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Eight wellness trips in sunny California

Angelina Villa-Clarke shares some of the Golden State’s most inspiring trips for body, mind, and soul

Author: Angelina Villa-Clarke is a freelance journalist, editor and contributor to A&K’s biannual Sundowner magazine

Reading time: 6.5 minutes

Stretching across thousands of kilometres, Yosemite National Park, in central California’s Sierra Nevada mountain range, is one of the most awe-inspiring places on Earth – especially for hikers. With its towering ancient sequoia trees, crashing waterfalls, and deep valleys, this is the perfect place to recharge your soul and be at one with nature. A must is to take in the imposing Half Dome granite monolith. While adrenalin junkies can hike to the top (it rises 2,694 metres above sea level and you’ll need a special permit to do this), the more faint-hearted can trek instead in its shadow, by meandering along the picturesque Merced River.

With more than 1,300 kilometres of trails to choose from, Yosemite can be an overwhelming place – so it’s best to narrow down your hike according to your interests. For those keen on capturing the glorious landscape on camera, the Mirror Lake Loop is a good start. The eight-kilometre round trip takes two to three hours and will see you spoilt for choice when it comes to scenic vistas – all beautifully reflected in still, glacial waters left behind by the Ice Age. Those interested in knowing more about the wildlife – from the condor that soar above to the American black bear which call this place home – can also arrange for a customised hike with an expert naturalist.


Have a coastal clear-out

It doesn’t get much prettier than Carmel-by-the-Sea – a small beach town in Monterey County. The charming spot has attracted artists and writers since the 1920s, and is now home to more than 100 art galleries. Its quaint cafés, fairy-tale cottages, and untouched beaches still bring in a steady stream of hip visitors attracted to its quirky, bohemian – and peaceful – way of life.

Those looking to clear their minds for a while should check into the eclectic La Playa Carmel, a revamped historic hotel oozing old world charm. With bedrooms overlooking the dramatic Pacific coastline, secluded courtyards, and a signature Champagne breakfast, it’s easy to switch off here. While you can check in and chill out under your own steam, it’s also the perfect bolthole to experience the town’s three-day Mindful-by-the-Sea retreats, led by renowned psychologist and mindfulness expert Rich Fernandez. With a focus on nature and capturing the essence of the location, the retreats aim to equip you with tools to manage stress and enhance well-being.


Salute the sun in Santa Monica 

Famous for its laid-back vibe, trendy dining spots and farmer’s markets, the funky town of Santa Monica is one of southern California’s highlights. With its mountain backdrop, the beachy resort town is an alluring alternative to the brash ‘big-light’ appeal of Los Angeles.

Within walking distance of the pedestrianised shopping district and beach, the Viceroy Santa Monica reflects the town’s much celebrated charisma. The glamorous Cast restaurant serves up modern cuisine inspired by locally sourced produce, the lounge is one of the town’s coolest hang-outs, and bedrooms have a funky design married with a light and airy feel. With a focus on fitness, the hotel has collaborated with Beach Yoga SoCal, so you can take advantage of yoga classes on the beach. Breathe in the fresh air, plant your toes in the sand, and return home feeling rejuvenated.


Live your best life at Lake Tahoe

The cobalt-blue waters of Lake Tahoe have long attracted adventurers and fitness fanatics due to the year-round sports on offer. Found in the Sierra Nevada mountain range, it rests on the California and Nevada border and is one of the USA’s most iconic beauty spots.

Whether you want to ski or to hike, The Landing Tahoe Resort & Spa, set on the shoreline of South Lake Tahoe, offers a long line-up of activities. From adventure biking in the mountains to wakeboarding, kayaking, and paddleboarding on the water, fishing to golf, and snowmobiling to sledding – this is the place to exercise your muscles while expanding your mind in the jaw-dropping landscape. Hiking around the many trails means that you will be able to embrace the natural splendour – from the glacier-carved slopes to the snowmelt waterfalls, it’s the ultimate welcome to the great outdoors.


Reset your mojo in San Diego 

Whether you want to tackle sleep problems or reboot your approach to nutrition, Rancho Valencia – a hacienda-style resort near San Diego – will probably be able to help. Found in 18 hectares of lush gardens and olive groves, you bed down in your own private luxury casita with views over the canyons of San Diego. Lantern-lit evenings are best spent at one of the farm-to-table restaurants, and by day you’ll be rejuvenated in the spa.

Offering a dedicated programme called the Wellness Collective, based on the cutting-edge science of epigenetics, the spa goes one step beyond the usual massage and facial offerings. Based on the knowledge that many genes change in response to how we care for ourselves, scientists are increasingly convinced that the majority of disease – potentially up to 95 per cent – is preventable through making healthy choices. Intimate workshops, lectures, and activities led by leading experts reveal the science and combine to address various aspects of good health – such as weight loss or positivity.


Dig deep in the desert 

Sat beneath the Santa Rosa Mountains in southern California, the Waldorf Astoria La Quinta is no stranger to welcoming the great and the good. The legendary hotel has seen Frank Capra adapt the script for It Happened One Night here, Ginger Rogers get married in front of its waterfall, and President Dwight D Eisenhower play a round of golf on one of the five standout courses. With 41 swimming pools, seven restaurants and an award-winning spa – you’ll soon be embracing your own inner starlet.

With a focus on mindfulness and yoga, the desert retreat offers a variety of holistic classes, such as full-moon, restorative, and yin yoga. You can also hike in Joshua Tree Park, bathe in the nearby hot mineral springs, and ride horses across the dunes in the desert. Experts are on hand to lead you through meditation practices aimed at taking you to a deep state of calm. It’s bliss.


Take your seats at a concert for the soul 

Gaining momentum in wellness circles is the practice of sound-bathing. Predictably, California is at the forefront of the therapy. Resulting in a deep state of relaxation, sound-bathing sees a combination of gongs and singing bowls played in such a way as to relax the body and calm the mind.

Specialising in intimate group sessions, the Soundbath Centre in Los Angeles is the first and only centre in the city dedicated to sound-bath events and training. Private sessions with crystal singing bowls, gongs, and reiki are available, but the most popular experiences are the uplifting small group events. You simply lie back and relax, listening as the sounds guide you on a journey of self-discovery and inner exploration. The result is a fine-tuned mental clarity.


Hug a tree in northern California 

Forest bathing – or tree hugging – may have had an image makeover of late, but its roots (pun intended) reach back even further than when the original Californian hippies made much of embracing a tree trunk. The practice of soaking up a picture-book forest environment dates back to a bygone time when people naturally ventured into a verdant setting to clear the mind. These days, there’s no better place than under the canopy of northern California’s soaring giant redwoods to feel the serenity.

Humboldt County is home to the magical-sounding Avenue of the Giants – found within a state park which covers some 21,448 hectares and where three-quarters of the world’s tallest trees can be found. The remote, enchanting landscape is designed for deep breaths and gentle walking. Ancient trees with gnarled trunks big enough for a family to hold hands around are simply awe-inspiring. Fragrant air – scented with essential plant oils – restores the senses, while the sheer tranquillity of walking among lofty trees will bring a lucidity not often found in our fast-paced world.




Feeling inspired? Browse our suggested California itineraries or speak to one of our travel specialists today.


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