The Refuge Wellness Experience in Carmel California

Introducing Refuge, which touts themselves as a co-ed “relaxation” spa in the heart of Carmel California, a destination already brimming with wellness given its connection to nature, spirituality and upscale resorts in the area.
Another factoid that Refuge likes to boast is that it is the first purpose built facility featuring the Hydro Thermal Cycle in the U.S. So, how does it differ from other destination spas you might wonder?

The Refuge Experience

The Refuge experience includes six hot and warm pools, four Nordic cool/cold plunge pools, America’s largest co-ed cedar sauna and eucalyptus steam room. The outdoor pools and relaxation areas are set on two acres of serene indoor solariums and outdoor relaxation areas with fire pits overlooking the Santa Lucia Preserve. Simply put, it’s gorgeous, serene and incredibly peaceful.
The hot and warm pools sound great, you’re probably thinking but no thank you for the Nordic cold plunge pool. Why on earth would I dive into a cold pool when there are so many warm and hot pools around?

Refuge Carmel

Refuge Carmel

The truth is that there are many benefits to alternating cold with hot water for the human body.

The folks at Refuge advise that you start with six to ten minutes in their vast co-ed cedar sauna overlooking the waterfalls or their spacious co-ed eucalyptus steam room with its soothing light show.

Next, they suggest that you cool down for around ten to sixty seconds in one of their two cold plunge pools (roughly Pacific Ocean temperatures) or in their two Nordic cold plunge pools with waterfalls, which have the temperature of an icy river (see, even if it sounds rough, it’s a pretty short plunge). 

Refuge Carmel

Refuge Carmel

Refuge Carmel

Refuge Carmel

Next in the process is a relaxation period which should last for around 10-15 minutes. You can opt to rest in their serene, silent (that means, no cell phones allowed) outdoor relaxation areas which have Adirondack chairs in front of fire pits, all of which overlook the Santa Lucia Preserve as noted above.

Refuge Carmel

They also have three indoor relaxation sanctuaries where you can relax and hang out before your next “plunge.” The idea is to be present (hence the no cell phones) and simply be with it all as you go through the Refuge experience.

The chairs in these indoor sanctuaries have zero gravity recliners and soothing music so you can escape the outside world for awhile. We love that the entire Refuge experience is co-ed too so it’s a great thing to book with your significant other.

Refuge Carmel

In between cycles, you can jump in and out of their three sparkling, UV cleansed, warm pools with thermal waterfalls or any of their three sparkling, UV cleansed, hot pools with thermal waterfalls. Personally, I loved standing underneath the waterfalls in each of the pools, letting the heat warm my body and soothe my aching muscles – it was pure bliss!

Refuge Renee

Refuge Experience Benefits

So, what are the benefits of alternating between cold and hot water? The concept of this process certainly isn’t new. For years, the health benefits have been known and in Scandinavia, the cold and hot water dipping experience is pretty common.

People have recognized that the rotating between hot and cold helps to increase circulation because it helps to pump blood more efficiently throughout the body. If you’ve ever injured a muscle, you’ve likely been told to cold pack it and then hot pack it (in some cases). The use of cold water helps the blood bring more oxygen to the muscles and tissues — it can also help to remove lactic acid build up over time.

Hot water of course is much more relaxing and is known to relieve tension, stress and muscle pain. This is why the hot stone massage treatment is so popular – those hot stones help to ease the tension and open up tight knots which have been stagnant for far too long.

If you’ve traveled to Nordic countries, you’ve likely had the traditional sauna experience which may run around 15-20 minutes long followed by an ice cold run into a lake or river (or cold shower).

Overall benefits of this process say the Refuge team, is that it opens the body’s vascular system, helps to improve cardiovascular performance, flushes the body of toxins, induces a deeper sleep, relaxes muscles, enhances muscle recuperation, soothes aches and pains, regulates body temperature, can relieve sinus congestion and releases endorphines, which allow your mind and body to settle into a euphorically relaxed state.

It can also help to boost your immune system to reinforce your natural defenses and increase your metabolism overall.  It is also noted by some that a cold plunge after a sauna can help with rheumatoid issues, although please check with your doctor about what is best for you given your personal situation.

Even in late November, it was warm enough in Carmel to sit outside without a towel or jacket on in between dips. While it can get pretty cool in the evenings, the afternoons gave us clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-sixties.

The Refuge experience for us was incredibly relaxing — what a great way to unwind on a weekend escape from San Francisco or Los Angeles.

The surrounding area is also so pretty that you can breathe in the beauty of the hills and trees among you.

The Refuge team also offers Aromatherapy and massages — deep tissues, sports and Swedish massage styles. I opted for the latter which is a much more relaxing treatment.

I loved that my masseuse kept the door open (it was the last room therefore more private) so I was able to breathe in the mountain air and see the grass and flowers cascading down the hill during my treatment.

You’ve likely had a Swedish massage before, but if you haven’t, the idea is knead the muscles with long gliding strokes in the direction of the heart.  Additional techniques include circular pressure applied by the hands and palms, firm kneading, percussion-like tapping, bending and stretching.

Because we just had a few hours of cold and hot water dipping, our muscles were already warmed up, which helped to boost the level of oxygen in the blood, decrease muscle toxins, and improve overall circulation before we even set foot in the room. They offer 50 and 100 minute massage treatments and our therapists were knowledgeable and professional. Best of all, my masseuse eased the tension in my back and shoulders. Two thumbs up – we would definitely return!

Refuge Carmel

Refuge Carmel


27300 Rancho San Carlos Road
Carmel-By-The-Sea, CA 93923
(831) 620.7360 
For more information, visit their website
Renee Blodgett
Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.
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