It’s not difficult these days to find hotels that accept dogs, but some seem to do so only grudgingly, with lots of restrictions. They’re dog-tolerant, but not what DogTrekker would call truly dog-friendly. At the top of the scale are places that not only court people traveling with pets, but provide access and services that go above and beyond the expected. We rate these cherished establishments “dog passionate” and strive not only to find them, but to provide guidance for hoteliers who want to up their dog-friendly quotient.
One of the stand-outs in the dog-passionate category is Carmel Valley Ranch, a bucolic, 500-acre destination resort recently “reinvented” with the help of a $25 million makeover and a huge helping of innovative thinking from investor John Pritzker, one of the creators of Hyatt Hotels and Resorts. The Ranch’s unique concept ties landscape and scenery to amenities and activities that create “summer camp” memories for grown-ups—and, we might add, for the happy canines who accompany them.
Dog-friendly room amenities are always nice, and there’s no shortage of those at the Ranch. But the real luxury for DogTrekkers is access to dog-friendly hiking trails; terrace seating at the restaurant; a lobby presided over by Roxy, the Ranch’s English bulldog mascot; and freedom to sniff around just about anyplace else on the gorgeously landscaped grounds. (Pool areas, understandably, are off limits.)
“It’s not just a destination resort, but a resort where people can actually learn and do neat things,” says spokeswoman Melanie Cook, referring to the 100-plus classes and activities scheduled at the Ranch each week.† “It’s sophisticated, yes, but also very comfortable.”
The Ranch may be tops in the dog-passionate category, but it’s not the only place where you and Fido can share a room in Carmel Valley. The peaceful Carmel Valley Lodge is proud of its dog-friendly attributes, which include a “leash post” on each patio. And the reasonably priced (and delightfully retro) Blue Sky Lodge offers pet-friendly rooms at no extra charge. Even the luxury Bernardus Lodge has begun welcoming canines—although here, as at many properties just wading into dog-friendly waters, you’ll encounter significant restrictions.