Getaways for Body and Soul

When it’s time to take care of yourself
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getaways for the soul
Alila Ventana Big Sur. Photo by Gabriel Teague.

With the new year comes the longing for a reset, a recommitment to self, and a desire to recharge after what’s often a hectic holiday season. Carve out a little time, whether it’s just for you or for you and a special someone else, and head for one of these slower, quieter destinations. For each location, we’ve curated a collection of ways you can prioritize you—nurture your whole being, inside and out, with nutritious food, soul-cleansing hikes, deep sleep and some creative thinking. You’ll come home rejuvenated, energized and ready to tackle 2023.

NORTH COAST
MENDOCINO

For a peaceful getaway, Mendocino perhaps comes to mind first, with its whitewashed charm and ready access to Northern California’s wild coastline and its fog-draped redwood and fern groves just inland. Trails cut through the deep woods and crisscross windswept bluffs, and restaurants and inns invite solo and paired-up travelers in for nutrient-dense meals and sweet sleep.

russian gulch state park
Russian Gulch State Park. Photo by Gabriel Teague.

Sleep Good—Perched over the Big River where it dumps into the big, blue ocean, Stanford Inn by the Sea is a prime place to soothe your inner spirit. Choose from a variety of room and suite types—all different from one another—and you’ll be treated to cushy beds, wood burning fireplaces, wood floors and paneling, decks and views, views, views. Also included in your stay: chef-prepared, plant-based breakfasts. The on-site Ravens restaurant serves all-vegan cuisine, with many ingredients plucked straight from the property’s biodynamic, organic gardens. It’s a renowned experience; the dinner menu includes such specialties as sea palm strudel, wild-mushroom crepes and a tasty Thai red curry.

The resort offers plenty of health-enriching opportunities. In addition to touring the lush gardens, guests can sign up for gardening and vegan cooking classes, yoga and Pilates sessions, breathwork lessons, massage, Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine treatments, nature tours, and art experiences through something called Creative Playshop. Take a dip in the saltwater pool in the greenhouse, then slip into the dry sauna or hot tub to fully unwind. Stanford Inn by the Sea is an all-vegan resort, the only one of its kind in North America, with environmental sustainability practices that will help your conscience sleep well at night.

stanford inn by the sea
Stanford Inn by the Sea. Photo by Gabriel Teague.

Forest Bathe—The Japanese say the practice of shinrin-yoku—forest bathing—is deeply destressing. The Fern Canyon Trail at Russian Gulch State Park is an ideal place for this; you’ll trudge deep into the greenest-of-green redwood forests, through a fern-walled canyon, past waterfalls. Part of the trail may be closed for renovation, but there’s still plenty to take in. Long pants, long sleeves and careful steps will prevent one big potential stressor: poison oak.

fern canyon trail
Fern Canyon Trail. Photo by Gabriel Teague.

Juice Up—Find locally juiced juices at several locations in town including GoodLife Café & Bakery, The Waiting Room at Café Beaujolais, Corners of the Mouth (in the old red church) and Harvest at Mendosa’s. Time for a flu shot!

Rough It—Jughandle Creek Nature Center has a variety of accommodations options—farmhouse, bunkhouse, cabin, campground—set in the forest near the beach, with easy access to trails (including the Ecological Staircase that leads to the Pygmy Forest).

Cabin at Jughandle Creek Nature Center
Cabin at Jughandle Creek Nature Center. Photo by Gabriel Teague.

Power Up the Paddle or Pedal—Get a wicked upper-body workout paddling on the Big River, or use your legs with a rental from Catch a Canoe & Bicycles, Too, part of Stanford Inn by the Sea.

Get a Caffeine Buzz—At Bay View Coffee Company in Mendocino Village, buy a creamy latte or cup of joe, then carry it into the Wi-Fi room, if it’s open, or up the hill to the little outdoor seating area tucked behind the building.

Canoeing on the Big River
Canoeing on the Big River. Photo by Gabriel Teague

Be an Artist—Sign up for a plein air painting workshop Jan. 21-22 at Mendocino Art Center and discover your creative side while you paint an outdoor landscape—outdoors!

Be Pampered—Go for a Hot Green Jade Stone Massage at Nahara Healing Arts.

Let the Sun Go Down—Pick just about any bluff on the Mendocino Headlands and wander out—not too close!—to see the sun ribbon the sky with peach, pink, purple and gold.

Mind Your Meditation—Behind the restrooms on Heeser Drive (within Mendocino Headlands State Park), follow the trail on foot into a cozy grove of trees, then beyond to overlook one of many small bays. This area is perfect for a quiet moment of deep-breathing sea breezes while you let your mind empty out.

mendocino headlands
Photo by Gabriel Teague.

Eat Cheat—It’s hard to see the line outside The Brickery—also on the Café Beaujolais compound—without joining up for a fresh woodfired pizza. Last we looked, there’s one with kale!

Pick Up a Good Book—Gallery Bookshop, facing the headlands, always has a big selection of local authors’ books—and all the latest best-sellers plus lots of great gifts. Pick up a novel to read by the fire back at the inn. If you’re lucky, you might come upon the black and-white cat, The Great Catsby. They say he’s a little cranky, but we’ve never been swatted.

CENTRAL COAST
BIG SUR

Could there be a more replenishing spot on Earth than Big Sur? To get there, you pass one of the most beautiful parks in the world (Point Lobos State Natural Reserve) and then you cross one of the most iconic bridges (Bixby Creek) and continue your spectacular drive to arrive at one of the greatest scenic wonders ever, where land cascades down to the crashing sea. Let the attitude adjustment begin.

McWay Falls
McWay Falls. Photo by Gabriel Teague.

Splurge for the Night—A stay at Alila Ventana Big Sur resort, which starts at more than $1,000 a night, includes breakfast, lunch, dinner, non-alc beverages and access to pools—including clothing-optional Japanese baths. The property includes all kinds of gorgeous nooks for meditation or setting up a yoga mat, trails for walking, and the spa menu has body treatments described with all the magical buzzwords: cleanse, detoxify, purify, energize, relax, rejuvenate. You can even get an astrology reading.

Veg With a View—Not everything’s vegetarian at COAST restaurant, but if you’re choosing plant-powered for your getaway, it’s a great option for inventive salads and tarts, possibly even an all-plant stew. Plus, it’s got a fabulous view of the coastline.

Alila Ventana Big Sur
Alila Ventana Big Sur. Photo courtesy of the resort.

Treat Yourself—You can’t be good all the time, so grab a cookie from Big Sur Bakery.

Sunset 1.0—From the parking area, it’s a short walk to the McWay Falls Overlook at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, an ideal position from which to view the sunset on a clear or cloud-striped evening. This month, the sun melts into the horizon between 5:03 (Jan. 1) and 5:33 (Jan. 31) p.m.

Sunset 2.0—Same time, different place: The deck at a restaurant called Nepenthe enables you to pair the sunset with a health-promoting Bitter Ginger Seasonal Shrub or pot of Gunpowder Green tea.

Hike Among the Giants—Forest bathe beneath the redwoods with a walk along the Pfeiffer Falls trail at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Be ready for some stairs.

hiking
Photo by Onyx & Ash

Empty Your Head—To hike to Partington Cove, which in the late 1800s was a shipping supply access for the area, map it before you lose cell coverage. Follow the road on foot down through the tunnel, then off to the right toward the beach. Most people go the other way. Park your butt on a boulder, face the water and start timing your breath with the waves.

Fill Your Head—The Henry Miller Library, named for the late Big Sur artist and writer Henry Miller, is a thought-provoking place to read, write, listen to music, sit in the redwood grove, and help yourself to some coffee and tea.

fresh food
Photo by Gabriel Teague

Omega 3s With a View—Plunk down $75 for a prix-fixe lunch at Sierra Mar at Post Ranch Inn and get whatever seafood is among the main-course choices. You can be sure it’s done right, and there’s nothing like gazing out at the sea while you enjoy a proper fish dish. Sierra Mar might have the best restaurant view anywhere.

glen oaks' big sur cabin
Glen Oaks’ Big Sur Cabin. Photo by Onyx & Ash.

Sleep by the River—For a more rustically beautiful stay, Glen Oaks’ one-bedroom “Big Sur Cabin” by the Big Sur River is warmed by a cast-iron stove and includes two side-by-side clawfoot tubs in a private courtyard under towering redwoods. It’s tempting to crack jokes about re-enacting a Cialis commercial, but you’ll mostly just want to sink into the tub and gaze up at the tree canopy.

MOUNTAINS
LAKE TAHOE

It’s snowy this time of year, and will remain so for another few months. It’s a perfect time to head for the mountains, especially the North and West shores of Lake Tahoe. Quiet snowfall, cozy nights by a fi re and short-short days mean soul-warming meals and deep deep sleep—at altitude. Add some winter activity to the itinerary, and your body and mind will thank you.

lake tahoe
Photo by Gabriel Teague

Get Your Om On—Drop in to the Yoga Room in Tahoe City and take a class for $22. It’s perfect for the day after you’ve fried your calves while strapped into cross-country skis or snowshoes, when some stretching is in order.

Work Out in the Forest—Is there anything more strenuous than snowshoeing or cross-country skiing? Bundle up and head out to one of the area’s Nordic ski areas, including Tahoe XC, Sugar Pine Point or Granlibakken.

Caffeination—Coffee Connexion in Tahoe City makes a great little stop for a good coffee and a crepe. Maybe skip one of the sugar-bomb ones, but the turkey pesto will give you a hit of protein. Plus, hey, you’ve got to eat.

bedroom
Photo by Gabriel Teague

Sleep In—At The Cottage Inn, every room has a fireplace. Get a room with a jetted tub, and you’ll be glad you did if you’re ready to stew your bones after a day on the slopes. Every cottage is different (no cookie-cutter décor here), but they’re all mountain luxurious with thick bedding, paneled walls like a log cabin, and all the hygge charm you could ever dream about.

Stock Up—At New Moon Natural Foods on the outskirts of Tahoe City, you can inspire yourself to do better. Between the sweet little produce area (organic!), the neatly displayed packaged goods and tons of locally made foodstuffs and products, the inventory will enable you to fill your bag with options you’ll feel good about.

Be an Artist—Muse Art Reclaimed runs drop-in art classes for adults every Friday night. Dabble in watercolor, acrylic, pen and ink, charcoal and other mediums as a way to tap into your creativity. Light appetizers and wine (or a cocktail) are provided.

Shop Virtuously—Tahoe City’s Pass It On Thrift is a hopping-busy little shop that helps keeps goods in circulation and out of the landfill. Find your latest pre-loved jacket, pair of jeans or boots, sleeping bag, book or lamp here.

Energy Therapy—Come to SAGE Spa & Apothecary in Tahoe City for hands-on energy healing, try an intuitive insights session (it never hurts to check in with yourself), or pick up some herbs and essential oils to add to your home practice.

powerbowl
Photo by Gabriel Teague

Power Up Your Bowl—Also in Tahoe City, Fat Cat Bar & Grill serves a paleo bowl that’s loaded with cruciferous veggies—broccoli, kale, green cabbage and Brussels sprouts—along with peppers, tomatoes and mushrooms, all topped with tri-tip. It’s done in avocado oil, too, so no scary seed oils to slow you town.

Up With the Sun—If you’ve got a room at The Cottage Inn, you could catch the sunrise from a private beach. Also, if conditions allow, it’s worth driving about 15 miles south to watch the sunrise over Emerald Bay. View it from the Eagle Falls Trailhead parking area, or go a bit farther up the road to Inspiration Point Overlook.

WINE COUNTRY
CALISTOGA

Ah, Calistoga, where the waters bubble forth from the land and time slows down. You might have to battle Highway 29 traffic to get there—unless you come in past Lake Berryessa and/or Silverado Trail (recommended!). But this end of the Napa Valley is beautifully lush. Fire has burned some favorite locations in recent years, and signs thanking first responders still stand. It’ll warm your heart and make you happy you’re here. This is wine country, of course, where your wellness efforts might go down easier with a side of chardonnay. Do what feels right.

calistoga
Photo by Gabriel Teague

Hike—A few miles outside of Calistoga’s downtown, Robert Louis Stevenson State Park trails beckon with ups and downs, dramatic views from Mount St. Helena, and some astonishing rock formations at Table Rock and the Palisades volcanic cliffs.

Waters and Mud—At Indian Springs, a hotel/spa resort near downtown Calistoga, you can reap the benefits of the property’s four thermal geysers. Swim in the mineral pool, dunk in the Buddha pond or take a bath in mud made of volcanic ash and geyser-supplied mineral water.

A Bike Ride and a Little Wine—While the goal of this trip isn’t to get hammered on wine, combining a bit of tasting with a bike ride on a Calistoga Cool Wine Tour seems congruous with the spirit of the self-care getaway. Make reservations with Calistoga Bike Shop and pick up bikes (fully outfitted with insulated rear rack bags) there when the time comes. The bike shop will make all your arrangements.

table rock
Table Rock. Photo by Gabriel Teague.

More Waters and Mud—With a New Look—Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs has been providing treatments, including mineral baths and “The Works” mud baths, since 1952. With a recent ownership change and revamp, the property has renovated its guest rooms and common areas and opened the House of Better restaurant, all while maintaining its mid-mod charm.

mud bath
Photo by Mark Compton

Plant Strong—A pretty plant and garden store on Calistoga’s main drag will motivate you to bring more greenery into your space. At Field Trip, pick up something verdant, or build your own dry bouquet.

Coffee and a Scone—The Swedes call it fika—coffee with cake, or a little something sweet. At Calistoga Roastery, it’s the house-made scones. Especially the blueberry cream cheese one. Don’t feel guilty; blueberries are loaded with polyphenols and are rumored to increase life span.

Sleepy Time—Solage, an Auberge resort, is Calistoga at its finest, with a comprehensive experience available if you so choose. Luxury accommodations include suites and studios, some with outdoor showers and fire pits, all appointed with natural materials and clean lines that won’t cloud your thinking. Five on-site geothermal pools invite guests to take the waters: a cold plunge, ambient temp, a 98-degree relaxation dunk, and two jetted pools—one saline, one mineral. Take a sauna or a steam, get a massage, pedal around the property or into town on a two-wheel cruiser, or just lie around and relax. Solbar Restaurant has a menu of farm-to-fork fare and an expansive outdoor seating area, where you’ll want to linger by a fire pit, and Picobar serves Napa Valley Mexican fare adjacent to the big pool.

relax at the aiberge resort
Photo by Gabriel Teague

Be Petrified—Head a few miles up Petrified Forest Road to The Petrified Forest, where you can take a nature walk to admire redwoods that were buried—and fossilized—beneath volcanic ash some 3.4 million years ago. (Mount St. Helena is what remains of that volcano.)

Healthy Lunch—At Solbar Restaurant at Solage, the menu includes some options that will feed your hungry, goodness-seeking soul: the black cod rice bowl, with brown rice, kimchi, cucumber and carrot; marinated tofu as a salad protein add-on; and zero-proof beverages including a beet soda and a turmeric “cure-all” with house-made turmeric elixir.

healthy food
Photo by Gabriel Teague

Pick Up a Journal—Copperfield’s Books has a location in downtown Calistoga. Pop in for a Moleskine to record your deepest thoughts—and maybe pen a poem or two.

relax
Photo by Gabriel Teague

Get Your Polyphenols— Run by mother-daughter duo Ana and Marcela Hernandez, Grove 45 Extra Virgin Olive Oil’s tasting room is soon to open on Silverado Trail in Calistoga. Grove 45 has a business mission focusing on legacy, sustainability and philanthropy, plus the olive oils are delicious—and come in a brushed aluminum bottle.

ALL IN ONE PLACE

Maybe you want to drive up, check in and stay in one place for a few days while you unwind. Following are a few places where you can have a well-rounded wellness experience without moving your car.

esalen institute big sur

The Esalen Institute, Big Sur—Famous for its hot mineral springs, its stunning location on the edge of Big Sur’s southern coastline and its reputation as a sacred space for spirituality seekers and free thinkers, Esalen provides an all-inclusive retreat experience. What’s in the mix: buffet-style meals; workshops in mindfulness, healing touch, nature, communication and creativity; as well as access to the gorgeous gardens and grounds and the famed go naked baths perched on the sheer mountainside above the roiling sea. esalen.org

Canyon Ranch Woodside—Into the woods you go, to sleep, stretch and eat well among centuries-old redwoods. Design your own retreat or seek help from an expert; either way, you can curate your bundle, choosing from such activities as yoga, equine therapy, hiking, mountain biking, journaling and other healing therapies, including a dip in the saline pool or sauna session following a massage. canyonranch.com/woodside

silent stay

Silent Stay, Santa Barbara—After the Silent Stay structures burned down outside of Vacaville in 2020, the organization relocated to Pacifica Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara. Primarily a meditation retreat, Silent Stay is, in fact, silent, with guests indulging in walks, journaling, napping, sunbathing, thinking—the practice of “non-doing.” Meals are provided by Seasons Catering. silentstay.com

Wilbur Hot Springs, Williams—This geothermal springs and nature preserve, long known as a clothing-optional sanctuary (baths only—you’ve got to be dressed everywhere else), really takes you off the grid with limited cell coverage, no Wi-Fi and plenty of wildlife. Tote in your own groceries to prepare in the community kitchen and be ready to clean up your own mess.

Mount Madonna Center, Watsonville—Book a personal retreat at Mount Madonna and take part in Ayurvedic healing practices including yoga and wellness treatments. You’ll also have access to the property’s dining room (vegetarian meals), trails, temple, bookstore and Ayurveda World Store. mountmadonna.org

Ananda, Nevada City— Take a personal retreat on the Ananda compound in Nevada City and you’ll discover the joy of having no scheduled activities but plenty of time to soak in the silence of the surroundings. A noon meditation session takes place six days a week—optional—and otherwise you can sleep, hike, read, journal, wander the gardens. Simple meals are available by pre-reservation. meditationretreat.org