Esalen: Clothing Optional

Spa Magazine – Jan/Feb 2005


Esalen is proof that God favors sensualists. It’s built on 27 acres of the Big Sur coast – a sublime stretch of shore studded with redwoods, beaches, waterfalls, and, of course, hot springs. 50 feet above the swirling, crashing Pacific, 119-degree mineral water, once revered by local Indians for its healing power, cascades into recently re-built, exquisitely designed cobblestone and concrete tubs. The funky sulfur scent, rising from pools scattered across the sandstone deck, hints at the water’s richness. Some tubs are exposed to the elements, others sheltered beneath dynamic cantilevered ceilings, and each one sucks the stress from your bones and soul almost instantly.

The Spa

Esalen is more an institute than a classic spa. Yogis, Buddhist teachers, authors and musicians offer seminars year round. There are even weekend Tantric sex workshops for couples, but it is possible to arrange day spa services. In fact, people come from all over the world just to soak in the famed Esalen Baths, and they’re all NAKED. The changing rooms are co-ed, the showers, built with sliding glass windows on the seaward side, are likewise unisex, the bodies come in all shapes and sizes. Public displays of self-assured nudity are rampant at Esalen, height, weight, body fat be damned. We’re talking contagious self-body-love here, and, frankly, there’s nothing sexier.

Satisfaction Guaranteed

Priority #1 is to submerge in the shimmering pools, #1A is to enjoy Esalen’s singular massage. There is a soothing quality to the therapists’ long, sensitive strokes, and they are not clock-watchers. They work until the kinks are smooth and all tension is released. And if you’re too loose to leave, book a room with a view, enjoy the organic seductions they call dinner and watch the sunset and moonrise over the ocean. Then strip down, feel the night air in all your glory, and hit the baths one more time.