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“Pure Joy and Thermal Water Heaven”

The Esalen Institute
Certificate of Excellence
sebastopol, ca
Level Contributor
404 reviews
27 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 326 helpful votes
“Pure Joy and Thermal Water Heaven”
Reviewed April 9, 2010

Spent the week here at a workshop and this place is pure joy. Don't get me wrong-- it's not a luxury hotel, though the location is world class. But the waves crashing, the sense of unchanging earthiness, the gardens, the healthy and delicious food (some of it from their gardens) and two or three soaks in the thermal tubs each day-- all add up to timeless perfection. Yes, there are mice in the rooms. (do not bring food... duh...) No, they will not change your towels and sheets for you in the bunk rooms. But you will fall in love and never want to leave.

I was nervous about the bunk rooms (6 beds to a room-- see pictures) but mine was great. Rolf room #1 is perched right on the cliff with waves crashing. There are 3 closets, 2 dressers, and drawers under each bunk. One bathroom, which was next to my bed, but never disturbed me. You will not be able to choose the building you will stay in when you reserve-- but I would have honestly been happy anywhere. You can hear the ocean from anywhere on the property-- and will find yourself in the hot tub staring off into the ocean or sky more than you will be looking out from your room.

You will get great exercise walking up and down the hills to the tubs,or down to the farm area. The bread alone is worth the price of the room-- and there's always an amazing salad bar as well as more than one soup choice. Meat is served for those who want it. I think that they do a great job of feeding many people each day-- how do they make it seem so healthy while satisfying so many?

I hope to spend a week here once a year from here on. This place immediately both relaxed and energized me. I feel like I'm under a spell! It was magical and I can't recommend Esalen highly enough.

p.s. beside the bunk rooms, you can also get regular rooms for 1 or 2, or, at the other end of the spectrum, stay in a sleeping bag in one of the meeting rooms. Sounds worse than it is-- the meeting rooms have huge pillows and bathrooms of their own.

4 Thank kawh
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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186 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • English first
  • German first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
Connecticut and beyond
Level Contributor
9 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“Explore your human potential”
Reviewed February 7, 2010

Esalen is not only breathtakingly beautiful, it is a place where one can go and grow as a human being. If you want to take a 'vacation' that is not stressful, but borders on doing something positive for the self and the world, this is the place to go.

1 Thank TaryNVic
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
San Jose CA
Level Contributor
5 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 11 helpful votes
“Escape to Esalen”
Reviewed January 21, 2010

My wife and I took a class at Esalen a few months ago and had a really wonderful weekend. I recommend it highly and we definitely plan to go back.

One topic I have not seen highlighted is the escapist nature of Esalen. In our daily lives we are besieged by demands for our attention: emails, phone calls, instant messages, bills, kid duties, house chores etc. There is little time to ourselves and even less for a partner or spouse. Esalen, in stark contrast, requires very little. Show up for class, show up for the meal, choose your food, and that’s it. The rest of the time is yours. Take a walk around the lush grounds, visit the vegetable gardens, scramble down to the beach, dip your feet into the rushing creek water, soak in the natural hot spring fed tubs, watch the waves crash onto the rocky shore, reconnect with your partner and yourself. It’s a world away, yet close for those of us already lucky enough to live in the LA or Bay area.

If you thrive on elegance, luxury, polished marble and attentive service, then you will be disappointed. If however you are into substantive experiences: waking to gaze at the Pacific ocean, watching the blooming bushes swarming with bees, birds and butterflies, standing motionless as a ruby throated hummingbird lands on a fence 3 feet away to watch you, holding hands with your loved one while soaking in a hot tub under brilliant stars as waves crash below you, then Esalen will welcome you and cast its spell. You’ll enjoy your time there and plan your return.

Esalen is expensive but is one those things in life for which the metric should not be price but rather value. Of course I don’t presume this will be the case for every partner out there, but for me there is nothing material I could have bought that would approach the value of my experience: the spectacular scenery, the great food, the spiritual rejuvenation, the time spent focused on my wife, and she on me.

Thank you dinner for Grandma babysitter, $30
Tank of gas for the mini-van, $50
A weekend of “couple time” and a break for your soul at Esalen, priceless!

10 Thank CASailor0
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
New York City, New York
Level Contributor
209 reviews
28 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 293 helpful votes
“First Class Fake”
Reviewed October 31, 2009

The hippie heaven in financial straights decides to raise money by offering its so-called ‘personal retreats’ in upgraded digs. I took the bait.

My comments are not about Esalen’s programs – I like their location and enjoy soaking in their clothing-optional hot tubs.

My beef is about them charging a top dollar for what are basically slightly spruced up dorm accommodations. 1 arrived 2 hours early and they hassled me, not giving me the keys. I told the scruffy guards I already checked out the room – it had been made up – but they have not heard from the cleaning person yet. They charge you Four Seasons rates but treat you with sophomoric distrust. This situation repeated the following day, when I moved to a better room (never mind it was available the day before – they forgot to notify me). By the way, the walls in both places were paper thin offering a full audio of the activity in the adjacent rooms.

The largely vegetarian food was good, and lining up with your own tray reminded me of college – but I felt disgusted with emptying out leftovers and piling my plates on a vomitous greasy slide into the kitchen.

My advice: stay elsewhere, but sign up for an Esalen massage, which gives you access to the property for an hour before and an hour after. Enjoy the scenery and hot tubs – but lay down your head elsewhere!

28 Thank Alex_Tallinn
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Vancouver, Canada
Level Contributor
91 reviews
16 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 205 helpful votes
“beautiful setting, phenomenal massage / spotty service”
Reviewed October 22, 2009

My partner and I recently did a "personal retreat" here. We stayed in one of the Point Houses. It was quite an experience, some great, some not-so

PROS - gorgeous setting. The grounds are perched on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific. Truly stunning views everywhere. The gardens are beautiful - flowers and vegetables, lots of hummingbirds. The Point House was generally well-appointed - great view from bedroom, porch with tub, working fireplace, nice linens. The bath house/massage studio was incredible - beautiful, modern construction. Best showers - open to the surf below. Variety of small pools and tubs for soaking. and best massage ever! The food was delicious - every meal is buffet-style with food prepared from the on-premises gardens.

CONS - very expensive. My partner and someone else had masseurs "no-show" for appointments, which is just ridiculous. They found another masseur for my partner, but only after an hour delay. The dining room features communal dining tables (fine) which are packed very tightly together - so much so that it's hard to get in and out. Some of the staff were friendly and efficient, others less so. Dining schedule is pretty rigid. Thermal pools are great, but they do reek of sulfur. People in the pools can be quite chatty (sometimes it'd be nice if they'd enforce the "quiet" rule a bit).

All in all, we really enjoyed the experience and are glad we went. But... we want be rushing back.

5 Thank giromondo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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