Welcome to our Big Sur, California campus. Many arrive eager to submerge into our natural hot springs baths. You will! As you thoughtfully journey across this expanse of sacred land — learning, growing, healing, changing, and transforming with the guided support of leading edge faculty, we invite you to tune in, slow down, and bask in the majesty of this stretch of paradise.
Disconnecting to take the time to recover, reset, and relax is paramount to truly nourishing yourself during your time here. Esalen offers many exciting features for exploration throughout the day and night. And, when it’s time to trek back to your accommodations for a restorative night's sleep, don’t forget to look up at that star-filled sky illuminating the wildly enchanting coast.
Our hot springs hang between the sea and sky, an awe-inspiring respite for mind and body. As a great equalizer, they are simultaneously comforting and renewing. The baths are a destination for nourishing conversation, contemplation, and community.
As a healing space, the baths are clothing optional. You are invited to soak, either with a swimsuit or without, knowing that the environment we strive for at Esalen is one of personal sanctuary and respect for healing the human body.
A downhill path from the Lodge brings you to the baths’ upper level. Up top you’ll find an outdoor massage deck, a living roof featuring healing crystals and succulent garden, as well as a hot tub with a lift and a bathroom with a shower for ADA access. Down the stairs on the lower level are the main changing areas, bathroom stalls, showers overlooking the ocean, and a variety of large, communal stone tubs as well as individual claw foot tubs to enjoy the hot spring waters.
Those who visited us prior to 1998 knew a different Esalen baths. That version of yesteryear was destroyed by the El Nino storms in 1999. The current rebuild came under the leadership of David Price, son of Esalen co-founder Dick Price, which included cliffside stabilization before beginning the project. The architect behind our current iteration of the baths was Big Sur starchitect, Mickey Muennig.
The storytelling lore is a-plenty. The Hunter S. Thompson stories are dramatic and mostly true. Andy Warhol had his 15 minutes. Once upon a time ago Robin Williams — clad in his birthday suit — gave an impromptu stand-up performance beneath the stars. We leave the rest to their privacy and your imagination.
Our world-renowned Esalen® Massage sessions take place at the baths, either in one of our semi-private rooms or, weather-permitting, on the upstairs open air deck. Our Healing Arts massage practitioners are globally recognized for their skills in the somatic and healing arts, and specifically in the unique style of Esalen massage. People travel from all over the world for this healing journey. Whether you're staying for a workshop or just visiting for the day, you must book your reservation in advance.
Photography, videos, glass, and use of tobacco/cannabis at the baths is not permitted.
At the heart of Esalen is the Lodge, a treasured gathering place for good food, good conversation, and cultivating new friendships.
While you’re growing and nourishing with us, you’ll enjoy three hearty, healthy meals made from scratch each day. Our kitchen staff uses a mix of Esalen Farm & Garden-grown produce as well as products from local Big Sur and Monterey County purveyors to create delicious, nutritious, and inventive menus. Choose from vegan, omnivorous, and gluten-free options to create a complete meal that suits your dietary preferences.
In the early 60s when Esalen had its very own restaurant, guests were served by a waitstaff. By the late 60s we switched to the cafe style used today, where meals are available during regular dining hours.
The core dining area of the Lodge was originally designed by the Swedish architect Lennart Palme and built in 1939. The space was largely preserved in the current final redesign, an architectural masterpiece that reflects a stunning renovation by ecological planning and design firm Arkin-Tilt Architects in 2016.
Stop by our lively bar, which was renovated through generous donation by the McQuown Family in 2016. We offer the famed and beloved Bread Bar in this area between meal times, and serve a full coffee and tea barista menu during the morning meal hours. There’s a beer, wine, and sake menu for evening hangs at the bar.
The Esalen Farm & Garden strives to be a holistic model of local food security and sustainability, producing organic food that nourishes, heals, and educates the people who visit Esalen. More than just a food source, the farm is a constant seasonal education in moving through transition and transformation.
As we continue to cultivate five acres of rough, dramatic, and rocky land, we stay committed to maintaining its natural health and vitality. We compost nearly 500 pounds of food and green waste every day to build the fertility of our soil for future generations.
Our produce grows a mere 400 steps from where it is served, and we take advantage of a year-round growing season to produce as much as we can for our kitchen. It all started with a spontaneous dinner party. In 1968 psychologist and resident, Will Schutz had a proclivity for announcing dinner party plans without much time to prepare. His partner at the time, Pam Portugal Walatka, who lived in the North Point House surrounded by land with great soil, was fresh out of the Peace Corps and quite resourceful. In Big Sur produce is not readily available via a grocery store or market so she began growing her own lettuces for these ‘on-the-fly’ dinner salads (and soups!) — noshed on by the likes of guests who included: Abe Maslow, Stan Grof, Virginia Satir, Charlotte Selver, Houston Smith, Ed Maupin, Ida Rolf, John Pierrakos, Michael Murphy, George Leonard, Andrew Young, and Joan Baez among others.
Meanwhile, this was a pivotal moment in U.S. gardening as a 1968 Pam had merely heard of organic farming — the practice, techniques, and knowledge were not readily available. Pam’s organic garden inspired Dick Horan, Goph Albitz, and John Horler to begin growing and providing fresh greens to the Lodge. Over the decades, the garden has since scaled largely under the leadership of Steve Beck and Shirley Ward, to its current expanse where an array of vegetables, fruits, and flowers frequently grow in abundance.
The Farm & Garden of today is focused on regenerative practices. Think: Soil regeneration through a no- to minimal tillage system. Because we make and use our own compost, fertilizing our soil with our scraps — we can proudly boast a closed-loop system.
Like you, our Farm & Garden is evolving, changing, growing, and transforming. Each spring we go deep into planting mode — an operation from seed to feed. That means, all of our food and medicinal herbs are planted by seed at our nursery in the garden — a journey they take before they arrive and are enjoyed on your plate at the Lodge.
At harvest time, we expect an abundance of heirloom tomatoes, zucchini, patty pan squash, carrots, asparagus, cucumbers, basil, sugar snap peas, several varieties of kale, chard, arugula, cabbage, peppers, cilantro, lots of lettuces, chives, oregano and more culinary and tea herbs. The colors pop in our flower beds as there is an intentional push for vibrance and beneficial flowers. You may notice a ladybug sanctuary at the north end of the property. And, if and when you notice a stretch of farm and garden that doesn’t dazzle, know that something pretty magical is afoot.
From Esalen guests taking part in a mindful harvest through our weekend, week-long, 1-month and 3-month programs to coming to campus for a day of volunteering, there are a range of ways for visitors to engage with the earth. We aim to facilitate meaningful, relational experiences that connect people and land.
Adjoining the Lodge at the heart of campus, is the Conley Bookstore. Most significantly, the bookstore offers a selection of literature that reflects Esalen’s history, curiosities, ideologies, practices, and more. We feature works from previous and current faculty, both well known and homegrown.
We also curate custom signature swag — in the form of Esalen sweatshirts and tees, bathrobes, hats, water bottles, jewelry, home and bath lifestyle accoutrements and other magical treasures. We keep things local to Big Sur and California, with locally-source art, jewelry, bath and beauty products.
For those looking for some guidance and additional insight we offer a unique selection of Tarot cards, crystals, and sage bundles. Our sundries include bespoke chocolates, an assortment of healthy munchies, drinks, and more. The current structure — gifted by former Esalen trustee and faculty, Chip Conley — has a cozy, boho presence.
This jewel of a pool with its epic, picturesque views is open to all of our guests. The area is clothing optional.
Built around 1963, the current fresh water pool we submerge in today replaced a rectangular, hot spring water-filled pool. In the 80s a heat exchange was installed to warm the fresh water using the heat from the hot springs.
By the late 90s, Esalen switched to salt water chlorination while still heating the pool through our innovative hot springs system.
The pool area, aka the Al Huang deck, has been the location of some truly epic gatherings — most famously, The Big Sur Folk Festival.
From ‘64-‘71 musicians and music lovers gathered to celebrate — spreading love over war and fighting to give power to the peaceful. Joan Baez and former Esalen staff Nancy Jane Carlin kicked off the concept with lineups that included: Joni Mitchell, Judy Collins, the Beach Boys, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Country Joe McDonald, John Sebastian, Kris Kristofferson, Arlo Guthrie, Blood, Sweat & Tears, and Taj Mahal.
The Meditation Hut is open to our guests for silent meditation at all hours.
First built in the 1950s as a secluded writer’s studio for Esalen co-founder Michael Murphy’s brother, Dennis. It was as a gift from their grandmother Vinny after Dennis wrote his first novel, The Sergeant, a bestseller, at the tender age of 25.
By 1960, a young Dick Price had moved in as he and Michael began dreaming up and creating the Esalen Institute. Known as the Round House located at Hot Springs Creek, many folk lived there over the decades.
The Round House was also a place for some 60s era psychedelic experimentation. One notable experience was that of Christian existentialist philosopher Paul Tillich’s wife, Hannah. She tripped with existentialist psychologist, Rollo May in the Round House while May held space as her “sitter.”
In the 1990s, the space officially transformed into the Meditation Hut. Gone is the writer’s desk, the bed, and bathroom accouterments. The interior was completely reimagined to create what is now and feels like it has always been, our beloved Meditation Hut.
Outside resides one of the most important archaeological stones on site, where indigenous people practiced ritual, protecting the meditation bowl that serves as the water receptacle for the hot spring located there.
Esalen exists in deep relationship with the forces of nature. From the transfiguring force of a wildfire to the limitlessness of the star-filled night sky, we honor the myriad ways that nature is our source and greatest teacher.
Water flows at our heart, where three sources — a fresh-water spring, the mineral hot springs, and the ocean — converge in a trinity of creation, renewal, and destruction.
In the upper reaches of the canyon that bisects the north and south sides of our campus, a freshwater spring bubbles to the surface. The source, Porter Springs, is in the Ventana Wilderness and provides about 75% of our water.
Below ground, heated by the molten core of the earth and laden with minerals, the hot springs flow at a rate of 80 gallons per minute and emerge at a temperature of 119 degrees Fahrenheit.
The Esalen campus hovers at the edge of the Pacific, and the Porter and hot spring waters empty into its wild. There is nothing like a clear view of the ocean to center ourselves in the unity of all things.
Note: Due to dangerous ocean conditions and currents, direct access to the beach and ocean from Esalen is prohibited.
Wander through the garden, down the ravine, and across Hot Springs Creek to the north side of campus — where you’ll find a vibrant turquoise barn adorned with sculpture, mosaic, and stained glass. Inspired by the wild beauty of Esalen, many drop in and gather here to experiment, play, and journey through the ancient human path of creativity.
When art workshops aren’t in session, the Art Barn becomes an open studio. Paper, paint, brushes, and clay are among the supplies available.
The Art Barn circa 1965 was home to 11 artists in four apartments! Dick Horan created in the barn as a potter, digging his own clay at Pfeiffer Ridge. John Horler, who created the Red Lady sculpture in the garden, was also a batik artist and lived in the upstairs of the barn. His batik banners are what you see as a backdrop (in addition to the ocean) in photographs of the Big Sur Folk Festivals. Check out a pack of the tarot cards he once designed that were recently located and donated to the Bar in the Lodge.
All kinds of artists spent time creating in and around the barn as it has always been a gathering spot of creatives. Back when there was no back gate, people would drift onto the property and over to the barn to check out what was going on. There were stained glass artists, an amazing cartoonist named Jackie. Jim Sellers worked with leather and made sandals. There was a flute maker named Tony. The Art Barn bathroom was previously the dark room of photographer Horst Mayer.
There weren't many women who took up space in the barn, as it was “a guy thing.” Today's Art Barn represents a lot differently.
Over the years the Art Barn embraced the idea of guests engaging with the space. Students created meaningful pieces that reflected whatever they were feeling or going through. The structure became officially known as the Art Barn and part of the community programming around 2004 under the esteemed leadership of artist Jayson Fann.
Grounded in the wildly alive Big Sur landscape, Esalen exists in deep relationship with the forces of nature. From the transfiguring force of a wildfire to a glimpse of infinity in the night sky, Esalen honors the myriad ways that nature is our source and greatest teacher. Water flows at our heart, where three sources converge in a trinity of creation, renewal, and destruction.
Heated by the molten core of the earth and laden with minerals, the hot springs flow at a rate of 80 gallons per minute and emerge at a temperature of 119 degrees Fahrenheit.
Esalen hovers at the edge of the Pacific. There is nothing like a clear view of the ocean to center ourselves in the unity of all things.
Note: due to dangerous ocean conditions and currents, direct access to the ocean from Esalen is prohibited.