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The Esalen Institute, Big Sur

#8 of 172 in Spas in California
Spa · Hidden Gem · Educational Site
The Esalen Institute, commonly just called Esalen, is a non-profit American retreat center and intentional community in Big Sur, California which focuses on humanistic alternative education. The Institute played a key role in the Human Potential Movement beginning in the 1960s. Its innovative use of encounter groups, a focus on the mind-body connection, and their ongoing experimentation in personal awareness introduced many ideas that later became mainstream.
Esalen was founded by Stanford graduates Michael Murphy and Dick Price in 1962. Their intention was to support alternative methods for exploring human consciousness, what Aldous Huxley described as "human potentialities". Over the next few years, Esalen became the center of practices and beliefs that make up the New Age movement, from Eastern religions/philosophy, to alternative medicine and mind-body interventions, to Gestalt Practice.
Price ran the Institute until he was killed in a hiking accident in 1985. In 2012, the board hired professional executives to help raise money and keep the Institute profitable. Esalen offers over 500 workshops yearly in areas including personal growth, meditation, massage, Gestalt Practice, yoga, psychology, ecology, spirituality, and organic food. About 15,000 people a year attend its workshops.
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The Esalen Institute reviews

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TripAdvisor traveler rating 4.5
237 reviews
  • Where do I start. It is a good drive from SF with beautiful views. Campus itself is just breath taking. The waves, the ocean, the plants, the flowers, and streams. It is simply magical. I attended.....  more »
  • We had a pleasant stay and enjoyed the baths and excellent workshop. The property could use capital investment in the rooms (especially for the price), and needs to invest in developing a quality...  more »
  • The Esalen Institute is the greatest place on earth! Every time I have been there (3 times for workshops, 2 times assisting, 13 times teaching, 5 times for personal retreats) has been magical! I always meet the most fascinating people who are trying to make the world a better place - people of substance and of high integrity who are committed to loving, supportive relationships. Since I've been going to Esalen not a week has passed when someone I met at Esalen hasn't reached out to me. If you are looking to make life-long friendships, enjoy great food, and learn from renowned authors and therapists, don't miss Esalen!
  • This place is the essence of relaxation and pure beauty. Go into this place relaxed and ready to find yourself. Embrace it all this is a one and only experience. Staff was great. Old cabins were perfect. This is a little piece of heaven on earth. If you have the chance stay here a couple of days you won’t be sorry.

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