The Tassajara Mountain Zen Center lies at the end of a 14-mile drive down a dirt track near a Central California town few people know (Jamesburg). And that's the point: The remote inland setting in the Santa Lucia Mountains about 25 miles south of Big Sur provides an ideal place to shut out the daily grind and unplug.
When monks aren't being trained at the center, which was founded in 1967, Tassajara opens its doors each year to vacationers and guests. Last year 5,200 people came to engage in a retreat, meditate, do yoga, go hiking in the surrounding Ventana Wilderness, dip in the nearby hot springs, eat at the center's vegetarian kitchen and reconnect with nature and themselves. (See photos of the center and its surroundings.)
You can go for a getaway and/or enroll in an organized retreat. For example, Annie Somerville, executive chef at Greens Restaurant in San Francisco, and Zen gardening author Wendy Johnson will lead a retreat about vegetarian cooking and organic gardening June 21 to 23 ($170 per person). Other programs (some just weekends, some longer) focus on mindful living, spiritual practice, creative expression and more.
Dates: Retreats are offered April 26-Sept. 9.
Price: Friday-to-Sunday retreats cost $170; four-day retreats and longer start at $370. Add on a dorm stay ($100 a night midweek, $121 a night weekends) or shared cabin for retreat participants (starting at $110 a night midweek and $132 a night weekends). There also are private cabins available as well. The cost of the stay includes meals at the center. Reservations can be made online.