Doggie Vacation Up The California Coast

Dog friendly beach vacation on leash free dog beaches Instagram photo. Arroyo Burro Beach

We needed fresh vacation air, lots of beach time and a chance to let Sierra and Lexi play in the crashing ocean waves. Well, at least we “hoped” to have them play in the water. It’s already an accomplishment that they’re not scared of the water anymore. Just a few months ago they’d jump and scamper to keep the edge of the incoming waves from even touching their paws.  And the pups needed this vacation too, especially Lexi because all this pup wants to do is run and run fast.

This is was our very anticipated road trip vacation for a number of reasons. First, we needed get away after three straight months of shooting. July was going to be our month off where we don’t pick up the camera for work, only for pleasure. Second, it was our chance to explore our beautiful California coast with Sierra and Lexi.  It would be Lexi’s first vacation, first road trip and our family time to visit as many dog friendly vacation spots as we could in six days.

Instagram photos. Clockwise from top left; Arroyo Burro Beach, Sierra at Carmel City Beach, PCH central CA coast, and Lexi at Carmel City Beach.

Dog friendly beach vacation on leash free dog beaches

At the top of our itinerary was to visit as many leash free dog beaches along the California Coast from Orange County to Point Reyes, CA . All we wanted to do was to let the pups play, leash free, in the Pacific ocean and free our minds from all the daily decision making of work.

After six days of sandy paws, wet fur, a packed car of dog gear, we clocked in about two thousand miles and dozens of doggie romps on the ocean’s cusp. We’d do it again in a heartbeat and are already planning our next trip up the coast again.

Instagram photos. Clockwise from top left; Dillon Beach, central CA coast, and Bolinas Beach (bottom photo).
Dog friendly beach vacation on leash free dog beaches

Here’s some highlights of our trip and if you’re planning to do a dog friendly up the coast too, then all our destinations are four paw (highest) rated!

Orange County, Huntington Dog Beach – This wasn’t on our trip, but it’s worth mentioning if you’re looking for a great dog beach. Huntington Dog Beach is our regular stomping grounds and where most all of Lexi and Sierra’s friends hang out. It’s a great couple mile strip of beach where many dogs romp leash free (it isn’t technically leash free, but that is the standard practice. Well mannered off leash pups will be given a smile by passing lifeguards). So put it on your list if you’re heading through Orange County.

Santa Barbara County, Arroyo Burro Beach (Hendry’s Beach) We started our descent up the coast at 5am, wanting to make it to Arroyo Burro beach for breakfast then playtime. The pups loved stretching out their legs after the long drive through Los Angeles and Lexi especially loved making new friends outside of her Huntington beach posse. There’s also a restaurant there that’s right on the beach for a quick burger and salad stop.

San Luis Obispo County, Fiscalini Ranch  Preserve– One half had gently rolling hills and the other half was the gorgeous cliff side hike that overlooked the ocean. There was no sandy beach romp, but the pups loved running leash free up the hills through the tall grasses.

Instagram photos. Clockwise from top left; Penny Ice Cream, Bolinas Beach, wild plums, and view from Mom’s dock in Marin county.

Dog friendly beach vacation on leash free dog beaches

Monterey County, Carmel Beach City Park Our favorite stop along the coast so far! The soft white sand, with great views of Pebble Beach Golf Course at Carmel City beach is a hit with everyone in the family. The sand is so soft and fine that it squeaks underneath your feet. Sierra loved sinking into the sand, while Lexi had fun blasting down the sandy hills to the water.

Monterey County, Hofsas House, dog friendly hotel: For our first two evenings of the road trip, the lovely folks at Hofsas house invited us to stay in their super dog friendly hotel. Now this family (original owners) knows how to treat their dog guests! They’re quite nice to their human guests too.

But what really stood out about this dog friendly hotel, was the care and attention to the dogs that stay in their hotel. The rooms are stocked with dog friendly goodies: doggie beds, blankets, shampoo, treats, frisbee and even a lickie stick! Need a dog wash? they have one for the pups too after their long play in the salty, sandy waters. Hofsas House is always going to be our half way stop from now on. The Three Generation family still works at the hotel and their own dog is the official Dog Concierge who tests all the goodies and gifts before they’re approved for Dog guests. How super cool is this family?

Carmel, Mission Trail Nature Preserve– This huge park has so many leash free trails to explore, it was hard for us to choose. We decided to head up to Mesa Pond. We’re so happy we chose to head up to the lake because that’s where Lexi accomplished her very first swim! Geek out, we’re such proud parents. Here’s the video to show you how geeky of dog parents we are.

Instagram Video of Lexi’s first swim. Ever.

Santa Cruz, The Penny Ice Creamery Please promise us to put this wonderful ice cream shop on your list. Make sure you stop by this gem for some of the best ice cream, ever! They have a shop and also a little stand. But make sure to go to the shop where you have a larger selection of flavors. The creamy, soft texture and season flavors of their ice cream is some of the best we ever had.

Tomales Bay, Dillon Beach– This is a huge stretch of beach with plenty of sand space for the pups to romp. Lexi probably ran 5 miles just from going back and forth along the long beach. Though there weren’t too many dogs for her to play with, there were plenty of clam diggers there for her to harass.

Instagram Video at Dillon Beach

Just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Rodeo Beach- Though windy and cold, even in July, this is spectacular stretch of beach with a view of the bay. And it’s nestled between some rocky cliffs which make it photography worthy too. So have your mobile phones ready!

Instagram photos. Clockwise from top left; Dillon Beach, Arroyo Burro Beach, Fiscalini Ranch Preserve, and the tongue/butt pillow.

Dog friendly beach vacation on leash free dog beaches

Muir Beach– Would have been an awesome puppy stop (human stop too!), but the parking lot was in the process of reconstruction so they had it closed off and there is no other public parking place. Maybe next time!

Marin County, Bolinas Beach– On a Sunday, there were so many surfers here, it was such fun to watch everyone in the water. At one point all the black body suits of the surfers looked like it could have been a pack of dolphins playing in the water. And oh, we heard there were skinny dippers too? We didn’t see any. Maybe they come on Tuesday? Or too chilly? They were mostly guys after all. 😉

We’re hoping to take another dog road trip up the CA coast before Summer ends, so if you have any new rec’s for dog play stops or food, please let us know!


diane, todd, sierra and lexi

{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. Connie

    Thanks for this great blog! I’d love to hear of the other places you stayed with your dogs!

  2. Aimee

    Thank you so much! This is exactly what my husband and I are looking for. We are planning a trip up the coast with two new members of our family, both rescues, and we want to take a drive up the coast.

  3. Wesley Bradley

    Nice article, and I really liked your photos! Funny watching Lexi swim for the first time. Looked like a great road trip! I just shared this with our followers on Twitter to promote to fellow road trippers. BTW Transfercar is launching in US soon and offers free rental cars – great for people interested in road tripping around! California Check us out at Happy road tripping everyone!

  4. Ally

    Thanks you for your suggestions! I randomly found your blog while researching dog friendly places up the coast. We stayed at Hofsas and ventured to Arroyo Burro Beach with the pups!

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Awesome. Two of our favorite places ever. Did you go down to the Carmel beach while you were at Hosfas? Such velvety sand.

  5. Miyuki

    I absolutely love the photos and videos! The pups sure did enjoy the beach. Watching these pictures and videos are really refreshing for the soul of any dog-lover. I truly enjoyed it ♡

  6. Deb

    I live in Cambria, and am happy you enjoyed Fiscalini! Believe it or not, this has been one of our more pleasant summers for years! I think it was Mark Twain that said the coldest winter he ever spent was summer in San Francisco. The best time, generally to visit the central coast is around October, November, when the winds die down. That is when we really have our summer.

  7. Linda Mirth

    SO nice running into you last evening at HB dog beach!!

    1. White on Rice Couple

      Hi Linda! it was great to meet you too and to share the love of doggies!

  8. Chelsea

    This is a great list, thank you! If you ever feel like heading even further north (and as Todd probably knows already), Oregon beaches are all dog-friendly, which means a little less planning about where you are going to stop each time. Our favorite was just north of Newport – our pup was ecstatic to run into the waves and, at least twice per trip, check to see if the water was still salty.

  9. Sally

    What a fantastic trip! I love all of your recommendations. I’m headed on a doggie road-trip at the end of September to explore the Oregon coast and will share any greats finds with you guys. Nothing beats happy dogs running leash-free. 🙂

  10. Kathy

    What a fabulous post! And fantastic pictures/vids!! Your dogs are beautiful <3

  11. thyme (sarah)

    You guys are seriously fabulous doggie “parents”!

  12. ann marie

    I love these pictures. Really fun/useful post. Went to Fort Funston in SF back in July. It was a great dog beach. Also fun spot to watch people hang gliding.

  13. Jean | Lemons & Anchovies

    So nice to see you feature the beaches in my neck of the woods–the beach at Carmel is a personal favorite, too (was just there last week); some of the happiest dogs I’ve seen are the ones who get to play there every morning (and yes, I’m jealous of them!). Taking notes on other beaches you’ve shared–hope to visit soon. 🙂

  14. Jen | Fetchlight Pet Lifestyle Photography

    Great post! I’ll share this with my California dog-friendly audience, to help plan their next doggie vacation, looks like fun!

  15. harveysmom

    what a great trip and photos!!!
    thanks for all the new spots for our pups.
    we also go to moonstone beach a lot with all their dog friendly spots. it has a beautiful boardwalk and is a good halfway point to hwy 1.
    have fun

  16. JulieD

    Love this so much! I’m sure they had the time of their lives! 🙂

  17. Lynn Chen

    My dog Julius appreciates this! Thank you!

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