1. Cannon Beach, OR
The instant I unhook Murphy’s leash, his eyes go wide, seemingly asking, “For real?” Leonbergers are natural prancers, but when he hears the magical words “Yep, it’s okay,” my dog’s jaw drops and his head whips around ― being let loose on a sugar-sand beach 200 yards wide and more than 3 miles long seems to momentarily blow his mind.
Murphy is the perfect pup to test the dog-friendliness of Cannon Beach, Oregon. It’s easy for a hotel, shop, or outdoor cafe to accommodate pocket pooches and handbag hounds, but welcoming a breed that’s a cross between a grizzly bear and a bouncy, pouncy Tigger ― a dog that stretches 6 feet from nose to tail ― takes genuine commitment to pets and their people.
That’s what Murphy has found in Cannon Beach, an enchanting little cedar-shaked town with 14 pet-friendly hotels and 11 eateries where doggies can do dinner at outdoor tables. At the beachfront Surfsand Resort (from $209, plus $15 per night pet fee; 800/547-6100), Murphy is given a beach towel, bowl, and basket of treats.
Dogs are invited to curl up under tables on the deck at the Lumberyard Rotisserie and Grill ($$; 264 Third St.; 503/436-0285). But poor Murphy does not get a doggie bag: The baby back ribs in sweet Pepsi barbecue sauce are that good.
The next day, my wife, Sandi, and I take Murphy to hit the shops, many of which allow him to browse. In particular, he recommends Puppy Love by the Sea (271 N. Hemlock St., Ste. 1; 503/436-9800), a dog-toy and -accessory store, where Murphy shops for a raincoat ― alas, nothing in his size.
The town’s star attraction, though, no matter how many legs you have, is one of the world’s greatest walking beaches (ci.cannon-beach.or.us or 503/436-8050), which allows dogs to go leash-less as long as they’re under voice control.
For Murphy, this is a tail-wagging turn of events: A tempting gaggle of gulls loiters at the water’s edge, eminently sniffable driftwood lies scattered near the bluffs, and a dozen or so other four-leggers are spread out, playing with balls, Frisbees, and each other.
What’s a dog to do? His only solution is to start running circles around us, which causes Sandi to break out laughing, which makes Murphy hop, twirl, and paw at the sand until we’re all laughing and chasing each other down the beach. ―Bob Friel
Chill out with a downtown walkabout. Start at Confluence Park (15th St. at Little Raven St.; denvergov.org) along the irresistibly splashy Platte River, the perfect place to dip hot paws. Then stroll to Dog Savvy (1402 Larimer St.; 303/623-5200), a spoil-your-pet boutique. Bone tired? At the happy-tails hour at Hotel Monaco (from $189; no pet fee; 800/900-1303), sip wine with a pup at your feet, thanks to a pets-welcome policy. ―Elisa Bosley
3. Coronado, CA
Your dog can ride the waves at the Su-Ruff Camp hosted by Loews Coronado Bay Resort (800/815-6397), 20 minutes south of San Diego. For $349, get a deluxe room, doggie board shorts or bandana, “surf & turf” room service for Fido, and a dog surfing lesson with instructors from Coronado Surfing Academy. Not a hotel guest? Lessons for dogs are available by the hour ($40; 619/293-3883). ―Maryann Hammers
4. Los Angeles
For dogs that like to hobnob with the rich and famous, Laurel Canyon Park (8260 Mulholland Dr., Studio City) is 3 tree-lined acres in the Santa Monica Mountains where pedigreed boxers and poodles mingle off-leash with equally well-groomed owners: Orlando Bloom, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Reese Witherspoon have been spotted here. The elegant Sunset Tower Hotel (from $325, plus $100 pet fee; 800/225-2637) remains the place to see and be seen ― that includes A-list pooches. ―Alison Singh Gee and Jennie Nunn
Next: Orcas Island, and more
5. Orcas Island, WA
After hiking Turtleback Mountain Preserve, swimming the cool waters of North Beach (end of North Beach Rd.), and romping in Eastsound’s off-leash dog park (Mt. Baker Rd. at North Beach Rd.; orcasdogpark.org), your pup will hope every car ride leads to the island ferry (from $39; dogs ride free; wsdot.wa.gov). West Beach Resort (from $99, plus $18 per night pet fee; 877/937-8224) offers cabins on a ½-mile dog- and family-friendly beach. ―B.F.
6. Near Tucson
Give your dog a break from the heat: Head to the oak-shaded trails of Madera Canyon ($5 per vehicle), 40 miles south of Tucson. From your deck at Santa Rita Lodge (from $95, plus $25 per night pet fee; 520/625-8746), you and Sparky can watch for the canyon’s 200 species of birds at dusk. In the morning, dog in tow, stroll the 1.8-mile round-trip Bog Springs Trail; it’s wildflower-flush during late summer’s monsoon season.
7. Carmel, CA
Welcome to Monterey Bay’s pooch paradise. This tree-shaded village has dog-loving hotels ― the Cypress Inn (from $205, plus $30 per night pet fee; 800/944-7443) is most famous ― and restaurants: We like Casanova ($$$$; Fifth Ave. at Mission St.; 831/625-0501) and the Forge in the Forest ($$$; Fifth Ave. at Junipero Ave.; 831/624-2233). The shopping center Carmel Plaza has a dogs-only watering spot, the Fountain of Woof (Ocean Ave. at Mission St.; 831/624-1385). And at Carmel City Beach (end of Ocean Ave.), dogs can legally gambol off-leash. ―Peter Fish
8. Santa Barbara
A private rock-rimmed wading pool. Camp Run-a-Muk day camp. It’s all at the Hearst Castle of kennels, Camp Canine (from $45 per day, $60 per night; 805/962-4790). While you’re out enjoying Santa Barbara’s pleasures ― like Old Spanish Days (Aug 5–9, 2009) ― rest assured your dog is having a good time too. Maybe a better time. Added bonus: Camp Canine is walking distance from the world’s best taco joint, La Super-Rica Taqueria ($; 622 N. Milpas St.; 805/963-4940). ―P.F.
9. Petaluma, CA
Fish gotta swim, and shepherds want to herd. Only problem is that you don’t own sheep, which is why Spot’s best vacation ever will be at Dairydell Canine (open Mon–Fri; reservations required; $50 per hour; 707/762-6111). Seasoned sheepdog handler Frank Souza can coax even city shepherds into focused farm dogs ― at least for a few minutes. Afterward, lunch at cafe-bakery Della Fattoria ($; closed Mon; 141 Petaluma Blvd. N.; 707/763-0161). Try the open-face white bean and tuna sandwich; your dog will pass on lunch ― she’ll be sleeping under the table, dreaming of sheep. ―Elizabeth Jardina
10. Walla Walla, WA
At funky, dog-friendly Dunham Cellars, two wines are named for dogs: The “Three Legged Red” ($19) is a meaty red blend; the “Four Legged White” ($14) is a lush, balanced Riesling ($5 tasting fee; 150 E. Boeing Ave.; 509/529-4685). Later, crash comfortably at downtown’s Marcus Whitman Hotel (from $129, plus $20 per night pet fee; 866/826-9422). ―Sara Schneider