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The Esalen Institute, Big Sur

3.6
#11 of 192 in Spas in California
Spa · Hidden Gem · Educational Site
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The Esalen Institute, commonly just called Esalen, is a non-profit American retreat center and intentional community in Big Sur, California which focuses on humanistic alternative education. The Institute played a key role in the Human Potential Movement beginning in the 1960s. Its innovative use of encounter groups, a focus on the mind-body connection, and their ongoing experimentation in personal awareness introduced many ideas that later became mainstream.
Esalen was founded by Stanford graduates Michael Murphy and Dick Price in 1962. Their intention was to support alternative methods for exploring human consciousness, what Aldous Huxley described as "human potentialities". Over the next few years, Esalen became the center of practices and beliefs that make up the New Age movement, from Eastern religions/philosophy, to alternative medicine and mind-body interventions, to Gestalt Practice.
Price ran the Institute until he was killed in a hiking accident in 1985. In 2012, the board hired professional executives to help raise money and keep the Institute profitable. Esalen offers over 500 workshops yearly in areas including personal growth, meditation, massage, Gestalt Practice, yoga, psychology, ecology, spirituality, and organic food. About 15,000 people a year attend its workshops.
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The Esalen Institute reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating
TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
245 reviews
Google
3.8
TripAdvisor
  • The reviewers seem to be treating Esalen just like any other luxury hotel. But it's not. If you attend the best workshop for you, meet and talk to people over meals, experience the baths etc. this... 
    The reviewers seem to be treating Esalen just like any other luxury hotel. But it's not. If you attend the best workshop for you, meet and talk to people over meals, experience the baths etc. this...  more »
  • Do a thorough research on what you really want before booking, because it's not for everyone, if you know what I mean. One thing for sure, Esalen relies heavily on its rich past glory, and today it... 
    Do a thorough research on what you really want before booking, because it's not for everyone, if you know what I mean. One thing for sure, Esalen relies heavily on its rich past glory, and today it...  more »
Google
  • I have read about Esalen and wanted to visit for years. I finally got the chance and was not disappointed. In fact I fell in love. This place is peaceful, sacred, magical, rejuvenating and worth every penny. I would give almost anything to have daily access to hot springs tubs and pool like that and with that view!! The food was decent, I felt they could take it up one notch at least. But I’m picky. The landscape, the buildings, the view, the wildlife, all were spectacular. I’m already looking forward to my next visit. If I could afford it, I’d go every year.
  • Booked the healing arts day pass, which gives you a 75 min massage and access to Esalen from 8:30 am - 4:30 pm for $345. It also includes lunch (although it should include breakfast if you arrive early enough/no one cares if you grab breakfast!). The views are stunning and the massage style is very unique as Esalen is a massage school. The baths are very relaxing and overall it was a lovely experience. I wish it included dinner and that you could stay to enjoy sunset! Leaving at 4:30 felt like I was missing out a bit.

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