Tassajara Hot Springs near Carmel Valley
Deep in the Los Padres National Forest in Central California is a resort filled with tranquility, peace, and beauty. Tassajara Hot Springs is the first Buddhist monastery outside Asia, and it opens its doors to guests each summer. You’ll need to drive here from San Jose or Monterey, California, for two to three hours.
At Tassajara Hot Springs, you can soak in natural mineral hot springs, explore Zen Buddhist teachings, meditate, and hike. The surrounding region of Carmel Valley is also renowned for its wineries and natural beauty.
Tassajara Hot Springs Facilities
Step into the epitome of peace at this off-the-grid retreat for the soul. There is limited electricity and only one pay phone available if needed. Kerosene lanterns light your way after sunset and add a quiet ambiance to your experience. Finally, there is no Internet or cell phone reception, making this a calming retreat away from civilization.
Visitors can hike and relax in the hot springs or play a game of Bocce Ball. If you’re looking for something quieter, browse the library, sign up for a massage, or listen to a Dharma talk.
The natural hot spring Japanese-style bathhouses are divided into men’s and women’s areas, which are clothing-optional spaces. Each has communal showers, two hot plunges, a steam room, a private bath, and a sundeck with creek access. The men’s side is co-ed in the evenings. After your soak, swim in the pool and enjoy the gourmet vegetarian meals provided for overnight guests.
Tassajara Zen Mountain Center asks visitors to support their monastic ways by wearing appropriate clothing around the grounds and dining areas. Guests must remove their shoes when entering guest rooms and meditation halls.
The accommodations at Tassajara Hot Springs are rustic and remote. Choose from a variety of cabins and yurts, or stay dormitory-style. There is limited electricity, but kerosene lanterns are provided to light your nights. Most rooms have a private sink and toilet, and shower facilities are located in the bathhouses.
At the center, guests can drink in views of mountains, creeks, and Redwood trees. Full use of the facilities and three daily meals are included in your accommodation fee. Let the experience at Tassajara Hot Springs Zen Mountain Center rejuvenate you completely.
Access and Usage Fees
Overnight stays cost $131 (single occupancy on a weeknight) to $456 (double occupancy on the weekend). Day passes cost $35, but visitors will likely prefer the overnight stay given how remote the center is. Three daily meals are included in overnight prices.
Tassajara also offers the “guest practice stay” for practicing Buddhists as well as a subsidized work-stay option. Both programs require an application and time commitment. So, casual visitors should stay overnight.
Overnight visitors will have their choice of dormitory-style accommodations, yurts and a variety of cabins to continue the path of rejuvenation.
Nature is the local attraction, and there are many hiking paths in the surrounding Padres National Forest for visitors. For example, the Arroyo Seco trail leads to several destinations, such as swimming holes and nearby Cone Peak. Other paths include the Church Creek Trail and the Suzuki Roshi Memorial trail, a ten-minute trek on the retreat property. And local fire lookout tower, Chews Ridge, provides excellent views of the surrounding forest.
Located within the same region, an overnight visit to Esalen Hot Springs affords visitors access to unique cliffside hot pools as part of a larger full-service experience.
Tassajara Hot Springs History
The Native tribe of Esselen people first enjoyed Tassajara Hot Springs for its therapeutic hot spring waters. Before the turn of the century, colonial settlers made Tassajara Hot Springs a resort. Then in 1966, Zen Buddhist monk Shunryu Suzuki Roshi immigrated from Japan to California and founded the first Buddist monastery outside Asia. In the fall and winter, the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center devotes itself to Zen practice and, in the summer, welcomes visitors.
Seasonal Access Information
The mountainous region of Coastal California has arid, hot summers. During the summer, the average daily temperature is over 80°F degrees; in July and August, these temperatures can reach 100°F degrees, which increases the risk of fires. Summer evenings drop to around 50°F degrees, so you’ll want to layer accordingly. September may be the best month to visit Tassajara Hot Springs, as this month is dry but not as hot.
Tassajara Hot Springs Directions
Tassajara Hot Springs is a small town south of San Francisco Bay. Monterey Regional Airport (MRY) is the closest airport, two hours from the hot springs. Multiple domestic airlines like Alaska, American, and United Airlines fly into MRY. However, if you don’t mind a half-day drive, you may fly into San Jose (SJC) or San Francisco (SFO).
If you’re driving from Monterey, take the 68 East freeway for about 6 miles, right on Laureles Grand for another 6 miles, then left on Carmel Valley Road towards Jamesburg for about 14 miles. Finally, take Tassajara Road for about 17 miles to the hot springs.
If you’re traveling from San Jose or San Francisco, drive the 101 South freeway for 60 miles towards Salinas, then the 68 West for about 10 miles, left on Laureles Grand for about 6 miles, then left on Carmel Valley Road towards Jamesburg for about 14 miles. Finally, take Tassajara Road for about 17 miles to the hot springs.
Unpaved Road Conditions
After you drive to Jamesburg, expect miles of winding, dirt, and steep mountainous driving to reach your destination. Not all automatic vehicles can safely navigate this road, so we recommend a four-wheel-drive car. There is a clear video of the drive on SFZC.org. Fortunately, Tassajara Retreat offers a shuttle for their guests that picks them up in Jamesburg. The “Stage” roundtrip shuttle costs $75.
Tassajara Hot Springs Google Maps Directions
- South from Monterey Regional Airport in Monterey (1 hour, 45 minutes, and 42 miles)
- South from San Jose (3 hours and 107 miles)
- South from San Francisco (3.5 hours and 153 miles)
- North from Los Angeles (6 hours and 312 miles)
Tassajara Hot Springs Soak Stats:
Seasons: Summer, Early Fall
Day Passes: No longer available as of 2022
Parking: Free for guests
Hot Spring Temperatures: 100°F (38°C) to 140°F (60°C)
Area Features: Carmel, Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur
Closest Gas and Food: Carmel Valley, 28 miles away
Dogs: No, only service animals allowed
Clothing Optional: Yes, in the bathhouse
Bathrooms: Yes, and changing rooms
Tassajara Hot Springs
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