Woman and a dog walking on a beach in Big Sur
Central Coast

15 Dog Friendly Things To Do In Big Sur, California

As a parent to an adorable four-legged fur baby, I always try to bring my dog on outdoor trips, whenever I can. Big Sur is no exception. If you’re planning a coastal road trip and are looking for dog friendly things to do in Big Sur, I’m here to help!

While Big Sur has an overall reputation for not being dog-friendly, there are plenty of places where you can bring them. From day trips to overnight camping adventures, I have been to Big Sur with my dog many times and there’s always plenty to do in the area – as long as you know where to go.

Here’s my guide covering all the most dog friendly places in Big Sur – that I’ve discovered over the years!

Note: Point Lobos State Natural Reserve does not allow dogs, not even in the car so you can skip that one. Dogs are also not allowed on any of the State Park trails but are allowed at most of the campgrounds.

Looking to rent an RV or campervan for a Big Sur trip? I recommend using my favorite van rental company Outdoorsy! Outdoorsy offers thousands of recreational vehicle rentals from popular California cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, and many more!

Some of the links used in this blog may be affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I may earn a small commission when you book through these links for which I am very thankful!

15 Best Things To Do In Big Sur With Dogs:

1. Pfeiffer Beach

Keyhole Arch at Pfeiffer Beach.

Pfeiffer Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Big Sur and it also happens to be very dog-friendly! Here you can spend a few hours in the afternoon walking along the shoreline, taking in the scenery, and enjoying a picnic on the beach.

To reach Pfeiffer Beach you will need to turn off from Highway 1 onto the Sycamore Canyon Road. This narrow road will lead you to the Pfeiffer Beach parking lot which costs $15 for day visitors.

Pfeiffer Beach is one of the most dog-friendly places in Big Sur.

After paying the parking fee, you can take the narrow trail down to the beach. Dogs are allowed on this beach but must stay on a leash.

Visitor Tip: If you enjoy photography, come for sunset to capture beautiful photos of the famous Keyhole Arch as the sun sets over the ocean. I personally love and use the Sony a7c camera for my travel photos. This is the smallest and lightest full-frame camera available – perfect for traveling, hiking, and road trips!

Read Next: 25 Best Beaches On The Central Coast In California

2. Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground

Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground is one of the best places to go camping in Big Sur with dogs.

There are quite a few campgrounds that allow dogs in Big Sur. One that we like to stay in the most is the Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground.

This is a woodsy campground off Highway 1 that has many campsites to choose from. Here you can stay in RV and tent sites surrounded by ancient redwoods – a memorable Big Sur bucket list experience!

Although dogs are limited to where they can go, this is a very spacious campground with plenty of places to stretch their legs. Dogs are not allowed on the State Park trails but are allowed in the developed areas within the campground.

Redwood Deck at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground.

You can take them on a walk to the day use area, on the paved roads, and along the Redwood Deck. We even brought our pup to enjoy dinner on the back patio at the Homestead Restaurant situated near the park entrance.

If camping is not your thing, you can also book an overnight stay at the Big Sur Lodge that’s located within the State Park.

Big Sur Lodge allows up to 2 dogs with a $50 pet fee per night. Be sure to let the hotel staff know ahead of time so they can prep one of the pet-friendly rooms for your stay.

Read Next: 15 Best Places To Go Camping On Central California Coast

3. Salmon Creek Falls

Many trails in Big Sur have strict ‘no dogs allowed’ policies. The Salmon Creek Falls Trail is an exception so if you’re looking for Big Sur dog friendly trails, this is a great option!

The trail to reach Salmon Creek Falls is only 0.3 miles long round trip so this is a quick day adventure that you can knock off your Big Sur bucket list as you drive along Highway 1. 

If you want to see the waterfall at the end, the last part of the trail does require a challenging scramble across giant boulders. This section was not doable for my dog so my husband stayed back with our pup while I made my way across the river.

Important Tip: Be aware of Blue-Green Algae caution signs at Salmon Creek that can be harmful to your pet. When visiting this waterfall, don’t let your pet jump into the water if you spot any algae.

4. Sand Dollar Beach

Sand Dollar Beach is a gorgeous Big Sur dog friendly beach.

Sand Dollar Beach is another beautiful beach in Big Sur that allows dogs. Located off Highway 1, this beach is very easy to access for road trippers and day visitors.

To reach the beach, you can park in the Sand Dollar Day Use Beach Lot which costs $10 for the day. You can also try to find free parking along Highway 1. Just be sure to keep an eye out for incoming traffic as you cross the highway.

There is a short trail that you can take down to an overlook of the Sand Dollar Beach and the Pacific Ocean. From the overlook, it’s about 100 steps down to the beach.

Once you reach the shoreline, you can take your pup on a walk along the wide, expansive beach surrounded by rugged ocean cliffs and unique rock formations. This is a great spot to visit for surfers, families wanting to enjoy time at the beach, and those on a Big Sur road trip.

5. Kirk Creek Campground

Camping with my dog Quito at Kirk Creek Campground in Big Sur.

Kirk Creek Campground is one of the most beautiful campgrounds in California. And the best part – dogs are allowed to camp here too! If you’re looking for Big sur dog friendly camping spots, it doesn’t get better than this.

Set in a prime location overlooking the rugged coastline, Kirk Creek Campground is one of the most sought-after campgrounds on the coast. To camp here, I highly recommend making Kirk Creek campground reservations well ahead of time (up to 6 months in advance). The campsites include basic amenities such as fire pits, picnic tables, and a place to pitch your tent or park your vehicle.

We got lucky with an open spot here in the fall season when it’s much easier to book campsites on the coast. With beautiful views of ocean bluffs and turquoise water, staying here feels like being in an oceanfront paradise!

At Kirk Creek Campground you and your poochie can enjoy a relaxing camping vacation and return home a bit dirty (sorry, no showers here) but so rejuvenated.

6. Bixby Creek Bridge

Bixby Creek Bridge in Big Sur.

Bixby Creek Bridge is a quick Big Sur road trip stop that both you and your four-legged friend can enjoy! Here you can park at a viewpoint and snap a few photos of a large concrete bridge that travels across a deep river canyon.

Bixby Creek Bridge is very scenic and quite impressive. This is the highest single-arch bridge in the world and one of the most iconic places for photography in California.

Since this is a quick roadside attraction, dogs are allowed here. Just be sure to keep them on a short leash due to the large visitor crowds and steep cliff drop-offs.

7. Ragged Point Inn

Outdoor seating area at Ragged Point Inn, one of the most dog friendly places in Big Sur.

Ragged Point is a popular tourist attraction in southern Big Sur. This location has it all – a hotel, restaurant, sandwich shop, gas station, minimart, and beautiful hotel grounds where you and your four-legged friend can go for a stroll.

This charming hotel is a convenient place to stay for those on a Big Sur road trip. Ragged Point Inn is a dog friendly Big Sur hotel that allows two pets per stay. The hotel pet fee is $50 for the first dog and $25 for the second pup.

Even if we don’t end up staying here the night, we always make a stop for food, gas and to stretch our legs. Be sure to walk over and check out the ‘Portal to Big Sur’ artwork which has a large round opening overlooking the rugged coastline.

8. Garrapata Beach

Garrapata State Park Beach in Big Sur.

When visiting Big Sur, take advantage of all the beaches that allow dogs! Garrapata Beach is located in the northern part of Big Sur and allows leashed pups along the beach and the trail leading to it.

Situated right off Highway 1, Garrapata Beach is a hidden little gem. This beach is free to visit and is especially beautiful in spring when you can see Calla Lilies blooming along the pathway.

Once you reach the beach, you can roam around the rocky shoreline that is surrounded by rugged cliffs. This beach is not very crowded so it feels very serene and remote.

9. COAST Big Sur

Photo by @coastbigsur

If you’re looking for somewhere to grab lunch with your four-legged companion, head over to COAST Big Sur. Situated next to Pacific Coast Highway, this cozy café offers spectacular views – and is dog friendly!

Coast Café has an outdoor seating area on top of a giant redwood water tank. The café is open for lunch from 11:30 am to 3:00 pm and serves a lighter fare made of locally sourced ingredients.

The lunch menu is pretty limited but includes items such as salads, lunch bowls, pizza, ice cream, and drinks like wine, beer, and cocktails.

10. Ventana Big Sur Resort

Outdoor pool at the resort (photo by Alila Ventana Big Sur).

If you’re seeking an upscale stay, Alila Ventana Big Sur is one of the most luxurious places to stay in Big Sur with dogs. This is an adult-only resort that feels like a coastal dream come true!

Set in a prime location overlooking the rugged Big Sur coastline, Ventana Big Sur Resort offers the best of everything. During your stay, you can take full advantage of the outdoor dining choices, heated pools, spa, Japanese hot baths and go on serene walks in the forest within Ventana wilderness.

Four-legged family members can stay at the property with a $150 pet fee that includes a dog bed and a water bowl. The resort offers a gourmet doggie menu with meals such as chicken and rice, ground beef patty, and salmon bowl.

Ventana Big Sur is one of the most dog friendly places to stay in Big Sur.

For something a bit more low-key, outdoor lovers can book a stay at the resort campground. You can choose from standard tent sites or glamping tent cabins surrounded by a lush redwood forest.

Camping pups are more than welcome with a $75 pet fee that includes a dog bed, treats, and a water bowl.

Read Next: 15 Best Central California Coast Resorts

11. San Simeon Bay Trail

Looking for dog friendly activities in Big Sur? Take them for a hike along the beautiful San Simeon Bay Trail just south of Big Sur.

Big Sur region is one of the best places for viewing wildlife in California, especially elephant seals. As you drive along Highway 1, you can make a quick stop at Elephant Seal Vista Point where you can observe thousands of elephant seals from November to January. But this is a very crowded spot so we usually leave our pup in the car.

As another option, I recommend hiking the San Simeon Bay Trail which starts at William Randolph Hearst Memorial Beach. This beachfront trail is dog friendly and leads to a viewpoint of a cove where you can see elephant seals lounging in the sand.

Elephant seals along the San Simeon Bay Trail.

Tip: When viewing elephant seals on the coast, be sure to keep a safe distance and don’t go down to the sandy beach where they’re resting. If your pup might get startled from seeing these giants and start barking, it’s best to skip this hike so the elephant seals don’t get scared off.

12. Big Sur Roadhouse

This dog friendly Big Sur restaurant is tucked away in a serene setting surrounded by a lush forest. Come here for breakfast or lunch and enjoy a meal al fresco with your four-legged friend!

Big Sur Roadhouse is open from 8:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and serves a seasonal menu with American food made of fresh, local ingredients. You can indulge in lighter plates and salads or go for something a bit more filling like sandwiches and burgers.

Although doggies are limited to the outdoor seating area, the interior has a beautiful modern farmhouse look that is sure to wow you!

13. Carmel Beach

Carmel Beach is one of the best places to visit in Northern Big Sur with dogs.

Popular for its wide sandy shoreline, Carmel Beach is a great stop before heading on a Big Sur road trip.

At Carmel Beach you can let your pup run free on the beach (as long as they respond to your voice command). This is great if you want to get their energy out before spending a lot of time in the car.

Keep in mind that it’s up to visitors to keep this beach clean and carry out any pet waste. A few things that we always bring to the dog beach include:

  • Dog poop bags. I love using these Earth-rated doggie poop bags for easy cleanup. Carmel Beach does provide Mutt Mitts dog waste stations by the beach if you forget to bring any.
  • Reusable water bottle with plenty of water. Saltwater can make your dog feel extra thirsty and dehydrated.
  • A collapsable water bowl that folds small and can easily fit into a beach bag or a backpack.
  • ChuckIt! Dog Ball Launcher adds extra distance for chasing the ball on the beach. Our dog is completely obsessed with his ChuckIt! Launcher and it tires him out twice as fast!

14. Big Sur Taphouse

Big Sur Taphouse is a dog friendly restaurant in Big Sur (photo by @bigsurtaphouse).

Another cozy little spot, the Big Sur Taphouse is a great place to grab comfort food and a craft beer after a full day of exploring Big Sur. This family-owned and operated taphouse is known for serving delicious local craft beers and wines from Monterey County.

For food, some of the pub favorites include wings, burgers, tacos, and nachos. There is a back patio garden area where you can dine with your four-legged friend and enjoy the fresh air.

If you don’t have time for a sit-down meal, the adjacent Big Sur Deli & General Store is managed by the same family. At the deli, you can grab a sandwich or breakfast items to go and continue your Big Sur adventures.

15. South Coast Big Sur Vacation Rental

Wondering where to stay in Big Sur with dogs? Book this gorgeous oceanfront vacation rental here!

If you’re looking to book a private vacation rental in Big Sur that allows dogs, you’ll love this pet-friendly accommodation! This vacation rental welcomes up to 2 dogs with a small $50 pet fee.

The two-bedroom South Big Sur vacation rental is perfectly nestled on top of a cliff overlooking the Big Sur coastline. During your stay, you can lounge on the outdoor deck or enjoy panoramic views of the Pacific Ocean from inside the home.

This charming cabin-style house comes equipped with a full kitchen for making meals, an outdoor BBQ area, and a rustic fireplace for cozying up at the end of the day.

Within a short drive, you can also reach the Sand Dollar beach where you can take your pup for a walk along the shoreline.

Redwood Deck at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park Campground, one of the top places to go camping in Big Sur with dogs.

What To Bring On a Big Sur Trip With a Dog

Here’s a list of things you might consider bringing to ensure a smooth and enjoyable Big Sur trip for both you and your furry friend:

  • Food and Water. Pack enough dog food for the trip, plus a little extra. Also, bring a portable dog bowl for water and food.
  • Water bottle and a collapsible water bowl that is easy to take on hikes and to the beach. You can also get this dog water bottle that has a built-in water dispenser.
  • Pet towel – to clean them off after the beach.
  • Pet wipes – for a quick paw cleaning before getting into the car.
  • 2 Hounds Harness. Most beaches, trails, and properties require pets to be on a leash no longer than 6 feet. I love this harness that has a shorter leash with two clip-on points for extra control, especially in crowded places.
  • LED dog collar that works great for evening hikes and camping.
  • Comfort Items. Bring your dog’s favorite toys, a blanket, and their bed to make them feel at home.
  • Cooling vest. Although the Central Coast temperatures stay mild year-round, a cooling vest can come in handy if your dog tends to overheat a lot (mine does even when it’s 70 degrees outside).

Without a doubt, Big Sur is one of the most beautiful regions in all of California! I hope this list of dog friendly things to do in Big Sur has helped you find a few new places to visit on your next coastal trip.

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This post is written by Laura Sausina. Hi, I’m a California local and the founder of the California Wanderland travel blog. I currently live in Ventura County and help 30,000 readers a month discover things to do in Central California! Read more about me here.

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