The Ultimate Wellness Guide to San Diego

Feel brand new with these wellness activities, from spas to sports.

Rancho La Puerta
Photo courtesy of Rancho La Puerta
Photo courtesy of Rancho La Puerta

Now that we’ve survived the holidays and the year that was 2023, it’s time to relax, recharge, and face 2024 with confidence. Rather than setting a list of goals you probably won’t keep, take charge of your internal and external wellness by visiting a spa for a massage, communing with nature, or challenging yourself with a new sport or class. Fortunately, San Diego has nearly unlimited options for chilling out, from treatments by the sea to stress-busting hikes. We’ve taken the guesswork out by researching the very best wellness spas, adventures, and getaways for you. Here’s our list of San Diego’s premiere choices for your best year yet!

La Jolla Indian Campground
Photo courtesy of La Jolla Indian Campground

Look out for: An all-levels bike park and zipline thrills
Just a short drive North of SD County is the La Jolla Indian Campground, where Mother Nature will rejuvenate your body and spirit. If you want to get away from the city for the weekend, this is a great spot to enjoy fresh air, build a campfire, roast some s’mores, and go tubing down the San Luis Rey River. The Luiseño Bike Park offers an expansive network of trails for riders of all skill levels across varying terrain, from leisurely beginner’s paths to quad-busting inclines and thrilling descents. In season, you can also take an electrifying ride on the longest, fastest zipline in Southern California, and this summer, a brand new water park will debut. Online reservations are required for camping, and outside firewood is prohibited due to the gold spotted oak borer, but there’s a general store near the campgrounds where it can be purchased, along with food, ice, and other necessities.

Sunny’s Spa & Beauty Lounge
Photo courtesy of Visit Oceanside

Look out for: A Mediterranean grotto with aromatherapy
Located inside The Seabird Resort, this sleek, chic spa brings Southern California vibes with a view overlooking the iconic Oceanside Pier. Services range from an express menu of ten of the spa’s most popular services in a quick, 30-minute session to an extravagant The Soul Ritual—an exfoliating body scrub, healing wrap and full body massage with aromatherapy sound bath, breath work and special attention to your scalp, hands and feet customized with your choice of six different aromatherapy options. Reconnect with a special someone by scheduling Duo in the Suites, a curated spa experience for two that combines a massage with facials, wraps and scrubs. Whatever you choose, leave yourself plenty of extra time in The Cove, a modern take on the traditional Mediterranean grotto experience that includes a dry warming space, cooling mist and an aromatherapy sanarium.

Lakehouse Resort
Photo courtesy of Lakehouse Resort

Look out for: All sorts of outdoor sports
Get outside and explore nature, breathtaking scenery, and endless activities at Lakehouse Resort in San Marcos. The resort itself boasts 143 rooms, including an Adventure Suite with a king bed, a sunken living room with a children’s bunk bed, and a play area with a whimsical play tent. A full-service marina offers everything from paddleboarding and kayaking to sunset cruises, boat rentals, and fishing gear. Also on the property are eight pickleball courts, three tennis courts, a par-71 golf course, The Links at Lakehouse, two pools, and two hot tubs.

Four Moons Spa
Photo courtesy of Four Moons Spa

Look out for: A wide array of options at affordable prices
Four Moons Spa offers one of the most extensive menus of services and experiences in San Diego County, including traditional spa services, alternative healing techniques, naturopathic medicine, longevity services, skin and body treatments and events from yoga classes to moon phase rituals. If you’re not sure where to start, schedule a free, 15-minute consultation call with one of the naturopathic doctors, who will discuss your concerns and guide you to the best course of treatment. Prices at Four Moons Spa are relatively affordable; sauna or mineral soaks start at $35 for 30 minutes.

Self-Realization Fellowship Hermitage & Meditation Gardens
Photo courtesy of Self-Realization Fellowship

Look out for: Yoga and meditation in a serene garden
The founder of modern yoga, Paramahansa Yogananda, was the first major teacher of the practice to spend most of his life in the West, and for a time, he called Encinitas home. Visit his old digs just north of Swami’s beach, where there’s a meditation garden with ocean vistas that’s open to the public, a temple, a retreat center, and the hermitage where he wrote his critically and commercially successful Autobiography of a Yogi.

Shine Natural Medicine
Photo courtesy of Shine Natural Medicine

Look out for: Nutrition counseling for peak performance and digestive health
Shine Natural Medicine promotes optimal wellness with the use of natural treatments, including nutrition, botanical medicine, and intravenous nutrient therapy. During your initial appointment, Shine’s naturopathic doctor will spend a full hour getting to know you and your health and wellness concerns, conducting comprehensive lab testing to analyze your body’s systems, which may consist of blood-work, hormones, stool testing, neurotransmitter testing, and other diagnostics. Treatments include dietary and lifestyle guidance, nutritional supplements, micronutrient injection therapy, IV therapy and detox programs.

Siri Thai Massage Clinic
Photo courtesy of Siri Thai Massage Clinic

Look out for: Rejuvenate with therapeutic Thai herbal treatments
Thai massage differs from more familiar types in that it combines gentle body manipulation, deep tissue pressure along energy lines, muscle and joint stretching, and passive stretching to help increase flexibility, ease back pain and reduce stress and anxiety. Your technician will use their hands, elbows, forearms and feet, without oil or lotion, to improve the blood flow and oxygen supply to your muscles and making it an excellent choice for athletes and anyone who leads an active lifestyle. Swedish, deep tissue, sports, prenatal and other massages are also available, along with add ons like hot stone therapy, cupping and Thai herbal ball compression. Owner Sirikarn Binley, one of a few local therapists who trained at the highly regarded Wat Po Thai Traditional Medical and Massage Schools in Bangkok, also owns sister spa Siri Thai Bodyworks in University City.

ALCHEMĒ (ALCHEME One Paseo)
Photo courtesy of ALCHEMĒ

ALCHEMĒ

Carmel Valley

Look out for: A no-appointment shot bar to jump start your energy levels
This medical spa offers beauty services to boost your health inside and out, using both state of the art treatments and age-old traditions. “Inner Alchemē” treatments include functional medicine, IV therapy, vitamin injections, NAD+ therapy, regenerative injection therapy, GLP–1 peptide weight loss and bioidentical hormone therapy using pellets for internal health. To rejuvenate you on the outside, “Outer Alchemē” provides medical services like plasma therapy, RF microneedling, exosomes and treatments for acne-prone skin, hyperpigmentation, anti-aging and body treatments. Hit the no-appointment shot bar for a vitamin injection and get an extra boost of energy, fight off a cold, or even to help stop your sugar cravings.

Look out for: Backcountry feels without the drive
Stonewall Peak Trail in Cuyamaca Rancho State Park feels like a backcountry hike, sans the two-hour drive. Spectacular vistas and ever-changing vegetation along its 3.4-mile out-and-back course provide plenty of opportunities to stop and smell the roses, or in this case, rose mallow and wild sage. Hikers of almost any skill level can hit the summit for spectacular, 360-degree views of Lake Cuyamaca and the Cuyamaca Mountains, thanks to plenty of shade and a series of gentle switchbacks up a mere 830-foot elevation gain. Afterwards, you’re just a quick ten-mile drive into Julian for a guilt-free slice of their famous apple pie to keep you in your happy place.

Look out for: A challenging hike with a rewarding view
If you’re looking for a great view and a good workout, El Cajon Mountain Trail is for you. It’s known as one of the most challenging hikes in SD, following an old mining road that’s a mix of uphill and downhill on the way up to the peak at 3,675 feet. That means you’ll be going up and down on the descent as well, so expect some burning quads. Bring plenty of water and snacks if you want to try this trail, and plan to spend the better part of the day on this hike. Most importantly, obey the signs that let you know when it’s time to turn back, since the parking lot gates are locked promptly at sunset. Experienced hikers recommend wearing hiking boots to manage the steep, slippery parts.

Divine Octave
Photo courtesy of Divine Octave

Look out for: Ayurvedic bodywork with organic oils and floral essences
Owner Heidi Abreu specializes in luxurious Ayurvedic experiences at her organic spa in La Jolla. Using traditional Ayurvedic techniques, her goal is to promote holistic wellness, reduce stress, and relieve anxiety in her clients. A great place to start is with her signature treatment— a two-pronged approach that begins with the abhyanga, a head-to-toe massage using copious amounts of warm oil, rubbed in circular motions to pinpoint your individual pressure points, followed by the shirodhara, a traditional Indian head massage with a slow, steady stream of oil that drips onto the center of your forehead, known a the “third eye”. Lastly, the oil is massaged into your hair to soothe your scalp and add moisture.

Trilogy Sanctuary & Cafe
Photo courtesy of Trilogy Sanctuary & Cafe

Look out for: High flying yoga to set your spirits soaring
Yoga is a great antidote to a nerve-wracking day—deep breathing, stretching, and the all-important savasana can help you shake a bad mood in no time. Whether it’s your first class or you're a lifelong yogi, you’ll soar to new heights with Trilogy Sanctuary’s rooftop aerial yoga class. You’ll hang, swing, dangle and rock your way through a series of asanas, using long, hammock-like loops of fabric and guided by a certified aerial yoga instructor. Aerial yoga is accessible to nearly all ages, body types and experience levels, and classes range from gentle stretching and floating to strength building and dynamic dance-like sessions. If it’s your first try, sign up for Aerial Yoga L1 or Aerial Healing L1 are required to learn the basics, while more advanced aerial practitioners can challenge themselves further with Aerial Fitness, Aerial Lyra, Aerial Strength and Aerial Flips and Tricks. The studio also has a cafe that serves amazing organic, vegan, gluten-free smoothies, bowls, salads, entrees, and desserts, so you can relax and refuel after your session, but it’s worth a stop all on its own, too.

Yu Spa
Photo courtesy of Yu Spa

Yu Spa

Kearny Mesa

Look out for: Chill out in an ice room
If you’ve never experienced a Korean day spa, you’re in for a treat. Spend the day at Yu Spa for a go at your own pace adventure—sauna admission is just $40 for two hours and includes hot and cold tubs plus dry and steam saunas. Spring for jjimjilbang for an additional $10 and you’ll get another hour to take in the red clay sauna, the Himalayan salt sauna, the ice room and a common relaxation area. Body scrubs and massages are available and include sauna and jjimjilbang admission as well and any massage/body wrap combos includes a shampoo and facial mask. Note: Many areas of traditional Korean spas are nude spaces. If you’re not comfortable shedding it all in front of others, it might not be your cup of tea.

Look out for: Free meditation classes
If you’re interested in learning more about the benefits of meditation but aren’t sure where to start, Pilgrimage of the Heart yoga studio in Normal Heights offers free, 30–45 minute classes in meditation four days a week. The studio also offers other reflective classes such as Yogic Breathing: Pranayama, to improve

focus, nourish energy and explore the body, mind, and breath connection through various breathing techniques, or Savasana and Sound Bath, where you’ll experience the healing vibrations of various instruments that include crystal bowls, singing, harmonium, rain drum, Indian percussion, and more during a conscious relaxation session to calm the mind and body, concluding with a peaceful savasana at regular studio pricing.

Stardust Float Spa
Photo courtesy of Stardust Float Spa

Look out for: Maximum relaxation in zero gravity
Stardust Float Spa’s state of the art float cabins provide a most relaxing environment for you; a traditional no light, no sound, no touch experience, or leaving the lights and music on for a more environmentally cognizant session. You can even schedule a couples float with your favorite person. Massage therapy includes a Sensory Repatterning option, a form of bodywork that helps to relax the body through a series of rocking and undulating movements and various limb movement explorations designed to expand your range of motion. Afterwards, chill out in the relaxation area with a cup of fine tea and light snacks to set you on your way.

Inn At Sunset Cliffs
Photo courtesy of Inn At Sunset Cliffs

Look out for: Lounging by the pool with your friends
Grab your sunglasses and head out for a mini vacay at The Inn at Sunset Cliffs, where a day pass admits you and up to three friends to their pool overlooking the Pacific Ocean. You can bring your own food and beverages, including alcohol, use the grill, and lounge by the fire pit from 10 am-10 pm, all for just $10 per person. Call The Inn at least a day ahead of time to reserve a spot.

Saffron & Sage
Photo courtesy of Saffron & Sage

Look out for: Dual treatments for a double dose of relaxation
Saffron & Sage takes pride in its reputation as a holistic health club, with specialists available in nearly every field of modern wellness therapy. Set new goals with a life coach, let a nutritionist help you to improve your eating habits, or get pampered with an aromatherapy massage, root chakra therapy, or combination treatments that pair acupuncture with fire cupping, reiki with hypnotherapy, massage with sound therapy, and more than a dozen other options.

Zoro Garden

Balboa Park
Look out for: Flitting butterflies among the flowers
Nestled between the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center and the Casa de Balboa in Balboa Park is the beautiful, secluded Zoro Garden, named after Zoroaster, founder of one of the oldest organized faiths, Zoroastrianism. The sunken grotto was originally built for the Panama-California Exposition in 1915-16, and renovated in 1935 to host the California Pacific International Exposition, where it was home to a nudist colony of sorts. Sideshow promoters Nate Eagle and Stanley R. Graham charged the public 25 cents each to enter the garden and see paid actors in loincloths and body stockings pose, play sports, and engage in quasi-religious ceremonies. Today, Zoro Garden has been turned into a serene butterfly garden, where you can sit and watch monarchs, swallowtails, and sulfur butterflies sip water from tiny pools in the rocks. Lush plantings include food sources like milkweed, passion fruit vines, and California lilac for butterfly larvae, while verbena, butterfly bush, lantana, and the like provide nectar for adult butterflies.
Spa Kingston
Photo courtesy of Spa Kingston

Spa Kingston

Bankers Hill

Look out for: Specialized skin care for the perfect glow up
Get the skin of your dreams at Spa Kingston! Nearly every service comes with pick-your-own aromatherapy and a rose petal foot bath, from the signature Spa Kingston Facial Royale to a sexy couples massage complete with champagne. But where it really shines is in its specialized acne treatments, targeting even the most stubborn cases with therapies that include enzyme treatments, peels, light therapy, oxygen infusions, nano needling and microdermabrasion, depending on your skin’s needs.

Bayside Trail
Photo courtesy of National Park Service

Bayside Trail

Point Loma

Look out for: An urban hike that’s accessible for nearly everyone
The Bayside Trail leads to San Diego’s urban national park, the Cabrillo National Monument, providing not just stunning, 360-degree views of the skyline and water, but wide, gently sloping trails and an array of accessibility options that make it easier for everyone to enjoy. The 2.4-mile, out-and-back route does have a couple of steeper spots to negotiate, but numerous benches along the way ensure plenty of prime viewing and opportunities to commune with nature. Once you’ve made it back to the top, head down to the Point Loma Tidepools and Bluffs Trail for an additional easy, one-mile hike downhill to the famous tidepools.

flōt
Photo courtesy of flōt

flōt

Little Italy

Look out for: Let your stress flōt away
Sensory deprivation tank therapy, also known as isolation tank or floatation tank therapy, is said to provide healthful benefits such as relaxation, improved sleep, pain relief and decreased anxiety. At flōt, the tank contains a 12″ solution of water and nearly 1000 pounds of dissolved Epsom salt, heated to body temperature to provide buoyancy. When you enter the tank, any sensory stimulus is removed, including sight, sound and gravity, leaving you weighless and in complete darkness and silence. Eventually, your brain begins to let go of the need for stimulus and you enter a state of deep relaxation. Proponents of SDTT believe that tank time boosts creativity, sharpens focus and concentration, and may even improve cardiovascular health by reducing stress.

Rancho La Puerta shuttle
Photo courtesy of Rancho La Puerta

Look out for: An indulgent spa experience in luxurious surroundings
Refresh your body, mind, and soul while you pamper yourself at the uber-luxe Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. The 4,000 acre fitness resort includes forty miles of hiking trails, acres of gorgeously landscaped gardens, an organic farm, yoga, spa treatments, and dozens other activities from meditation to pickle ball. It’s also home to La Cocina Que Canta, a cooking school where you'll utilize ingredients fresh from the farm in healthy dishes you can reproduce at home. A valid passport is required to travel to Tecate, and if you are staying 7-nights or longer you will need to pay for a tourist permit (FMM form, $43 cash) to Mexico Customs and Immigration.

The I.V. Doc
Photo courtesy of The I.V. Doc

The I.V. Doc

Your Home

Look out for: Help for hangovers, immunity boosts and vitamin therapy
When you drank too much last night but have to be at your best this morning, it’s time for a visit from The I.V. Doc, a house-call hangover service that provides intravenous remedies for dehydration, 24 hours a day. After a phone consultation with a specialized physician, the medical team will arrive at your home, hotel, or office to pump you up with vitamin infusions or hydration treatments based on your personal needs or ailments. They can also provide targeted vitamin therapy, hydration therapy for stomach bugs, food poisoning or morning sickness relief, and various wellness treatments ranging from immunity and metabolism boosts, jet lag therapy and stress relief. Sessions last approximately 30-45 minutes, once you’re hooked up to the IV.

Girl on the Go Wellness Spa
Photo courtesy of Girl Girl on the Go Wellness Spa

Look out for: Evening hours for busy professionals
Esthetician Dana Gray’s Girl on the Go Wellness Spa was born out of a need she saw with her clientele—wellness centers and spas that are open after traditional business hours. Open until 10 pm, Monday–Friday and until 6 pm on weekends, GOTG specializes in organic skincare and facials, and uses Ilike Organic Skin Care, Yon-Ka Paris, Epicuren Discovery, and Lucrece Physicians Aesthetic Research exclusively in their treatments. It is also the only spa in San Diego that is certified in gua sha and connective tissue facial massage. And guys, don’t let the name stop you from coming in for some self-care—your technician will base your treatment on your specific skin care needs.

San Diego Sand Castles
Photo courtesy of San Diego Sand Castles

Look out for: Reliving your childhood at the beach, but with better toys
Everyone loves to build sand castles at the beach, and now you can build the castle of your childhood dreams. Former math teacher and sand castle artist JT Estrela will show you how the pros do it at San Diego Sand Castles. You’ll learn tons of cool sand tricks like hand stacking, making towers, carving windows, doors, walls, stairs and forming arches and bridges during your two–three hour session at Crown Point Beach. All tools are provided, and are available for purchase for your further construction endeavors. Classes take place rain or shine.

Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer.