Cal­i­for­nia’s cel­e­brated spas pro­vide the ul­ti­mate get­away

Travel Guide to California - - CONTENTS - BY LAVINIA SPALDING

Pam­per Your Body, Cen­ter Your Soul


This cel­e­brated re­gion and neigh­bor­ing Sonoma Val­ley are known pri­mar­ily for their wine, but their ap­peal runs deeper than that. You can pam­per your­self at lux­ury spas—such as Mead­owood in Saint He­lena, the Sonoma Mis­sion Inn & Spa, or In­dian Springs Re­sort & Spa in Cal­is­toga—dine at some of Cal­i­for­nia’s (and the USA’S) best restau­rants, shop at trendy bou­tiques or live a lit­tle rougher and ex­plore wild state parks. In San Fran­cisco’s vi­brant Ja­pan­town district, buses and bikes whiz by, teens con­gre­gate and peo­ple text as fast as they walk. But inside the Kabuki Hot Springs, the city van­ishes. The only sounds in the dimly lit, Ja­panese-style com­mu­nal baths are the gen­tle splash­ing of wa­ter and oc­ca­sional strains of sooth­ing music. In the sauna, you can lie back and detox­ify as you treat your eyes to chilled cu­cum­ber slices. Then hit the steam room and ex­fo­li­ate with lemon and sea salt. Fol­low with a long, lazy soak in the hot tub, and if you’re brave, a cold plunge. When you’re fin­ished, start all over again. In fact, linger all day: it only costs $25.

For peo­ple around the world, the name “Cal­i­for­nia” means es­cape and con­jures im­ages of sunny beaches. But in to­day’s de­mand­ing, per­pet­u­ally wired world, a true va­ca­tion re­quires more than just a break from the of­fice; it takes un­plug­ging, pu­ri­fy­ing and restor­ing. Luck­ily, this is prac­ti­cally the state motto.

Cal­i­for­nia has been a re­sort des­ti­na­tion since the early 20th cen­tury, beck­on­ing trav­el­ers with its year-round warm weather, spec­tac­u­lar geog­ra­phy and min­eral springs. The 1950s brought yoga to the state, and the 1960s ush­ered in a wave of young hip­pies pas­sion­ate about all-nat­u­ral food and in­ten­tional liv­ing. To­day, Cal­i­for­nia is the na­tion’s vor­tex of per­sonal health and self­im­prove­ment, with spas and well­ness cen­ters al­most as ubiq­ui­tous as scenic

views. From five-star lux­ury re­sorts and posh day spas to holis­tic heal­ing pro­grams and “hip­pie hot springs,” the ar­ray of re­treats will dazzle even the most ex­pe­ri­enced seren­ity seeker. Here are some of our fa­vorite spots for the ul­ti­mate es­cape.

Tak­ing the Wa­ters

Home to nu­mer­ous large geo­ther­mal ar­eas, Cal­i­for­nia has for cen­turies been a cel­e­brated min­eral springs des­ti­na­tion, with myr­iad spas statewide. Two hours in­land from Los An­ge­les, Desert Hot Springs of­fers dozens of op­tions, from the glam­orous, sprawl­ing Two Bunch Palms (fea­tured in the movie The Player) to cozy bou­tique inns like Ha­cienda Hot Springs. The Cen­tral Coast also boasts fa­mous baths, such as Esalen (equally known for its ex­ten­sive list of al­ter­na­tive-ed­u­ca­tion work­shops) and Tas­sa­jara, the first Zen monastery built out­side of Asia. But small, funky Cal­is­toga in the north is the state’s old­est spa town, renowned not only for hot springs but also abun­dant vol­canic ash used for ther­a­peu­tic mud treat­ments.

Eight thousand years ago, the Wappo In­di­ans named the area “Ta La Ha Lu Si,” mean­ing “Beau­ti­ful Land” or “Oven Place,” and to­day spa fa­cil­i­ties run the gamut from lux­u­ri­ous to laid-back. The old­est in Cal­is­toga—and likely Cal­i­for­nia—is In­dian Springs, opened in 1862 by Sam Bran­nan, the first Gold Rush mil­lion­aire. The 17-acre prop­erty fea­tures a re­cently re­mod­elled Olympic-size heated min­eral pool (com­pli­men­tary with spa treat­ment on week­days; $30 ex­tra on week­ends), an adults-only pool with din­ing and bev­er­age ser­vice, plus mud baths, steam rooms steeped with eu­ca­lyp­tus, and a med­i­ta­tion pond.

Wine Coun­try Well­ness

Cal­i­for­ni­ans are known to soak up a lot more than wine in Napa Val­ley and Sonoma. Res­i­dents have long en­joyed the area’s nat­u­ral min­eral wa­ters, and to­day’s spa menus over­flow with treat­ments us­ing grape seeds and skins, rich in an­tiox­i­dants and polyphe­nols. At the Ken­wood Inn and Spa, treat your­self to an 80-minute crushed Caber­net scrub and mas­sage, or a heated honey wine wrap. Add a 25-minute vinother­apy bath to your treat­ment, and you’ll soak in Pinot Noir bath salts or sparkling salt and grape elixirs, while sip­ping a glass of bub­bly.

But it’s not all about grapes in wine coun­try. At Sonoma’s Os­mo­sis Day Spa Sanc­tu­ary, an in­no­va­tive, eco-con­scious day spa, the spe­cialty is a cedar en­zyme “bath.” Guests im­merse them­selves to the chin in warm, finely ground cedar, rice bran and plant en­zymes. Heated by nat­u­ral fer­men­ta­tion, the treat­ment is said to aid di­ges­tion, im­prove cir­cu­la­tion and relieve mus­cle pain.

Or for first-class pam­per­ing, lav­ish ac­com­mo­da­tions and a three-star Miche­lin din­ner, visit the 14,000-square-foot all­suite Mead­owood Spa, and choose a cu­rated treat­ment pack­age such as “From the Earth,” which in­cludes a hot and cold stone mas­sage and a black wal­nut scrub en­hanced with cus­tom-blended aro­mather­apy oils. Lo­cated on a pri­vate, two-hun­dred-fifty­acre es­tate, Mead­owood also of­fers golf, ten­nis, cro­quet, hik­ing and swim­ming.

Om Sweet Om

When yoga came to Amer­ica, some of the first stu­dios ap­peared in Hol­ly­wood and San Fran­cisco. The prac­tice has since be­come a way of life for count­less Cal­i­for­ni­ans, and hun­dreds of top-notch cen­ters, from ritzy to rus­tic, cater to begin­ners and gu­rus alike.

One of the world’s most renowned yoga re­treats is tucked into the Santa Ynez Moun­tains above Santa Barbara. At the White Lo­tus Foun­da­tion Cen­ter, guests spend their days do­ing sun salu­ta­tions in a canyon with ocean views, hik­ing through old-growth oaks, med­i­tat­ing in an un­der­ground Hopi-style kiva tem­ple and swim­ming in nat­u­ral sand­stone pools. Mas­sages are avail­able, gourmet veg­e­tar­ian fare is served, and sleep­ing quar­ters are pri­vate ac­com­mo­da­tions, heated yurts or creek­side camp­ing un­der the stars.

Health First

When the sub­lime Golden Door opened in Es­con­dido in 1958, it was a pi­o­neer among Amer­i­can spas. It’s since be­come one of the world’s finest health re­sorts, reg­u­larly host­ing Hol­ly­wood’s big­gest stars. Golden Door spe­cial­izes in fit­ness, East­ern phi­los­o­phy, re­lax­ation and op­u­lence. Guests pre-ar­range com­pletely cus­tom­ized four- to seven-day pack­ages with fit­ness op­tions as di­verse as Pi­lates, fenc­ing, ten­nis, dance, car­dio sculpt­ing and archery. Best of all, each stay in­cludes fa­cial treat­ments, herbal wraps, mani-pedis and daily in-room mas­sages.

An­other great (and more af­ford­able) op­tion is The Oaks at Ojai, where healthy weight loss and con­scious eat­ing are em­pha­sized, and the ever-chang­ing list of ac­tiv­i­ties might in­clude bal­let danc­ing, hula hoop­ing, Qigong, hik­ing and aqua Zumba. In­dulge in a sea­sonal sugar rub (think Pixie tan­ger­ine, laven­der or fig), lemon­grass laven­der pedi­cure or hot Hi­malayan salt stone mas­sage.

Ul­ti­mately, Cal­i­for­nia’s spa cul­ture prom­ises vis­i­tors far more than re­lax­ation; it en­sures that this time you won’t need a va­ca­tion from your va­ca­tion. You’ll re­turn home re­laxed and recharged—that is, if you can bring your­self to re­turn home at all.

SUN­SET YOGA in La Jolla Cove, top; spa pool at Ter­ranea Re­sort, above; Traver­tine Hot Springs, Bridge­port, right; Sonoma’s Os­mo­sis Day Spa Sanc­tu­ary, Free­stone, op­po­site.

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