Monterey Peninsula: Carmel, a dog-lover's paradise

Road Journals Blog—Traveling with a dog has its pleasures and its challenges. You have to call ahead (or check the AAA TourBook) to find accommodations that allow pets. Most places charge a pet fee, which in some establishments represents a sizeable chunk of cash. I wouldn’t mind so much if they included a plastic dog bowl or a canine treat, but few places do.

Too many, in fact, don’t even provide a patch of grass for taking care of business.


Carmel is more than just a beach for dogs. Which isn't to say they don't love the beach. | playhockeyeh/Flickr

As my 13-year-old mutt Zoey would be the first to remind me, it’s not all fun and games for the pooches, either. They can’t be left in the room, nor are they allowed in most lobbies or restaurants. So it’s back into the car, Zoey—often after a 10-hour drive.

Carmel, Calif., is the exception. It’s the dog-friendliest town I have ever visited in a long career of traveling with four-legged friends. Dogs are welcomed in virtually every shop and most restaurants. Up and down the bustling main street water bowls are set out on the sidewalk. Dogs can run off-leash on the beach. Almost any time of day you’ll find dozens of them frolicking, chasing Frisbees, and carousing in the surf.

Nowhere are dogs more welcome than at the Cypress Inn, where dog owners register for rooms with their dogs’ names. The reservations clerk takes down all the essential information so that the right-sized dog bed, dog treats, and toys are waiting.

The weekend Zoey and I visited Carmel we were on a budget, so we stayed at a lower-end motel. (A room at the Cypress Inn starts at about $225, but dozens of very nice—and less expensive—inns around town also welcome dogs.)

Still, I knew the Cypress Inn was something special, so as soon as we settled in, Zoey and I went to check it out. We arrived just in time to see a shiny black BMW pull up, a bejeweled woman in the driver’s seat, a perfectly groomed standard poodle sitting beside her sporting a sparkling rhinestone collar. While the bellhop unloaded a dog bed and two pink suitcases from the trunk, the woman led her lovely dog inside.

Zoey and I followed. The elegant lobby and bar area were crowded with people and dogs of every description. Two huskies sprawled across the floor. A Tibetan terrier sat up in a chair, as if carrying on a conversation with its owners. A goofy-friendly black Labrador wandered around as if it had checked in on its own. In the courtyard garden, more dogs sat in chairs or stretched out in the sun.

The majority of guests come accompanied by their dogs, I learned. I talked to a couple who had driven down from Sacramento especially to stay at the Cypress Inn, to celebrate their Russian wolfhound’s third birthday.

Later that afternoon, I saw a couple pushing a fancy stroller down the sidewalk—not with a toddler but with a dog bedecked in pink ribbons. A closer look revealed that the dog’s claws were also painted pink.

Carmel is that kind of place.

Fortunately, once the dogs converge on the beach they leave all pretensions behind. It doesn’t matter to them whether they’re staying at the Cypress Inn or or the Best Western (which is actually quite nice).

A good run on the sand means more than all the luxury money can buy.

Peter Jaret wrote about Carmel, Monterey, and Pebble Beach for VIAmagazine.com in February, 2011.

This blog post was first published in March 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.