15 Pawfect Dog Friendly Beaches in Carmel, California

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dogs are feeling playful in a dog friendly beach in carmel ca

The official name is Carmel by the Sea, but most people refer to this California beach town as Carmel. When Sebastian Vizcaino, a Spanish explorer, landed in Monterey Bay, he gave it the name Monterey. Then, he noticed the beach at the mouth of the river, which he named Carmelo after the three friars who were traveling with him. It is a popular spot for art and culture with past residents like Betty White, Reggie Jackson, Clint Eastwood, and Doris Day.

In fact, it is Doris Day we can thank for making this city so dog-friendly. She bought the historic Cypress Inn and started welcoming pets to the establishment, which was unheard of before this. It is now one of the most dog-friendly towns in the United States. You will find many pup popular beaches in Carmel, including the white-sand Carmel City Beach, which allows dogs to play off the leash in the sand and surf. 

Carmel City Beach

Mostly referred to as just Carmel Beach, this white-sand getaway is right in downtown Carmel. It is the most popular beach in Carmel, especially for pooch parents. Your fur buddy can run around and play off the leash here as long as he has good recall. If not, you may want to keep him on the leash to prevent him from going too far out in the water. Carmel Beach is so popular, it is one of the 21 best beaches in the world, according to National Geographic magazine.

At the beginning of each staircase taking you to the sand, you will find Mutt Mitt dispensers for easier cleanup. However, it is always a good idea to have your own supply of doggie bags as well as water for both you and your pooch. Because this beach is so popular, your pup will always have some other pups to play with, but you may want to get there early to get a good spot. 

Carmel River State Beach

Whether you want to play in the river or the ocean, Carmel River State Beach gives you both options. Your cuddly canine companion is welcome to join you, but he has to be on a leash the whole time you are there. It has a whole mile of sand to explore and enjoy, so you do not have to worry too much about getting a good spot on the sand. Although the ocean seems inviting here, it does have large waves and a dropoff, so be careful. 

The park also has a number of trails you and Fido can explore, as well as interpretive exhibits. Keep your pup close because this is a haven for native birds like the brown pelican and great blue heron. Many people also come here to do some scuba diving, but you cannot take your dog of course. But you can bring your fishing gear and try to catch some dinner!

Pebble Beach

Just past Carmel River State Beach, you will find Pebble Beach. The famous golf course resort is only for paid guests, but you and your pupster can enjoy the beaches around it. The water here is calm, which is why they call it Stillwater Cove. It is a popular spot for families with kids because of the shallow, serene water. You can access the beach by parking just off of Cypress Drive between holes three and four. 

The beach shrinks when the tide is in, so be sure to check the tide tables before your visit. Also, you will need to bring your own water, poop baggies, and snacks. This is one of the good places for your pooch to swim, but he will have to stay on a leash. There are too many privately owned places around the beach that he may get into, costing you a ticket with a hefty fine. 

Del Monte Beach

Just five miles from downtown Carmel across the peninsula in Monterey, Del Monte Beach is a truly hidden gem known mostly only to locals. You will not see a crowd at this beach any day, and because of that, what you will see is lots of wildlife. It is not uncommon to see a variety of sea otters, sea lions, and seals, as well as a dolphin or two. And if you keep your eyes on the ocean, you may get to see some migrating whales. 

If you go further to the east towards Monterey State Beach, you will start to see more people and dogs, so if your pup needs someone to play with, just take a walk down the beach. Along the way, you will also see some other dog-friendly places like Monterey Bay Park, with a cool whale playground for the human kiddos. Be sure to pack extra water for you both and some doggie bags to clean up after your pooch. 

Monterey State Beach

Next door to Del Monte Beach to the east, Monterey State Beach has a dog-friendly beach south of Monterey Tides Hotel. That is about 1.3 miles of golden sand and azure blue waters. Your pooch is welcome to dig in the sand, splash in the waves, or just soak up the sun as long as he is on a leash no longer than six feet long. Other activities include kayaking, volleyball, and fishing, as well as scuba diving and flying kites. 

If you plan to do some fishing, remember to get a California fishing license or you may end up catching a fine instead of a fish. Some of the popular catches here include rockfish, halibut, cod, albacore, and salmon. When the tide is out, you and Fido can also see some really interesting marine creatures in the tide pools, like urchins, sea stars, and anemones. You need to bring your own doggie bags because they do not provide them here.

Sand City Beach

Right next to Monterey State Beach in Sand City is another patch of golden sand where pups are welcome. As long as you keep your pupster on a leash and bring plenty of baggies to clean up after him, you can spend the day here on the beach enjoying the gorgeous clear water. Sand City Beach is not huge, but it stretches quite a ways from Monterey State Beach to Ford Ord Dunes State Park Beach.

The Monterey Bay Coastal Trail runs alongside Sand City Beach, and you are welcome to take your pooch for a walk as long as he is leashed. You can also visit the Eolian Dunes Preserve, which is a special area protected from being built upon by anyone. The trails here are protected, so you need to stay on the path, and so does your dog. The beach is a popular place for collecting sea glass, which is a good reason not to walk around barefoot.  

Marina Dunes Preserve Beach

Head northeast up the coast from Sand City Beach, and you will reach the Marina Dunes Preserve Beach just past the Fort Ord Dunes State Park and Marina State Beach. Those two have awesome beaches, but they do not allow dogs, so just pass them up. The Marina Dunes Preserve is an important coastal dune protected like the Eolian Dunes Preserve. The beach here can change because of the waves and wind, so it is always different.

The clean sand has a variety of native plants interspersed, including beach grasses, wild rye, pink ice plants (also known as magic carpet groundcover), and seaside daisies. If you want to stay the night, you are in luck because there is an RV campground right there, and it is dog-friendly too. They also have a playground, fitness center, showers, and a camp store. You and your furry best friend will have access to the sand and surf all night long. 

Laguna Grande Regional Park Beach

You will find the Laguna Grande Regional Park just south of Monterey State Beach. Although it does not have a beach on the ocean, there are some fantastic waterfront spaces along Laguna Del Rey. Keep Fido on a leash, and he can join you on a nice walk around the lake via the Laguna Grande Regional Park Trail. It runs about one mile all the way around the lake. The park has two sections. The Seaside section is on the eastern side of the lake, and the Monterey section is on the western side.

Both sides of the lake have multiple lakefront areas where you and your cuddly canine can enjoy the water. The Monterey section has a small pocket park for kids, soccer fields, numerous picnic areas with tables, and a playground, too. At the north end, you and your pupster can grab a burger and fries at In-N-Out Burger once you work up an appetite. Don’t forget the doggie bags.

El Estero Lake Dog Park Beach

Just south of Del Monte Beach, El Estero Lake Dog Park Beach is a fun fur baby playground for off-the-leash play in the northwestern corner of El Estero Park. It is right across from St. Johns cemetery and uphill from the lake. The pup park is not huge, but it does have separate areas for small and large dogs, so small pups with big-dog anxiety do not have to be overwhelmed during playtime.

Open from dawn to dusk, the park is almost completely shaded, with benches and chairs situated along the perimeter. The ground is covered in soft bark mulch, but it can get really muddy after it rains. There is a water fountain, but you need to bring your own doggie bowl for your pup to drink from. Also, there is a waste station with poop bags but pack extra just in case. Your pooch will need to be on a leash when you go to the lake because it is out of the fenced section.

Monterey Municipal Beach

Five miles from Carmel in Monterey, you can take your fur baby to Monterey Municipal Beach for a fun day in the sand and the water. Located on the eastern side of Monterey Wharf, it is protected from most of the wind, so it is a great place to enjoy the waves. Your canine companion will need to be on a leash at all times while you are there, though, so keep that in mind, but you can still have plenty of fun.

Bring some extra water and snacks, or you can head up to the eat, where they have several outdoor eateries that welcome pups. Loulou’s Griddle in the Middle has some fantastic burgers, and the Sandbar & Grill serves up some awesome seafood. London Bridge Pub has outdoor tables for pup parents as well, so you can enjoy a  brew or two. Always bring a good supply of doggie cleanup bags to pick up after your pup.

Lovers Point Park Beach

You and your poochie will find Lovers Point Park Beach, about 2.6 miles northwest of Monterey Municipal Beach, at the base of 17th Street. With more than four acres of space, the beach and park are popular family spots for picnicking, swimming, surfing, and fishing. Keep your cuddle buddy on a 6-foot leash, and remember to pick up anything he drops. You should also bring water for both of you.

Besides the gorgeous soft sandy beach, the park is also dog-friendly for leashed dogs, and they have a variety of amenities, including a snack bar and several eateries where you and your pooch can grab a bite to eat. Fishing requires a California fishing license, and be aware that you can only fish from the eastern end of Perkins Park to the Point Pinos Lighthouse. If you want to get out on the water but did not bring a kayak, you can rent them at Adventure By The Sea Kiosk right on the beach.

Asilomar State Beach

Asilomar State Beach is another pup popular place to take your pup for a swim. With over a mile of sand and crystal-clear water, you and your fur buddy will have a blast here as long as you keep him on a leash and clean up after him. This is one of the most photographed beaches in Monterey, and we want to keep it clean for everyone. It is a great place to see otters as they play in the waves.

This is another beach that has a lot of tide pools during low tide. You will see all sorts of creatures in the little pools of water. But please do not let your pooch get too close to them. Also, keep an eye out for jellyfish because they can give you or your canine compadre a nasty sting. The huge rocks and boulders dotting the beach are perfect for sitting and watching the water. 

Garrapata State Park Beach

At Garrapata State Park Beach, leashed dogs are always welcome to enjoy the beach from Gate 19 to the south. Located just eight miles up the beach from Carmel City Center, this park has two miles of beachfront property. You will need to be careful where you and your pooch plan to swim because there are some rough waves and rocky areas. But there are shallow sandy areas with smaller waves to enjoy without danger. 

You and your playful pup can also enjoy the 1.25-mile trail that takes you up to the cliffs, where you can get a great view of the water. Keep your eyes open and your camera ready because there is always something playing in the waves, like dolphins, seals, otters, and sea lions. You may even see some sharks or whales. As with any beach, you should always pack plenty of poop bags to clean up whatever your dog drops. 

Pfeiffer Beach

A few minutes down the sand, Pfeiffer Beach is another pup popular place for playing in Big Sur. This beach has unique sand with purple specks in it due to the garnet that erodes from the mountains and cliffs. Another thing you may notice is that this beach is clothing optional. No need for a special bathing suit or cute outfit. Just go bare! If you are not into that sort of thing, there are plenty of other beaches nearby that require clothing. 

Speaking of unique, this beach has the most photographed rock formations in California. The Keyhole Rock is a beautiful sight and is even more incredible during the winter when the sun sets behind it. One thing to note is that you should keep your fur baby on a short leash and stay in the shallow water because the surf is quite rough here. Also, remember to bring your doggie bags and extra water.

Manresa State Beach

Manresa State Beach is also one of the most picturesque places in the state. It has some stunning views of the sea bluffs and the Santa Cruz Mountains. The Monterey Peninsula is also visible from here. What’s more, you can also camp here from May through October. There are 64 tent sites at the beach, so you and Fido can enjoy the water anytime you want. Just remember, it can be dangerous because of the waves, so keep him on a short leash. 

Fishing is very popular here too, with surf smelt, striped bass, perch, halibut, and flounder being the most common fish. You will need to have a California fishing license, though. On top of the bluff, grab a table, and you and your cuddly canine companion can enjoy a meal. Pack your own food and drinks. Also, watch out for jellyfish that can be found in and out of the water.

The Final Woof

Carmel is definitely pup-friendly, with over a dozen dog-friendly beaches, numerous dog parks, and more than 50 hotels that allow dogs. The 15 choices we made here are just a sample of the fun you and your pooch can have. If you want to learn more about the area, take a free walking tour on Cannery Row. It takes about an hour and begins across from the Monterey Bay Aquarium. You and your cuddle buddy can also go on a scavenger hunt, learning important facts along the way. Ready for a bite to eat? The Forge on 5th Avenue is a bistro that serves pups with their own menu that includes the Quarter Hounder beef patty, Hot Diggity Hot Dog, and cups of kibble. 

For an in-depth look at all the dog-friendly offerings in Carmel, including beaches, parks, and dining options, make sure to check out our dog-friendly Carmel travel guide. This comprehensive guide is the perfect resource for planning your visit, ensuring you and your dog have an unforgettable experience in this welcoming city.

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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