From solariums to “sea cures,” there’s a long tradition of doctors prescribing fresh air, ocean breezes, and a healthy dose of Vitamin D to cure what ails you. And with 840 miles of shoreline, expansive untouched nature, and year-round sunshine, California’s got all of that in spades. Plan a 2023 vacation to one of these Golden State destinations, listed north to south, and let the healing begin.
As the gateway to Redwoods National and State Parks, Humboldt County is the unofficial California capital of shinrin-yoku—the ancient Japanese practice of “forest bathing.” Find a sense of peace in the primordial forest along the Cathedral Trees Trail or the Fern Canyon Loop. Head to the coastal city of Eureka to mix your perfect potion at Humboldt Herbals and calm your mind in Peter Santino’s interactive “All Happy Now” earth sculpture at Humboldt Botanical Garden. Come June, feast on nature’s bounty at the Arcata Bay Oyster Festival, celebrating the ocean’s tasty bounty.
The area around majestic Mount Shasta has long been lauded for its healing properties. The environmentalist John Muir once proclaimed that after he laid eyes on the mountain, “my blood turned to wine, and I have not been weary since.” Enjoy some quiet reflection at Panther Meadow and the Sacramento River Headwaters, which have been spiritual spots for Indigenous People for thousands of years. Go on a spiritual journey with tour guide Andrew Oser of Mt. Shasta Retreats. Overnight in nature with a camp spot at Castle Lake or McBride Springs (reserve well in advance) or book a cozy cabin at Pneuma Institute Retreat Center.
Located on the coast north of San Francisco, Mendocino has a centuries-long tradition of beckoning wellness-seekers to the area’s natural hot springs. Visit Vichy Springs or Orr Hot Springs (both in Ukiah) for some mineral-rich hydrotherapy. Retreat to the redwoods at The Madrones resort, tucked in the vineyard-filled Anderson Valley. Or find solace along the shore with the Little River Inn’s “Wellness Package,” combining a two-night stay with a relaxing massage, seaweed body scrub, entry to Mendocino Botanical Gardens, and a session with a doctor of Chinese medicine.
If you’re feeling over-taxed, Lake Tahoe’s sapphire waters and snow-capped peaks might be just what the doctor ordered. This area marries outdoor adventure with five-star luxury. In the winter months, spend the day slicing through fresh powder at Palisades Tahoe or Northstar California Ski Resort. During the summer, test your mettle on a treetop ropes course or get out on the lake with some SUP yoga or a sailboat charter. Refresh your spirit with a hot stone treatment at The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe or book a high-altitude massage from the Resort at Squaw Creek.
With more than 60,000 acres of vineyards, Sonoma County is best known for great wine. While a day of tasting certainly qualifies as self-care—Zinfandels and Pinot Noirs are chock full of antioxidants—this area has plenty of wellness activities for teetotalers, too. Float down the Russian River, hike along 17 miles of coastline in Sonoma Coast State Park, or sign up for a sculpture-filled stroll at the di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art in nearby Napa County. Feast on nourishing (and world-class) farm-to-table fare at restaurants like Café La Haye, Farmhouse Inn, The Matheson, and SingleThread.
Monterey’s windswept beauty makes for one of the most popular places to unwind on the West Coast. Choose from a myriad of wellness resorts including the boutique Inn at Moss Point Landing, the spiritually stimulating Esalen Institute, the full-service Sanctuary Beach Resort, or The Lodge at Pebble Beach, which recently opened 1,300-square-foot suites overlooking the 18th hole at its famed golf course. Spend your days reconnecting with nature on a leisurely bike ride along the Monterey Bay Coastal Recreation Trail or kayaking next to sea otters in Elkhorn Slough.
In Laguna Beach, travelers searching for a sense of inner peace can follow the Pathway to Zen, the coastal city’s wellness trail. The guide outlines a dozen destinations and activities to encourage a reset. Consider watching the sun set beyond the Pacific from the aptly named Top of the World Trail, browse for fresh produce at the Sunday Laguna Beach Farmers Market, balance your energy at Chakra Spa, and experience the mood-improving power of a good belly laugh with a beachside session from Laguna Laughter Club.
Thanks in part to its easy access from Los Angeles, Joshua Tree National Park and the surrounding Mojave desert have been a long-time escape for hippies, hipsters, and spiritual seekers. Visit the park to see sweeping vistas from Ryan Mountain and Keys View—or plan a trip for February through April for the possibility of encountering a mind-bending wildflower superbloom. Soak up a sound bath at the 1950s cupola structure known as the Integratron, reopening for the season on Feb 2, or take a journey through the galaxy after dark with Skywatcher Sky Tours.
California’s southernmost seaside city delivers a relaxed, sand-in-your-hair take on wellness. Connect with the waves at Swami’s Beach, located below the Self Realization Center in Encinitas, or with a lesson from Surf Diva or Ocean Beach Surf School. Nourish your body with plant-based whole foods at the area’s numerous vegan-focused restaurants and cafes, including Kindred, The Plot, Grains, and Donna Jean. For a next-level detox, explore the holistic health services from Place360 in Del Mar, Pacific Pearl in La Jolla, or the spa at Hotel Del Coronado.