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“Escape from information overload to calming routines in pristine location” 5 of 5 stars
Review of Tassajara Zen Mountain Center

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Tassajara Zen Mountain Center
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39171 Tassajara Rd, Carmel Valley, CA 93924-9316   |  
Hotel amenities
Ranked #2 of 2 Hotels in Carmel Valley
San Jose, California
Level Contributor
246 reviews
97 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 191 helpful votes
“Escape from information overload to calming routines in pristine location”
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 4, 2012

Can you handle days without cell phone reception? Without internet? Without room service? Neither of these are available at Tassajara, just a single landline, not even outlets in the room. Instead Kerosene lamps at night, gentle bells in the morning, sitting meditation services in the temple, lots of good vegetarian organic food, beautiful hikes in the area, the sound of the creek in the background to fall asleep to... Tassajara is a working monestry, and in order to support the place through the winter, it is open to visitors from mid-spring to mid-fall. Accommodation choices range from relatively basic to quite luxurious. We stayed in the Courtyard, small room, two twin beds (surprisingly thin yet quite comfortable matrass). Other choices are yurts, tatame rooms with futons, or the upscale stone rooms closest to the bath house. All stays here include 3 meals a day, delicious organic vegetarian meals to reward your taste buds. You can join in for an early morning (5:40am) sitting meditation (Zazen) in the temple or one in the evening - however before you attend join a temple tour in the afternoon, to get an idea of what to expect. There are also somewhat more casual Dharma talks on some evenings. The hot springs are certainly a major attraction, with showers (complimentary shower gel / shampoo included) a very hot indoor plunge (110F), an outdoor hot tub (102F), access to the creek to cool down, as well as a steam room. Baths are separated into men's and women's side, after 8:30pm the men's side is open to ladies as well as gentlemen. Baths were never crowded (most encountered were four people at the same time in the facility) - heaven to observe the stars from the hottub in the evening. Food in served at tables of 8, family-style, so you will sit with different neighbors, and interesting conversations are bound to happen. While the monks do not drink or serve alcohol, guests can bring their own wine for dinner, and this is then often shared at the table. Guests range from dedicated 'regulars' to honeymoon newbees hiking into the Ventana wilderness (which Tassajara is part of). This is a great place to get away from it all. Hiking trails in easy to more strenuous forms are available. A very popular place are the narrows, where the creek forms a (cold) swimming hole, and adventurous souls can slide down the algae-covered waterfalldrop into the mini pool. Alternatively, just sit at and swim in the (hot-spring-fed) heated pool, read a book (even a small onsite library exists), stroll through the garden, or grab a cup of tea and find a bench. This is a very special place, bound to calm you, not easy to leave again.
How to get in and out: with a fourwheel drive the 1h dirt road across a moutain pass is probably doable for a good driver. The state of that dirt road varies, depending on weather, and there was some snow at the highest altitude next to the road. Many people take the "stage coach" (a suburban 4wd) from Jamestown where the pavement ends. However, the following cars were observed in the Tassajara parking lot: Honda Civic, VW Beetle, Toyota Prius, BMW Mini (!) - i.e. have at least made it in. This place is difficult to get to, so there is no easy way to drive out and go to a restaurant - but then again why would you?

  • Stayed May 2012, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Location
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Sleep Quality
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Rooms
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Service
Helpful?
12 Thank usuallyhappytravels
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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17 reviews from our community

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Central Coast of California
Level Contributor
22 reviews
11 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed January 5, 2012

My wife and I (in our 60s) enjoyed an outstanding weekend guest retreat. We had a workshop on Clowning with a master clown and a Zen buddhist priest. The combination of meditation, movement, and expression created an engaging experience with many useful insights for both business and personal application.

The food, redwood yurt-style cabin, and refreshing creek and baths made it a fantastic opportunity to recharge.

Room Tip: We enjoyed the new redwood yurts. They have a good location, comfortable king-size bed, etc.
See more room tips
  • Stayed June 2011, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Location
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank HopeAbounds
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Francisco, CA
Level Contributor
48 reviews
22 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 47 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 26, 2011

How I wish this special place were not reviewed, which means my secret of over 40 years is out.... a place where I restore clarity of mind and heart... a place to indulge in culinary delights, a place where I can care for myself without distractions....
As one reviewer stated, this is not for everyone, but if one wishes to be still and be in the moment and feel a world larger than theirs, this is the place.
And for those who might expect it to be a "resort", it is NOT! This is a Zen monastery that opens itself to the public during its guest season- a gift for us guests and a gift of sustenance for the monastery....

  • Stayed August 2011, traveled solo
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Cleanliness
Helpful?
3 Thank EWWSanFrancisco
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Olympia, Washington
Level Contributor
26 reviews
14 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 27 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed July 28, 2011

Nothing happening here. If you are a practitioner of Zen Buddhism you'll know what I mean.
If not, know that the food is the best on the planet, the bath houses are like something out of a dream with hot spring fed outdoor soaking pools, and if you bring your own wine there is a refrigerator next to the dining room where you can chill it. It's a place to sleep, eat, read, soak, and get a taste of monastery life if you desire. And the coffee is excellent - if that matters and it does to me. Every guest house has many kerosene lanterns for night time lighting so if you like to read in bed, bring a little reading light.
It's remote and a hair raising drive into the valley but oh, so worth it

Oh, nothing like room service in case that's your deal.

  • Stayed July 2011, traveled with friends
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Sleep Quality
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Service
Helpful?
4 Thank janemccoy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Francisco, CA
Level Contributor
110 reviews
25 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 131 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 10, 2009

I just returned from my fourth visit to this magical place and feel renewed and relaxed. Tassajara isn't for everyone, especially those who needs lots of activities and a steady stream of media (TV, internet, phones, etc.). But those who appreciate the splendor of nature, the taste of a locally-grown organic food, and richness of mindfulness activities like hiking or meditating, this place might be for you. Separated from the rest of Carmel Valley by an unimproved and twisty 15-mile road, getting to Tassajara is an odyssey and once I arrive, I feel like I am very far away from civilization...akin to being on Santorini or Corsica.

The cabins have a rustic quality, with kerosine lighting and simple furnishings. But everything is done with a zen-like attention to detail, including quality bedding and sheets, beautiful woodworking, and cleanliness. There is no media of any sort -- just one telephone for all the visitors to use, if they must. As a technology executive, I really welcome the opportunity to be this unplugged.

There is a Japanese-style bath house that is wonderful. The setting is green and lush, with the sound of rushing water in the background due to the stream, with hotsprings, that runs the length of the valley.

All meals are taken communal-style in beam and stone-faced dining room. Going alone? Not a problem because you meet interesting people at every meal. The recipes are from the famous Tassajara cookbooks. I am not a vegetarian but enjoy the meals and never feel hungry or short-changed afterwards.

Be sure to book a massage, which is done outdoors in a screened tent. One of the best I have ever had...the resorts invites a different massage therapist every week to stay at the resort and provide massage services.

Like I said, this is not for everyone. But if you like unstructured time to hike, nap, and read, talk and cuddle with your partner, this is the place. It is a truly unique experience that leaves me with the feeling that I went faraway...even though it is just four hours away from San Francisco.

Highly Recommended.

  • Stayed August 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Location
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Cleanliness
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Service
Helpful?
15 Thank DogenJoe
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
California
Level Contributor
2 reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
5 of 5 stars Reviewed June 11, 2009

I didn't know what to expect when my partner invited me to Tassajara. I thought "oh my God" another spa-like place in Carmel Valley. Not that that is bad but I really didn't understand what Tassajara was til I got there. It is gorgeous, serene and the subtext of Zen students who quietly make the place run without a glich is quite something. It's all the attention to details, the food is exsquisite. The bells to wake you in the morning sound like sleigh bells on rain deer. The laterns that light the paths at night. The outside tubs where you can star gaze and hear the river ripple by. And the rooms, so peacful and well appointed. I don't think calling them cabins is quite accurate. Of course there is no electricity but I didn't feel deprived. I also loved being able to get a taste of zazen, which is sitting quietly in meditation. But I didn't feel like I had to.

My favorite was the outdoor courtyard where everyone gathers for tea in the afternoon. What a relaxing place.

  • Stayed May 2009, traveled as a couple
    • 4 of 5 stars
      Value
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Location
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Rooms
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Cleanliness
    • 5 of 5 stars
      Service
Helpful?
3 Thank livenotexist
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Seattle, Washington
1 review
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
5 of 5 stars Reviewed August 25, 2008

I have been going to Tassajara from when I was 7 years old. I'm now 53. I lived in Jamesburg at one time and also in the mountains off the county road. I now live in Seattle, Washington and have returned after many years. I love Tassajara. My only complaint was the women working in the book store was rude and not interested in helping us. The monks and lay monks were wonderful. It has more beauty now then ever. I was so sad to here of the fires. I truly hope all can be restored and its not to much for the monks.
Kimberly

Stayed August 2006
Helpful?
1 Thank SantKaur
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about Tassajara Zen Mountain Center

Address: 39171 Tassajara Rd, Carmel Valley, CA 93924-9316
Location: United States > California > Carmel Valley
Amenities:
Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #2 of 2 Hotels in Carmel Valley
Number of rooms: 26
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
A temple sanctuary by the beautiful boulders and waters of Tassajara Creek, a small mountain river flowing toward the sea. Long known as a place of healing, the hot springs of Tassajara were first used by the native Esselen people, who lived among the soaring ridges of the Santa Lucia Mountains for a thousand years or more, appreciating the hot springs for their restorative properties. Today,Tassajara offers a rare opportunity to step back from the busy demands and pressures of life. Find the rhythm of your own breath supported by the sounds of temple bell and creek-song. Feel the summer breeze, enjoy delicious food, immerse yourself in the water of the hot springs and relax in the shade of maples and sycamores. Since Zen Mountain Center’s inception, the Guest Season has been an integral part of this monastery's yearly cycle in these mountains. From April until September, focus turns from our primarily inward activity of “practice period” to the work of serving the community at large, sharing the experience of Zen practice and the joys of Tassajara. Like the proprietors of earlier times, we hope you will find this valley a place of delight and renewal. Please consider yourself a part of Tassajara, for it is your contributions which make it possible for us to continue to take care of this fragile ecosystem and provide a curative, healing environment. Accommodations include three gourmet vegetarian meals daily, with bag lunch available to allow for flexible day plans. Guest afternoon tea is served daily in the dining room. The courtyard coffee-tea area is always open. Personal beverages are welcome in the guest rooms and dining room. ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Tassajara Zen Mountain Hotel Carmel Valley

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