I had a short piece printed in the San Francisco Chronicle Travel section today. It’s also up on SFGate:
You’ll get all the basics (web site, address, phone number) from the article. Here’s a little bit of extra information about each spa or hot spring for folks with pain and disabilities:
Watercourse Way: Chronic pain and mobility problem friendly. In fact, WW is my absolute favorite spot to take a nice long soak if I’m feeling both sore and wealthy.
Pluses: Serene atmosphere, handrails into tubs, steam room and sauna options, deep hot tubs, bed in each room. 90-minute option for tub rentals.
Minuses: Can’t lie down in the tubs. It can be a hike from street parking to the spa, especially on weekend evenings. Water temperature can vary, getting a little bit too warm sometimes.
Vichy Hot Springs: Chronic pain friendly. Mobility adequate. Gorgeous big resort with attractive rooms. Vichy would make a lovely retreat for anyone for whom money is no object, disabilities and pain or no.
Pluses: Lots of different bathing options, from swimming pools to small private tubs.
Minuses: Big property can make it a longer walk to your favorite tub or pool. Expensive as all get-out.
Esalen Institute: Chronic pain adequate. Mobility adequate. A special access hot tub on the roof of the spa area is reserved for wheelchair-bound guests.
Pluses: Big variety of tub configurations makes it easy to lie down, or sit back with your feet up. Super-serene and healing atmosphere. The Institute is the birthplace of the Esalen school of massage, arguably the most healing massage style ever devised.
Minuses: The only way to take a soak at Esalen without purchasing a spendy massage or days-long workshop is to show up at 1am. Quite the steep climb from the parking lot to the hot tub area. No spa-style amenities. Naked people. (I don’t consider this a minus, but lots of other folks do.)
Calistoga Hot Springs: Chronic pain friendly. Mobility friendly. One of half a dozen similar day spas with soaking options in the town of Calistoga.
Pluses: Lots of options, including swimming pool, whirlpool, and private baths. Spa amenities. Calistoga mud baths–a truly unusual way to suck toxins out of your skin.
Minuses: Expensive. Reservations required, especially during wine country high season.
Hot Creek: Chronic pain bad. Mobility hostile. I don’t recommend Hot Creek to chronic pain patients or other disabled folks, unless you’re enjoying a serious healthy streak.
Pluses: Bragging rights to visiting a wilderness hot spring.
Minuses: Uneven ground, slippery rocks, no seats, shifting bottom in the unimproved creek, random hot and cold spots that can change location without warning…do I need to go on?