Photo courtesy Refuge
The salt air contains enough negative ions to enhance the mood and stimulate the senses. But the best way to rekindle that inner spark is to spa. Consider our picks for the best ways to experience treatments specifically designed with the region in mind.
By Greg Archer
Daylong escapes are aplenty in Monterey Bay. Flowing waterfalls, a pool, a Jacuzzi, a cold plunge, eucalyptus steams, and a cedar sauna are part of Refuge's charm. However, its raison d'être is its fabulous policy of silence. That's right. No cell phones. No talking. Just ... peace. A troika of spa treatments (Swedish, deep tissue, and sports massage) are the jumping off point toward rejuvenation.
CARMEL-BY-THE SEA, refuge.com
"Here is the place, here the way unfolds," mused Dōgen Zenji, a 13th-century Japanese Buddhist priest, writer, poet, and philosopher. Tassajara Zen Mountain Center takes Zenji's mindfulness to heart at its tranquil mountain sanctuary, where day passes allow ample opportunities to unplug from everyday life. Go deeper: Meditate. Give yourself an hour in the zendo and notice what happens when you quiet your mind and still your thoughts. The property's hot springs and Japanese-style bathhouse charm and soothe. Nosh on gourmet vegetarian meals for lunch, overlooking the rippling creek.
CARMEL VALLEY, sfzc.org/tassajara
EMBRACE THE REGION
A modern fitness center, an outdoor whirlpool, and a serene pool area with poolside menu service contribute to the popularity of Spa on the Plaza, adjacent to Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa. Factor in spa services that are truly distinctive to the region and the experience is elevated in value. For instance, their Wilderness Massage comes with bold hints from the Big Sur wilderness in the form of sage, lavender, and pine. Enchanting.
SHOP, THEN STOP
Kush Day Spa is nestled in Morgan Court, a charming European-like walkway between galleries in downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea. Spa technicians and massage therapists here take their time (call ahead). They listen. They understand a guest's specific needs. A diverse spa menu exists — from signature facials to waxing and body treatments. Speaking of ... the Sugar Scrubs here ($60–$90) are a hit. Did you know they are less harsh and drying than the oft-used salt? Something fun: chocolate oil. Add it to any massage treatment for $10.
CARMEL-BYTHE- SEA, kushincarmel.com
RELISH THE VIEW
No one argues that Vista Blue Spa, perched atop Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa, is among the top 25 spas in America. Feet are soaked, skin is infused with oxygen, and bodies are cleansed, salt-scrubbed, polished, massaged, and rewarded with rosemary or ginger-infused lotions ... and then bathed in coconut milk soaks. (Yes. It will be challenging to leave.) That it all comes with one of the most mesmerizing views of Monterey Bay is more than a perk; it's an invitation to nirvana. Chill on the terrace for long stretches, where Jacuzzis under the dramatic bay skyline are resplendent.
GO FOR LUXURY
A cruise along 17-Mile Drive takes you directly into the lush confines of The Lodge at Pebble Beach, the seat of all things luxurious. The Spa at Pebble Beach, a recipient of the Forbes Five-Star Award with a full salon, boutique, juice bar, and café, takes over from there. Topping our list: the Golfer's Hole-in-One, 80 minutes of rejuvenation complete with a 25-minute foot renewal, and the Lasapa Lelima Purification Treatment, which uses what nature provides locally for a mesmerizing Native American– based cleansing-bathing ceremony (the stars are the locally grown coastal and white sage, elderberry, and blue cornmeal).
PEBBLE BEACH, pebblebeach.com
No view compares to Esalen and, perhaps, neither does the massage. Here, crashing surfs and the gentle breezes off the Pacific accompany cliffside massage experiences with a soulful and seasoned practitioner. Before and after, the clothing-optional communal baths allow visitors to soak before even more dramatic coastal views. Hot springs have been a ritual for deep healings by the Esselen Indians for more than 6,000 years. Now it's your turn.
BIG SUR, esalen.org