Tassajara Hot Springs – Carmel Valley, CA

Located in the beautiful Carmel Valley of Monterey County, Tassajara Hot Springs is a unique and serene destination nestled in the Los Padres National Forest. Surrounded by the stunning Big Sur landscape, Tassajara Road leads visitors to this peaceful oasis, where they can relax and rejuvenate in the natural thermal springs. Tassajara is a popular campground for those seeking a relaxing and natural getaway, with a variety of amenities and activities available on the property.

This private Zen retreat is a special sanctuary, as it is the first Zen monastery in the western world. The hot springs offer an all-inclusive geothermal experience, including meals, accommodations, and soaking. Visitors can choose from a variety of retreats and workshops, as well as enjoy a quiet and unique Japanese-style “onsen” soaking experience.

A Brief History

Zen Mountain: Tassajara Hot Springs - Carmel Valley, California
Tassajara ZenZen Mountain: Tassajara Hot Springs – Carmel Valley, California Mountain Center – AFAR

The hot springs have a long and storied history dating back to 1868, when J. E Rust discovered the thermal waters while on a hunting trip. In the following years, ownership of the land changed hands several times, with Charles Quilty taking possession in March and Ralph Myers in May. During this time, the hot springs became a popular destination for travelers seeking the therapeutic benefits of the thermal waters.

Tragically, the hotel on the property burned down on September 9, leading to a change in ownership once again. The land was subsequently purchased by Angela in October, who established the Agua Caliente resort. The hot springs have also been associated with the Esselen Indians and have a long history of use for their healing properties.

In the years that followed, Tassajara Hot Springs changed hands several more times, with various improvements and additions made to the property. It was during this time that the hot springs became known as a Zen center, with Philip Terry and William Hart playing important roles in its development. The property was eventually purchased by James Ranch, who paid the first payment on the land using gold from the California Gold Rush.

In the late 1960s, the Esalen Institute took over ownership of the hot springs and established it as a retreat center. Today, Tassajara is managed by the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and is open to the public during the summer months. It is located in the United States, within the Ventana Wilderness and near Tassajara Creek.

The Hot Springs

Onsen style pools at Tassajara Hot Springs
Onsen style pools at Tassajara Hot Springs

The Tassajara Hot Springs resort offers a unique and authentic Japanese Onsen soaking experience with separate bathing facilities for men and women, including clothing optional options. The bathhouses boast a sundeck for relaxation, communal showers, two hot plunges, a sauna room, and private baths. Additionally, guests can access the refreshing Tassajara Creek for an immersive experience.

The resort offers a Japanese-themed atmosphere with separate bathhouses for men and women. Amenities include sun decks, communal showers, two pools, a sauna room, and a private bath. The Hot Springs are only open to the public during the summer. However, guests can access the pools through retreat programs and workshops during other seasons. Advanced reservations through the official website are a must for those who wish to join the program.

The Hot Springs offer a serene and peaceful setting that is deep within the forest, and the use of smartphones and other gadgets is strictly prohibited. This makes it an ideal retreat for those who want to spend some quiet time in a spiritual monastery, where they can soak in the mineral-rich hot pools away from the bustle of the city. The resort features a range of hot pools, including an outdoor pool and thermal pools, making it an ideal destination for those looking to rejuvenate and recharge.

Amenities and Activities

Tassajara Hot Springs - Explore the Japanese Style Onsen Hot Springs
Tassajara Hot Springs – Explore the Japanese Style Onsen Hot Springs

Tassajara Hot Springs is much more than just a place to soak in the hot springs. The Zen retreat offers a variety of activities and experiences for guests to enjoy, from meditation and yoga classes to hiking and exploring the beautiful surrounding nature.

One of the highlights of Tassajara is the hot springs themselves, which are divided into separate soaking accommodations for men and women that are clothing optional. The bathhouses include a sundeck for relaxation, communal showers, two hot plunges, a sauna room, and private baths. The hot springs are in the tradition of the Japanese Onsen style, and they are a great place to relax and unwind after a day of activities.

For those looking to explore the surrounding area, Tassajara is located in the Los Padres National Forest, which is home to a variety of hiking trails and natural habitats. The area is known for its beautiful forests and wildlife, and it’s not uncommon to spot a mountain lion or other animals during a hike. There are also several popular campgrounds in the area, which are a great option for those looking to spend more time in the great outdoors.

In addition to the natural attractions, Tassajara is also located near several major cities, including San Francisco and San Jose. These cities are both within driving distance of Tassajara and offer a variety of cultural and entertainment options. The closest airport to Tassajara is in San Francisco, which is about a two-hour drive away.

Tassajara is open to the public only in the summer months, and reservations are required. The hot springs are a popular destination, so it’s a good idea to book in advance to secure your spot. The weather in the area can vary, with the chance of rain in some months and low temperatures in others. In March, the weather can be unpredictable, and visitors should be prepared for a range of conditions. October is also a popular time to visit, and the autumn foliage in the area can be beautiful.

Overall, Tassajara Hot Springs is a great destination for those looking to relax, unwind, and connect with nature. With its natural hot springs, variety of activities, and peaceful surroundings, it’s a must-visit for anyone looking to get away from it all.

Lodging Options Near Tassajara

"Rough" accommodations at Tassajara Hot Springs
“Rough” accommodations at Tassajara Hot Springs. Photo:  facebook.com/tassajarazen

Tassajara Hot Springs is a popular retreat for those seeking a unique and rustic experience. With kerosene lights and limited power, guests can disconnect from the hustle and bustle of daily life and connect with nature. Accommodations at Tassajara include a selection of cottages and yurts, as well as shared dorm rooms. Most rooms have private basins and toilets, while showers are located in common areas. It’s important to note that the hot springs are not pet-friendly, but service animals are welcome. For those looking for an optional experience, clothing is also optional at the Zen retreat.

If you’re looking for lodging options near Tassajara, Carmel Wayfarer Inn is a great choice. Located on the 4th Avenue of Carmel City, the hotel offers non-smoking rooms at a reasonable price range of $118 to $158. The Carmel Wayfarer Inn offers several upscale amenities including complimentary parking, air-conditioning, Wifi. Guests can also access outdoor fireplace, garden, ocean view accommodations, and a patio.

The Best Western Carmel’s Town House Lodge is a recommended choice. This modern two-story motel is located on San Carlos Street of Carmel City and offers non-smoking and family rooms with various features like a safe, microwave oven, housekeeping, coffee/tea maker, bath/shower, iron, flat-screen TV, telephone, iron, wake-up service, and refrigerator. The Best Western Carmel’s Town House Lodge also has luxury amenities like free parking, Wi-Fi, free breakfast, baggage storage, heated pool, newspaper, breakfast buffet, vending machine, laundry service, and express check-in/check-out.

For a more rustic experience, consider the Clarion Collection Carmel by the Sea. Located on 5th & Mission Street in Carmel City, this lodge offers non-smoking rooms with amenities like housekeeping, seating area, iron, telephone, refrigerator, coffee/tea maker, toiletries, hair dryer, and wake-up service. The Clarion Collection also has luxury amenities like free parking, (Wi-Fi). Breakfast is included.


Vegen menu at Tassajara Zen Mountain ...
Vegen menu at Tassajara Zen Mountain …

In addition to the relaxing hot springs, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center also offers delicious vegetarian meals at their dining room. These meals are carefully prepared with attention to detail, making them a highlight of the Tassajara experience. But if you’re looking for more dining options, there are some great restaurants located near the retreat.

One of these options is the Flying Fish Grill, which is located on Mission Street in nearby Carmel City. They offer a variety of American, Asian, and healthy dishes for a price range of $30 to $40. You can enjoy dinner or late-night meals, and they offer special diets for vegetarian-friendly, vegan, and gluten-free customers. The Flying Fish Grill accepts credit cards.

The Dametra Café serves Mediterranean, European, Turkish, and seafood cuisine. Their popular dishes include hummus, tzatziki sauce with pita bread, spanakopita of Athens, fried calamari and smoked salmon. They offer meal plans for lunch, dinner, and late-night meals, with prices ranging from $9 to $40. They have takeout, reservations, high chairs available, wheelchair accessibility, indoor seating, live music, a full bar, and serve alcohol.

Another great restaurant near Tassajara is Grasing’s Restaurant, which offers American, seafood, and vegetarian-friendly options for a price range of $20 to $65. They have special diets for vegetarian-friendly, vegan, and gluten-free options, and serve meals and drinks throughout the day. Grasing’s serves alcohol, a full bar, and outdoor seating. They accept credit card payments.

Accessing Tassajara Hot Springs

Tassajara Hot Springs is located in the beautiful Los Padres Forest, about 45 miles or an hour and 50-minute drive from Salinas, California. To get there, take CA-68 W, Laureles Grade, and W Carmel Valley Rd to Forest Rte 18S02/Jamesburg Rd/Tassajara Rd. This 14-mile dirt road is the only way to access the hot springs by car, and it starts in Carmel Valley.

It’s important to note that the road to Tassajara can be rough and is not recommended for vehicles without four-wheel drive. If you don’t have a four-wheel drive vehicle, you should arrange for shuttle pick-up from Carmel Valley. The shuttle service can be booked through the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, and it is the most reliable and safe way to reach the hot springs.

Once you reach Tassajara, it is a moderate walk around the property. The hot springs are located in a serene and natural setting, surrounded by beautiful forests and the Tassajara Creek. The Zen retreat is a great place to relax and unwind, and the hot springs are a highlight of any visit.

It’s worth noting that there is no internet or cell phone reception at Tassajara, which is intentional in order to create a peaceful and serene environment. This means that you will be disconnected from the outside world during your stay, which can be a great opportunity to disconnect and fully relax.

A Unique and Serene Destination

With its rich history, natural hot springs, and variety of amenities and activities, Tassajara Hot Springs is a truly unique and serene destination. Located in the stunning Carmel Valley of California, it’s a must-visit for anyone seeking peace, relaxation, and spiritual energy.

At Tassajara Hot Springs, guests can relax and unwind in the mineral-rich pools and steamy thermal pools, or take a dip in the outdoor pool. The resort also offers access to nearby Slates Hot Springs and the Ventana Wilderness, as well as the National Forest. And for those seeking a more spiritual experience, the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center offers Buddhist teachings and meditation practices.

But Tassajara Hot Springs is more than just a resort – it’s an experience. From the mountainous terrain to the mud road leading to the resort, every aspect of Tassajara Hot Springs is designed to immerse guests in a world of natural beauty and tranquility. And with easy access from San Francisco, Monterey County, and San Jose, it’s the perfect destination for a weekend getaway or a longer retreat.

Weather forecast for next 5 days

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Local information

Address: 31971 Tassajara Road, Carmel Valley, California 93924​
GPS: 36.233599,-121.548609
Phone: 415-865-1899
Season: May-September


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Anne loves to explore the world and share her experiences through her blog. She loves to travel to places that are off the beaten path and find unique experiences to share with her readers. She also loves to share tips on how to make the most of a trip, from budgeting to activities. She hopes that her blog will inspire others to explore the world and enjoy the beauty of nature.