Dog-friendly luxury hotels in Southern California go gourmet

Lucky dogs stay here. This palace-like hotel, at Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards, knows how to roll out the grass carpet for four-legged guests, perhaps from dealing with battalions of celebrity pups.

The Peninsula is part of a celebrated brand that has equally luxurious hotels in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, New York and a handful of other places. Condé Nast Traveler calls the Beverly Hills version the "No. 1 hotel in Southern California."

The Hollywood set loves it. Celebs can drive to the back and stay in one of the hotel's 16 private villas without being seen by other guests or paparazzi. (It's rumored to be popular with people who have had a little work done.) Small gardens surround the villas and main building; European-style guest rooms are large and ultra-comfortable with antiques, artwork and high-tech room amenities. Guests have round-the-clock valets and access to the courtesy Town Car or Rolls-Royce Phantom.

Über-wonderful pet amenities await too. Darby brought along a friend, Lillie, a West Highland terrier, to share his visit. Both received personally monogrammed bath towels, velvety dog beds, bowls with Fiji water and doggie bags. A thoughtful gift — a lint roller — rounded out the doggie loot. (Per-night fee, $35.)

On the minus side, the Peninsula's location wasn't great for walking my pal and his friend. We had to go several blocks to find a tuft of grass for them to sniff. But the hotel offers complimentary dog walking, so I guess most guests leave that problem to the hotel's affable pages. And our room had a spacious outdoor patio, which allowed the dogs space to stretch their legs.

What about the food? A top-dog success.

Only a temple of chicness such as the Peninsula would offer a Tail Shakin' not Stirred Martini for dogs. No alcohol; just low-sodium beef bouillon. In addition, the pet menu lists six other items, the most we found anywhere. Prices range from $4 to $19.

Darby dug right into Spot's New York Strip, an 8-ounce portion served sliced and garnished with baby carrots ($19). Meanwhile, Lillie focused on Lorenzo's Turkey Burger, a ground patty mixed with aromatic vegetables ($16). "The ideal choice for the figure-conscious doggie," advised the menu.

Darby tried to sneak over to Lillie's dish after finishing his own, but she grumbled at him and he backed off. She polished off her food, then laid down for a nap.

Hotel: 5 paws

Dog fare: 5 paws

Carmel Valley Ranch

This special place in the foothills of the Santa Lucia Mountains cries out for dogs and people to romp and play. With 500 acres to explore, Carmel Valley Ranch is a vacation waiting to happen.

Besides lots of play space, the ranch offers plenty of excitement for dogs, with wild turkeys and deer roaming the hillsides. At the front desk, Roxie the bulldog greets visiting pups, offering a canine-style welcome. (Per-visit fee, $100.)

All of the rooms are large suites (ours measured 800 square feet), with hillside and valley views. An expansive elevated deck gave Darby the opportunity to hang out in the fresh air and bark like a demented junkyard dog whenever he spotted birds or deer. He was in canine heaven.

Hotel scion John Pritzker bought the resort in 2009, spending more than $30 million to upgrade it. Furnishings are contemporary, plush and comfortable. Lots of activities are scheduled, many of which (such as hiking) can include dogs.

Inside the room, we found pet mats, a giant dog bed, bowls, treats, bottled water and a check-in snack, a hand-sized bacon-doggie biscuit ($5).

As usual, the snack just whetted Darby's appetite, and I turned to the pet menu. It featured two entrees, chicken and rice (organic brown rice, of course) and a pooch patty, beef with whipped potatoes and garden vegetables. Both were $12.

The dishes were beautifully presented and looked as though they should have been served to me instead of my dog. The exception: a giant beef marrow bone ($6) so large that it barely fit in the pet dish. I stashed the bone for later, and Darby attacked the beef and potatoes, a happy boy.

Hotel: 5 paws