I grew up in the Bay Area; however, I moved away nearly twenty years ago. When returning to the Santa Cruz area, I was surprised at the number of beaches where dogs are not allowed, leashed or unleashed. I did some searches on-line and came up with only a few over a very widespread area. After some time and effort (okay, I won’t say hard work- it was fun!), I came up with some of the best so that you can spend your time driving directly there- and not wondering aimlessly.
Carmel City Beach– At this beach, your dog can even go unleashed! What fun he’ll have romping and playing, digging through the sand like a mad man… or mad dog. This beach has white powder sand and is safe and located in the incredibly scenic town of Carmel. It is located on Ocean Avenue; Carmel, California.
Pfeiffer Beach– It is well worth the drive just south of Big Sur to Pfeiffer Beach. You’ll drive narrow highway one along the coast along high cliffs with the turquoise ocean down below. The remoteness of this beach makes it somewhat unknown to tourists and you’ll experience few crowds, if any. Stop in at Big Sur Station (a visitor center) for directions as it can be difficult to find. The employees there will show you a map and point you to where the unmarked road is located, only about a 1/4 of a mile from the station. After arriving in the parking area, you’ll walk down a short trail- when you see the beach it will take your breath away! Amidst the huge crashing waves are sea stacks and odd shaped rock formations – many times the temporary home of a few sea lions napping in the sun. Manganese garnet, washed from the hillside above, gives the sand a unique purple color. Stay and watch the awe inspiring sunset with your dog. You’ll both appreciate it!
Seabright Beach is located in a protected cove in Santa Cruz. It is a long stretch of sandy white beach sitting between the Santa Cruz Boardwalk and the Santa Cruz Harbor. With amazing views of the Pacific Ocean, you and your dog can frolic in the sand – chasing sticks, wading in the cool water, and looking for shells. My dog apparently finds the snail shells especially tasty.
Coastal Access north of Scott Creek Beach does not have an official name that I can find. It is north of Santa Cruz about 15 miles, just north of Scott Creek Beach. There is a sign that says “Coastal Access” that will direct you to a large paved parking lot, and a well marked but very steep trail down to the beach. This is probably my favorite beach in the entire area. During low tide you can search for shells, sea urchins, star fish, hermit crabs and other creatures in the tide pools. A rock formation at the south end of the beach is home to quite a few Pelicans. On one visit to this beach, we found an Elephant Seal napping in the sun right on the sand amidst the human visitors. Be sure both you and your dog do not get too close. Elephants Seals are magnificent but gigantic animals that can be dangerous. Although the beach is located fairly close to Santa Cruz, it never seems to be crowded, even on a sunny Sunday. The beach area is immense and you’ll both have lots of room to roam.