Sunny San Diego

With San Diego being the eighth largest city in the US as well as arguably one of the most dog-friendly places anywhere, the list of reasons to visit is as long as the iconic coastline.
Written by J. Nichole Smith | Photography by J. Nichole Smith & Luna Azul
That means it’s certainly impossible to see, taste, sniff and sample everything available to you in this eclectic, friendly city in one weekend. Luckily, with weather that averages a balmy 70.5 degrees all year long, no matter where you and Fido find yourselves, you’ll likely be soaking in the sun, amidst palm trees and sea breezes.

Of course the first step in planning any weekend adventure with dog, is selecting where to stay. San Diego is home to all of the big, fancy, pet-friendly chain hotels (Westin, Hilton, Marriot, and W to name a few) and they’re all quite lovely. The Bayfront Hilton is especially noteworthy, where you’ll find a remarkably helpful staff, patio dining where dog is welcome and an unbeatable grassy expanse out front, perfect for a little mid-day fetch. Best of all, as the name suggests, the Bayfront Hilton is located directly on the water.

San Diego also boasts a few wonderful boutique hotels. Our favorites turned out to be the Sofia Hotel and the Hotel Solamar.

The Solamar has all the perks and flair of a Kimpton—no pet fee, fun little receptions—can you say gourmet hot cocoa bar in the morning and hosted wine hour in the evening? Plus you’ll find that Kimpton’s signature “Very Important Pet” program always includes trusted referrals for snazzy pet services like massage and doggy spas. The roof top pool is gorgeous, sun-drenched most of the day, and comes complete with private cabanas and rooftop bar, but sadly, it’s off limits to pooches.

The Sofia Hotel is a rare gem. The staff sweetens your stay with a personalized baggie of dog treats upon check-in. The hotel and its amenities are bursting with thoughtful details like the reversible “ruff” and “meow” door tags to alert visitors that you have a pet in your room. The rooms are a bit on the small side and, like most places in the city it’s a bit of a walk to find a grassy spot for doggy relief. But the heated patio at “Currant,” the hotel’s comfortably swank restaurant and bar, is the perfect place for you and your companions, human and canine alike, to collapse after a long day and enjoy a lemon drop (or two).

Once you’re settled, it’s time to put paws to pavement to take in “America’s Finest City.”

Historically San Diego has been best known for it’s connection to the U.S. Navy, but more modern times have graced this beach-centric city with a doglier claim to fame: surf dogs. That’s right, dogs with life jackets, on surf boards, riding waves. There’s no better spokesdog for this new, wildly fascinating sport, than Abbie Girl. Abbie is an Australian Kelpie, who in a few short years has gone from abandoned shelter dog to high-flying, wave-riding phenomenon. Last fall Abbie set dog surfing’s first Guinness world record for “longest wave surfed by a dog in open water” and that’s just one notable notch on this daring dog’s small collar. Abbie’s human Michael is a pretty impressive athlete himself, and together the two can be found all over San Diego county and beyond, surfing, biking, hiking, running marathons and even paragliding.

Here are a few favorites from San Diego’s own surf dog, Abbie Girl and her surfing buddy Michael:

Dog-friendly swells. “Beginners listen up…the easiest, longest swells are in Ocean Beach. But, for some rad rides, we have to say Dog Beach Del Mar.”

Dog-friendly dining. “Shimbashi Japanese Bar and Grille in Del Mar...the staff loves dogs and dog surfing. When you go, you can even order a tuna roll for your dog. They serve some of the best sushi and their patio has a view of the ocean. It’s a great place to go after surfing for lunch, or even at night to watch the sun set. Heck, sometimes we surf in the morning, and then have lunch, and chat with the staff and stay for dinner. On weekends, they have happy hour from noon to 6 p.m.

Favorite patch of grass. “The take off and landing area of the Torrey Pines Gliderport, 320 feet atop the sea cliffs overlooking Black’s Beach has a great view of the ocean, La Jolla cove, Torrey Pines, and it is hopping with gophers and ground squirrels for chasing.”

Favorite place to grab a pint. “The Urge in north county San Diego has the best selection—over 60 craft beers on tap and even more bottled. But if it’s after an awesome day of surfing, we head north to Encinitas Ale House.”

Favorite place to stay overnight. “Absolutely the Shorebreak Hotel in Huntington Beach, but in San Diego, it would be a toss-up between Hotel Indigo, a classy, downtown boutique hotel that is totally dog friendly, and the Loews Coronado Resort (home of the Loews Surf Dog competition), a nice resort close to the beach and bay.”

Favorite place to take in the view. “Top of Iron Mountain in Poway, Calif.—the best view in San Diego county! Second best is Potato Chip rock near the top of Mount Woodson, also in Poway.”

Want to get your surf on or see if your pup craves the waves? Head to Del Mar Dog Beach, stop in to Rusty to outfit yourself with a wet suit and a board ($15/hour) and hit the waves. Make sure your pup is outfitted in a life jacket and start out slow…the staff at Rusty or the concierge at your hotel can even point you in the direction of some lessons if your dog digs it.

Want to dine and shop? Make a beeline for the Gaslamp Quarter where you’ll find block after block of big brands and tiny boutiques. You can shop till you drop between 4th and 5th Avenues and then choose one of dozens of restaurants lining the street, featuring cuisine, entertainment and décor from literally all over the globe. You’ll notice most of these businesses have patio dining as well as hosts and hostesses standing out front, enticing you into their establishment. You should have no problem finding the perfect place to suit your appetite and accommodate your friend on a leash.

Sadly, not all of San Diego’s most famous sites are dog friendly, but since I can’t imagine Olivia or Charlie behaving themselves in the presence of Flamingos at the San Diego zoo, in this case, these rules seem somewhat reasonable. The good news is if you had your heart set on seeing some of these no-dog sights, there are some great options for canines while you’re away.

Just a few block walk from the Solamar Hotel is Furry Tales Doggy Daycare. When we arrived at their 1672 Main Street location, Lena (the human) and Packer (the dog) greeted us warmly amidst a racket of dogs of all pitches and sizes barking hello. All we had to do was fill out a bit of paperwork and provide vaccination records (luckily like good little travelers, we had packed them along). The half day and full day rates were very reasonable and they offer web cams so you can check in on your pup at play. Plus, it’s nice to know there is a veterinarian located just next door. Best of all, when we picked the kids up at the end of the day, they were all wags and tongues and ready for a quick dinner and lots of bedtime. And after our day exploring beautiful San Diego, so were we.

Gear up for San Diego with a Never Surf Alone tee shirt at the CityDog Shop.

Sofia Hotel
150 West Broadway, San Diego

Hotel Solamar
35 6th Avenue, San Diego

Hotel Indigo
509 9th Avenue San Diego

Hilton San Diego Bayfront
1 Park Boulevard, San Diego

Fred’s Mexican Café
527 5th Avenue, San Diego
Free doggie dinners on Monday after 6pm with purchase of entrée.

Sally’s Seafood on the Water
One Market Place, San Diego
Offers Yappy Hour on Thursdays.

Shimbashi Japanese Tapas & Sake Bar
1555 Camino Del Mar, No. 201, Del Mar

En Fuego Cantina and Grill
342 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar

San Diego Dog Parks;
Nate’s Point, Balboa Park
Morley Field Dog Park, Balboa Park
Embarcadero Marina Park (leashed only) Grape Street Dog Park, South Park
Dusty Rhodes Park, Ocean Beach  

Del Mar Dog Beach;

Loews Surf Dog Competition;

San Diego Zoo;

Rusty Del Mar Surf Shop
201 15th Street, Del Mar

Dexter’s Deli
1229 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar
Pet store and doggie bakery with cakes, cupcakes and treats for your pooch.

Julie’s Beach Wear
1414 Camino Del Mar, Del Mar
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