Twenty-seven acres perched on the edge of a cliff and a philosophy of human growth and renewal on the leading edge of the 21st century best describe Esalen, a destination that evolved into an adjective.
The Esalen property began as a hot springs retreat 130 years ago when a doctor from Salinas homesteaded the land and began what was Big Sur's first commercial enterprise. After the property was purchased by Henry Murphy, the transformation began. Esalen celebrates its 50th birthday this year. Signer Joan Baez lived at Esalen and the writer Hunter S. Thompson was an Esalen employee.
Esalen has hosted nearly 750,000 guests (almost 20,000 per year nowadays) who come to refresh mind and body, rest in the hot springs baths, or attend classes and workshops as varied as life itself, like Conscious Grandmothering, Songwriting, Yoga and Meditation, Couples Therapy, and the Alchemy of Destiny.
Accommodations are for attendees only and range from a bunk bed in a shared room to the private cliff house. Since Esalen is devoted to its students, wandering by to explore and walk around is not permitted. There is one world renown exception: Esalen public night bathing in the hot springs from 1:00 am to 3:00 am. It's limited to 20 people per night and reservations are required.