Derived from the Latin phrase sanitas per aqua, the word “spa” is an acronym literally meaning “health through water.” Without question, California is home to some world-class spa facilities. While some are opulent and pricey, others are more reasonable and/or associated with a variety of spiritual disciplines. From day spas and natural mineral hot springs to week-long retreats that include healthy lifestyle recommendations, many people find pleasure, wellness and rejuvenation while enjoying their California spa vacations.
The most well-known of these restorative retreats may be the Esalen Institute, founded in 1962 “to promote the harmonious development of the whole person.” It is nestled amongst the breathtaking splendor of the Big Sur coastline (about three hours south of San Francisco) and offers over 500 workshops each year to complement the use of its natural hot springs. The site became the first tourist-oriented business in the area when arthritis sufferer Thomas Slate homesteaded the property in the early 1880s and opened it to others who sought relief from similar afflictions.
Pre-dating Slate’s Big Sur spa, however, and concurrent with development of the valley’s first vineyards, wealthy San Franciscan Sam Brannan purchased about 2,000 acres in Napa Valley on which to develop a spa similar to the hot springs he’d enjoyed in his youth in Saratoga, New York. Christened Calistoga (a combination of “California” and “Saratoga”), the resort opened in 1862 to serve the Golden State’s rich and famous residents and visitors. Spas are now abundant in the area and offer everything from massage to mud baths in addition to the opportunity to soak in the natural mineral waters.
There are also mineral wells in the state’s desert area. These nurturing waters, discovered hundreds of years ago by the area’s native population, later became popular with Hollywood stars and moguls looking for rejuvenation. Now, of course, one can enjoy spa treatments in virtually every area of southern California – from Ojai to La Jolla and all points in between!
Note: Information in this article was accurate
when it was published, but hours, prices, etc.
change constantly. Please confirm details
with local contacts before traveling.
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