Sit! Stay! Five dog-friendly California hotels

LA Times | Travel

Video: Staying at hotels with your dog My friend Darby revels in the good life when he travels: Egyptian cotton bed linens, gourmet meals whipped up by the chef, a workout with a private trainer or a day of in-room massage and grooming. Happily, some of Southern California's fines...

By Rosemary McClure // 09.19.08



Video: Staying at hotels with your dog

My friend Darby revels in the good life when he travels: Egyptian cotton bed linens, gourmet meals whipped up by the chef, a workout with a private trainer or a day of in-room massage and grooming.

Happily, some of Southern California's finest hotels leap at the chance to accommodate his penchant for luxury. They greet him with open arms, tell him how handsome he is, then give him the run of the place.

Never mind that Darby speaks only in monosyllables, doesn't carry a credit card and ambles across the lobby on four legs instead of two. He is treated as an honored guest. Hotels that once shunned nonhuman guests are now rolling out the grass carpet. And we're not just talking about Motel 6, which has allowed guests to bunk with man's best friend since its founding in 1962. AAA estimates the number of dog-friendly high-end hotels has doubled since 2006.

"Luxury hotels set themselves apart by the level of service they lavish on guests," said Kim Atkinson of Mobil Travel Guides, which recently published "On the Road With Your Pet." "This is another way to go above and beyond your competition."



At these posh hotels, dogs are welcome

Lake Arrowhead Resort and Spa: 27984 Highway 189, Lake Arrowhead; (800) 800-6792, Rates range from $149 to $900 per night; $20 charge per pet per night.

Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey: 4375 Admiralty Way, Marina del Rey; (800) 542-8680, www.ritzcarlton. Rates range from $339 to $3,200 per night; $125 nonrefundable pet cleaning fee per visit.

Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort: 21100 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach; (800) 445-8667, www.hilton. Rates $209 to $829 per night; $75 charge per night for dogs.

San Giuliano: 375 W. Arenas, Palm Springs; (877) 897-7100; Rates range from $145 to $295; $30 per night pet fee. $200 refundable cleaning fee.

Cambria Pines Lodge: 2905 Burton Drive, Cambria; (800) 445-6868, Rates range from $109 to $229 per night; $25 per night per pet.



Among the perks she cited: mini-bars containing doggy ice cream treats, color sessions for the poodle that needs a touch-up, appointments with trainers and pet psychics.

At such tony digs as the Peninsula Beverly Hills, pampered pups receive a nightly turndown service with Evian water and a set of monogrammed paw-print towels.

At the legendary Beverly Hills Hotel, where some of Hollywood's most glamorous stars hide out in pink bungalows, hounds can chase pink tennis balls and wolf down cookies inscribed with their name. At the Omni San Diego, they can choose an in-room doggy movie to help them pass the time. At the St. Regis Monarch Beach, personalized food and water bowls await, along with an issue of Hollywood Dog and toys from Bark Jacobs and Jimmie Chew.

With so many luxury hotels putting on the dog, I was curious. Would Darby really be accepted or would he and I be shunted off to a room at the back of the hotel with a view of the parking lot? We hit the road to test the luxe quotient at five dog-friendly California hotels.

Of course, the fun usually doesn't come cheap. Some swank hotels charge a nonrefundable pet fee of as much as $500, but there's a range: The Beverly Hills Hotel's fee is $200 per stay; the Peninsula charges $35 per day. In some cases, the fee is used for additional cleaning to make sure the room is acceptable to the next guest, who may not be traveling with a pet.

Here's an account of our journey, with Darby's favorites listed in descending order.


Darby, a wheaten terrier, and I met about six months ago when he was up for adoption. He planted so many wet kisses on my face the first time I saw him that I knew he had found a home. He knew it too. That night, he hopped up on the bed and stretched out his long body lengthwise across the pillows.

This guy enjoys the finer things in life, I thought. But so do I. So I shooed the big pillow hog down to the foot of the bed.

We've had that same little battle nightly ever since.

Our tug-of-war escalated the night we visited the Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa. I had to struggle mightily to persuade him to move to his part of the bed.

The mountaintop hotel, which underwent a $17-million renovation last year, has beds on a grand scale: soaring leather headboards, plush pillow-top mattresses, rich Egyptian cotton linens and plump goose-down comforters.

Darby staked out the head of the bed immediately, ignoring a cushy doggy bed that had been left in the room. When I pointed to the smaller bed -- a prince-like concoction of sheepskin and velvet -- he snuggled into my pillows, dropped his head onto his paws and pretended to be asleep.

My pal found a lot to like about Lake Arrowhead Resort, a rambling three-story contemporary lodge in the San Bernardino National Forest about 90 miles from Los Angeles.

When making the reservation, I alerted the hotel that Darby would accompany me (a must for people who travel with pets). When we checked in, the desk clerk was ready for us and shot a picture for the hotel's doggy visitors wall.

Our room, which had a balcony overlooking the blue waters and green pines and cedars of Lake Arrowhead, held plenty of pet perks. A gift bag bearing Darby's name awaited with treats, scented dog soap and a small squeaky toy; a letter from the manager welcomed him; and a hang tag for the door read, "Pet on the Loose," a handy warning for hotel personnel.

But Darby's favorite perk involved the pet menu, which listed delicacies from Bin 189, the hotel restaurant. He gobbled down the Hound Dawg Burger, an $11 mixture of ground chuck, beef broth and dry dog food; I drew the line at the Rover Filet, a $39 splurge on 8 ounces of filet mignon prepared with gravy.

Many activities here include pets, so Darby had a chance to work off his dinner during a naturalist-guided walk we took along the shady shoreline with other guests. We also caught a starry, starry night astronomy show on the hotel's grassy lakeside terrace. I liked it, but he slept through it.


When we travel, Darby spends a lot of time flirting. But what did I expect of an Irish dog? The lovable-rogue stereotype fits man and beast.

So he was in his element at the elegant Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey, where he turned on the charm as soon as he pranced in the front door. Gloria Cox, a hotel greeter, admired his physique and gave him a dish of water. He, in turn, kissed her hand. Then two female desk clerks told him how handsome he was. He stood up at the counter on his rear legs and batted big brown eyes at them.

Darby doesn't discriminate by gender, either. If a man pats him on the head, he's just as likely to get a friendly kiss, which is what happened when we ran into executive chef Chad Minton near the hotel elevator. Minton told us about the dog cookies and entrees ($10 each) he creates for the hotel's four-legged guests. He tests them on Oliver and Isabella, his English bulldogs.

The Marina del Rey Ritz-Carlton is L.A.'s only AAA five-diamond waterfront hotel. Located on the marina near Venice, it qualifies as Big City Posh, with marble floors, crystal chandeliers and fresh orchids in every room.

It's known for its amenities.

But what about the canine perks? Darby gave them high marks. He liked everything about our room except the dog bed, preferring, of course, the plush bedding and Egyptian cotton linens on my bed.

Pet amenities were first-rate: welcome notes, toys, pet towelettes, beach body spray, an issue of Bark magazine and "pet-i-fours" on a silver tray. Darby took it all in, then pounced on a flaming-pink chenille dog toy and turned somersaults playing with it.

The next day, we lounged on striped pillows near the edge of the pool, and Darby turned on the charm again, this time for Jules Taylor, a 9-year-old tourist from New York City. Jules scratched his head. Darby kissed her. She kissed him back on the top of his nose. Darby wagged his fluff ball of a tail. Such a flirt.


From the elegance of the Ritz-Carlton, we ventured south on Pacific Coast Highway to Huntington Beach, home of another seaside hotel, the Hilton Waterfront Beach Resort. "Surf City, here we come. . . ."

It was Darby's sixth birthday, and we were going to celebrate it by cavorting on Huntington's mile-long dog beach (between 21st and Seapoint streets).

We also looked forward to enjoying the casual charm of the Hilton, a high-rise overlooking the Pacific.

Rooms have balconies and most have views of the ocean. We lucked out with an eighth-floor corner room, which gave us a panoramic view. We watched the sunset, and later, the bonfires burning on the beach. (I liked the view, but Darby dozed.)

The Hilton's crisp, white, overstuffed dog bed bore the words "Wag It at the Waterfront" and matched the striped duvet on the bed, but again, Darby wasn't buying it. He was happier, however, with the signature dog dish, which guests can take home.

Best of all, the Hilton Waterfront offered an easy place to walk a dog, a perk in short supply at the other hotels we visited. A grass-lined street behind the hotel is quiet, safe and close.

Hilton's pet-friendly program is going global and will be offered at all Hilton brand hotels.


No California hotel listing is complete without at least one entry from the desert. But deluxe dog-friendly accommodations are in short supply here. While some hotels accept pets, few offer special amenities or perks. A small boutique hotel in Palm Springs, the San Giuliano, makes up for what the others lack.

The hacienda-style hotel, with just eight rooms -- all suites -- offers private gardens and patios. So, Darby had his own yard, complete with fountain and spa. And he could have used either one, I was told. But he really wasn't into the getting-wet thing. He was more interested in the perks, which included bones and toys and fortified water.

The downtown hotel is beautifully landscaped with mature shade trees and bright bougainvillea spilling across the walls. Rooms are chic; each is different.


Darby and I made a quick stop here on a Central California trip. Cambria Pines Lodge, a collection of cabins on 26 acres about a mile and a half from the beach, doesn't have the perks, or the luxe accommodations, of the other hotels on this list. But it gave us a chance to rub shoulders -- so to speak -- with nature: A doe and two fawns grazed outside our cabin one morning.

And Cambria is a great place to visit with a dog. It offers one of our favorite walks, where dogs on a leash can promenade along a boardwalk that runs for 1 1/2 miles round-trip along craggy bluffs overlooking beautiful Moonstone Beach. Sea lions and seals play in the water, barking. Darby shifted into excited dog mode, trying to out-bark them.

Not a chance, but I didn't tell him that.