Looking for dog-friendly activities in San Diego, California? WOOF, I’ve got you covered!
Last updated 5/21/21
As a native Californian, I’m lucky to have visited “America’s Finest City” more times than I can count with all my claws! Located in Southern California near the Mexican border, San Diego is paws down one of the most dog-friendly cities in America with a plethora of dog-friendly restaurants, bars, beaches, hotels along with free poop bag stations on almost every corner. With year-round sunshine and mild weather, San Diego is a fun destination to visit with your dog practically any time of the year.
Sniff out my 10 dog-friendly activities in San Diego:
#1 Walk along the San Diego Bay
Follow your dog’s robust wet nose along N Harbor Drive or Pacific Hwy for some sniff worthy views of the San Diego Bay and all the ships that call it home. Start in Harborview District and walk those furry paws southward along the water, passing the California dreamin’ towering palm trees on the rectangular oh-so-green Waterfront Park. Since I’m quite the 7 lb. athlete, I usually don’t make a stop until I set my alpha paws on South Embarcadero Park, which makes about a 2-mile walk one-way. However, you can cut in to explore some of San Diego’s best neighborhoods – Little Italy, Downtown, Marina, or Gaslamp.
#2 Snap a picture with that giant Red Chair in Little Italy
ARF, I may be tiny compared to this gigantic, wooden bright red lawn chair, but that doesn’t mean I can’t put my furry butt in it. Sitting or standing on such a massive high chair sure reiterates my TOP DOG identity. Whether you have a small dog like me or a big dog (like my Weimaraner cousin Sonny), you must make a quick stop for a timeless picture of your dog with the iconic blue and white Little Italy sign in the backdrop. Don’t forget to #LittleItaly and #ThatRedChairSD on your IG post!
#3 Watch the sunset over the Pacific Ocean
From La Jolla to Pacific Beach to Mission Beach, I can watch (or sniff) the dreamy California sunset over the Pacific Ocean all day, any day. For the duration of your visit, pick a different spot every day to enjoy the sunset with your furry traveler. Your viewing locations for sunset watching are endless: white sandy beaches, oceanfront restaurants, oceanview parks, or waterfront walkways; regardless of your selection, I am pawsitive that the brilliantly red and orange sunset on the often turbulent coastline will melt your heart (as it did with my little Yorkie heart). My go-to viewing spot is Ellen Browning Scripps Park in La Jolla, which gives me jaw-dropping panoramic views of the Pacific ocean.
#4 Enjoy a beach day
As a former Greek Island beach bum, I can not leave San Diego without digging my paws deep into the fine white sand. Perhaps I’ll strike it rich and find some gold one day! Sniff me out as I perk my ears up to the surfers at Pacific Beach here. According to the official city website, dogs are generally allowed on beaches after 6 p.m. from April 1 to Oct. 31 or after 4 p.m. from Nov. 1 to March 31. Licensed dogs (with proof of rabies vaccination) are allowed on the beach, sidewalks, and park areas near the beach, during the night and early morning hours until 9 a.m., but they must be leashed. Additionally, two pawsome beaches allow dogs to run off-leash at any time – Dog Beach (San Diego River Floodway) and Fiesta Island (Mission Bay Park). ARF, keep on diggin’!
#5 Mingle with furry San Diegans at OFF-LEASH parks
ARF, as an alpha dog, I can never pass up an opportunity to sniff furry butts, mark it up, and kick up my paws! While dogs on-leash are allowed in ALL city parks, there are numerous leash-free zones for dogs to run free and chase those furry San Diegan cuties! As always, be a respectful visitor by picking up after your dog. 🙂
Here’s the list of parks with leash-free locations:
Cadman Community Park
Capehart Park (Pacific Beach)
Charles L Lewis III Memorial Park
Doyle Community Park
Dusty Rhodes Neighborhood Park (Sunset Cliffs Boulevard)
Dog Beach (San Diego River Floodway)
Fiesta Island (Mission Bay Park)
Grape Street Park
Kearny Mesa Community Park
Maddox Neighborhood Park (Mira Mesa)
Nobel Park (University City)
Rancho Bernardo Park
Rancho Peñasquitos Park
Torrey Highlands Park
Ward Canyon Neighborhood Park
#6 Neighborhood hop
Besides the alluring weather and sandy beaches, the best part about America’s finest city is their culturally diverse neighborhoods. In San Diego, you can devour authentic Neopolitan pizza in Little Italy, get a tan alongside broke college students AND the uber affluent residents in La Jolla, march your paws with an upright tail during Pride week in Hillcrest, and bottoms up with locals and tourists in Gaslamp. And, the list barks on! No matter which neighborhood you and your dog choose to venture, you’ll be amused by the pawsomely rich cultures the city has to offer.
#7 Melt your heart in Coronado
Just 6 miles from downtown and right across the San Diego Bay, the tiny yet unforgettable city of Coronado is a MUST visit with your dog. Even after traveling the world for well over four years, I can bark that Coronado never fails to melt my little Yorkie heart – many thanks to their legendary beach resort Hotel del Coronado. The 757-room “Hotel del” is famous for its stunning Victorian architecture with a wooden, white exterior and peachy rooftop. Even though dogs are technically not allowed inside, I’ve seen plenty of designer brand-wearing furry friends walk their paws in and out like they own the place, which leads me to think that their No Dog policy is not strictly enforced. Without exploring the hotel interior, you and your dog can still marvel at their exterior grounds of this charming masterpiece, stroll along their dog-friendly pathway, and wine and dine at their beachfront restaurants. I especially love chillin’ at Sun Deck Bar and Grill to watch the sunset. The north end of Coronado beach is also dog-friendly with an off-leash dog-run area.
#8 Grab a California burrito
Since San Diego is right next to the Mexican border, you can only imagine that the Mexican influence has ravished this city since the beginning of time. ARF, originated in the city, a California burrito is a juicy, gigantic flour tortilla burrito wrapped with carne asada, guacamole, cheese, sour cream, and their key ingredient, FRIES! For my non-meateaters, vegan and vegetarian versions of the burrito have also sprung up. I love hitting up outdoor taquerias, which are ubiquitous in San Diego and always dog-friendly (and many taquerias will allow dogs inside for a quick to-go order despite an official “No Dog” policy). Grab those California burritos with your dog and walk to a nearby park or beach to get your grub on! Sniff out my two favorites: Taco Surf Pacific Beach (4657 Mission Blvd) and The Taco Stand (621 Pearl St).
#9 Brunch it up
In this dog-friendly city, most restaurants offer dog-friendly outdoor patios or sidewalk seating. Many foods and drink establishments provide doggie water bowls and dog treats to lure in furry customers, while some even boast special doggie menus. With pleasant weather year-round, San Diego is the perfect city to dine outdoors with your dog. San Diegans and their furry friends are quite the avid brunchers – bottomless mimosas, bloody marys, breakfast burritos, hashes, and scrambles conquer the tables as the human diners buy off their furry brunch dates with mouthwatering treats or table scraps. My favorite brunch spots are Queenstown Public House (1557 Columbia St), Cafe Gratitude (1980 Kettner Blvd), Olive and Basil (8008 Girard Ave #220), and True Food Kitchen (7007 Friars Rd Suite 394).
#10 Watch seals and sea lions in their natural habitat
Forget marine parks (and zoos) where animals are bred in captivity or cruelly captured to live in unnatural habitats for human amusement. From La Jolla Cove to Shell Beach to Children’s Pool Beach, you’ll find plenty of beaches to see harbor seals and sea lions in their natural habitat – up close and personal. I am so intrigued by these marine creatures – I’ll take a couple of extra sniffs and perk up my ears to their loud honks and barks. Occasionally I’ll even growl and bark to respond to theirs. Quick marine biology lesson – sea lions walk with their large flippers on land while seals have small flippers and squirm on their bellies. Please remember to respect these beautiful beings by observing from a safe distance and leashing your dog.
Hope you enjoy these dog-friendly activities in San Diego! Subscribe to my YouTube Channel: Wet Nose Escapades by Roger Wellington for fun dog travel videos.
Markin’ it up,
Roger Wellington a.k.a. The Doob