California has long been a mecca for travellers 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 from coastal redwoods to Yosemite's waterfalls
Starting from San Francisco
On MT Sobek's California Coast to Crest Women's Adventure, you'll hike through the redwoods of Muir Woods, along the cliffs of Point Reyes National Seashore, through the backcountry of Jack London State Park, and up to the waterfalls, domes, and sequoias of Yosemite National Park—all in one eight-day trip. Hikes vary from 2–9.5 miles and can depend on the weather, but you're sure to see some of the most jaw-dropping natural sights that California has to offer. Meals are all included, including picnics in idyllic locations, as well as a tour of Sonoma's Benziger Family Winery.
Be fully present
La Playa Hotel, Carmel-by-the-Sea
What better place to push your happiness up a notch than the beautifully serene Carmel-by-the-Sea? The historic La Playa Carmel plays host to Mindful-by-the-Sea retreats, guided by renowned psychologist and mindfulness expert Rich Fernandez. The three-day experience promises improved clarity and relaxation. Accommodations are not included, so guests can choose to stay at the romantic La Playa or anywhere they’d like.
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, beekeeping, and more.
Embark on an ocean safari
Base Camp Channel Islands, Channel Islands
Jacques Cousteau meets Deepak Chopra at Base Camp Channel Islands, a five-day cruise offered by Lindblad Expeditions–National Geographic. 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 marvelling 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, fuelled 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 favourite 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.
Ride waves, then stretch
Surf & Stay, San Diego
Up your fitness, SoCal-style, with a Surf & Stay retreat in San Diego. Guests can choose from a weekend-long or five-day package, 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. Organic meals, yoga classes, and stretching sessions support your daily habit.
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