Outside the Bay Area

Founded in 1962 by Michael Murphy and Dick Price, Esalen is the birthplace of the human potential movement. Perched on 27 acres of Big Sur coastline, Esalen hosts 20,000 visitors a year who come for a weekend or a week or a month or longer to learn, to grow, to explore, to heal, or to carve the near edge of the future, the cutting edge of humanity.

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Archived Q&A and Reviews

  • Weekend retreat at Esalen with a toddler?
  • A peaceful retreat for a mom of two?

Weekend retreat at Esalen with a toddler?

March 2011

I am thinking about doing a weekend retreat with my husband and nearly 2 year old son at Esalen Institute. It sounds wonderful, but I've never been. I'd like to hear from others who have gone about their experiences. Also, is it a good place for a family with a toddler? Thank you. Carrie

Hi, I taught at Esalen for a number of years and while I haven't been there with a toddler they have a wonderful Gazebo childcare center. And people do come there with young ones. The bath area is not a place for young kids in my opinion and it is clothing optional (mostly optioned). The place is absolutely beautiful and may be quite a memorable place for all of you. Best wishes, Bill

We have taken our 2 kids to Esalen a few times, starting when they were toddlers. Overall it has been fine. There is wonderful child care available (at least there was the last time we went, probably a year and a half ago), including people willing to come to your room if there is an evening session of the workshop, as well as the on-site Gazebo School available during the day. It was pretty pricey though-- much more than we would normally pay for babysitting as I recall. Also, some of the lodging is better for kids/families than other rooms-- you might just want to discuss over the phone before you go with the reservations person. Overall the place seemed pretty kid-friendly to us, considering that most people there don't have kids and you might expect them not to appreciate their presence; in fact, other guests and staff members were really kind to our kids and seemed to enjoy them. We love Esalen and wish we could afford to go more often! fellow esalen-goer

A peaceful retreat for a mom of two?

Dec 2007

I am looking for a place to go for a retreat/spa/relaxation getaway. With 2 young kids and a major birthday approaching I'm looking for a tranquil place to really take a deep breath and relax. Someplace where it won't be too weird to be on my own, classes like yoga are available and maybe spa services. I've looked at Harbin Hot Springs and Esalen and wanted to get some advice from people who had been there. Is there a place nearby? Are they too into their own ''philosophy''? Where can I go to really get away from it all? Kelly

I haven't been in a few years but it was a wonderful, magical place- perfect for what you're describing! I wish I could go myself right now! The grounds are spectacular, the vibe is mellow, and from what I've heard Harbin is a little more funky, social, but I have never been there myself. Esalen will be memorable and perfect for rejuvenating. Kelley

Ohhhh Esalen. I went for the first time in October and I would love to go back some day. I took my 2 year old daughter with me (they have a lovely preschool that matches your workshop hours) and although it was great to experience it together - I'll be going alone next time. It really is a magical place, very spiritual and so beautiful. I couldn't wait for meal times - delicious and nurturing. And the best part was the new spring fed tubs on the cliffs. You can also get massage overlooking the ocean, regular mediation and yoga classes.

I also met a mom who was 'escaping' from her two kids/husband for a meditation retreat and she seemed VERY happy as well. I'm not sure about the rooming situation cause I was able to stay in a private yurt with my daughter, surprisingly most people prefer not to share their room with a toddler.

Even having my daughter with me - I felt so far away and totally rejuvenated afterwards. Are you considering a specific workshop or just a personal retreat? Either way YES, go! You will be so glad you did. Take me with you

My partner and I started going to Esalen when our son was ten months old and have now been three times with my whole extended family. She is not a hippie and was not sure she could manage ''new age'' all weekend, but the workshops we have taken have ranged from far out to mild, with a wide range of participants, all who have been accepting of us as a lesbian family. It is extremely white and rather fancy. We return every few months because it is a *fabulous* place for kids and adults.

The Gazebo School is incredible - you get an actual preschool teacher with your child from 9 am to 10 pm each day with long breaks for meals. The school has goats and chickens, outdoor toilets for potty training fun, a farm house school with toys and books, and play under eucalyptus and on lawns. They actually come sit in your room with your sleeping child (with the light on in the bathroom reading) so you can go to the hot springs in the evening. Esalen is considering changing the childcare from preschool teachers to regular folks, which would be a shame to lose the specific training and access to the school grounds, so write or call them about it.

The food is delicious and eclectic also, from fresh veggies and tofu to beef stew. Rooms are basic and comfortable. The hot springs sit right over the crashing ocean below. Massages book quickly. - a happy Esalen mama

If you are into meditation, spirit rock is a wonderful place. it's not a spa, but it's very healing. Esalen is beautiful, the hot springs are amazing, on a cliff overlooking the pacific.