Tucked deep into Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres National Forest is (what one would consider) a spiritual recharger’s dream known as Tassajara Hot Springs or more formally, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. This wilderness spa provides its guests with many geothermal soaking opportunities, meals, and accommodations.
With its top-notch geothermal spa facility, a Japanese-style Onsen Hot Springs Soaking Experience, a tranquil and laid-back environment, and many amenities for a comfortable stay, Tassajara Zen Mountain Center makes for one unforgettable experience. It offers visitors every type of spiritual restoration opportunity: starting from thermal soaks and ending with Buddhist practices, which means that you’re all set for your well-deserved relax and rejuvenation. However, if you think that you’re not up for this type of experience, don’t worry because you can find plenty of other hot springs in California to match your soaking preferences.
As you may already know, a willow fire (07/17/2021) spread over a huge area of Monterey Country, including Tassajara Zen Mountain Center. It was a tragedy that was felt by many.
It was decided that the summer guest season will be closed in 2023 due to the restoration of the facility. Keep an eye on updates on their official website: https://www.sfzc.org/locations/tassajara
Esselen Indigenous Tribes: A Little Bit about The History of Tassajara Hot Springs
Tesahara Hot Springs, Agua Caliente or just a ‘place where meat is hung to dry’… Tassajara Hot Springs is a place with many names and a historically vital value for Indigenous Americans.
Esselen Indigenous Tribes of Big Sur discovered these thermal pools and called it ‘Tassajara’ – a place where meat is hung to dry.’ These springs were considered sacred by the Esselen and were used as a place to restore spiritual energy, clean and even prepare for a hunt.
In 1843, with the help of Indigenous Americans, the springs were discovered by Jack Swann, a European explorer. He planned to build a sweat hut around the springs but failed. Later on in 1868, the site was bought by an investor who turned it into a resort but unfortunately, decades later, the resort was destroyed.
And finally, in 1966, Shunryu Suzuki built a Zen Buddhist Monastery on the site and also used the spot as a Zen-style retreat center for those who were looking for a means to restore their spiritual energy.
Tassajara Hot Springs: First Impressions
The first thing a person notices about Tassajara Hot Springs is its commercialized look, despite being situated in the wilderness of Ventana. However, it doesn’t prevent Tassajara retreat center from appearing very cozy, homely and… well, extremely Zen, which is highlighted by the look of the retreat center’s main pools (which has separate ones for men and women): they are built into the rock-walled pool, with the whole spot nestled between cozy, Japanese-style houses and wooden surface, and is surrounded by forest-calm all around.
This hot springs resort includes separate bathhouses for men and women. The bathhouses are equipped with:
- Two thermal pools (temperature ranging from 100 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Sun decks
- Communal showers
- Private bath
The use of the hot springs is only permitted in Summer. However, soaking in the hot springs is included in the variety of all-seasonal programs and workshops of Zen Mountain Center.
It is actually recommended not to visit Tassajara Hot Springs during summertime, considering the clash of hot temperature and high humidity in addition to the crowds. This is why you can take advantage of the center’s seasonal workshops and indulge yourself in the intensive spiritual care that Tassajara Zen Mountain Center offers.
|Admission Fees||Meal Pass|
To use the hot springs and participate in workshops, you have to make advanced reservations through their website: https://www.sfzc.org/locations/tassajara
Important Information to Take into Account
- Phones and other gadgets are not allowed
- The springs are open from May through September
- Electricity is limited
- The springs aren’t that hard to get to but the roads are full of bumps and dirt
- Hot Springs are available to use through advanced reservations only
- This place is clothing optional
Tassajara Hot Springs is located in the middle of the Ventana Wilderness, 41.4 miles from Carmel. From there, head west onto Ocean Avenue for 0.7 miles, then turn right onto California State Highway 1, and head straight for 0.9 miles. Keep a lookout for the Carmel Valley Road on the left, drive onto this mud road and follow the road for 23.2 miles. Turn right onto Tassajara Road and follow this road for 16.7 miles, which will lead you to the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center at the end.
Natural Attractions Near Tassajara Hot Springs
It’s highly suggested to plan a trip around your stay at Tassajara Hot Springs and use it as a basis for your trip around the area. The ‘road’ to Tassajara may be full of bumps and dirt, but the convenience of its location is presented with its nearby natural attractions that are immensely appreciated by everyone who loves hiking or simply appreciates the outdoors.
Here’s a list of natural attractions of the Carmel Valley area that are definitely worth a visit.
- First and foremost, Los Padres National Forest. No one is surprised that it holds a top spot on our list. This national forest is abundant with nature-dwellers, together with unique flora and fauna that are waiting to be discovered.
- Big Sur – a fabulous mountainous terrain close to Los Padres National Forest that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. It is pretty popular amongst locals (and rightly so) and is also waiting for tourists with its majestic views and refreshing atmosphere
- You can visit the Canyon Falls. It’s a hidden gem that is located close to Big Sur. Despite not being as popular as other waterfalls in the area, Canyon falls is still definitely worth your time and effort.
Accommodation & Camping
Camping Near Tassajara Hot Springs
A trip to Tassajara Hot Springs has many perks, one of which is its campgrounds that will leave neither experienced nor first-time campers disappointed. Camping options include, though are not limited to, dispersed camping opportunities and even log cabins.
There are up to 20 options to choose from. Learn more about them here: https://www.hipcamp.com/en-US/discover/california/tassajara-zen–mountain-center
Other Accommodation Options
The best and the closest option that offers a place to stay is Carmel Valley. It is a small town described as “an excellent place to live with 5-star neighborhoods.” Even though there aren’t many lodgings to choose from (which is a small-town characteristic that no one is surprised by), all of them have excellent reviews and very obviously possess the town’s signature feel: welcoming and homely.
You can learn more about accommodation here: https://booking.tp.st/pe8MjyfO
It is pretty apparent that Zen Mountain Center, or Tassajara Hot Springs, is inclusive of all the necessary amenities for a comfortable stay. If everything mentioned – thermal soaks, spiritual recharging, tech isolation and rejuvenation in a tranquil wilderness – is something you’d enjoy, then Tassajara Hot Springs offers one of the best opportunities to do just that. It’s especially recommended if you want to spice up a romantic getaway with your partner… just sayin’. Additionally, if you want to make it a trip instead of a one-time dip, then you’re in for one satisfying, fulfilling trip.
Frequently Asked Questions
Tassajara Hot Springs is open all-year-round. However, the use of thermal pools is available only in summer. If you’d like to soak in the springs during other seasons, you’ll have to participate in the rejuvenating programs and workshops of Tassajara Hot Springs (AKA Zen Mountain Center) that take place all year around. For more information visit their official website: https://www.sfzc.org/locations/tassajara
Tassajara Hot Springs is located in the middle of the Ventana Wilderness, 41.4 miles from Carmel. From there head west onto Ocean Avenue for 0.7 miles, then turn right onto California State Highway 1, and head straight for 0.9 miles. Keep a lookout for Carmel Valley Road on the left, drive onto this mud road, and follow the road for 23.2 miles. Turn right onto Tassajara Road and follow this road for 16.7 miles which will lead you to Tassajara Zen Mountain Center at the end.
Yes, you can either visit Tassajara Hot Springs during summer and have a soak, or participate in programs and workshops offered by Zen Mountain Center all season round and get to have a thermal soak that way.
You can do a lot at Tassajara Hot Springs in order to recharge yourself spiritually. Tassajara Hot Springs offers Zen and Buddhist teachings, lectures, Onsen Soaking experiences, meditation, etc.
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!