Carmel has long been known as one of the premier “dog towns” in the country, boasting dog-friendly hotels, restaurants, nature trails, and even dog-centric boutiques and art galleries. There are several doggy day spas, including Signature Paw Spa in neighboring Pebble Beach, that provides puppy luxury by way of sun decks, spa beds, and massages.
Fidos and Fifis can partake in practically all of the area’s amenities that their humans enjoy. But one of the best kept secrets of doggy delights is that Carmel Beach allows dogs to frolic off-leash, so long as they’re under the voice command of their owners. Biodegradable complimentary bag dispensers and trash cans line the path at the top of the beach on Scenic Avenue, and several of the eight stairways to the sand include faucets and dog water bowls.
“It’s amazing for its leash-free environment and the community of local dog people. Most everyone is conscientious of their pets and how they interact with each other, the local humans, and tourists,” says Bryn, father to McNabb Border Collie Uma, who frequents Carmel Beach no fewer than five times a week.
It’s such a favorite destination, some pups practically ask for it by name.
“I bring them at least four days a week. Otherwise, they literally give me dirty looks,” says Randi, dog mom to Roxie, an energetic Jack Russell and Dachshund mix and her “sister” Libby, a Papillon Chihuahua mix who loves to mug for passersby. “She loves rubbing her head in the wet sand. It always makes people laugh as they walk past her.”
Another who interacts with all in his path is relative newcomer Baylor, a six-month-old Australian Labradoodle, who’s already completed several classes, including his good manners training at Raw Connection, and who’s a bouncy bundle of energy. I met Baylor one evening when his humans Pat and Mike were taking him for a supplemental walk.
“We’re getting him all tired out before we go to dinner,” laughed Pat as Baylor, a big blur of soft windblown apricot fur and bulky puppy paws, enthusiastically greeted several dogs.
Socialite Baylor, who’s friends with many local dogs, regularly walks the beach each morning.
“He knows we have a routine,” Pat says of Baylor’s busy schedule that also includes Puppy Palooza group play at California Canine and dining about town at dog-friendly spots like Village Corner California Bistro, The Forge, and Jeffrey’s Grill & Catering. “But the beach is his favorite outing by far,” Pat says. “He loves visiting the other dogs. The minute we turn onto Scenic, he perks right up!”
Sporting his summer haircut, golden chestnut Cavapoo Ollie, just shy of two years old, enjoys walking the full length of the beach from Santa Lucia Avenue to the north wall that borders Pebble Beach. Once there, he chases birds into the water and greets his many dog friends, including his steady girlfriend, Alana.
Ollie’s human Jill says that, thanks to Ollie’s sparkling personality, “I’ve met so many people from near and far, and we’ve kept in touch and become friends.” Ollie has even inspired two of Jill’s local friends to adopt Cavapoos themselves.
Less of a social butterfly, Uma is “more interested in her ball than in others,” says Bryn. “After an hour or so, I put the ball away and ‘clock her out,’” he laughs. “Without a ball, she’ll pay a bit more attention to other dogs, but she’d still rather find a stick or a large chunk of bullwhip kelp.”
Also obsessed with his orange ball is SPCA rescue Buddy, a Border Terrier and Yorkie mix who, along with his brother, soft coated Wheaton Terrier Welly, has varied interests.
“Of course, just like other dogs, they love the beach for a walk, chasing squirrels and birds, all the awesome smells, and taking a dip every now and again,” says their mom Ali. “But,” she adds, “most of all, they love the people. They love going up to strangers and watching them smile while they get some attention. I think they truly love making people happy. Oftentimes, they will just sit by someone who is alone,” she says.
Many strangers have told Ali how the scruffy siblings have warmed their hearts.
“I always hear, ‘I was having a bad day’ or ‘I’m having a hard time right now,’ and they will just sit with the person, and the person forgets they’re sad, even if it’s just for a few minutes,” she says. “So when we get ready to go to the beach, I always say, ‘Let’s go make someone’s day!’”
For tourists wishing they’d brought their dogs with them, Carmel Beach offers friendly faces to keep you company, and for first-timers bringing vacationing dogs, there’s no shortage of advice and resources from locals. Accessories and clothing for any weather, along with countless treats to take to the beach, can be found at the popular Diggidy Dog on Ocean Avenue. And to complete the vacation photo album, the whole event can be memorialized by one of the area’s professional dog photographers.
“You come to Carmel to see the scenic beauty, and why not have your fur baby captured in the scenic elements as well?” says Pet Expressions’ photographer Molly Nance. Describing her process, Nance emphasizes letting each pet’s personality shine though. “I just wait for them,” she says, “and I capture what they’re giving me.”
The power of puppy love here is undeniable. What’s clear is their personalities are as distinct as their humans’ as they forge friendships, putting smiles on faces and creating community with every sandy step, while sharing one common sentiment.
“Carmel Beach is the most special place for dogs and humans,” says Bryn, adding, “It’s also an amazingly spiritual place, and one of my favorite spots in the world.”