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Esalen Builds a Bathhouse Befitting Its New Age Spirit

October 06, 2002|Jane Engle

Goodbye, funky redwood tubs. Hello, $6-million bathhouse.

Esalen Institute, the 40-year-old New Age retreat in Big Sur known for its seminars, massages and hot mineral springs, has reopened its cliff-side baths in a new stone-and-concrete structure. The original baths, in a building that dated to the 1930s, were destroyed four years ago by a storm-driven landslide. Three redwood hot tubs were used in the interim.

The new bathhouse, perched about 50 feet above the Pacific, is a two-level structure with clerestory windows, verandas and sandstone floors warmed by the springs. It can hold about 60 bathers in seven tubs. Some tubs are outdoors; some are covered. One has a lift for wheelchair users, project manager Jerry Parks said.

So far only overnight guests are being allowed in the baths, Executive Director Andy Nusbaum said. But starting Nov. 15, visitors can use them for very limited hours, 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., by paying a $20 fee, he added.

Esalen guests can stay on a room-and-board plan that includes meals, classes and bath access for $150 per person per night ($170 starting Nov. 1) on weekends; weekday rates are lower. Or they can attend residential seminar programs of varying lengths that begin at $485 for a weekend ($545 starting Nov. 1), with lower rates for bunk-bed rooms. For information, call (831) 667-3005 or visit www.esalen.org.

The private, nonprofit institute is auctioning off the three interim redwood tubs Nov. 2. Bids are due by Nov. 1; e-mail info@esalencampaign.org.

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