COVID-19For nearly 60 years, Esalen has welcomed guests to the picturesque Big Sur coastline. COVID-19 safety measures require us to adapt our hospitality — but while our operations will look and feel different, our dedication to exploring and realizing human potential remains the same.
The safety and protection of our guests, faculty and staff is of utmost importance. This will be a time of calm, far fewer people, private baths overlooking the glorious Pacific Ocean, and open grounds to safely enjoy walks, picnics, games, exercise, and the sublime sunsets.
We are dedicated to implementing and refining new safety protocols, working closely with Monterey County officials and monitoring policy changes on the national and local level. We also follow the guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the state of California. This is our highest priority. The following protocols are in place to ensure your safety:
Under a new statewide mandate, all guests, employees, and faculty are required to wear face coverings on campus. Face coverings are required when inside or in line to enter any indoor public space, and while outdoors in public spaces when it’s not feasible to maintain a physical distance of six feet from others. Face coverings are not required while eating or exercising outdoors.
While on campus, guests and faculty should practice social distancing by standing at least six feet away from other groups, including while standing in lines, using the elevator, or moving around the property. Tables in the Lodge and other physical layouts will be arranged to ensure appropriate distancing.
Gate check-in procedures
You may arrive at Esalen any time after 2:00 p.m. on the day your reservation begins. At this time there is no shuttle service to or from campus, so please plan to arrive by car. At the gate, you and every passenger in your car will be greeted by a Guest Services representative and have your temperatures taken. You will be asked to fill out a questionnaire about COVID-19 symptoms and any recent travels. Please wear a mask during this process. We recommend that you review the questionnaire in advance to ensure you will be allowed onto the campus.
Social distancing requirements do not allow for communal bathing at this time. Registered guests will be contacted by our Healing Arts team to reserve private 60-minute bathing sessions. Solo bathers will enjoy a private claw-foot tub, while larger tubs will be reserved for guests who are sharing a room with each other.
Your session will take place in a private room or, weather permitting, outdoors on the massage deck. We ask you to use hand sanitizer prior to the start of the session, and wear a face covering for the duration.
Yoga Mats, props, and blankets
Guests will find a yoga mat, two blocks, and a strap in their room to use throughout their stay; please do not share yoga equipment with other guests. All items are thoroughly disinfected between guests.
Meeting and event spaces
All seating in meeting rooms will be placed at least six feet apart. If necessary, room capacity will be reduced or classes will be held outdoors in accordance to Monterey County guidelines.
Workshops and guided programs
The following protocols are in effect indefinitely for workshop participants until state and county guidelines are amended:
Participants are required to use hand sanitizer before and after each session.
Participants are required to wear masks in the classroom except during exercise (yoga, dance), and to respect 6-foot social distancing guidelines.
Upon arrival at the first workshop session, participants may claim their own “space” for the entire workshop and return to that space each session.
Before leaving that designated space, Esalen asks that each participant wipe down their area, including any used equipment. Esalen staff will do additional general sanitation of the area.
If movement around the classroom is required, masks must be worn. Faculty will provide instructions for how to do so safely.
Each participant will receive an equipment and/or supply list if items are needed for the workshop or class — please come prepared.
Participants should arrive early for classroom activities outside of workshop times that operate on a first-come, first-served basis. When all designated spaces in the room are full, the event will be considered closed. Enrollment in classrooms is limited in accordance with social distancing guidelines.
Office and Conley Bookstore
There will be a designated entrance and exit to the Conley Bookstore, and a set path through the store. Look for the arrows that are six feet apart, which indicate how to stay distant and move through the bookstore. At this time, “testers” and card decks will not be available to sample or peruse, and we will no longer accept cash.
Art Barn and Meditation Hut
The Art Barn and Meditation Hut are closed due to space limitations, per state and local guidelines.
The pool remains open. Please observe social distancing protocols while swimming or sitting in the pool area.
Cleaning products and protocols
Esalen uses Scrub Free Bathroom Cleaner and EcoLab Peroxide Multi Surface Cleaner and Disinfectant, which meet EPA guidelines and are effective against viruses, bacteria and other pathogens. We keep daily cleaning logs, which are inspected regularly by management, using these guidelines:
Public Spaces and Communal Areas: Increased frequency of cleaning and sanitizing in all public spaces with an emphasis on frequently touched surfaces including, but not limited to:
• Front desk check-in counters
• Elevator and elevator buttons
• Door handles
• Public bathrooms
• Room keys and locks
• Stair handrails
• Dining surfaces and seating areas
Guest Rooms: Industry-leading cleaning and sanitizing protocols to clean guest rooms, with particular attention to high-touch items including:
• Toilet seats
• Door and furniture handles
• All bathroom handles
• Light switches
• Luggage racks and flooring
All bed linens and laundry is washed at high temperature and in accordance with CDC guidelines.
Please be sure to review the COVID-19 screening questionnaire that all guests will be asked to complete at the gate before being allowed on campus.
You may arrive at Esalen any time after 2:00 p.m. on the day your stay begins. Pick up your room key at the Gate or at the front desk at 4:00 p.m.
On your departure day, we ask that you remove all belongings from your room prior to your final workshop session or by 10:00 a.m. Please leave your room key in the room. You are welcome to stay for lunch and remain on the Esalen property until 2:00 p.m.
You’ll get a detailed schedule of all workshop sessions upon arrival. It may also be posted on our website in advance — use the Workshop Finder to locate your workshop.
Pick up your plated, packaged meal at the Lodge during mealtimes, and enjoy it anywhere on campus.
Breakfast: 8:30 a.m. – 9:45 a.m.
Lunch: 12:30 p.m. – 1:45 p.m.
Dinner: 6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Our remote location means there is no cellphone service, and most guest rooms do not have telephones. There are pay phones on campus which require quarters, a calling card, or a prepaid minutes plan. We don’t sell calling cards and are not handling handle cash or providing quarters during the pandemic so please come prepared.
You’re welcome to use the two public computers next to the Conley Bookstore.
A public wireless network is also available in the Lodge outside of meal hours. To encourage live conversation and connection during meals, the network is turned off 15 minutes before meals begin and remains off for 15 minutes after service ends.
Due to the very limited bandwidth available in Big Sur, please refrain from using any video or audio streaming services.
If you’re unable to use one of our public computers or the wireless network in the Lodge to receive messages electronically, messages may be left by phone. Dial 831-667-3000 and select option one to speak directly with a Guest Services representative, or stay on the line to leave a voice mail message. Messages will be transcribed and posted on a central message board. In case of a true emergency outside of normal business hours, dial 831-667-3000 ext 3050.
We carry only basic sundries in the Conley Bookstore. The nearest pharmacy is 40 miles away and the nearest emergency room is an hour away, so make sure to bring prescription medications and any other medically-necessary items with you.
Esalen does not have an on-call doctor, and there are no other medical services available on site. If you will require medical attention or supplies during your stay, please come prepared to administer to your own needs, or make advance arrangements with the Big Sur Health Center in Big Sur.
To reduce our environmental impact, we do not offer camping (car or tent) on property. There is camping nearby both north and south on Highway 1. See the Big Sur Camping Guide for details.
Esalen is a non-smoking community. Smoking is permitted in designated outdoor areas only. It is not permitted in accommodations or meeting areas, or near the Lodge and outdoor deck during mealtimes.
Cannabis is prohibited.
Please note that Esalen does not have parking space for large vehicles. Large vehicles need to park on Highway 1 at the Esalen entrance.
Other than service animals, pets are not allowed on campus.
Workshop and Rituals of Esalen attendees will receive a detailed schedule of all sessions upon arrival. Workshop schedules may be posted in advance — use the Workshop Finder to locate your workshop.
Esalen will be offering a variety of open classes — a guided walk in the garden, a socially-distanced yoga class, and/or outdoor meditation.
All teachers will follow the outlined sanitation and physical distancing guidelines set forth below. Movement-based classes will be held outdoors as required by the state and county, and we recommend bringing your own yoga mats, props, and journals.
Along with any pre-planned activities that are part of your workshop or retreat, there are unlimited self-guided activities to experience, like:
Reserving a time to soak and relax in our mineral baths.
Watching whales and the plethora of sea otters that visit us.
Flowing through a mindfulness practice with a new perspective.
Exploring one book (or several!) from the Conley Bookstore.
Enjoying the fire pit outside the Lodge — while observing social distancing and wearing face coverings, of course.
The most important thing you can bring is a relaxed and flexible attitude! Things are changing rapidly and we’re all going with the flow.
Accommodations can be a little rustic (and the coastal weather unpredictable) so we recommend bringing these items to make your stay comfortable and safe.
Warm, layered clothing
Medications (there is no local pharmacy in the area)
Toiletries (please remember to bring shampoo and conditioner)
Water bottle (non-glass)
Hiking shoes / sneakers
Many of these items are also available in our bookstore.
You may also want to bring:
Foods and beverages that do not require refrigeration. We serve three large meals per day, but you may want snacks in between or to have your favorite item on hand.
Quarters, a calling card, or a prepaid minutes plan, if you intend to use the payphones.
Please don't bring:
Candles, incense, or anything flammable — the fire danger in our area is significant.
Any illicit drugs; we have a strict anti-drug policy.
Pets who are not service animals.
Expensive valuables — there are no safes and we cannot guarantee their safety.
We are located along a scenic and relatively remote stretch of California's central coast, approximately 12 miles south of Big Sur. Our address is:
55000 Highway 1
Big Sur, CA, 93920
Coming by air
Monterey Regional Airport (MRY) – 47 miles, approximately 75 minutes by car
San Jose International Airport (SJC) – 120 miles, approximately 2.5 hours by car
San Francisco International Airport (SFO) – 150 miles, approximately 3 hours by car
Coming by car
Please check road conditions for Highway 1 in Central California prior to departure, as there may be road construction or weather-related closures. Use these interactive maps if you need help determining whether any trouble spots will impact your route. The Caltrans District 5 Facebook page can also be a helpful resource.
Driving from San Francisco or Points North
• Take US-101 S.
• At Prunedale, take Route 156 west to the Monterey Peninsula and Highway 1.
• Take CA-1 S approximately 45 miles, passing Monterey, Carmel, and Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.
• Nepenthe, a popular restaurant located on the ocean side of Highway 1, is 11 miles north of Esalen.
• Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is three miles north of Esalen.
• Look for the Esalen Institute sign on the right side of the highway, at mile marker 32.4.
Driving from Los Angeles or Points South
Guests coming to Esalen from the south should take Route 101 north to San Luis Obispo, and then take Highway 1 north to Esalen.
• We are approximately 100 miles north of San Luis Obispo.
• When you reach Lucia, a bend in the road where there is a restaurant and motel, you are 10 miles south of Esalen.
• Look for the Esalen Institute sign on the left side of the highway, at mile marker 32.4.
Alternate Route via Nacimiento-Fergusson Road
In the event of a closure along Highway 1, an alternate route connecting Highway 101 to Highway 1 may be available via Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. This is a mountain road that is subject to closure during winter months. Get detailed directions.
Current road conditions
For traffic updates and other Caltrans projects in Monterey County, call (800) 427-ROAD (7623) within California and (916) 445-7623 from outside of California, or visit the Caltrans District 5 website.
Please call our Guest Services Office at 831-667-3000 if you have questions regarding your travel plans.