Tassajara Hot Springs – Carmel Valley, California

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

Tassajara Hot Springs is in the tradition of the Japanese Onsen soaking style, with separate bathing 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. There is also access to the refreshing Tassajara Creek.

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. So why wait? Plan your visit to Tassajara Hot Springs today and discover the beauty and serenity of this special Zen retreat.

Accommodations

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

The lodgings at Tassajara Hot Springs are known for being on the “roughing it” side, with kerosene lights supplied since there is very little power available. Guests can choose from a selection of cottages and yurts or opt for a shared dorm room. Most rooms have their own basin and toilet, while shared showers can be found in the common areas. It’s worth noting that the hot springs are not pet-friendly, although service animals are welcome. Clothing is optional at the Zen retreat.

Dining

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

In addition to the hot springs, Tassajara also boasts a dining room featuring delicious vegetarian meals. The meals are prepared with care and attention to detail, making them a highlight of the Tassajara experience.

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. Whether you’re looking to relax in the thermal waters, take a hike on one of the property’s beautiful trails, or simply spend time in the serene surroundings, Tassajara has something for everyone. So why wait? Plan your visit today and experience the magic of Tassajara Hot Springs for yourself.

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Local information

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

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