Surrounded by pine trees, Esalen Institute sits high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific ocean in Big Sur, California. It was created in the early 70's as a place of peace, love and self-awareness, and offers workshops in everything from dance to philosophical inquiry.
All my life I've heard the legends of the hot springs, with curative sulphur waters in rugged tubs perched on a cliff overlooking the Pacific. They were destroyed in a storm in 1998, but have reopened after a multi-million overhaul. You can use the hot springs by signing up for a workshop. Or you can book a massage at the spa.
But calling the spa a spa doesn't quite describe it. It's closer to a magical, outdoor experience.
The facility sprawls over three levels with spectacular views from every vantage point. There are lots of naked people, in fact, so many that naked is normal.
Getting massaged in a room with two other strangers is a bit unorthodox, but it didn't bother me at all in this setting. An hour and fifteen minutes of invigorating and soothing massage followed. As my masseuse stroked his last stroke, a thought passed through my head, "This is my true nature. I release all negative thoughts."
You can enjoy 75 minutes of blissful massage for $125. This includes an hour of soaking time before and after the massage. Check out esalen.org for more details and magnificent pictures.
I ended the day lolling in the warmest pool with the sun turning blood red on the horizon, my boyfriend's arms around me as I watched the whales migrate north heading for bountiful waters, spouting water as they swam.