Esalen Institute at sunset.
Photo courtesy Esalen Institute/Jens Wazel.
Transformative spas. Yoga retreats. Zen centers. All that, combined with the meditative, natural surroundings of the Monterey Bay coastline, offers visitors myriad ways to unwind and reboot. Reinvigorate your senses in one of the chilled Nordic plunge pools at Refuge Thermal Spa or stimulate your spirituality at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. No matter what your itinerary holds, your experience is destined to be an unforgettable one.
Cait Kelso, co-founder of Pacific Grove’s idyllic Theta Float Spa, says Monterey is a unique place because “it is filled with vortexes, which contain strong healing energy; people come to this area for education and self-growth.” She adds that there are no limits to spiritual exploration, either: “You can discover nature [here] in ways that you cannot in any other place.” With that in mind, for an ideal day of Zen, head (and breathe) this way.
1) Yoga at Om Studios
Heated Vinyasa and Warm Mellow Flow are among the must-take classes at Om, where positive energy abounds. Seasoned instructors help you improve your breathing and posture, as well as core strength. Come for a donation-only yoga class, a barre class, or one of the many workshops and events — locals love First Friday Candlelight Flow — and connect with an entire community of yogis.
2) Juice at Central Coast Juicery
In addition to refreshing cold-pressed juices — the pear, romaine, spinach, and mint with coconut water base is heavenly — Central Coast Juicery offers raw and probiotic foods, such as Cacao Bliss Balls and chia pudding, which are as delicious as they are healthful. Try an elixir of turmeric or ginger with lemon to refuel and energize. Everything here is raw, organic, and locally sourced.
PACIFIC GROVE, centralcoastjuicery.com
3) Craniosacral Therapy at Theta Float Spa
Restore your body’s natural circadian rhythm and release physical and emotional stress at Theta Float Spa (pronounced thay-da), where invigorating float pools are the key to healing. Customers love Theta Bliss, a combination of flotation therapy with an hour-long massage, and the Craniosacral Blend, which combines a therapeutic full-body and cranial massage — perfect for heading down Highway 1 where more Zen awaits.
PACIFIC GROVE, thetafloatspa.com
4) Flow into New Camaldoli Hermitage
Situated on the south coast of Big Sur and known for its majestic Redwood trees and iconic views of the Pacific Ocean, travelers can come for the day to enjoy a picnic or hike in the hills above the sublime Hermitage. Religious and spiritual services enhance the mood — 12:15 and 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. Fridays; 12:15 and 6 p.m. Saturdays; 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Sundays; plus evening meditations nightly. The bookstore is a destination in itself, with an extensive selection of gifts. Take note: Retreats are available for those seeking a longer, more in-depth experience.
BIG SUR, contemplation.com
5) Soak in the Baths at the Esalen Institute
Now that you’ve got some real Zen going on, best to partake in a time-honored tradition on the Big Sur coast — a visit to Esalen, known for hosting retreats and workshops on spirituality, personal growth, and leadership in an idyllic setting. Your best bet on your first visit is to treat yourself to a massage on the “living” roof — a grass and natural rock rooftop with panoramic ocean views — or soak in the salt baths, sans swimwear and surrounded by nature. (Book ahead for massage.)
BIG SUR, esalen.org
6) Dine Under the Stars at Nepenthe
Visit this landmark dining spot for the breathtaking ocean view — the same one Rita Hayworth and Orson Welles once fell in love with — and for menu favorites such as the Pacific swordfish and California beet salad. In the meantime, sit by the outdoor fire pit and chat with other visitors or locals. Don’t forget to look up; the bright stars above are the ethereal cherry on your Zen cake.
BIG SUR, nepenthe.com
Monterey has long been a destination for those seeking a getaway and even enlightenment. Wellness and metaphysical portals abound — and the area’s stunning scenic beauty is enough to make you relax. The following venues and activities are ideal for raising your vibe or helping you just chill. There’s something for everyone.
Offering a variety of classes, including yoga and barre for all fitness levels.
The enchanting spa and resort, perched in heavenly Pebble Beach, offers one-of-a-kind beauty and wellness treatments.
PEBBLE BEACH, pebblebeach.com
A French spa providing luxurious treatments in an elegant setting.
The Morning Dove Gluten Free Bakery
Enjoy a fresh daily selection of wholesome, locally sourced gluten-free salads, sandwiches, and baked goods geared for the heart and soul.
Portola Hotel & Spa
Signature massages specific to the region, facials, waxing, aromatherapy. Total bliss.
Refuge Thermal Spa
An exhilarating co-ed relaxation experience with a combination of hot and chilled plunge pools, waterfalls, and salt baths.
Signature Paw Spa
A relaxing spa experience designed specifically for canine travelers.
Spa on the Plaza
World-class and transformative with its steam rooms, Jacuzzi, pool, lush spa treatments, and friendly staff.
Qigong by the Ocean
Experience the holistic power of contemplative movement while taking in the beauty of nature.
Tassajara Zen Mountain Center
A peaceful retreat providing Zen practice and workshops.
CARMEL VALLEY, sfzc.org/tassajara