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“Heaven on Earth”

The Esalen Institute
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed 19 August 2014

My wife and I have visited Esalen frequently for massage appointments and to use the incredible mineral baths. We haven't yet signed up for one of their retreats, which is really their main purpose, but we hope to soon. The baths are absolutely incredible and unique. Try to picture a modern architectural masterpiece perched directly over the cliffs above the sea in Big Sur. The fact that this is a very open, coed place where nearly everyone is nude is fabulous and liberating - shed your inhibitions in a very safe environment. So many regular spas are not conducive to enjoying the experience with your loved one as men and women are separated, or you have to wear bathing suits, either of which is a bummer in my book. The last time we were there, we were relaxing in one of several stone tubs of natural mineral water, watching the whales spout and dive a few hundred years off the shore, listening to the crashing waves. The combo of the sound, the scenery and the massage was incredible. Esalen style massages are unique and among the best I have experienced. I especially recommend Chloe (Kelly) Spellman. Since we do not want to go at 1:00 am when they are open to the general public, we schedule a massage appointment mid-day, which allows you to use the baths 1 hour before and 1 hour after the massage. This gives you about 3-1/2 hours there, which is a perfect amount of time. The people we meet there are always lovely. I can't say enough good about it.

3  Thank Jonnymar
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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83 - 87 of 186 reviews

Reviewed 12 August 2014

Yes, I was naked and afraid! Ok, ok, the afraid part is because I'm very modest, and being naked around a bunch of strangers made me very nervous, but listen carefully: it's not as bad as you think! First of all, getting the reservation for a 1-3 am hot tub soak was pretty hard, but keep calling multiple times a day and you'll eventually get a real person on the other line. No, it wasn't hard to find! There's a big, lit up sign on the highway. The "gatekeeper" was very nice, and he was efficient in explaining the rules. So what was it like? Well, it was very, very clean, and very, very dim. Seriously! You can't really see too well, and if you're staring it's kind of embarrassing. Absolutely nobody wore bathing suites, and I actually saw one guy with board shorts on who looked around, felt out of place, and suddenly appeared sans the shorts. They provide towels, so you can cover up on the way to the tubs if you feel a little shy, but everyone was very respectful and into their own experience. You shower, and off you go to a selection of tubs. 3 hot tubs hanging over the ocean, and a few claw foot tubs for a single person, as well as a silence area with more hot tubs that I never even made it too. It was amazing. You're looking over the moonlit ocean, listening to waves crashing, while sitting in a relaxing, stone hot tub. At the most, there were 6 people in the tub, and people were coming and going quietly. Everyone is there for their own positive purpose, nobody is concerned about your body and you shouldn't be either! It was just a beautiful, wonderful, calming experience. I loved every moment of it (except for the long walk back to the car, which is up hill and almost killed me j/k). I would recommend it to anyone. Sigh... it was amazing.

4  Thank JJDB1400
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 August 2014

I have taken 3 week long workshops here for massage continuing education. The atmosphere supports your personal journey. The bath house and massages are very relaxing. And the food is simply amazing.

Thank MassageGuru
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 6 August 2014

Esalen is not for everyone, but if it is for you... it might just be your favorite place on Earth. Whether you come alone, with your significant other, or even with a friend, this beautiful destination is one of a kind. Overlooking the ocean with breathtaking views, you're surrounded by nature in a quiet relaxing setting. This experience offered healthy food options, hiking trails, heavenly massages while listening to the sounds of the ocean, a large variety of workshops including yoga among many other things, hot springs, and much more. I strolled through the gardens surrounded by butterflies and every place I walked to had something new to see. The hot springs are opened 24 hours and while I stayed in my bathing suit (out of respect for my boyfriend who wasn't there), I surprisingly was very eager to join everyone else around me and take it off. Almost everyone in the hot springs are naked, but it felt very natural and wasn't uncomfortable at all. This was my first time in this setting and for anyone new to this kind of environment you still have the option to wear a bathing suit or you can even come at night when everything is very very dark and hard to see. There's also quite a few baths which makes it very easy to get your own. The room options are all very different giving you the choice to share bunk beds with friendly strangers (which is what I did) or you can upgrade to a nice cottage overlooking the water. Theres many choices depending on your budget but all will ensure a good time. After leaving Esalen, I felt more relaxed, and a very spiritual connection with the Institute. Big Sur itself is a magical place, and Esalen gives you the chance to join a community where you can make connections with others while learning about yourself.

1  Thank Sydnee B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 5 August 2014

I went here for a massage while on vacation in Big Sur. I had some trepidation about the clothing optional aspect, I opted to wear my bathing suit but everyone else was naked and I did not feel one bit uncomfortable, as all of the other folks seemed to be minding their own business, there was definitely no gawking or anything of the sort. The massage was an amazing experience and if you're wondering if it's worth the money, being massaged in an open air room, on a cliff, overlooking the pacific ocean while listening to the surf crash against the rocks is worth the money.

Thank haley s
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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