Planning a vacation with the family pooch can be a bit of a challenge. Matching your family’s favorite destinations with places that are pet-friendly and have plenty of accommodations to meet your needs requires a little bit of legwork but Monterey Bay on California’s Pacific Coast makes it easy.
From Santa Cruz on the bay’s north end to Monterey on the southern end, the entire expanse of the bay offers beautiful scenery and endless opportunities for families to enjoy some of the best California has to offer. Since Californians love dogs and dogs love being outdoors, it’s a no-brainer this would be an ideal destination for families traveling with pups.
Santa Cruz has some amazing beaches and if your dog loves the water, head to some of the area’s dog-friendly beaches so you can both enjoy the waves and the sand. Mitchell’s Cove Beach is the only beach in the area where you can legally let your furry friend off the leash so he can enjoy the freedom of playing in the surf. Off-leash hours are limited to before 10a.m. and after 4 p.m., so plan your trip accordingly.
Lighthouse State Beach, also known as Its Beach or Dog Beach by locals, is a great place to enjoy the beach and amazing photo opportunities (it is famous for its lighthouse and wild marine life). While dogs are required on a leash, there are poop bags available for visitors and plenty of other dogs for your pooch to socialize with.
Just south of Santa Cruz on Highway 1 are the little towns of Aptos and Rio Del Mar, which also have popular dog-friendly beaches. While dogs must stay on their leashes at these beaches, they are great places to enjoy the beach as a family and let Fido enjoy himself. They are also ideal locations to catch one of the Pacific Coast’s famous sunsets as the sun sinks dramatically into the horizon at the end of the day.
For some dog-friendly shopping, head a little south from the town of Monterey to Carmel, a picturesque beach town known for its natural beauty and artistic locals. Carmel Plaza, an open-air shopping center in downtown, has great shops and restaurants for everyone in the family, including Fido. The Dog House, which offers unique dog clothing, treats and toys, is a popular shop that caters specifically to canine visitors. While at the plaza, make sure to take your four-legged friend to the Fountain of Woof to enjoy the company of other pooches and take a drink where water spouts out of the sculpted head of a dog.
Many of the hotels in the area are pet-friendly, such as the Portola Hotel and Spa. Located near the harbor in Monterey, this property is happy to accommodate your pooch for a rate of $50 for the first night and $25 each additional night up to a cap of $100. All rooms are pet-friendly, although rooms with a Harbor View have a premium upcharge.
One of the challenges to vacationing with your pet is dining out. Most hotels do not allow dogs to stay in the room unattended (especially if they are barkers) so going out to eat is often off the table. California’s year-round sunshine solves this problem with outdoor, pet-friendly patios at many restaurants and Monterey has plenty of these options.
If you happen to be staying at the above-mentioned Portola Hotel and Spa you will find dining out with your pet super easy with PeterB’s Brewpub located on site. Not only does PeterB’s have great food, but a heated outdoor patio where you can comfortably enjoy your dinner and drinks well into the evening with your pup. One of the best parts of vacationing is ditching your diet and enjoying some good food and PeterB’s lets your dog in on the vacation splurging. While you are munching and imbibing, your pet can enjoy the Bark Bowls menu with three doggie bowls to choose from — meat roaff, turkey k-9 casserole or chicken with quinoa. These healthy pet meal options are just $6 each but during Yappy Hour from 4–6:30 p.m., while you are enjoying a craft beer and appetizers, the Bark Bowls are just $4 each.
For a great Italian meal with your pooch, head to the harbor for Paluca Trattoria to enjoy the fresh air and a good meal while your dog soaks up the sun. LouLou’s Griddle in the Middle, also in the harbor, is a great spot to fill up on a hearty breakfast before a day of sightseeing. Dogs are welcome on the patio and the wait staff will bring him or her a bowl of water upon request.
Family travels don’t necessarily need to be in theme parks or resorts with massive kids’ clubs. In fact, more upscale properties across the world cater to both adults and kids, and wellbeing brand Sensei joins the growing trend of family wellness travel. Sensei’s Wellness Science team, led by Dr. Vishal Patel, emphasizes the importance of family travels and exposing young travelers to wellness pursuits. Developing healthy habits at a young age can have long-lasting effects on an individual’s life, and bonding via family trips alleviates some of the main drivers of loneliness and isolation.
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