Volunteering with the Esalen Farm and Garden Crew is a wonderful way to support the work that we do while experiencing the magic of growing food at Esalen. We welcome all levels of growing experience. The only requirements are an observant mind, a curious spirit, a love of dirty hands, and a willingness to work hard in rain or shine.
Flow of the Volunteer Day
At 7:15am we gather in the center of the Garden, meditate briefly and begin the day’s harvest. Around 9:00am we take a 30-minute breakfast break after which we gather for a brief sharing circle to connect with ourselves and each other more fully. After that we work until 1:00pm at which point volunteers are free to enjoy the property.
Terms of Volunteerism
In exchange for working from 7:15 am to 1pm, you will receive same-day privileges on property, including access to the baths, free movement classes (as available) and three meals: breakfast (9:00 - 9:30 am), lunch (1:00 - 1:45 pm) and dinner (6:00 - 7:30 pm). You do not need to pay fees for your meals or facility use. We are unable to offer staff discounts on bodywork or in the bookstore — please do not ask.
You are welcome to arrive as early as 6:30 am on the day you are volunteering. After volunteering, you are welcome to stay on the main site until 9:00 pm to enjoy meals, the baths and free movement classes Volunteers are required to leave property by 9:00 pm sharp.
In order to make this a mutually beneficial arrangement, we expect you to arrive on time with appropriate clothing and supplies (see “What to Bring” below), your full presence, and a strong work ethic.
We ask that any cancellations take place at least one week prior to your arrival. This allows us to schedule someone to fill your spot, and prevents us from turning others away unnecessarily. You are able to cancel or modify your reservation online, or you can also email us. Also, if you are going to be late or your plans change day-of please email us as soon as possible.
Parking at Esalen is extremely limited due to a Campus Renewal project. If you are coming with a group, carpooling is required. We ask that you park in one of the highway turnouts south of the "Esalen: By Reservation Only" sign, walk north on Highway One and proceed down the main driveway to check in with the Gate (security) no later than 7:10am. Please allow at least 10 minutes to get from your car to the garden.
Road Closures and Delays
Please be advised that Big Sur often has major road issues and delays, especially in the rainy season. If there are road delays, please factor some delay time (up to 30 minutes) into your travel plans. Daily roadwork schedules are subject to change due to weather conditions and other factors. We recommend checking the Highway One Cambria to Carmel Toll-Free Hotline (1-888-836-0866) before your departure to ensure that Highway One is open and accessible to Esalen.
What to Bring
We encourage volunteers to bring comfortable work clothing. Dress in layers as temperatures may fluctuate throughout the day. Please wear closed-toe comfortable shoes or boots that you are willing to get dirty and possibly wet—no sandals, flip flops or similar footwear allowed. A water bottle is essential. The Farm and Garden has tools, hats, sunblock, mud boots, rain gear, and gloves available for volunteer use.
The Farm and Garden cannot provide accommodations for volunteers, and stays at Esalen are generally available only to guests participating in workshops. If you wish to inquire about personal retreat, please note that it is very limited and often unavailable. Call Esalen Reservations at 888-837-2536 no more than a few days before your scheduled volunteer day(s) for availability.
There are various campgrounds and hotels in and around Big Sur, as well as the option to car camp along the side of Highway One. Car camping is not permitted at Esalen or immediately outside Esalen on Highway One.
To find out about options for Big Sur campgrounds, check the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce camping guide. We strongly recommend making reservations if possible. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is the nearest campground to Esalen (only 1.5 miles north), but it has only two hike-in camp sites and no bathroom facilities. If you are coming from the north, good camping options are Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Riverside Campground, Big Sur Campground & Cabins, or Fernwood. If you are coming from the south, good options are Limekiln, Plaskett Creek, Nacimiento, or Treebones Resort.
We are located 12 miles south of Big Sur along the Pacific Coast Highway (Highway One). For driving directions and a map, please click here.
Scheduling a Volunteer Day
Volunteer days are Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays only. We do not accept volunteers on Tuesdays, Saturdays or Sundays—please do not inquire. Since volunteer spots fill fast, scheduling at least two weeks in advance is recommended. You can book volunteer day(s) 60 days in advance via our online calendar.