California's Healing Hot SpringsJan 25, 2023 07:37PM ● By Deborah Burstyn
Vichy Springs Resort
A refuge from everyday life, Vichy Hot Springs is believed to be the only naturally warm and carbonated baths in North America. Its mineralized waters flow from a natural source six miles below the earth’s surface, reminiscent in composition to the fabled champagne waters of France. Within moments of immersion — in massive cast iron tubs from the 1860s used by Ulysses S. Grant, Teddy Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and Jack London — millions of tiny bubbles cover the skin creating a peaceful state of tranquility. Situated on 700-acres of tranquil countryside, rooms at the Ukiah resort start at $215/night and include a daily breakfast buffet; day use passes are $35 for two hours. Bathing suits required.
A two-hour drive north is all it takes to get to Wilbur Hot Springs. Tucked away off a mountain road, this remote property is idyllically eco-rustic. Over the centuries, thousands of people have experienced the healing mineral waters, flowing naturally from geothermal springs directly into deep tubs varying from 98°F to105°F to 109°F. Start in the most temperate, work up to the hottest, then finish the experience with a plunge into the cold waters of the resort’s swimming pool. Limited day passes are $59-$65; cabins and hotel rooms range from $196 to $390 per night. Camping is also available. A clothing-optional policy attracts primarily adults.
Free of crowds and traffic, winter in the Napa Valley may be one of the region’s best kept secrets. A favorite family destination, Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, offers a relaxed vibe, affordable rates, and kitchenette-equipped rooms. Famed Calistoga mineral waters fill the property's four geothermal pools ranging from 80°F to 104°F. While the property does not offer day passes, dip into its healing waters by booking a deep tissue massage or volcanic ash mud bath. Add a $50 pool pass to the treatment and make it a spa day. Bring a guest for $75. Boutiques, wine tasting rooms, and restaurants are within easy walking distance. Room rates start at $317/night.
At this beloved San Francisco bathhouse in Japantown, guests revel in a communal 104°F hot pool, invigorate in a 55-degree cold plunge, flush out toxins in a dry sauna, and purify respiratory systems in an herbal-infused steam room. Chilled face cloths, flavored waters, cucumber slices, and teas enhance the detox process at Kabuki Springs. Add an antioxidant body wrap or luxurious Javanese Lulur ritual treatment for an over the top experience. Daily fee $45 for a communal bath; $20 with a treatment; bathing suits required.
Perched on a bluff on the Big Sur coastline, Esalen Institute offers a tranquil therapeutic environment to detach from technology and let go. Part meditative retreat, part educational institute, the legendary 100-acre campus includes a farm and gardens, an art studio, bookstore, and a clothing-optional cliffside bathhouse and mineral-rich hot springs overlooking the ocean. A visitor pass ($375 per day) includes a 75-minute signature massage, access to the springs, and buffet-style lunch. Accommodations range from sleeping bags to luxurious suites.