If dogs could talk, they'd sing the praises of Ocean Beach, a laid-back San Diego neighborhood. Here, canines have top-dog status — they even have their own beach. There's much for humans to like as well in what's known as the People's Republic of Ocean Beach. O.B. retains its '60s vibe; it's funky, not plastic, and hippies still roam the streets. Newport Avenue, its main drag, is chockfull of dive bars, head shops and surf shops. Savor the mellow side of life during the day: Stroll on the pier or hop on a bike and ride along the beach. On weekend nights, a party atmosphere prevails as the bars and live-music venues fill up. The tab: My hubby and I spent $175 for one night in a poolside queen room at the Inn at Sunset Cliffs (suites start at $289) and about $90 on food and drink.
Stay at the recently remodeled Inn at Sunset Cliffs (1370 Sunset Cliffs Blvd.;  222-7901), a long walk to Newport Avenue and miles removed in terms of ambience. The brightly colored two-story motel, perched right above the ocean, has an open courtyard filled with pretty flowers. It has a small pool and terraces that overlook the crashing surf. The 24 rooms are retro and homey, not luxurious, and many are suites with living rooms and kitchens. There's a small, swimmable beach nearby, and be sure to stroll a block south and walk along Sunset Cliffs for the panoramic ocean views.
When in Rome … go beach casual. We stuffed ourselves with giant double bacon burgers at Hodad's (5010 Newport Ave.;  224-4623); downed superior brews, wings and garlic "beer buddies" (bread) at Pizza Port (1956 Bacon St.;  224-4700), arguably the best brew pub in a county filled with primo microbreweries; and had excellent fish tacos and Bloody Marys at South Beach Bar & Grille (5059 Newport Ave.;  226-4577).
Hemp granola, anyone? If that sounds good to you, the Ocean Beach People's Organic Food Market (4765 Voltaire St.;  224-1387) is the place to go. This old-fashioned co-op owned by its members offers a great selection of fresh produce, bulk items, baked goods and more, with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options in the market and sit-down deli. Find No. 2, the Dog Version: After a day romping on Dog Beach, at the northern end of O.B., walk to Dog Beach Dog Wash (4933 Voltaire St.;  523-1700), which for $13 provides tubs, shampoo and grooming tools for you to wash Fido.
The Inn at Sunset Cliffs doesn't allow pets, so if you want your dog to join in the fun, stay at the Ocean Beach Hotel (5080 Newport Ave.;  223-7191. Rooms from $169.) It's in the heart of the action, across the street from the lively, crowded beach and pier.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun