliff Drive between 20th and 22nd Avenues. The beach is lovely and has a lot of space on the sand, but the parking is nonexistent. Truly, there is no parking lot at all, and if you do not have a special permit to park on the shoulder, you will get a hefty fine. You can get a permit at the Santa Cruz Parking Office. Your best bet is to park at Santa Maria Beach and walk down the sand. 

Your fur puppy has to stay on a leash at all times, but he is welcome to join you in the sand and on the water. Although it is tempting, you should not let your pooch play in the lagoon because of possible contamination here. But the ocean is perfect as long as the lagoon is not spilling into the water. Please bring doggie bags to pick up after your pup. 

Twin Lakes State Beach

Twin Lakes State Beach is a dog-friendly beach a few minutes from Corcoran Lagoon Beach, sandwiched between Schwan Lagoon and the ocean. And to the west, the Santa Cruz Small Craft Harbor is part of Woods Lagoon and is a cool place to see some awesome boats! Your leashed pup is welcome here but bring some baggies to pick up anything your pup drops. There is a mile of beachfront with clean golden sand and clear blue water. 

Pack a lunch and some drinks, or grab a bite to eat at the cafe after you work up an appetite in the water. Whether you are swimming, windsurfing, or fishing, you may also need a restroom or showers to clean off the sand. The park above the beach has hiking trails you and your pup can explore as well. Or you can just sit and enjoy the sun. Bring a good camera to get some shots of the marine life you may see, like whales, dolphins, and pelicans. 

Seabright State Beach

Next up is the pup-popular Seabright State Beach, with a half-mile of soft sand and beautiful water between the San Lorenzo River and Woods Lagoon. You can let Fido swim, play, and run around as long as he is on the leash at all times, and you pick up after him. The shoreline is popular with locals because of the clean water and busy harbor, where you can get some awesome shots of beautiful ships and sailboats. 

Many of the locals also come to surf because the waves here are pretty large. Be sure not to let your dog go out too far without a doggie life jacket. Another neat sight here is the Walton Lighthouse. Although it is private, you can still get some fun selfies with the lighthouse in the background. Photos are especially nice during sunrise and sunset! You can also fish, paddleboard, and watch for whales and dolphins here. 

Mitchell’s Cove Beach

We had to include at least one off-leash beach in the list, and Mitchell’s Cove Beach is perfect because it is only seven miles from Capitola, just a short walk from Seabright State Beach. Although your fur puppy can visit the park on the leash anytime, he is allowed to get rid of that leash from sunrise to 10 AM and 4 PM and sunset. That means he can run and play fetch or frisbee, dig in the sand, and swim as much as he wants unleashed!

However, there is no fence here, so if your canine companion is not voice-controlled, you may want to keep his leash on anyway. There are large rocks and natural boundaries on either side, your pooch can get through if he is a climber. Also, this is a popular spot for catching views of gray whales too! Pack some snacks and beverages, and bring extra puppy poo baggies to pick up whatever your pup drops. 

The Final Woof

If you and your canine companion get tired of the beach, why not get out there on the water? You can take a guided tour or rent a kayak from Venture Quest Adventures in Santa Cruz. Or if you would rather take a tour on a train, there are two different railroads that allow pups on their tours. Roaring Camp Railroads will take you and Fido on a 75-minute cruise on a 100-year-old steam train. For a shorter but less scenic ride, Oak Meadow Park offers rides on the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad for just a few bucks! Ready to eat or enjoy an adult beverage? The Sandbar in Capitola has a patio where your pooch can join you. 

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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