15 Best Dog-Friendly Vacation Destinations in California

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dogs are feeling joyful in a dog friend friendly vacation in California

California is the most populous state in the country and one of the most dog-friendly as well. The city has close to 40 million residents and millions more visitors every year. Part of the draw to the state is its long coastline with 420 beaches along 840 miles. Many of them are pup popular, and some even allow your fur baby to play off the leash. 

Other popular attractions in California include the Golden Gate Bridge, the Hollywood Sign, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Mojave Desert, and the Walk of Stars. And every one of these allows your cuddly companion to join you as you explore them. But whether you take a hike, hit the beach, or see the stars, be sure to bring doggie bags to pick up anything your pup drops.

In this guide, we will help you figure out which cities and other destinations are the most pup popular. There are some places where you can find a lot of dog beaches, others have lots of off-leash dog parks, Yosemite National Park has numerous dog-friendly campgrounds, and you can sleep on a haunted ship in Long Beach!

San Francisco 

One of the most dog-friendly cities in the United States is San Francisco, California. It is also the second most populated city, with 873,965 residents. What’s more, dog parents are the majority here, as there are more than 11,000 fur babies living in the city. Some of the most pup popular areas for pooches are the dog parks.

Located in Northern California, the city by the bay is perfect for a summer getaway with your pup because there are over 30 off-leash dog parks in the city. So, if you plan to take your fur buddy to run off the leash, check out Golden Gate Park. It has four different dog parks, and the rest of the park welcomes dogs on a leash.

Besides parks, did you know that there are several dog beaches in San Francisco where your cuddly buddy can play? Crissy Field has two dog-friendly beaches and a stunning view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Also, Land End Beach has an off-leash dog area where he can play in the sand and surf unleashed!

But that is not all! You can go on a cruise to see Alcatraz Island and the sea lions of Pier 39 or do some shopping at Union Square. Other fun activities in San Francisco include hiking, biking, and touring. If you get hungry, there are over 280 pup-friendly eating establishments, too. MUNI is a public transport system that allows dogs, too, so they can take you!

Santa Barbara

Santa Barbara is a small town with a big love for pets. In fact, there are close to 30,000 fur babies living in the city. There are over 200 dog-friendly vacation rentals as well as several dog beaches and off-leash pooch parks, so it is a wonderful weekend getaway for pup parents. You can spend the weekend with your canine companion swimming, boating, hiking, and biking, or you can even take a yacht cruise to see the whales. 

In Central California, not far from Los Angeles, Santa Barbara is loaded with fuzz puppies. In fact, one in every three families has at least one pet!  Some of the pet owners are famous, like Jennifer Lopez, Whoopie Goldberg, and Tom Cruise. Wouldn’t it be exciting to run into one of them at the dog park or beach

For those who like to paddle themselves, rent a kayak and look for your own secret beach. If you enjoy wine, take a trip through wine country. Santa Barbara has over a dozen wineries and vineyards to explore with your little one. 


True to its name, Carmel-By-The-Sea has a lot of sandy beaches where you and your fur baby can play. The most pup popular is Carmel Beach, where no leashes are needed. Your dog can play in the water and run in the sand, play a game of fetch, or just hang out with other pups at the beach. Carmel River State Beach is also dog-friendly and gives you the option of saltwater or freshwater. Also, Pebble Beach has several beaches your pupster is welcome. 

Carmel became so dog-friendly because of Doris Day, who bought her own hotel because none of the places allowed dogs. Luckily, many hotels followed suit because there are almost 150 dog-friendly rental places in Carmel now. 

If you get tired of beaches, you can take your pooch to one of the local dog-friendly breweries or vineyards for some adult beverages. Or dine out with your dog at The Forge or one of the other 30+ pup-friendly eateries. Stop by Carmel Plaza to let your cuddly canine companion take a drink out of the Fountain of Woof. 


Just five miles to the north of Carmel, the small city of Monterey is known for its rugged coastline, laidback atmosphere, and variety of shops and restaurants. In fact, one of the best malls in the city is Del Monte Shopping Center, and it is dog-friendly. There are 70 shops and eateries, and many of them allow your pup to peruse with you, including Sephora, the Gap, and Macy’s. 

You will not have trouble finding a place to stay in Monterey either because there are more than 50 pup popular vacation rentals, including Portela Hotel & Spa, where they have Bark Bowls on the menu, the Sand Dollar Inn, where you can get a room and pay the dog fee for under $100, and the luxurious Le Petit Pali where you and your fur baby can walk to the beach.

Speaking of the beach, there are numerous dog beaches, including Del Monte, El Estero Park, and Monterey State Beach. However, your pup will have to remain on his leash while visiting the Monterey beaches. But with more than 4,300 fur babies in the city, you are bound to find some random dog-friendly shops anywhere.

Santa Cruz

When you are planning a romantic getaway for you and your lovey (and your fur baby), you are probably thinking about candlelight dinners, sunset cruises, and picnics in the park. Well, Santa Cruz has all of these and more. The city boasts close to 50 dog-friendly restaurants where you and Fido can surprise your loved one with a steak dinner or seafood on the patio. 

If it is a picnic in the park you are looking for, Mimi De Marta Dog Park and Skypark Dog Park have picnic tables right in the dog park where you can enjoy a bite. Just make sure you are not violating the rules. Some dog parks do not allow food inside.  In that case, there are plenty of other pooch popular parks to picnic at like Frederick Street, Tyrrell, Ocean View, Chestnut, and Grant Street.

Take your honey on a sunset cruise with Venture Quest. All three of you can enjoy being led around by a guide or set off on your own with a pair of kayaks or canoes. Then, end the night with a brew or two at one of the local dog-friendly breweries or bars

South Lake Tahoe

Interested in some skiing? Spend your winter at South Lake Tahoe, where you can hit the slopes while your cuddly canine companion stays at the hotel relaxing in his complimentary plush bed. In fact, there are quite a few hotels and resorts that allow dogs in South Lake Tahoe. The Quality Inn is just a quarter of a mile from Heavenly Village and the gondola. You even get free ski passes.

When it is time to “let the dogs out”, you are in luck because South Lake Tahoe also has a bunch of fun dog parks to enjoy. The Bijou Dog Park has a superior agility park to help your pooch get rid of those zoomies. Or you can go to Fallen Leaf Lake, where you can go camping, swimming, fishing, and boating. 

If you happen to be in South Lake Tahoe during the summer, you can visit one of the dog-friendly beaches. Tallac Shoreline Beach, Kiva Beach, and Regan Beach are just a few of the most pup popular. You can even visit some of these beaches in the winter, but you just cannot swim.  

San Diego

Nestled on the southern California coast, San Diego is a tourist haven renowned for its sprawling 70 miles of beaches, including the highest number of designated dog beaches in the state. This ensures that every canine visitor has a spot to enjoy the surf and sand. With an estimated 150,000 dogs residing in the city, San Diego ranks among the top five dog-friendly cities in the U.S.

While San Diego is a paradise for families with attractions like SeaWorld San Diego, the San Diego Zoo, and LEGOLAND offering endless entertainment for kids, these spots, unfortunately, do not accommodate dogs. However, the city is well-equipped with dog-sitting services such as Camp Run-A-Mutt and Dog Days San Diego, ensuring your furry friend is well cared for while you explore.

San Diego also excels in dog-friendly accommodations, with numerous hotels welcoming canine guests, making it easy to find a comfortable stay for you and your pet. For a special treat, visit the Original Paw Pleasers Dog Bakery for some delightful dog treats. And for some off-leash fun, San Diego boasts a variety of excellent dog parks where your pup can freely romp and play. Additionally, the city offers a range of dog-friendly activities, from scenic walks to pet-centric events, ensuring that there’s never a dull moment for your four-legged companion in this vibrant city.

Palm Springs

Another dog-friendly California city that is popular in the winter is Palm Springs. However, the reason is different. It gets extremely hot in the city during the summer, and the winter temperatures are in the 60s, so it is perfect for outdoor activities with your pooch. And with close to 7,000 dogs in Palm Springs, there are definitely a lot of things to do with your cuddly buddy.

One thing the city has a lot of is hotels. You can find more than 1,100 pet-friendly hotels, motels, and spas in Palm Springs to choose from. One of the most pooch popular is the Desert Hot Springs Inn because it has its own private pooch playground. There is also no pet fee, and they accept all dogs, big and small. 

With the gorgeous winter weather, you and your canine compadre can visit some of the fun dog parks in Palm Springs, like the Panorama Dog Park with water fountains and agility play or the Ready Palm Springs Dog Park that has seesaws, jump-overs, tunnels, and weave poles. After, stop in at Spencer’s, where you and your pup can dine outside.

Los Angeles

The city of Los Angeles, located in southern California, is known for being full of famous folks, the Hollywood Sign, and the Walk of Fame. But it is also the fourth most pooch-friendly city in the country. Also, speaking of famous people, there are hundreds of stars who live there, and many have dogs. 

Jennifer Aniston, Katy Perry, Leonardo DiCaprio, Angelina Jolie, and Johnny Depp are just a few of the stars in LA you may see taking their pup for a walk. Many of them also frequent the parks and trails. There are lots of trails for pups and their humans. Take your cuddle buddy on the Mount Hollywood Trail at Griffith Park to get some close views of the Hollywood Sign. 

Be sure to stop by Runyon Canyon Park. It is literally a 90-acre off-leash dog park. In fact, it is the largest off-leash pooch play area in the state of California! Then, you can drop by In-N-Out Burger, where they serve a Pup Patty for your dogs on their secret dog menu. 

Big Bear Lake

Big Bear Lake is in southern California, just 25 miles northeast of San Bernadino in the San Bernadino Mountains. It is actually a city and a lake, but the city is small, with just over 5,000 residents. However, there are lots of dogs in Big Bear Lake, too! At last count, there were about 750 fur babies staying with their pet parents in Big Bear Lake. 

The most popular attraction in the city is (of course) Big Bear Lake. At seven miles long and 2.5 miles wide, there are 22 miles of coastline to enjoy with your pup. And all the beaches that run along North Shore Drive (Highway 38) are dog-friendly! 

Dogs are welcome to join their humans at Big Bear Marina for some fishing. Or get a bird’s eye view of the lake from a helicopter with Big Bear Helicopter Tours. The city also has some terrific off-leash dog parks to let your pooch play unleashed, like Big Bear Bark Park, which has agility stations for your cuddly canine to enjoy. 

Yosemite National Park

Almost everyone has heard of Yosemite National Park, as it is one of the top vacation spots in California. It covers almost 760,000 acres in central California with sequoia forests, wildflower meadows, waterfalls, streams, and cliffs. But it is not just for humans. Your fur baby is welcome in most areas of the park, but he has to be on a leash no more than six feet long. He is allowed on all roads, parking lots, and sidewalks, as well as most trails and parks, unless there is a sign prohibiting dogs. 

During the summer, Yosemite can get very crowded, but if you plan in advance, you can get a campsite in one of the 13 campgrounds. If you enjoy hiking, there are over 800 miles of strolling, hiking, biking, and mountain climbing trails. 

If you come during the winter, you can do some skiing, snowboarding, or sledding on one of the trails that has cross-country skiing. Just remember to bring doggie bags, extra water, and a coat and boots for your pooch.


In central California, Mendocino is the smallest city on this list, with just 932 residents at last count. Even with that small population, this pup-loving neighborhood has about 150 pooches. That does not count the thousands of fur babies that visit the area with their pup parents every year. Luckily, the city boasts more than 50 dog-friendly vacation rentals, so you will not have trouble finding a place to stay. 

In fact, it is one of the most dog-friendly camping areas in the state as well. At Mendocino Grove Glamping, they have a dog park and even provide bedding for your cuddly buddy. Caspar Beach RV Park is a perfect spot for dog families who want to stay on the beach. And Albion River Campground has a unique place for everyone to enjoy fishing, swimming, boating, and camping. 

You can also take your fur puppy to Mendocino Headlands State Park to explore the trails, do some fishing, or swim at the beach. Or take a ride aboard the Skunk Train for a fun way to see the forest. Just remember those doggie bags and water. 


Sacramento, in northern California, is the capital of the state and has a human population of about half a million and a pooch population of about 60,000. It is not on the coast, so you will not find any fancy beaches, but you will find lots of dog-friendly hotels and other vacation rentals. More than 100 at last count. 

Foodies love Sacramento. It was named the most diverse city in the United States, which gives it a wide array of cuisines from American to Tex-Mex. And you can bring your pup along to eat at 153 of these places! The Shack has a patio where pets can partake in some delicious tuna, burgers, and even Cajun food. 

Just because Sacramento does not have the ocean does not mean there is no waterfront. In fact, the Sacramento and American Rivers both run through the city. The Old Sacramento Waterfront welcomes your pup at many shops and eateries as long as he is leashed. 

Balboa Park

Balboa Park is located in San Diego in the southern part of California. With three dog parks to boast about, this park loves pups. Nate’s Point Dog Park is at El Prado and Balboa Drive and has picnic tables and water fountains. Morley Field Dog Park is huge but does not have a fence. And the Grape Street Dog Park has five acres and agility stations. 

The rest of the park is pup popular, too, but your furry friend will have to be on a leash no longer than six feet. You can visit the gardens to take a walk through Palm Canyon, grab a bite to eat at one of the many eateries with outdoor seating, or explore some of the miles of trails. 

The park is full of photo ops with attractions like the carousel, miniature railroad, and Moreton Bay Fig Tree Platform, as well as dozens of decorative fountains and sculptures. You can fill your social media with selfies and dog pics!

Long Beach

Long Beach is a coastal city in southern Los Angeles, California, where the beaches are many and the dogs are happy. In fact, there are more than 15 dog-friendly beaches in Long Beach, which is good because there are 54,510 fur babies in the city. One of the best beaches in this fair town is Rosie’s Dog Beach. This is where to take your dog to swim and play without a leash, and you will not get a ticket!

You will have almost 100 pet-friendly hotels to choose from in Long Beach, including The Queen Mary ship on the Los Angeles River. While you are there, take a dog-friendly paranormal investigating tour with Haunted Encounters. If you want to let Fido run off those zoomies, take him to one of the dog parks where he can run around off the leash.

Stroll through Shoreline Village while you are in town. The shopping and entertainment center on the waterfront has numerous pup popular shops and pubs. And you can even walk to the lighthouse. 

The Final Woof

Now that you have an idea of how pup-friendly California really is, you can start planning your vacation. Whether you are going for a romantic weekend, a family vacation, or just a fun summer trip with your pooch, there is a city perfect for your needs. For a beach trip, try Carmel, Monterey, Los Angeles, or Long Beach. 

For a romantic trip, Santa Cruz has some dog-friendly restaurants for a candlelight dinner. If you are bringing the kids, San Diego has amusement parks and a famous zoo as well as 70 miles of beaches. If you plan on playing in the snow, South Lake Tahoe in the winter has what you want. Just pack plenty of doggie bags for cleaning up after your pup.

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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