Spiritual Wellness is all around us — once you know where to look. Our monthly travel series presents a peek into the meaningfully magic destinations you should add to your itineraries when planning your next trip. A combo of what’s popular and what’s off the beaten path, our goal is to help you find those mindful, intentional moments during trips that often lead to the most surprising personal transformations. Have a place to add? Send us a note at hello@smudgewellness — like our wellness practices themselves, these guides are intended to be ever-evolving and updated.
The San Francisco Bay Area is no stranger to all things wellness, particularly of the spiritual variety. With breathtaking natural beauty and an ethos that embraces all who are embarking on a personal journey to find themselves, it is in many ways the ideal vacation spot for the Smudge Universe. It is, after all, where HQ is located and where co-founders Luigi and Lara reside. Here’s a look at some favorite spots to recenter and recharge.
THINGS TO SEE
The Presidio Spire — Erected in 2008 after artist Andy Goldsworthy visited the gorgeous Presidio National Park, this 100 foot natural sculpture is the collection of 37 fallen Monterey Cypress trees, a tree found throughout the park that is reaching the end of its life cycle. A celebration of rejuvenation and rebirth set against the backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge and the surrounding bay, the Spire and the Bay Area Ridge Trail offer visitors who are doing some soul-searching a magnificent spot to reflect inward, refine, and posssibly redefine their purpose.
The National AIDS Memorial Grove — Conceived in 1988 by a small group of activists as a place to “gather to heal, hope, and remember,” the Memorial Grove is a secluded and deeply moving tribute to the power of resilience and human connection. Located in San Francisco’s massive Golden Gate Park, the Memorial Grove is the perfect spot to meditate or set intentions — particularly around the topics of loss, compassion, and empathy.
The Wave Organ — One of the coolest ways to witness the connection between music, nature, and art, the Wave Organ is a wave-activated acoustic sculpture located in the San Francisco Bay. Grab some takeout from one of the restaurants along nearby Chestnut Street and experience this unique experience during high tide. Pro tip: bring along some of your favorite tumbled stones to dip into the water for a special traveling edition of crystal cleansing.
THINGS TO DO
Sunset Beach Yoga + Dance on Baker Beach — For those looking to meld together some movement with their sight-seeing and wellness practice, look no further than Outdoor Yoga SF’s wide-ranging class options that take place all over the city and in the East Bay. Friday night sessions paired with a live DJ (you listen to the instructor and music over headphones) are particularly joyful. Reservations are highly recommended, as is a sweatshirt (for the cool temps) and a camera (for the ridiculous views).
Mission Mural Walking Tour — One of the best ways to sharpen a spiritual wellness practice while traveling is to be cognizant and conscious of artistic expression of that community. In San Francisco, this intention can be easily manifested by taking one of the walking tours of the Mission, SF’s largely LatinX neighborhood, curated by the Precita Eyes Muralists Association. A community-based, inner-city arts organization, the goal of the group is to “bring art into the daily lives of people through a process that enables them to reflect their specific concerns, joys, and triumphs.” The tours are conducted by artists and are an intimate peek into the unique lives and perspectives of Bay Area muralists.
PLACES TO EAT
Souley Vegan — If your spiritual wellness practice comes in the form of supporting delicious plant-based eating, you must check out this mecca to vegan soul food. Owned by Oakland-based Tamearra Dyson, her story of entrepreneurship is a testament to courage and devotion. Though started from humble beginnings — read Tamearra’s incredible story here — there are now locations throughout the city and in the original Oakland space. She had us at Sizzlin’ Skillet Mac and Cheeze.
Japanese Tea Garden Tea House — Located in Golden Gate Park’s serene and peaceful Tea Garden, the Tea House is an ideal landing spot for those seeking a quiet place to recharge and reset. The Tea House offers a traditional assortment of authentic teas and snacks. It’s a great place to bring kids as well, especially if you are trying to reinforce the value of appreciating stillness and being present — two traits that are felt throughout this space.
PLACES TO STAY
The Esalen Institute — Esalen, located a few hours from San Francisco along the Pacific Coast, bills itself as a “holistic learning and retreat center.” What we really love about Esalen is its commitment to wellness in all its thorny, vulnerable forms. “You won’t find easy-to-digest self-help workshops — but you will find world-class instructors, an unforgettable landscape, and support and safety for doing the challenging work of transformation.” While beautiful and tranquil, Esalen is most definitely not a spa experience. This is a destination for those who want to really dive into the core of who they are and who they want to be. Cheers to that.
Cavallo Point — For those looking for some luxury in their hotel while still honoring environmental sustainability and their own wellness practices, the Lodge at Cavallo Point offers jaw-dropping views of the Golden Gate Bridge and endless options for yoga, hiking, kayaking, and enjoying the Bay Area’s bounty of seasonal food. Located right across the Bay from SF.
Green Gulch Farm — While not currently accepting visitors due to Covid, any future visit that is centered on spiritual wellness will hopefully once again be able to include a trip to this gem near Muir Woods. Green Gulch Farm has celebrated inclusivity and a commitment to understanding human connection to each other and the earth since the 1960s. The space includes long-term residents, temporary visitors, visiting priests and monks, and has an extensive outreach program to help those experiencing incarceration, homelessness, or poverty. It is a quintessentially Bay Area spot with a breathtaking working garden that we sincerely hope opens its unique doors again soon.
HEALERS, ASTROLOGERS, ENERGYWORKERS
Satyam (Marin County) – House clearing, Ritual Circles.
Liz Andolong (San Francisco) – Reiki, Intuitive, Yoga Nidra
Karinn Casey (San Francisco) – Acupuncture, Bodywork
Andrian Chaves (San Francisco) – Bodywork, Energy Craniosacral Therapy
Sasha Yungju Lee (San Francisco) – Feng Shui Expert, BaZi Chinese Astrology
Jessica Lanyadoo (Oakland) – Astrology, Psychic Readings