Big Sur hot springs are few - but unique. You can hike to a remote outdoor mountain spring, soak in a natural spring overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Or enjoy a Japanese-style hot springs bath house at a Zen meditation center. Any of those options are an excellent way to spend some relaxing time while you're visiting Big Sur. And unique enough that you can amaze all your friends that you did it.
According to the Monterey County Weekly, these are the only hot springs open to the public in Monterey County.
Paraiso Hot Springs near Soledad is closed indefinitely. The National Geophysical Data Center also lists a hot spring in Seaside, but it's buried somewhere underneath a home improvement store.
Sykes Hot Springs
Sykes Hot Springs is the only outdoor hot spring in Big Sur. It has two stone-lined natural pools about the size of a small home hot tub. Each hold one can hold four people. The temperature averages about 102 degrees but varies by season.
You have to hike to get there, about 10 miles through the Ventana Wilderness on the Pine Ridge Trail. It's a strenuous hike with a maximum elevation gain of about 1,000 feet - and lots of ups and downs. It takes about four hours to hike it hours one way. That means you're not likely to be hiking in, soaking, and hiking out in the same day.
Some people who have been to Sykes Hot Springs say it's a relaxing way to end your day of hiking. It's also incredibly popular, with lots of people camping around it on a busy weekend. Some online reviewers complain that it's sometimes too busy, with as many as ten people trying to get into the same small pool.
Hot Springs at Esalen Institute
Esalen Institute has spring-fed hot tubs on their property, situated on the cliffs above the ocean. It's a stunningly beautiful location.
Unless you're staying at Esalen, you'll have to stay up late to enjoy it. Esalen emphasizes that their hot springs are not a mere amenity, nor is this a public resort. Most of the time their hot springs are open only to people staying there. If you want to drop in, the general public can visit by reservation only from 1:00 to 3:00 a.m. Here's how to make reservations.
They have two levels with restrooms and two sides, a "quiet" and a “silent” side. Tubs are indoors and outdoors, and clothing is optional. You can get more details at their website.
Hot Springs at the Tassajara Zen Center
Tassajara Zen Center is a Buddhist monastery in the mountains above Big Sur. During "Guest Season" from May through mid-September, it opens its facilities to visitors. That includes their Japanese-style hot springs baths which you can enjoy during a day visit.
You need to bring your own towels. You can either take a picnic lunch or buy a meal in their dining room. Get more information at the Tassajara website but you need to call 831-659-2229 to make a reservation, no more than two weeks in advance.
Hot Spring Tips
- Don't stay in too long. You can get too hot.
- If you have any conditions that might be aggravated by soaking in hot water, consult a doctor before you go.
- The water is nice to soak in, but don't drink it.
- You may want to bring along some cold water to drink. The pools can get a little hot, and it will help regulate your body temperature.
- If the weather is cool, take towels to dry off with.
More Hot Springs in California
If you love soaking natural hot springs and want to find more of them, check our guide to California hot springs.