15 Great Dog-Friendly Things to Do in Carmel, California

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dog is feeling joyful in carmel ca

On the Monterey Peninsula in central California, Carmel-by-the-Sea, or just Carmel, is known for its picturesque beaches and waterfront areas with stunning bluffs along the ocean. The city is also known for its artistic history, with 60% of the original homes built by those who devoted themselves to art. Several of the council members were also artists, including the actor Clint Eastwood, who was the mayor from 1986 to 1988. 

The first settlement was in 1770 when Gaspar de Portola, Juan Crespi, and Junipero Serra colonized a mission there. The Mission San Carlos and Junipero Serra was completed in 1771 and is also the home of California’s first library. 

The city was rated the number one dog-friendly town in America and features over 100 pooch-friendly hotels, motels, parks, beaches, and restaurants. There is even a section of Carmel Beach where dogs can play unleashed. So you and your fur baby will find plenty to do in Carmel, no matter what you like to do.

Relax in Style: Sanctuary Beach Resort

If you are staying in Carmel for more than one day, why not stay somewhere you can relax in style where your canine companion can join you? The best part about the Sanctuary Beach Resort is that it has its own private beach where your dog is welcome to play. They have volleyball, guided nature walks, bike riding, beach yoga, and bonfires to enjoy as well. As long as your pooch is on a leash, he can swim, play in the surf, and dig in the sand all day. 

Another awesome amenity is that your fur baby can dine with you at the Salt Wood Kitchen, where he can order off his own Pawtio Menu. You can even join the Sandy Paws of Summer for discounts, free treats, and a water bowl. Each room has a private deck or patio, flat-screen televisions, a wet bar, and a gas fireplace. There is also a heated pool, spa, and jacuzzi, but you will have to do that alone because pups are not allowed. 

Watch for Whales: Monterey Bay Whale Watch

At Monterey Bay Whale Watch, the tours are led by marine biologists who know more about marine wildlife than the average tour guide. They have been studying killer whales for more than 30 years and have worked with BBC, National Geographic, and Netflix to make several documentaries. Your leashed cuddly buddy can join you in your whale watch expedition as long as he is well-behaved. From April to December, you can see Orcas, blue whales, humpback whales, gray whales, and dolphins.

Listed as one of the Top Five American Whale Watching Tours, this is the one you want to try if you are interested in more than just a trip on the water looking for whales. The guides know where to go and when to go there for the best chance of spotting marine wildlife, and they can tell you all about them as well. They have even spotted rare whales like the white Orca named Frosty. Be sure to bring doggie bags for cleanup.

Swim at the Beach: Carmel City Beach

Make sure you pack plenty of towels, sunscreen, and water for your trip to Carmel City Beach because you are going to want to stay all day. The sparkling and soft white sand looks beautiful against the bright blue clear water of the Pacific Ocean, so you and your pooch can get some awesome selfies. If your canine compadre is voice-controlled, he is welcome to play without a leash, too, but keep it handy just in case. 

This is a very popular beach because of how clean and well-cared-for it is, and is named one of the 21 best beaches in Nat Geo Magazine. There are poop bag dispensers at each set of stairs, but it is still a good idea to bring your own. The water here is mostly gentle so it is a great place for families with kids, too, but life jackets are recommended due to the rip tides and rogue waves. 

Let Your Pup Get Social: El Estero Lake Dog Park

Less than five miles northeast of downtown Carmel, El Estero Lake Dog Park is an off-leash dog park where your fluffy buddy can play with other pooches. Located in the northwestern corner of El Estero Lake Park, this is a fun place where dogs can just run around and be dogs. There are two fenced areas. One is for dogs over 20 pounds, while the other is for the smaller and more timid dogs. 

There are almost always a few pups for your canine companion to play with, especially on the weekends. However, it is not a huge park, so it can get crowded easily. They have waste stations with poop bags and trash receptacles, as well as water fountains for pups and pup parents. You will also have plenty of seating to choose from, both shaded and sunny. You can also enjoy the rest of the city park, including the lake, but you will have to put your pup back on his leash.

Tour the City: Carmel Walks

Monica is a professional tour guide who has two dogs of her own that sometimes tag along on your tour of Carmel. The tour will be personalized for you to give you the best path possible. You will see her favorite restaurants, art studios, and some quaint fairytale cottages, as well as any specific places you want to see. During your trip, Monica will give you a running commentary about the architects, artists, and the history of the area. 

Learn about how Clint Eastwood and Doris Day changed the little town and visit some of the hidden passages, miniature gardens, and courtyards. You will also learn about certain artists and writers like Mary Austin, Robinson Jeffers, Philip Wilson, and Frank Lloyd Wright. See where painter Mary deNeale Morgan found her inspiration along the coast of Carmel-by-the-Sea. Please remember to bring extra water for you both and doggie bags to pick up after your pup. 

Break Free: Escape Room 831

If you love puzzles and mysteries or just want to try something new, we recommend this fun activity that your fur baby can join you in playing. Put your cuddle buddy on a leash, pack some poop bags and water, and you and your pooch can try to escape one of the exciting rooms at Escape Room 831. They have three locations and over a dozen different scenarios, including time travel, a bank robbery, a top-secret military mystery, and a cabin in the woods. 

Whether this is your first time or if you have been breaking out of escape rooms for years, it is always fun to try a new puzzle. You get 60 minutes to solve seven mysteries with the clues provided. You can be Alice in Wonderland, try to stop world destruction in the Time Machine, or you can try to reach the shut-off button to save folks in an underground subway station in New York. Those are just a few of the fun mysteries to solve. 

Hit the Trails: Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail

If you and your fur baby are fond of hiking or biking, you will love the Monterey Bay Coastal Trail. Although it is 18 miles in total, you can just do a few miles or however much you want to do. As you meander along the Pacific coast with your leashed pup, you will get some incredible views of the bay and the Pacific Ocean. The trail follows what was a Southern Pacific Railroad line through Monterey and other parts of northern California. 

In the first half-mile, you will see the mural showing the history of the trail along Cannery Row and further. There are quite a few parks, eateries, shops, and other entertainment along the way. However, always ask before bringing your dog into any establishment. Keep going past Fisherman’s Shoreline Beach and San Carlos Beach to reach Fisherman’s Wharf before heading north along the sand dunes, beaches, and other shops. Bring water and doggie bags. 

Try the Local Brews: Peter B’s Brewpub

Just four miles across the peninsula in Monterey, Peter B’s Brewpub is where everyone goes when they want to sample the local brews. But this is not just a place for people to hang out, drink, and eat. You can also bring your fur baby with you to enjoy socializing with other pups and pup parents. They have been serving award-winning craft beers for more than two decades, and the head brewer, Natalie Mika, has even earned the California Craft Brewers Cup Gold Medal.

During happy hour, from 4 pm to 6 pm, you can also indulge in some delicious foods like pepperoni pizza, wings, calamari, and crispy cheese curds. For late-night visitors, they have another happy hour from 9 pm to 10 pm. Besides all that, you can get other foods anytime, like clam chowder, macho nachos, coconut shrimp, and Kobe beef sliders. Your canine companion can join you on the patio and will be served a fresh bowl of water. 

Sip Some Local Wine: Galante Vineyards Tasting Room

One of the main founders of Carmel-by-the-Sea, James Devendorf, was also one of the first to open a winery in 1994 with the help of his parents, who owned a cattle farm with 700 acres where he started his vineyard. Although he is not still the owner, this winery lives on in the same way it did before, with the finest grapes in the state. Galante Vineyards in Carmel Valley are grown on land ranging from 700 to 1,800 feet above sea level, giving each of them a unique flavor. 

All the wines are organically grown and strictly adhere to the agricultural standards for the finest wines in the country. They are known for their cabernet sauvignon as well as merlot, petite sirah, malbec, and pinot noir. Your furry family member is welcome to join you in the tasting room as long as you keep him on a leash at all times and pick up after him. 

Hunt for Fun: Magical Monterey Scavenger Hunt

Do you remember playing scavenger hunt when you were a kid? It was a lot of fun! But you can also do that as an adult right here. The Magical Monterey Scavenger Hunt hosted by Kat is dog-friendly for friendly dogs, but they must be leashed and cleaned up after. Bring baggies and extra water. Starting at a local attraction, you and your pooch as well as others on your team, will set off to solve clues and find checkpoints. 

It takes about two hours, and you can use your vehicle or try the pedestrian version, whichever you prefer. You will be visiting both indoor and outdoor locations where you will find what you are supposed to find and send photos back to show your progress. You will learn all kinds of interesting tidbits about the city while having fun and talking to the locals to solve the clues. See hidden gems, make some memories, and enjoy a bonding experience with your little buddy.

Go for a Ride: Mad Dogs & Englishmen

Want to go for a ride on one of the most incredible bikes on the market? You do not have to buy one. Just go to Mad Dogs & Englishmen on Cannery Row to rent one. Their bike shop has everything you need for both you and your canine companion to take a bike ride in Carmel and Monterey. They have electric bikes with sidecars so your pooch can see everything and have as much fun as you do. 

If this is your first time in town and do not know where to go, don’t worry! They also have guided tours. You can explore Carmel with a local who knows where to go to see the best views and will show you the best dog-friendly eateries, vineyards, shopping centers, and beaches. See some historic sites amazing views, and meet the locals along the way. Do not forget to pack those doggie bags and bring water for both of you. 

Have a Picnic: Carmel River State Beach

At this great beach, you can choose from the ocean or the river… or enjoy them both. Carmel River State Beach is pup popular for leashed pups and their humans, where you can spend the day exploring a whole mile of white sandy beaches. If the waves are too rough for your fur baby, you can just walk on over to the river and play there. He will have to stay on a leash while you are there, but you can still have fun splashing in the water and digging in the sand. 

Besides swimming and digging, you can also bring your fishing gear and try your luck at catching some of the bass, crappie, trout, and halibut. But make sure you have a fishing license, or you may end up with an expensive ticket. They also have interpretive exhibits and trails, boating, picnic areas, and restrooms for your convenience. 

Dine with Your Dog: The Forge

Right in downtown Carmel, you and your fur puppy are welcome to dine on the patio at The Forge on 5th Street. Since 1972, The Forge has been a popular place to enjoy the freshest ingredients in a magical forest atmosphere. On the menu, you will find prime filet mignon, New York Strip Steak with black truffle butter, barbecue ribs, and pan-seared salmon. Or you can even get pizza, tacos, burritos, burgers, and teriyaki bowls. 

For dessert, try their chocolate lava cake with vanilla bean ice cream or limoncello cake with fresh fruit. Your pup has his own menu featuring Hot Diggity Dog hot dogs, Quarter Hounder hamburgers, Hen House chicken, and Good Dog grilled New York Strip Steak. Or he can just have a cup of the finest kibble on the market. Make sure you keep your pooch on a leash and bring poop bags in case he has an accident. 

Have a Spa Day: Signature Paw Spa

Located in the prestigious Pebble Beach area, the Signature Paw Spa is a place for both of you to relax. They offer all kinds of different packages, but our favorite is the pet massage. Just like with humans, getting a massage increases blood flow and circulation, helps with flexibility and range of motion, relieves pain, reduces stress, and just gives your pup an overall sense of well-being. Your cuddle buddy can be treated to a special massage just for him. 

And if you want to go out and visit some places in Carmel where they do not allow dogs, you do not have to feel guilty for leaving your best bud behind when you know he will be living in luxury. Dogs are attended to at all times, there are no kennels or cages, and the whole place is open to all the dogs. They have spa beds, a sun deck, and toys, as well as walks, organic food, and healthy snacks. 

Go Shopping: Carmel Plaza and Fountain of Woof

If you need some retail therapy or just want to look around, Carmel Plaza is a dog-friendly shopping area where you can find more than 40 shops and eating establishments, many of which allow dogs inside. The courtyard is always open to leashed dogs, where you will find the famous Fountain of Woof. It is a local tradition for pooches to enjoy a drink from the fountain for good luck. 

Some of the pup popular shops that are dog-friendly include Beachwood Home, Foxy Couture, Fourtane, Mark Areias Jewelers, and Diggididy Dog. The dog and cat boutique has been a pet parents’ favorite for more than 20 years, where they have all-natural treats, food, toys, and awesome doggie clothing as well. Stop in and have a beer at Alvarado Street Brewery, or just enjoy the hustle and bustle of the shoppers as you relax in the courtyard. But be sure you remember to bring doggie bags.

The Final Woof

Carmel by the Sea truly rolls out the red carpet for dogs, standing out as one of the most dog-friendly cities in the region. This charming city offers an abundance of activities that cater to your furry friend. Your cuddly canine can enjoy off-leash playtime at the local dog park, or frolic in the waves at Carmel Beach. Even the city’s finest resort, boasting a private beach, warmly welcomes dogs, and many local eateries offer special dog menus. Beyond that, you and your pup can embark on a bike tour, participate in a scavenger hunt, explore the city, or even set sail to spot whales and dolphins. And for a touch of pampering, your dog can indulge in a soothing massage. For a more detailed guide on all the dog-friendly offerings in Carmel, including activities, weather, hotels, dining, and more,check out our dog-friendly Carmel travel guide. This resource is perfect for planning a dog-friendly adventure 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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