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“wonderful place” 4 of 5 bubbles
Review of Refuge

Refuge
Ranked #1 of 14 Spas & Wellness in Carmel
Certificate of Excellence
More attraction details
Attraction details
Fee: Yes
Owner description: Refuge is the first American facility dedicated to Hydro-thermal therapy and offers the ultimate in relaxation that is one of a kind! Truly the best 3 hours in Carmel! Through heating up in our Co-ed Sauna and Steam bath, cooling down in our cold pools and relaxation in indoor relaxation rooms or outdoor areas with fireplaces - you will be relaxed! Massages are available as well!
Oakland, California
Level Contributor
56 reviews
14 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 17 helpful votes
“wonderful place”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 11, 2013

I went on a Friday in January and stumbled into the Carmel Valley Athletic Club first by accident. After swimming a few laps and wandering around trying to find the 10 pools, waterfalls and saunas I figured I must be in the wrong place. If you haven't been there before and don't know there are two separate places owned by two separate companies you might be just as puzzled as I was. The staff was very nice about the mixup and eventually I got where I needed to go. Loved the eucalyptus wet sauna. Bring your own water and fill up lavishly using the free outdoor fountain. There is no food allowed. I couldn't figure out where people were getting their robes and didn't know about the $12 robe fee. It seems pretty silly to be using a robe when you are getting in and out of pools all day long. Within a few dips, your robe is going to be cold and wet anyway. So I just used my swimsuit. I was there for 4 hours. I did not get a massage so I can't comment on them. There was hardly anyone there since the weather was cloudy with intermittent drizzles. Not for the faint of heart but then again I am an outdoor swimmer and swim in a heated pool 5 days a week. I could not tolerate the cold cold pool. The cold pool was about the same temp as the Pacific or a Sierra stream. Loved the outdoor fireplaces especially the farthest one from the lockers facing the hillside. Would love to go again with friends.

Visited January 2013
Helpful?
2 Thank Robin M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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English first
Los Banos, California, United States
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“An unforgettable experience”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 8, 2013

I read several of the reviews, even checked out the terrible, poor and average comments to find out why someone didn't like the place. All I can say is that those problems were either petty or corrected during our stay today.
The place is amazing, the staff was very helpful, you'd have to have bionic hearing to be "disturbed" by the people playing tennis as the Carmel Valley Athletic Club, the eucalyptus steam room took a bit of getting used to but it was amazing.
If you've got a problem with Refuge, it's because you're looking for problems and are one of those "trouble finds you" types of people.
My wife and I showed up an hour before our massages so we could get the orientation without feeling hurried. We did one hydro-thermal cycle (about 10-15 minutes) and then warmed up in the jacuzzi-temperature pool for about 10 minutes and then went to our massages.
Forget about deep tissue or sports and go for the super soothing Swedish massage. It was amazing!
Also, apparently now the $12 robe fee isn't charged if you book a massage, which was done over the phone since one commenter may have had a problem with the online booking.
Yes, there's no eating once inside. We had a sausage, egg and cheese muffin about 2 hours before arriving (didn't want to feel full for the massage), and sprang for a whole $2.50 or whatever for a bottle of water. Two, even, because I reckon' some people who complain about not getting free water at the massage are, again, either petty or just looking for reasons to complain.
It recommends flip-flops or sandals, but toward the end we felt very comfortable getting around barefoot. It's just really an immaculate place.
So my favorite part, by the way, was the fire pit next to the side of the hill. The lounge chairs were great and my wife and I were just looking at the birds and listening to the sounds of nature.
Yes, no talking, but you can whisper here and there. Someone had complained in a posting about staff being rude about enforcing the silence. Again, if you're the idiot talking loud enough to get warned about the no-talking policy, you're just looking for trouble and/or not the person who should've been there in the first place. Holy crap, you're probably the kind of person your coworkers can't stand.
The therma-cycles were exhilarating and I even tried the super cold "like a frozen river" pool after my last one and loved it!
OK, that's about all I have to say about that.
Just go, you'll love it!

Visited January 2013
Helpful?
3 Thank Delton L
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Salinas, California
Level Contributor
3 reviews
3 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Paradise Found”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 7, 2013

Ditto everything said by 999Marr. Plus I agree the Refuge IS America's #1 Co-ed spa and as
such is great for couples, singles, friends to share together and families.
And not only is the setting heavenly, the massages are among the Best in the West!!

Visited January 2013
Helpful?
Thank carolyne w
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Wallingford, Connecticut, United States
Level Contributor
93 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 31 helpful votes
“Very Different Experience”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 4, 2013

This was definitely a unique experience and we would go back. We started our visit with massages before we started the cycles. I think it was a good way to start, although they recommend that you do at least 1 cycle before getting a massage.
The steam room was so full of steam you could barely see other people in the room when you entered. It was almost panic inducing at first, but you just have to relax and let yourself breathe it in. The dry sauna was very typical, with little rotating sand timers that you turn when you walk in so you know how long you have been in there for. I preferred the steam room while my husband preferred the sauna.
I found that the cold pools were more tolerable after the steam room than the sauna, quicker recovery, but I still couldn't get used to them even after 3 cycles.
The relaxation rooms were nice. If you go to the farthest one from the locker rooms, it isn't used a much and there is a fireplace! My husband and I did our last relaxation there and it was empty so we could actually talk about the day and our experience.
The non-talking isn't that bad, you can still talk at a whisper if you are with someone else. The day we went there were probably about 20 people there so there was actually a good amount of time where we were alone in various pools or sometimes even the sauna and steam room.
Also a note about the temperature, it was probably 55 degrees and sprinkling on and off that day. It didn't really bother me until after the last cycle in which we went into a hot tub. Upon exiting the hot tub, I was freezing! I could not get into the locker room and a warm shower fast enough! I would definitely like to go back when the outside temperature is around 65/70.
For the women's locker room, I would suggest bringing a hair brush and potentially any facial wash/loofahs. The showers provide body wash, shampoo and conditioner. There are also 2-3 blow dryers for when you are done.
Also they sell water for $2.50 a bottle. It was a pretty decent size that lasted nearly the whole visit. Other than that, I would recommend a snack before going in!

Visited December 2012
Helpful?
Thank Mia M
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
La Selva Beach, California
Level Contributor
6 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 1 helpful vote
“Paradise”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed January 3, 2013

Wonderful place to take your mind away from a busy life. Setting is peaceful and relaxing. Great pools, inviting firepits, amazing sauna and steam room surrounded only by green hills and sky.
Staff is polite and helpful. Everything at this place is very well "thought through" for providing worry-less and relaxing environment for the customers.

Visited December 2012
Helpful?
Thank 999Marr
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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