The Esalen Institute, Big Sur, CA: Call it the cradle of West Coast civilization. Founded in the 1960s, it was here that figures like Joseph Campbell, Abraham Maslow, Fritz Perls and an Episcopal priest-turned-Zen Buddhist named Alan Watts fused eastern mysticism with modern psychology. They seeded mega-trends ranging from Gestalt Therapy to Star Wars.
If physical place is the dominant force that shapes your experience then nothing compares to Esalen. Its sandstone cliff-hanger mineral baths are fed by a spring on the beach that in earlier centuries were a healing force for the coastal Esselen Indians. Today’s baths are open all night long, and nude lounging is welcome. Entranced by the moon, stars and breakers five stories below, visitors from around the world take full advantage of both options.
Cost: $105 – $180 per night.
Fine print: Esalen is a workshop-oriented retreat but it is possible to snag a space
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