Slates (Esalen) Hot Springs: A Splurge or The Key to Recharging Your Spirit?

As much as California boasts a great number of natural geothermal spas, Slates Hot Springs in Big Sur triumphs as one of the top-notch hot springs not only in the state but also in the whole of the US. It’s a place of many names, numerous purposes, and with a cause as ambitious as it gets: making this facility a contributor to transformation in terms of relationships, interaction with nature, and spiritual restoration. It also prides itself on being a place that encourages the idea of creating a peaceful relationship amongst institutions, individuals, body, mind, and spirit. It’s a place for people trying to rediscover their strength and potential to try riskier and daring things in life but if you think that you’re not one of those people or just a fella not looking to overcomplicate things, you can find alternatives Slates Hot Springs in our comprehensive guide of other hot springs in California. 

Either way, though it sure sounds interesting, doesn’t it?

And we’re here to tell you all about it.

Address55000 CA-1, Big Sur, California 93920
Location87.4 miles from Santa Cruz
Road accessTaxi, personal vehicle

Slates Hot Springs is also known as Esalen Hot Springs (in honor of the Esalen Indigenous Tribes that actually discovered the place before you know… colonialism did its job) as well as the Esalen Educational Institute and Retreat Center. It is a commercialized resort created for mind and soul relaxation.. 

Its purpose is exactly what it sounds like. It’s a place that offers plenty of self-help programs and workshops that practice New Age Philosophy, with all the necessary amenities to make for a comfortable stay.

Even though it doesn’t have a concrete definition, New Age Philosophy is a movement that started in the 1970s and emphasizes the vitality of being in harmony with the world we live in by practicing ideas such as spirituality, personal transformation, and inner healing.

Using the springs themselves comes with the territory. Yet, unless you enroll in any of the self-help programs, you only get the opportunity to soak in the springs from 1 am to 3 am (yep, AM). Even then the pools get very crowded. 

Even though there is always a certain appeal to soaking in mineral-rich baths while stargazing in the quiet of the night, some people consider this type of deal a little odd. However, there’s also a big group of people that think the opposite and actually favor the standards Slates Hot Springs holds its guests to.

Which category you’ll fall under is up to you.

Slates Hot Springs: First Impressions

The biggest attraction of Slates Hot Springs is, without a doubt, its layout. Or more like where and how it’s laid out. 

The two-level hot springs are perched on the magnificent cliffs of Big Sur, overlooking the rocky shore and crashing blue waves of the Pacific Ocean, creating a striking view that is most probably the basis for its popularity. Having a thermal soak in a spot as magnificent as this one really does sound like a fairy tale.

Gorgeous view of The Esalen Institute

The resort also provides amenities such as:

  • Multiple geothermal pools
  • Hot tubs
  • Quiet area
  • Silent area (total silence)
  • Restaurant 
  • Art farm (a nature-focused children’s educational center offering a break from city life with art, music, and cooking-themed classes, playtime, drop-ins, birthday parties, and camps”
  • Working farm
  • Clawfoot as well as private tubs
  • Accommodation
  • Changing rooms and bathrooms

If you decide to participate in the programs, you’ll be eligible for accommodation, three meals a day, and unrestricted access to the pools. Though, you have to plan for a longer stay because Slate’s self-help programs last a month on average.

Getting There

From Santa Cruz, take the Chestnut Street exit for 0.2 miles onto the California State Highway 1 and head south towards the Big Sur Coastal range. 

Then head straight for 86.4 miles through the Big Sur Mountains towards Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. Look for the road on the right side near Hot Springs Canyon. Drive onto this road and take the first left near the main garden which will lead you to the Esalen Institute where the Hot Springs is located.

All You Need to Know

The all-inclusive resort tuition covers accommodation, three meals per day, open classes, and unlimited use of the hot springs. Visitors can also enjoy other campus facilities like the pool, meditation area, barns, etc.

The price of your stay at Esalen Institute varies depending on the length of the stay and the package you choose. Despite there being many accommodation options, even the cheapest alternative on the list – a sleeping bag space – could be considered quite costly.

Here’s a full price list:

Accommodation Type5 Days / 4 Nights3 Days / 2 Nights
Sleeping Bag Space$900$540
Standard Queen Room ✝$2,000$1,200
Standard Two Beds *$3,200$1,920
Premium Queen Room ✝$2,800$1,680
Premium King Room ✝$3,000$1,800
Premium Plus King Room *$5,060$3,036
Price House *$5940$3,460
Point House Suite *$6,500$3,900
Point House Plus Suite *$8,000$4,800
✝ Rate for one guest. Add $225/night for a second guest.
* All-inclusive rate for two guests.

For more information, visit their official website:

Esalen is a digital detox zone which means no TV, alarm clocks, phones, cell phone reception, or internet access. 

WiFi is available only in Point Houses and Premium Plus King rooms.

The Esalen Institute and Retreat Center – Campus map

Accommodation Alternatives

If you prefer night soaks to unlimited use of the hot springs that come with (what one might consider) too much expense, you can take advantage of the vast selection of accommodation alternatives.

Considering the commercialized nature of Slates and its convenient location, you’re in for a treat in terms of choosing where to spend your nights. 

(Do not forget that if you decide against participating in the self-help programs and workshops provided by the Esalen Educational Institute and Retreat Center, the use of the hot springs will be available only from 1 am to 3 am and even then, the springs are crowded)

You can find accommodation options for Big Sur Here:–CA/homes?adults=1&place_id=ChIJ2VlOgdp_jYARcg4DLW7BPmw&refinement_paths%5B%5D=%2Fhomes


Camping options near Slates Hot Springs are very popular because they offer majestic views of the mighty Big Sur and its surrounding territory. You can also use this as an alternative in terms of nightly accommodation.

Considering how popular this area is, there are plenty of camping opportunities to choose from. Sykes Hot Springs Campground and Saddle Rock and South Environmental Campgrounds are some of the most frequented ones. However, the list goes on and on.

You can find camping options here: 

Natural Attractions Near Slates Hot Springs

If you’re going on a trip along the scenic landscapes of Big Sur and its surrounding area, you’ll have the privilege of reveling in some of the most beautiful attractions the state has to offer. You can enjoy a dip in the hot springs but why stop there? You’ll be in for a seriously good time if you check out some of these picks and make it a journey instead of a trip.

Here’s a list of all the attractions that’ll make your trip worth it.

  • First and foremost, you can visit the breathtaking natural wonders that are scattered along the expansive territory of Big Sur. With the advantage of being nestled at the heart of gorgeous sights – a rugged mountain range on one side and the endless blue of the Pacific Ocean on the other – paying a visit to this place will most definitely be one of the most memorable experiences not only of this trip but also your life.
The mighty Big Sur.
  • You can check out Point Lobos State Reserve in Garrapata State Park, CA which is one of the most scenic and beautiful recreational areas in the state. It’s full of greenery and lush landscapes that offer a great chance to relax our minds and soul.
Point Lobos State Reserve in Garrapata State Park, CA
  • Speaking of scenic views, visitors can also enjoy the white sandy shores of Carmel Beach.
Carmel Beach
  • And last but not least, you can pay a visit to Tassajara Hot Springs which is also nestled into the rugged mountains of Big Sur. It requires no entrance fees and can be considered a great, budget-friendly alternative to Slates Hot Springs.
Tassajara Hot Springs

Ways to Have Fun: Outdoor Activities

Here are some honorable mentions on how to make your trip fun.

  • 17 Mile Drive Scenic Tour 
  • Scuba Diving
  • Boating Tours 

Outdoor activities don’t stop with natural wonders. This trip offers a lot of other options in terms of having fun. Once you get there, we are sure you will find something that falls under your specific preferences apart from the obvious opportunities.

The Final Take-away

When it comes to Slates Hot Springs, it is up to the visitor to decide whether it’s a splurge or the key to recharging your spirit. Despite the controversy around the topic of rates and prices, one can not deny that Esalen Institutes offers some of the best services to relax the body, mind, and soul along with the kind of amenities that feel like a breath of fresh air in comparison to everyday chores.

Slates Hot Springs overlooking the Pacific Ocean

One would be correct to assume that Slates Hot Springs offers a lot of things even beyond physical matters. It can be a way to spice up romantic getaways (a few days with your partner in a gadget-free zone does sound like bliss), to learn something new about a philosophy that prioritizes living in harmony, or it could be the key to ultimate detachment from the hustle of life. If you think that this is not your thing and just prefer something low-key, there are a lot of alternatives to choose from. One of them being Tassajara Hot Springs.

If all this sounds like something worth the money and planning. Give it a shot, enjoy your time and immerse yourself in some of the best views in the state of California. 

That, friends, is called self-care.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Slates Hot Springs open?

Slates Hot Springs is open year-round.

What is there to do at Slates Hot Springs?

Slates Hot Springs offers quite a lot of ways to spend your time. Apart from its self-help workshops and programs that focus on the New Age Philosophy, you can access services such as: 

– Multiple geothermal pools
– Hot tubs
– Quiet area
– Silent area
– Restaurant 
– Art farm 
– Working farm
– Clawfoot as well as private tubs
– Accommodation
– Changing rooms and bathrooms

However, you can only take advantage of these amenities if you enroll in their workshops.

Is Slates Hot Springs open to the public?

Slates Hot Springs is open to the public from 1AM to 3AM only.

How much does Esalen cost?

The price of your stay at Esalen Institute varies depending on the length of stay and the package you choose. If you want to learn more about the price rates of Esalen Hot Springs, scroll up to ‘All You Need to Know’ or visit their official website:


While we at Traxplorio do our very best to give you the latest information about these hot springs sites, life happens, weather happens, and property owners happen. We always recommend you go to the official hot springs’ web page and/or the relevant state authority page to check conditions, times, and prices (where relevant) before you head out. Thanks for understanding, and enjoy your soak!

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