Welcome to Mars. The ancient scriptures indicate that long ago the human race was concerned about the viability of terraforming our red planet. That was before we discovered Aquaforming. Dear SpacePriests, Esalen is your aquatic high temple.
The ritual of shadowy purification begins only during the deep Skuggic hours, or as you might call it, 1 to 3am. Much like the earth-dwellers did when they first came, you descend down lanterned lane to meet your first bath, the sounds of crashing waves. At the end of the moonlit jetbridge you are deposited at the mouth of your hallowed concrete temple. De-shroud yourself in one of the two launching chambers, perform a rinse of filth, and finally, submerge. Twelve aquacapsules are peppered across the temple grounds, perched at the very edge of the pacific cliff. Some small, likened to the clawfoot tubs of yore, others are built to fit a quorum of humans. Find a dew-slickened massage table to integrate the mineral nutrients of water with the evaporative air element. Heighten your senses: relax your sore body in the sulfurous waters simultaneous to the visual meditation of the black and white ocean.
Clothing optional and disabled access friendly, Esalen is inclusive as well as ruthlessly geometric. We appreciated the wheelchair accessible bath at the roof level which had a mechanized chair built into the tub. We bathed with about 20 other water warmeruppers, which the venue easily accommodated with privacy to spare. Esalen Institute is located along the coast of Big Sur California. Roughly three hours from Oakland, it’s close enough for a trip on a whim. Its hours and location make Esalen a bit too distant for a winding night drive back (unless you’re a master of keeping yourself up by doing arbitrary long division while your partner sleeps in the passenger seat). The only other pieces that prevent spontaneity are the required reservation and price. Esalen is a retreat space that generally requires a larger outlay of coin. The only hours open to public use are 1-3am nightly. You can view a visit in the middle of the night as a fun adventure – our approach – but we’d rather there was no restriction. Additionally, you have to call between 9-noon the morning of your trip to reserve your spot. At $30/person Esalen is an extraordinary bathing experience but it doesn’t quite redefine the concept. For this we give it 4.5 spigots.