A trip to Southern California is always a good idea — especially with dogs in tow. Edged by coastal roads and surf-friendly beach towns along the Pacific, SoCal has diverse topography, ideal for roaming with Rover and Rex. Think: forests, deserts, interior vineyards, hiking trails through olive groves, vibrant cityscapes, and rocky precipices above the waves — to name a few dog-mama draws. Overall, SoCal exudes casually cool, active lifestyle vibes ideal for sharing with your favorite pooch. I like to tote my big boys in the car for a road trip mapped out to include my favorite resorts from San Diego to Santa Barbara, places that pamper pets so thoroughly, even the canines understand that they’ve gone on vacation. 

Le Quinta in Southern California is super dog friendly.
Courtesy, La Quinta Resort & Club

One treasured option, sprawling La Quinta Resort & Club, located two hours from both San Diego and Los Angeles in the arid Coachella Valley, has been the haven of heyday stars as evocative as Greta Garbo and Bette Davis — not that the dogs care. But its 35 acres, peppered with orange trees, palms, and crew-cut styled lawns, combined with its more than 40 pools and hacienda-style suites gets doggie approval for its abundance of space to gambol. Dog parents will be cosseted by staff as their pets take advantage of PAWS La Quinta Canine Experience. While staying in a dog/friendly casita (the refurbished historic ones ooze with personality, not to mention expansive, enclosed outdoor patios), pets receive toys, stainless steel water and food bowls, comfy beds, and a chart with marked hiking and jogging trails, keyed with doggie relief station rest stops. 

Read on to discover more retreats in Southern California that are pet-friendly. 

Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, San Diego

Dog friendly at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa
Courtesy, Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa

A renowned playground that emanates Spanish Colonial mystique, Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa lies amid the opulent enclave of Rancho Santa Fe. It stands out as Southern California’s only Relais & Chateaux property and bears lofty honors aplenty. But, pets beg to visit for another reason: the special in-room Doggie Tapas menu, which features gourmet pet comfort food including Rin Tin Tin Tartare, Shepherd’s Pie, and Chicken of the Sea. Canines wishing to eat at the feet of their humans can do so at The Pony Room, the resort’s elevated pub ensconced in a Mexican hacienda. Later, they can work off their meal in a romp through 45 acres of gardens. 

Balboa Bay Resort, Newport Beach

Balboa Bay Resort rolls out the red carpet for visiting canines
Courtesy of LynMc42k, Canva

Tony Newport Beach may be renowned for its yacht culture and swish mariner ambiance but pets will forever remember it as the time Balboa Bay Resort rolled out the red carpet to treat them like celebrities. With over the top canine attention, the hotel delivers with the Pampered Pooch Package, an extravaganza of exclusive indulgence, including a custom swag bag of Balboa Bay branded items and treats, a “Paws and Repeat” photo station for perfect posts, a choice of a Balboa Bay bandana or boy tie, and carnivore’s savvy dog menu at  A+O Restaurant | Bar and in-room dining, featuring rice with ground chicken or beef to curb their cravings. Note: part of the proceeds of the Pampered Pooch Package benefit Lovebugs Rescue, a foster-based animal rescue, located in Southern California. 

Kona Kai San Diego. San Diego 

Pet massage on the beach at Kona Kai San Diego.
Courtesy, Kona Kai San Diego

On Shelter Island, Kona Kai San Diego summons sleek contemporary California motifs with its private beach, topnotch spa and adults-only pool. But pets don’t care about the fancy stuff, at least until they have the chance to revel in it. Sign your fur baby up for the signature Noble Paws program which takes “spawing” to another realm. Dogs can enjoy a 25-minute Furry Flex muscle stretch massage under the care of a pet-massage-certified therapist. To sate their hunger, they can nibble on whole foods that run the gamut from Pawnut Butter Crunch to carrot sticks. A lavish dog bed and food and water bowls are provided for the duration of their stay. Try a “Pupnics,” for an island-themed, pet-friendly picnic including dog-friendly goodies or Puppy Paddle Boarding sessions in Kona Kai’s private marina.

Town and Country Resort, San Diego

Yappy Hour at Town and Country Retreat, San Diego
Courtesy Town and Country Resort

San Diego’s known as a pet-friendly city, but chic Town and Country Resort ups the ante creating unique experiences for furballs and their parents to enjoy a deux. Gambol together amongst the resort’s three-acre Riverfront Park, playing fetch and having “pup-nics.” There’s a dog run area for zoomies and a pet grab-bag, packed with a dog bowl, treats, ball, and clean up bags. Dress your pups up for the adorable monthly Yappy Hour Doggy Fashion Show, where the best dressed pup receives a prize and everybody nibbles special treats while donning their best outfits. Note: a portion of the fee is donated to the Helen Woodward Animal Center.

Montage Laguna Beach, Laguna Beach

dog at Montage Laguna Beach
Courtesy, Montage Laguna Beach

Iconic Montage Laguna Beach roosts atop a coastal bluff that hovers above the Pacific Ocean as the showpiece of artsy, opulent Laguna Beach. In keeping with its lavish, yet unpretentious spirit, the hotel spoils pets with the same verve reserved for guests. Expect amenities such as a regal doggy bed, water bowls, special toys, and organic treats. Order from the Furry Friend Menu to get barks of gratitude from your four-legged pals. Options include such lip smackers as Beef Tenderloin Lux-File with mixed vegetables and gravy — or for pets watching their figures, the Healthy Bit satisfies with seared salmon, quinoa, egg whites, and a fresh, crisp apple. 

Manchester Grand Hyatt, San Diego

Playing ball at Manchester Grand Hyatt.
Courtesy, Manchester Grand Hyatt

Poised on the waterfront of San Diego’s renowned Gaslamp Quarter, Manchester Grand Hyatt boasts a stellar location for sightseeing and dogging around town with your best fur baby. Take walkies in nearby Balboa Park or next door at Seaport Village, or hop the ferry across the bay to Coronado Island, which has a leash-free dog beach. Having earned your dinner, eat together at Sally’s Fish House & Bar, al fresco on the restaurant’s expansive deck. While you nibble fresh seafood, Fido will have his choice of supreme canine gastronomy, such as pupcakes with peanut butter spread, frozen yogurt pawpsickles, rawhide bones and a surf & t-arf dish with salmon, grilled chicken and rice.

San Diego Mission Bay Resort, San Diego

Double life guards at San Diego Mission Bay.
Courtesy, San Diego Mission Bay Resort

Dog-friendly beaches abound in San Diego, but the strip along Mission Bay reigns as among the best. Check into San Diego Mission Bay Resort to revel in quintessential San Diego, a historic city with a unique SoCal vibe. Pets take center stage as hotel staff honor them by putting their names on the furry friend’s board in the lobby as VIP guests. A Yappy Hour brings dogs and humans together to sip libations and watch for San Diego’s famous green flash as the sun sets. 

Cover image courtesy of Manchester Grand Hyatt.