I stayed at the White Lotus Foundation retreat center for a three-day yoga retreat. You can tell from the moment you enter that White Lotus is a special place. Situated on the side of a hill off of San Marcos Pass above Santa Barbara, the property has many unique features that will help you detach from your regular life and open up to new ways of thinking and being.
I recommend staying in the Yurt Village - a collection of circular "tents" clustered together in a beautiful oak-covered dell. The yurts house three people each and are furnished with Balinese day beds. I found them to be very comfortable. The showers and bathrooms are housed in little wooden huts right by the yurts, but the plumbing, while rustic, is all modern, i.e. no pit toilets. Make sure to try the "Loo with a View."
The property also has a hot tub, sauna, hiking trails to a stream and waterfall, secluded cabins and - coolest of all - an underground kiva for meditation. The main facility includes a large gathering room, where meals are served, and a yoga studio. This facility also has regular bathrooms like you would find at home if showering semi-outdoors isn't for you. There are many places to sit and enjoy the amazing views of the surrounding hills and Santa Barbara, including a roof deck and garden area. The yoga studio is a nice space and fits 20 students easily. It isn't the most beautiful studio I've ever been in, but the views and setting more than compensate. It probably goes without saying that there aren't any televisions and cell phone access is spotty, which is just as well since you're not supposed to use them on most of the property. But you're here to get away from it all, right?
The main facility is a bit of a hike from the yurt village up a steep dirt road. Make sure to bring sturdy shoes and and a flashlight.
Easily one of the best things about staying at White Lotus is the food. We were served by vegetarian chef Beatrix Rohlsen. Meals were announced by the ringing of a bell and the delicious cooking smells always had me wishing it would ring sooner rather than later. Every dish was delicious and I never walked away hungry.
There is a small bookstore/gift store in the main facility where you can purchase Beatrix' gourmet vegetarian cookbook, The Art of Taste. If you ask her nicely, she might even autograph it for you. The store also has other books, including those by Ganga White the founder of the Institute, and a nice selection of yoga togs and White Lotus t-shirts if you want a souvenir. They take cash or credit cards.
As another reviewer said, I recommend taking the trail if at all possible. The traffic on the 101 is horrible and it kind of bums your high after spending time in this tranquil setting. It would be easy to just take a taxi from the Santa Barbara train station, which is only about 10 miles away. Namaste.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- The White Lotus Foundation is a 501c3, nonsectarian spiritual Foundation dedicated to the development of the total human being. Donations to the Foundation are tax-deductible. Our mountain retreat center over looks the city of Santa Barbara, the Pacific Ocean and Channel Islands. We are situated in a steep canyon on forty acres in the San Marcos Pass. Through the bottom of the canyon flows the year 'round San Jose creek. This land was once sacred to the Chumash Indians who called it Taklushmon which means the gathering place. The teachings of Yoga have traditionally been shared in powerful and natural settings. Living in close communion with the Earth, in the energies of nature, opens us to the beauty and sacredness of life. Here clarity, meditation and understanding flow spontaneously. We have an ideal and very special location with pure air, spring water, beautiful sandstone swimming holes, hiking trails and plenty of secluded places for silent reflection. We have indoor accommodations and Yurts, as well as campsites under the bay trees, near the waterfall or on plateaus overlooking the ocean. Our other facilities include a large Yoga-meeting room, a kitchen and dining room serving gourmet vegetarian meals, an underground Hopi style "Kiva" temple and a Library-Media center designed and crafted by Santa Barbara artists. ... more less