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“Ultimate Peaceful Spot”

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New Camaldoli Hermitage
Reviewed October 6, 2013

This is such an unique and peaceful place in Big Sur - most people haven't heard of it and instead go enjoy themselves down the road in Esalen. There are around 14 monks living in the monastery which is completely supported by the retreat center and bookshop, which sells amazing assortment of books and local produce.

The church is always a great place to visit and meditate - they even have meditation mats there. I have once stayed overnight here, but usually it's pretty hard to get a reservation last-minute and the rates aren't exactly low either, but they are absolutely worth it. The road has been upgraded a couple of years ago, making it much easier to drive up for most people.

I always drop by during my visit to Big Sur, spend some time meditating in the church, then buy a book or two in the bookshop. I hope to keep coming here in the future to find peace and calm.

  • Stayed: September 2013, traveled solo
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13  Thank Zael
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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22 - 28 of 34 reviews

Reviewed September 22, 2012

The previous reviewers have it all down, both in terms of positive remarks and constructive suggestions. Maintenance could be better. Don't hesitate to point out needed maintenance to the person running the bookstore. It may not happen while you are there, but it is positively received. They are changing the trailers to rather antiseptic new versions, as exist now in Hexa and Kairos. The big difference between this monastery and others I've been to is that the monks here can interact with you, though one should let them strike up the conversation first in any location other than the bookstore. Yes, cleanliness could be a tad improved, but it's good. he monks are truly hospitable and open minded. I consider some of them family. I do miss the old days when lodgings were $60 night, and I would rather go back to the days of $80 night with lesser quality food. It's gotten steep in price, and I don't quite buy that the higher rates of other Sur lodgings justify current rates. This place has been a solace for me so many times, and I don't know that I could ever do without it. I wish I could afford it more often. I haven't been to the Lucia Lodge for food in years, as it's very pricey and in the past wasn't that great. Now a lot of people do go for the patio. I encourage people to explore Big Sur before going to the Hermitage and just veg and think when in the Hermitage.

  • Stayed: May 2012, traveled solo
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12  Thank luciasur
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 22, 2012

I would first recommend you read the review by Debbie, the one before mine, for a great round up of the Hermitage. We both even stayed in the same room, 5! I wil just add some personal detail rather than repeat all she has said so beautifully.

Food wise I was really impressed. All the baked goods were particularly delicious. Over my time there I was treated to zucchini bread, carrot muffins, broccoli quiche, an Italian pastry with mozzarella and red peppers, chilli bean soup, white bean soup, organic salad, organic yogurts, granola, tea and more, just wonderful.

The wildlife and nature made the experience so special for me. Sitting outside in my garden gave me a truly stunning view of the ocean. At night the stars were nearly overwhelming. It was so clear and so very bright. Sitting quietly outside at night a fox walked right by me, within inches. I also saw bats and the sounds of the night creatures was beautiful.

During daylight hours I was able to enjoy condors riding the currents, as well as the constant buzz of bees working away on the plants in my garden.

The peace was wonderful. I did not join any worship, however the monks I had contact with were wonderfully kind and friendly. I arrived after check in had closed and a map was left for me on the door and I checked in the next day.

The other guests respected the silence rule, apart from one mother and daughter. It must be very difficult for kids to understand and enjoy that kind of retreat, and so I would not recommend this for children.

The cheapest option are the hermitages at a suggested donation of $110. If you cannot afford this please contact the Hermitage. They say they have never turned anyone away because of finances.

It is NOT luxurious. The fittings are old, you share the central showers. My bed creaked alarmingly and the step to the garden wobbled in a startling fashion. I didn't mind one jot about all of that. I already want to return! A wonderful, very special place.

  • Stayed: July 2012, traveled solo
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11  Thank kttravel08
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 9, 2012

I had heard of New Camaldoli Hermitage in Big Sur for years. I kept dropping hints that I would love a Christmas present of a week there by myself. Nobody took the hint. Our home is filled with lots of kids, grandkids, a home business, and a pretty good amount of daily stressors. It was getting a bit overwhelming and I knew I needed to escape for a few days with my husband. My choice was the New Camaldoli Hermitage. Needless to say, my husband was not thrilled with the idea of being in separate rooms, at least at first, and that it was a silent retreat, and that I booked it for three nights. However, once he found out they made fruitcake he thought he would survive. So, we headed north from Orange Country and felt a certain thrill when the coastline of Big Sur came into view. The setting is spectacular.

The sign to the Hermitage was well marked off of Highway 1. We timed things to arrive at 4:00, their advertised check in time. One of the monks was in the bookstore where we went to register. He was very helpful in getting us oriented to the schedule of services, where to park, how to access our food, some beautiful nearby sites, and even a mention of how beautiful the moon would be that night with Mars right next to it. He was talking my heart language.

My husband and I prepared to "enter the silence," as a card on the desk beckoned us, and we got settled in our rooms in the Retreat House. I was in room 5, and my husband was in room 7.
My first impression was one of delight. The room was simply furnished but had everything I needed. A single bed (sheets on the bed so I could make the bed the way I preferred), a warm blanket, a down comforter, a ledge with a bible and an icon, a desk and chair, hooks for my clothes, a half bath, a heater, a fan, a fly swatter, and bug repellant. Oh yes, and a rocking chair that did wonders for my back. It was late June and I did not need the heater or the fan, and had no trouble with bugs. Two showers are shared between nine rooms. The really big event of the simple room was the view of the mountain slope and the ocean beyond through the picture windows. There were screen doors at the main entrance of the room and leading into my own, personal garden. A white plastic chair was set in the garden. I was only in the room for a full day and night, but I enjoyed sitting in the garden a lot.

This was time to let my shoulders down and think about my life priorities, pray, and more than anything else, simply be.

At 5:20 PM bells in the chapel called us to Vespers. Attendance at services is not required, but it really helps make the experience. The monks entered, sitting across from one another. We sat behind them. One brother noticed we were new and came over to show us how to follow in the prayer book. They chanted (simple singing, very easy to follow) the psalms in English. The monks are Roman Catholic and are semi-cloistered, following a contemplative life-style. The prayers and psalms were chanted more slowly than I might have expected. We followed the brother's lead, and discovered that the pauses, the silence between the lines, gave us the opportunity to contemplate what we had just said. All the services were similar to this. Brothers took turns sharing the readings, and a number of the monks are priests and took turns leading the services. The 5:20 AM bell rings long and loud, call us to Vigils, and, at 7:00 AM, to Lauds. At 11:00 or so, they have mass, which is a joyous worship experience, even for non-Catholics. They invite us to gather around the table of the Lord in a round area of the chapel. There are marble floors, a wooden roof, plaster walls, and killer acoustics. Singing the Alleluia in there, with everyone adding their own harmonies was memorable. There is a cut out design in the wooden roof which allows the natural light in and adds beauty to the simple worship space.

Our meals were delivered to the Retreat House kitchen. Lunch was served buffet style and was the main meal of the day. They have a special dish for breakfast, and a special dish for supper, along with home-made soup and organic salad greens. There is a selection of cereals (watch out for the yummy granola!), yogurts, milks, breads, peanut butter, coffee, teas, hot chocolate, and fresh fruit. The food is mostly vegetarian, with a little fish. An Indian chef from their community in India was providing gourmet flair to the menues while we were there. Every room has a tray with a set of dishes and silverware, and there is an electric teapot so you can make coffee or tea in your room. Meals are taken from the kitchen to your room where you can eat in silence.

There is a great bookstore at the Hermitage with a broad variety of books covering things like learning to have a Benedictine perspective, to learn and practice the contemplative life-style, to guides to spiritual direction, to Christian perspectives on world religions, biographies, and beautiful gift items and cards. One of the monks is an artist and his unique pieces are available in print form. I spent hours in the bookstore over several days.

After the first day, my husband and I moved to Scholastica, the hexagonally shaped, open hermitage which can accomodate up to four people. We had two twin beds, a desk and chair, two rocking chairs, a dining room table for four, a futon couch which could convert to a queen-sized bed, a full kitchen, and a full bathroom with a shower. My husband walked in and exclaimed, "Wow! How did you score this?" It was all that was available when I booked. The downside was it was difficult to maintain silence with my husband sharing the space. But, we didn't argue, it was all positive talk. And, we spent time apart - he explored Big Sur, and did art, and I read, journaled, and photographed. We had to remember to speak quietly. The whole property is so quiet that our voices could be heard from some distance.

The rooms rent for $110 per night. They have private hermitages with kitchenettes and full baths in trailers for $120. When I go back I want to stay in one of those. Scholastica rents for $150 for one person, and there is a discount for the second person. Prices include all food. This is a great spot for study or to use for a writing retreat.

It took us a full four days to finally relax into and be comfortable with the rhythm of the place, the silence, absorbing the services. We actually extended our trip by one night. Silence is highly valued there. It is important to recall this so we can be sensitive to the other retreatants and to help them observe the silence they came for. Solitude is a gift, especially prized by those who lead busy lives. We didn't think we would take easily to the silence, but we were surprised. With the services in the chapel dotted through the day, visits to the bookstore, walks on the road (they have benches and picnic tables at the view points on the road up to the Hermitage), and the chirping of colorful birds - it is more like a drink of ice-water when you are super-thirsty.

All faiths are welcome here. Some people come for solitude, some are seeking. The monks take shifts in the bookstore and you can make an appointment to speak with them when you register at check-in. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking. The coast of Big Sur, the mountains, the fog rolling in - you are in so much awe silence is the best reaction.

The Hermitage website is www.contemplation.com. This is not a place for children, though they are welcome at mass. With silence one of the main attractions, the kids would be better off in one of the nearby campgrounds.

My husband and I found exactly what we needed. Even though we have busy and high-stress lives, we see the value and learned to carve out space for slowing down and simply being in God's Presence. Turn off the TV. Read scripture slowly, meditating in and on the Word of God. Prayer is more about listening. And, to enter His Presence with thanksgiving and praise. Though our offering may be a broken heart, expressing our gratitude results in quiet joy.

Yep, exactly what we needed.

Room Tip: Book as far ahead as possible and look for last minute cancellations two weeks before you are thinki...
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  • Stayed: June 2012, traveled solo
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28  Thank Debby R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed May 23, 2012

I have passed the Hermitage's driveway each time I've driven the Big Sur highway, and each time I've wondered what was up there. I finally was able to make a reservation and stay in one of their small, single-occupancy rooms.

[*Please note: there is a little bit of criticism in this review - I had to really think about what I put in this because after all - monks are so selfless - how can I criticise them? And am I risking bad karma? ; ) But I am trying to make this as constructive as possible. I know the income of the Hermitage relies heavily on their guests, and it would not be expensive or difficult to try my suggestions. I mentioned these points also on my the feedback sheet I found on the desk in my room. I was wondering about a few "little things" before I went, so hopefully I'll be answering some questions you may have that weren't covered in the other reviews.]

Just as a heads-up, the drive up the mountain to the Hermitage is two miles long. The road itself was paved all the way, however it it's really narrow in some places - so be prepared to pull your car way over if another car comes along.

As you approach the summit of the road, you'll notice some nice benches perched on the cliff every third of a mile or so, which makes it easy for a hiker (or guest) to stop and admire the view - and what a view! "Stunning" just doesn't do it - breathtaking gets close - you just have to see it on a clear day, you won't believe it.

You will arrive at a parking lot as you pull into the Hermitage and the small store will be in front of you. Be sure to go in and look around (they have a very clean restroom inside for visitors, plus one outside with access at any time) - the woman behind the counter is very friendly, and I bought one of the cakes the monks make for income. I got a fruitcake the size of about a brick, for $18 (it was very good).

There is a building towards the west that houses the small single rooms with private patios that look out on the ocean. There is a room with a kitchen that has the food brought for the guests - rather rustic and homey - and also the showers for the guests. The showers looked like something out of a VERY much older cabin - not sure I'd enjoy being in them, but that's me.

You can also go into the chapel to have a look around and the daily worship times are posted on the wall next to the kitchen. You can attend if you want to watch the monks chant. The chapel is very peaceful and nice, with fresh flowers as you enter.

There is a path that leads downhill to the various small cabins they rent. I think that's the way I'm going to go if I stay again, although it looks like they are fully booked on the weekends thru October (they have their own showers).

Please note that there is no TV, wireless, and cell service available. You're totally isolated, which can be a good thing. I was in the mood for solitude, so I really enjoyed it.

Cleanliness: the cell was basically clean, however there was a splotch of something on the wall and there were a few things that could have been cleaner. I wondered how often they wash the blankets.

When I entered my room at 4 PM (check-in time), the bed had one blankey on it with a pile of sheets and towels on top - and a sign on top of everything asking guests to make up their beds the way they wanted them. I have to admit, I was rather taken aback - "I have to make my own bed?" - but after all, this is a monk's existence, and that's what I was paying for. So I made the bed with the very clean sheets, put the blanket on top, and was ready to relax.

I took a look in the kitchen - I knew that I was going to go down the hill to the Lucia Lodge Restaurant for dinner, but I wanted to see what was there. The main meal of the day is served at 12:30. I took a peek in the fridge and there were lunch leftovers: there was yogurt, a tureen of soup, and a tupperware container of salad greens. Dinner had been delivered also. Two large stainless steel pans were on the counter - one held a vegetable frittata of eggs, mushrooms, and other veggies - and there was a wonderful walnut cake. Both were quite good.

The private garden outside my room was nice. The wooden dividers between the individual gardens are kept in good repair, so they really are private. The only furniture though was a plastic chair. It would have been wonderful to have a small table and something more substantial that I could rest my feet or legs on.

The next morning was a gorgeous day so I went out to explore. Something wonderful happened: as I was walking down the driveway back to the rooms, I heard a big rustling in the bushes next to me and a deer leapt across the driveway right in front of me, and ran up the hill. Two seconds later another deer followed her - possibly her baby? That was wayyyy cool!

Before checkout, I pulled the sheets and pillow cases off my bed and put everything (except the blanket) into one of the pillow cases, then deposited them in a large basket in the kitchen - as requested by the note at check-in.

Suggestions for the monks: check the cleanliness of the fridge in the main kitchen. It wouldn't cost much for better chairs and small tables for the individual gardens. Consider changing check-in time to 3 PM instead of 4 PM, and move up lunch time for the guests to 11:30 or 12 PM. (In order to take advantage of their daily main meal at 12:30 PM, you will have to stay until then before you depart - I always leave hotel rooms before 10 AM because I'm an early bird and I want to be on my way)..

By the way, you will be requested to hold talking to a minimum - or to whisper - while on the grounds, however you can talk if you're out on a trail or on the driveway, parking lot, or gift shop. I did see a married couple in the kitchen and I was wondering where they had stayed. I think they are pretty strict about having only one person in the individual cells. I wasn't able to look in any of the small trailers on the hill, but I bet that couple stayed in one of those.

Would I stay again? Sure. The price can't be beat for Big Sur ($110 for the cells, $120 for the trailers) and it was GREAT to be totally cut off from the world for one night. However I am a technie, and one night was about all I needed. : )

Room Tip: Reserve very early, they're booked way in advance. You may want to request a room away from the...
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  • Stayed: May 2012, traveled solo
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8  Thank Rheadabovewater
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 20, 2011

I stayed in Guest House A and Scholastica, both of which intended for multiple guests and have in-room showers. Both were simple rooms, and clean and cozy. Scholastica is the larger of the two and more isolated as it is a short 5 minute walk from the book store. The monastery grounds are beautiful and the short drive up the hill from Highway 1 to the monastery has several turnouts with gorgeous views of the ocean and coastline. The food was wonderful - wholesome, nutritious, and delicious. The monastery is also a short, easy drive to all the many national parks in the area, making hiking and exploration easy.

  • Stayed: February 2011, traveled solo
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10  Thank SSVoyage
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed January 4, 2011

I loved it at the monastery. It was beautiful overlooking the pacific ocean surrounded by desert landscape. Very serene and quiet. I felt like I was Eve. No build up of high rise hotels. The nights were pitch dark while small lizards and other creatures roamed the night.

  • Stayed: September 2010, traveled solo
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10  Thank Nattraveler82
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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Additional Information about New Camaldoli Hermitage

Address: 62475 Coast HWY 1 at Lucia, Big Sur, CA 93920
Location: United States > California > Big Sur
Amenities:
Free Breakfast Free Parking Kitchenette
Hotel Style:
Ranked #5 of 8 Specialty Lodging in Big Sur
Price Range: $110 - $240 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 12
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
we camaldolese monks greet you in the peace of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.We are a working monastery with accommodations and an environment geared toward spiritual retreats. Those looking simply for overnight accommodations are likely to be better served elsewhere.Here at the Hermitage,we offer retreatants a beautiful place of quiet and prayer. We ask you to maintain silence in your room, the kitchen and the area around the retreat house. If you want to have a conversation with someone, please go for a walk down the driveway with them.Monastic prayer:The monks gather for prayer in the Chapel four times a day. You are most welcome to join us. The bell will ring 15 minutes before Vigils; 5 minutes before Lauds, Mass and Vespers. (The 5:30pm bell is a signal for monks in the cloister only)The regular schedule is as follows:5:30AM vigils (daily) 7:00AM lauds (daily)11:30AM eucharist (weekdays)11:00AM eucharist (Sundays)6:00PM vespers (weekdays)5:00PM vespers (Sundays)Liturgy of the hours:After the opening prayer of each service, a monk will offer assistance to those unfamiliar with the order of prayer. The regular schedule may be changed for Feast Days, Solemnities and Community Days. There is also a silent half hour of prayer every day in the Chapel Rotunda immediately following Vespers.In addition to the daily prayer schedule, retreatants are invited to join the monks to pray the Rosary and participate in Collatio (scripture study). The schedule for these will be posted on the Chapel door.Spiritual counsel and reconciliation:If you would like to talk with one of the monks for spiritual counsel, or to receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation, please make your request to the attendant at the bookstore who will make those arrangements.Meals and retreat house kitchen area:To maintain the gift of silence, all meals are eaten in solitude in your own room or garden.Your room is provided with an electric hot pot for hot water and packets of instant coffee, tea, a tray and dishes provided to pick up your meal from the retreat house kitchen. The retreat house kitchen is always open and is stocked with cereals, milk, fruit, yogurts, breads and a fresh Breakfast item which you may use to prepare breakfast at your leisure. From 1:30pm daily, soup, salad and a fresh Supper dish are also provided. Please be sure to clean up after using any facilities.Take note of the two shower rooms on the right as you enter the kitchen area and the smallloan library in the kitchen. Please return borrowed books to the shelf before you leave so they may be made available to others.Bookstore:Open daily for check-in, books, music and gifts: Mornings; 8:00~11:15 a.m. Afternoons; 1:15~5:00 p.m.Personal calls can be made from the telephone booth at the bookstore whenever it is open.Because we have only this one booth please try to make your calls brief. The nearest public phone is located at Lucia Lodge, a short drive North on Hwy 1.Sending or receiving mail:Items for mailing can be left at the bookstore and the postage paid there. If you are expecting mail, please let the monk at the Bookstore know and check back there.If you are missing any items or have a problem or a particular need, please inquire at the Bookstore and the attendant will gladly help.Recycling:We provide containers in the kitchen area to recycle paper, plastic, glass, and aluminum. Please be mindful of these when disposing trash.Hiking:Walks are a wonderful way to commune with God through the beauty of nature. We suggest you walk the main driveway, which is two miles long to Highway 1. Sitting areas are provided at various points along the road. Because of the widespread poison oak and in order to maintain the cloister of the monks, retreatants are asked to limit their walks to the drive and not to follow dirt roads or paths into the wilderness area. Please do not feed any of the wild animals.In an emergency:Notify the attendant at the bookstore. When the bookstore is closed use the intercom phone inside the kitchen: Call the GuestMaster, #108. If no answer call #115. For specific instructions in the event of fire please read the card provided in your room.Driving Driections:Our Hermitage is located 50 miles south of Monterey, Ca.; and 45 miles north of Cambria, Ca. on Highway 1. Driving time is about an hour and fifteen minutes from either Monterey or Cambria. Our driveway is located on the inland side of the highway ½ mile south of Lucia (if you are driving from the north); 1 mile north of Limekiln State Beach (if you are driving from the south). ... more   less 
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