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Incredible Wellness Experiences

Recharge your body, mind, and spirit at one of these unexpected California getaways

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California has long been a mecca for travelers seeking a higher level of health, fitness, and inner peace. In fact, the term “wellness” was popularized here in the late 1970s. Retreats can be found all across the Golden State, from the beachy yoga culture in Southern California to the breezily beautiful Central Coast and remote northern regions. Don’t worry—it’s not all sweat lodges and wheatgrass shots. An increasing number of hotels and tour groups offer fresh twists on the traditional fitness vacation with plenty of luxurious and unexpected additions. Whether you’re looking to unwind on horseback, exercise around the clock, or explore vibrant marine life, we’ve rounded up some of the most interesting ways to hit reset in the Golden State, given here from north to south.

Live like a monk

Shasta Abbey, Mount Shasta

Achieve a more profound sense of self through a stay at Shasta Abbey. This Buddhist monastery welcomes outsiders into its beautiful, sacred space, located on a 16-acre forest near the base of Mount Shasta. The three-day Introductory Retreat encourages visitors to try Soto Zen through guided meditation, Dharma talks, and mindfulness.

Experience equine therapy

Ricochet Ridge Ranch, Fort Bragg

Horseback riding as salve for the body and mind is a practice as old as Ancient Greece. The Ricochet Ridge Ranch in Fort Bragg offers a thoroughly modern six-day retreat with full-day rides along Mendocino County’s coastal trails and sandy surf. If watching rather than riding is more your speed, book a private tour at the Return to Freedom sanctuary in Lompoc where 400 wild horses and 29 burros roam free.

Relax with yoga and wine

Westerbeke Ranch, Sonoma

It’s all about balance at this Sonoma retreat. Body Flows hosts regular retreats at the stunning Westerbeke Ranch in Sonoma. In wine country, feeling at one with the earth includes daily yoga classes, meditation, hikes, healthy farm-to-table meals, and nightly tastings best enjoyed before a dip in the hot tub. Retire to your private or shared cabin, nestled in among trees and gardens.

Trek through redwoods and gorgeous granite passes to hot springs

Starting from Fresno

On MT Sobek's California High Sierra Odyssey Trek, you'll hike along rugged, redwood-lined trails of the John Muir Wilderness, just south of Yosemite National Park, through two high passes that provide dramatic mountain scenery at every step. This eight-day adventure departing from Fresno includes seven nights spent in high-altitude comfort at remote camps, and a relaxing thermal soak at Iva Bell Hot Springs. Hikes are of moderate intensity, but you're sure to see some of the most jaw-dropping natural sights that California has to offer. Meals are all included. 

Play all day at family summer camp

Carmel Valley Ranch, Carmel Valley

Just like the summer camp you remember, but year-round and with luxurious accommodations and zero teen angst. At Carmel Valley Ranch, guests stay on 500 acres of vineyards and hiking trails in Carmel Valley. The one- to four-bedroom guest suites, perfect for a couple or the whole family, include fireplaces and private-deck soaking tubs. Fill the days with nonstop (albeit optional) activities, such as hiking, tennis, golf, archery, and beekeeping.

Embark on an ocean safari

Base Camp Channel Islands, Channel Islands

Jacques Cousteau meets Deepak Chopra on the Base Camp Channel Islands cruise, a five-day “wildness + wellness” adventure offered by Wild Earth Travel. Passengers will get up close with some of the marine creatures and animals inhabiting Channel Islands National Park’s largely untouched coastal ecosystem offshore between Ventura and Santa Barbara. When you’re not marveling at the wonders of the island foxes, sea lions, and dolphins, you can enjoy guided hikes, yoga and fitness classes, lectures from naturalists, and one-on-one photography lessons.

Detox like a celebrity

The Ashram, Calabasas

For nearly 45 years, The Ashram, nestled in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains, has been putting Hollywood elite through the wringer. Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Oprah have all reportedly signed up for the weeklong program, which starts each day with a 5:30 a.m. “gentle knock on your door” before challenging guests to tackle multiple fitness classes per day and 10-plus-mile hikes, fueled only by plant-based meals. (Explore other toxin-releasing resorts: California Detox Retreats.)

Soak in a desert oasis

Two Bunch Palms, Desert Hot Springs

Two Bunch Palms has beckoned famous faces to the middle of the desert for more than 75 years. A former favorite of Al Capone, the resort has more recently hosted Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Madonna, and more. Thanks to natural aquifers found in Desert Hot Springs (30 minutes outside of Palm Springs), guests can soak in healing mineral water under the shade of tamarisk trees. The spa menu encourages adventure through unique therapies, including water shiatsu, sound vibration healing, and a shaman-lead class designed to find your spirit.

Find your center, then ride waves

Surf & Stay, San Diego

Up your fitness, SoCal-style, with a Surf & Stay retreat in San Diego. Guests can choose from weekend or five-day packages, both of which include accommodations at Blue Sea Beach Hotel, overlooking the Pacific. You’ll be fully kitted out in head-to-toe surfing gear while enjoying unlimited lessons and surf tours up and down the San Diego coast. Yoga classes, guided bike tours, and stand-up paddleboarding lessons are offered too.

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