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Nothing peps up a dreary winter day like an adventure. One of my favorite things about this town is how you can go practically anywhere in a day—the ocean, mountains, and big cities are just a tank of gas away.
If you’re looking for a unique, healthy, and slightly crazy adventure that’s within a day’s drive, throw on your swimsuit, fill up your tank, and escape to The Refuge in Carmel-By-The-Sea.
Once a year, my sister takes my mom and me to The Refuge for my birthday. It sounds like a place for abandoned puppies but really it’s America’s first co-ed relaxation spa. This means you can take your significant other (or your sister) and enjoy a day of peace and quiet. I have four little boys, so peace and quiet is priceless. Or, in this case, it’s about fifty dollars for the day.
What Exactly is The Refuge?
So what’s a relaxation spa? Good question. When I first went, I expected a massage and cucumbers for my eyes. While it is possible to get a massage, I was handed a robe, a key, and a water bottle with firm instructions not to talk loudly and to drink a LOT of water.
You see, The Refuge is a place where you can practice thermal bathing. Basically, this means you get into a sauna (dry or steam), then jump into a pool of icy water and stay there as long as you can, then you get into a hot tub, then you get out and relax while listening to calming music. Rinse and repeat for as long as you can.
This is actually a hot destination spot for many local couples. There’s a lot of napping and sitting around involved, so it’s nice to bring a friend or spouse. Some people stay for the whole day, but I only make it for a few hours before I need a major nap with a side of carbs.
After a day of thermal bathing, you may experience health benefits like improved circulation and stress relief. The Refuge also claims this activity will release toxins from your body. In Eastern Europe, even preschoolers practice this activity, though instead of jumping into a pool of ice water, they jump into snowbanks.
After experiencing it, I was a believer (I felt great!) but my dad said we’d all catch pneumonia. The point is, I’m no doctor, so take these health claims with a grain of salt and a gallon of water, and decide for yourself.
5 Tips For Planning A Trip To The Refuge:
- Bring a swimsuit (thankfully this is NOT optional) and flip flops. The Refuge thermal baths are mostly outdoors, and surfaces may be slippery.
- Eat a good breakfast before you go. Sitting around in hot tubs, ice water, and saunas takes a surprising amount of energy.
- Respect the silence! Cell phones are not permitted in the spa and there is a silence policy.
- Bring reading material. You can’t check your email but you can check the latest on the Kardashians.
- Plan to eat somewhere like Phil’s Fish Market afterwards. Don’t miss the opportunity!
So, there’s my hot (and cold) spot to visit in the winter, though The Refuge is open 365 days a year, so who am I to judge if you go in the summer?
Have you been to The Refuge? Share your experience and tips in the comment section.
[photos provided by The Refuge and used with permission]