Harbin Hot Springs


Harbin Hot Springs is one of the oldest hot springs in California. It is owned by Heart Consciousness Church, which operates Harbin as a spirit-oriented non-profit retreat center. Harbin’s historic 1700 acres of meadows, hills, canyons, and creeks are located north of San Francisco, about 30 minutes’ drive from the Napa Valley wine region, near Middletown.

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Archived Q&A and Reviews


Is there life after Harbin?

April 2016

I know I'm not alone in mourning the loss of Harbin Hot Springs. It was our (my husband's and my) favorite place for a quick vacation on the rare occasions when we can get away without the kids. We found it so completely relaxing, such a true break from our regular life. Lounging around in the warm pool, going for hikes, going to the excellent yoga classes, eating the simple but tasty food in the dining room, sitting on the big pillows and watching movies in the little theater...if you asked me to describe my ideal setup for a short vacation, it would be pretty much exactly like Harbin.

So, what now? We are not interested in the hot springs resorts that require you to bring your own food (e.g., Wilbur) or that don't have nice, big warm pools (e.g., Vichy). We haven't tried the one that's north of Lake Tahoe, but I gather that one's also rather 'rustic,' as well as being farther away. And although we have enjoyed Calistoga Inn & Spa for family trips with the kids, we much prefer the clothes-optional, more adult atmosphere at Harbin when we're on a romantic getaway.

We don't necessarily *have* to stay at a hot springs resort, so we're open to other suggestions that would allow us to truly relax and get away from it all (without requiring too much driving). Where should we go? Missing Harbin

I feel your pain! Let us know what you come up with. I'm considering paying a lot more and trying Wilbur or Orr. Anonymous

Although pricy, Esalen in Big Sur is a Harbin-esque type facility. Always gorgeous, very adult, delicious food much of which is grown on-site, and classes - movement,music, arts and crafts. anon


Harbin Hot Springs too hippie?

Nov 2012

My husband wants to go to Harbin Hot Springs for a weekend. I think based on what I've heard that it's really hippie or new agey. It's a nudist resort, right? Anyone with any experiences there, good bad or otherwise? I'm not a new-agey person so I'm not sure I'd react well to it. But don't want to disappoint my husband if I'm wrong about this. Thanks for any input.

I've been to Harbin many times over many years and always enjoy it despite it being way more new age than I am. Yes, it's nudist around the pools, but clothed elsewhere, and I always wear a robe going between the dressing room and pools. It feels really nice to be in the warm waters without clothes on!

The setting is very pretty, it's quiet and peaceful, and there are hiking trails. The people who live there and many people who go there are hippy-ish, but everyone minds their own business and I've never felt crowded or offended by anyone else's personal style. It's a nice getaway place, and I especially like it in winter. anon

I have been to Harbin a few times. It is a place for spiritual seekers, and there are many people who live at harbin full time, who are on staff, or on longer courses, so you will find more new age energy than at other hot spring resorts, like Orr or Wilbur. For example, there are often folks in group hot pool doing watsu massage, which is a massage done In water and all times i have been there, the folks receving and giving are nude. iIt all is fine for me overall, but it does trigger stuff for me sometimes, but workable, as I know the place is open and meant for all. There are always other pools to go to. I think Wilbur sounds like the best match for you. All are clothing optional, and most people do go nude, but not all. Hope you find the right place to go with your husband. Love hot springs

Harbin Hot Springs is a 'hippie' place. I have been to all the hotsprings resorts in the area including Wilbur and Orr. Harbin is the creepiest one (IMO). I often think there is sex going on in the pools at night. During the day it is ok, but still it is not my favorite. I always get a weird vibe there. I don't go anymore because of it.

I think Orr Hotsprings in Ukiah is the nicest though a bit new agey. The only way that really affects is by listening to some of the conversations that people have in the tub. Otherwise, it doesn't come up. Nudity is only allowed by the pools so you don't have to see everybody's bodies all of the time. I like the pools. They have individual pools in enclosed rooms as well as group tubs. You bring food with you and keep it in a refrigerator in the communal kitchen. (That's the same for all of them)

Wilbur's water is very hot and the sulphur smell is more pronounced, but it is still a lovely place. It is also a bit new agey like Orr. It is outside Sacramento. There is one more resort called Vichy Springs which is not really a nude place, but still has great water that is bubbly. I haven't been to it before it was remodeled, but it is the most mainstream. Check them all out on the web. -Hotspring Lover

Just came back from a girls weekend at Harbin and loved it. Quintessential NoCal experience, clothing optional (almost all are exercising that option) yoga classes, good food in the restaurant. Several pools, some are quiet pools so you don't have to listen to inane conversations. Incredible setting, we stayed in the Domes which are very cool, though a bit off the main pool area. We walked lovely paths to and fro. Domes have own pool for use after 9pm which was very peaceful. Highly recommend. Anon

Try Wilbur instead! Much less of a self-conscious weird vibe than Harbin, in my opinion. Not hippie, just beautiful, quiet and calming. Great hikes too. needing a trip too

From my experience, it doesn't get much more hippie than Harbin. It's 'clothing optional', but you will stand out if you wear clothes! I am not comfortable flashing my own nakedness, but i do want to say it was a real lesson in embracing deep rooted fears in just letting it go, and I was hardly the most....unusual body type:) Having said that, the mindset is veerrrrry new agey. They host polygamy parties for crying out loud. i think it's possible to go and not talk to anyone, and enjoy the somewhat fabulous hot springs, but if you plan to stick to the main area (tubs, kitchen, cafe), you'll probably be annoyed by all the chakra channeling:) Try Calistoga! Or Oasis in Occidental! not into tinfoil hats either

As one who has been to Harbin several times, I can assure you that it is decidedly new agey, as you can probably gather from their web site. It is clothing 'optional' in the springs and dressing room, which means almost entirely nudist, and one would feel out of place in a suit. Everyone is clothed everywhere else on the grounds, which are extensive and beautiful. My wife and I are not new agey and haven't participated in any such activities that are available, but we have loved going there and enjoying the springs and the natural beauty of the area. The restaurant is quite good, the rooms are adequate, you can soak in the warm pool for hours at a time without overheating, and the hot pool is really hot. There are several hiking trails up through the oaks, and there's space available for camping if you like. We're not ordinarily nudists, but it didn't take us long to get used to it. There is a small annual fee required for joining the Heart Consciousness Church, and we get an entertaining magazine from them occasionally. It's a good place to go for a peaceful, relaxing time, and you might be surprised about how private it can feel. Aging Non-hippie

We have a cabin in Middletown, near Harbin Hot Springs. While I have never been there personally, many of our friends and neighbors from the community are either members, guests or employees at Harbin. Harbin is clothing-optional but I understand they handle that provision with ease. There is no pressure to go along with the clothing optional provision. I can only say that all of my friends who are active participants at Harbin are intelligent, fun-loving, peaceful and open-minded individuals. From what I've heard, no one is forced into any single belief against their own personal judgement. Actually, some of my favorite Harbin-type neighbors are absolutely fun-loving and great to spend time with. I hope you will give Harbin a try. If you absolutely hate it, you can go back down the mountain and stay somewhere in Calistoga or Healdsberg -- at probably 10 times the price of Harbin!! k4

HI there. So I just had to put my two cents in about Harbin Hot Springs... I've been going there for over twenty years. I would say that in the past, it was primarily 'hippie', but it's gotten on the map and no doubt into many a travel guide and now there's quite a mix of people who go there including people who choose to wear suits. In the past it was sort of a pick up place, but that's also changed. Despite that, I kept going, because honestly, the surrounding environment and the waters are completely worth it. Yes, there are hippie types and new agers around so If you absolutely cannot bear a second around such folks or that culture, then I would say to give it a pass, but you'd be missing out on a wonderful place where it's easy to slow down and unwind. People make of it what they bring to it. While I'm open to many ideas, I would not classify myself as a new agey kind of person. I just chuckle at it. It's harmless and worth it to be in such a beautiful place. The drive up is also glorious if you take the Silverado Trail.

Anyhow, that's my two cents, and I've been there enough to throw in an opinion. anonymous

I have been to various hot springs in Calif. Tassajara is very very special (takes awhile to get there though) and is my favorite. Orr Hot Springs is also nice (but you have to cook). Harbin is very hippie, and while that can be fine, I didn't really enjoy seeing all these 60 year men walking around naked. It felt like its time has past, and a little decrepit. I wouldn't go there again. If you want people to be in bathing suits (which honestly at this point in my life-my 50's-I do) I would recommend Calistoga. anon

Dear one, if you're worried about 'hippies' at Harbin, you should probably find something else. Being uptight at Harbin is not the right thing to be doing. Best be worried about the sexual tourists...and they do exist but that's something to be found on weekends and the busy season. Still, gotta learn to deal! It's not the end of the world. I love the place and visit by myself, with friends and lovers. It usually takes a couple days for the peaceful vibe to be worn down by 'civilization' once I return. Don't torture yourself if you're worried about alternative lifestyles. One place that wasn't mentioned is Sierra Hot Springs in Sierraville. A sister of Harbin but much more low key and 'normal'.

August 2004

re: Destination Spa for two moms
a friend swears by Harbin Hot Springs - see http://www.harbin.org/). She's been there again and again and returns completely refreshed. Good luck, and congrats! Jennie

April 2003

Re: Weekend of solitude for mom
Although I haven't been there in a couple of years, I've enjoyed time alone at Harbin Hot Springs- a bit NE of Calistoga, the town begins with a ''W'' but I can't quite remember the name . I've gone sometimes when I was feeling very inward and have never felt intruded on at all. I have heard people say that it's a pick-up scene, but that hasn't been my experience.

There's a place to buy (good, healthy) food, and a kitchen where you can keep and cook your own. And I've had some great massages too. They have several pools of various temperatures including a big hot-bath-temperature one that I really like- there's lots of room to move around in it.

The atmosphere is quiet (I am) and very new-agey (I'm not), but the latter hasn't been a problem, in fact I've overheard some very entertaining conversations in the dressing room.

It's in a very nice setting, tucked up into a little valley. It's not fancy but it's very clean and comfortable. I'm sure they must have a website to check out.

Have a nice time wherever you go! cb

March 2003

Re: Visiting a spa while pregnant
I got a great pregnancy massage at Harbin Hot Springs when I was seven months pregnant. The massage therapist was also a midwife, which was reassuring! Harbin has a warm pool that is close to body temperature and thus safe to go in while pregnant. It was wonderful to float in the pool and feel temporarily weightless.

Harbin is a bit farther away than Calistoga--another half an hour or so northeast--and its atmosphere is different from the typical Calistoga spa (for example, the pools are clothes-optional). See www.harbin.org for more info. Nomi Harris

It's not for everyone, but if you like a clothing-optional (usually, VERY optional!) atmosphere, Harbin Hot Springs is great. They are actually not in Calistoga, but about 20 minutes farther up the road, outside of Middleton. Keep going on the main route through Calistoga, and head up the hill and over the pass. They have a large warm pool (kept at about 98 or 99 degrees) which is our favorite place. They also have a hot pool and a cold plunge, as well as a large, unheated swimming pool. And they have a small, warm, heart-shaped pool for the kids (kids are only allowed from 10 am to 8pm, I think). There are practitioners of many healing arts, including massage, and watsu (a massage given in the water--amazing to try!). There's a vegetarian cafe, several small vendors, a small store to buy sunscreen at, and a kitchen where you can cook vegetarian food. They have day rates, and you can also stay overnight, either in the rooms (but no kids are allowed in the rooms), or in camping spaces. I don't have the contact info, but I'm sure you could get it from Information. Dawn

Harbin Hot Springs in Middletown, 20 miles north of Calistoga is wonderful. It's clothing optional, but run by a church, has it's own massage school, and trademarked massage technique (Watsu = water shiatsu). They have 1000 acres to hike and camp, and a central complex with turn-of-the-(1900)century hotels, an organic food store, communal kitchen, good veggie restaurant, free movie theatre, workshops, and lotsa hot pools, a sauna, and an olympic-sized swimming pool, etc. It's run by women, but not overly friendly to children. (I leave mine home.) And cheap too, $20-$25 bucks for up to 24 hours camping/use of pools. They're at http//www.Harbin.org/ Jaguarj