Distance from SF: 168 miles; 3 hour drive
Attire: Clothing optional (nudity is encouraged).
The rundown: Esalen’s cliff-side, ocean-facing hot springs are some of the most visually striking and wow-inducing. The tri-level structure is home to individual and group tubs that are perfect for relaxing under the stars as you listen to the crashing waves below. The public can gain access to the baths every night from 1 to 3am, so this is for the late-night crowd that doesn’t mind a whole lot of birthday suits and new aginess.
Extras: Esalen is so much more than hot springs: the space offers over 300 workshops and classes in meditation, massage, writing, yoga, dance, mindfulness, and more. You’ll book a room (for a weekend, five days, or longer) and then gain access to meals, workshops, and use of the facilities.
Overnight options: Accommodations range from sleeping bags in communal living spaces to private rooms to complete houses with kitchens.
Day pass price: Free bathing is open to the public only from 1am to 3am nightly, by reservation only. Otherwise, you’ll have to be a part of the workshops and rent a room to use the facilities.
Distance from SF: 75 miles; 1.5 hour drive
Attire: Bathing suits are required at the outdoor pools but optional in the spas.
The rundown: Calistoga has a surprising number of mineral spring resorts, from dirt cheap to four star hotels, and we can’t include them all. You can spend hundreds of dollars at fancy spas, but we prefer the off-the-radar, quirky spots, like Dr. Wilkinson’s. A wine country mainstay since 1946, this retro motel may be unassuming, but it’s got everything you need in hot springs. It’s been run by the same family since 1952, and still boasts its original '50s neon sign out front. It’s the grandaddy of mud bath resorts, where you can also soak in public indoor or outdoor pools, or in private whirlpool baths.
Extras: Doc Wilkinson's original combination "The Works," a combination of a mud bath, followed by a mineral bath, steam room, blanket wrap, and massage, is a treat you can still get to this day.
Overnight options: Dr. Wilkinson’s is essentially an upscale motel, so you’ll get the usual lodging options you’d find at a hotel.
Day pass price: Day pass use is not available. You must book a room or be a guest of someone with a room, which will set you back $25.
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Eloise Porter is a Thrillist contributor who had a thoroughly awesome time researching this article, except for the mud baths. Find out why she thinks they are terrifying on Twitter @eloisepporter.