Well Intentioned: A Chilled-Out Guide to San Francisco, California

Baker Beach, San Francisco, offers great views of the Golden Gate Bridge
Baker Beach, San Francisco, offers great views of the Golden Gate Bridge | © Artur Debat / Getty Images
Emma Sparks

Wear some flowers in your hair with this carefree guide to the city’s calmer corners, from yoga studios and wave-lapped beaches to mindful hotels.

San Francisco’s height of hippiedom may be long gone, but the Rainbow City is still one of the best places in the United States to go in search of peace, love and harmony (and, of course, pot, if that’s your style, since recreational cannabis use has been legal since 2016). Want to feel totally groovy, man? Here are some of the most relaxing ways to spend a few days in San Francisco.

1. Yoga Garden SF

Yoga Studio

Yoga Garden
Courtesy of Yoga Garden
Know your power flow from your hatha and yin? Whether you’re a long-time yogi or new to the mat, there’s a class for you here. The three studios sit within a renovated Victorian home in the Lower Haight district, which enhances the welcoming vibe. After a good stretch, take a short walk to Alamo Square Park, where you’ll be treated to the best view of the Painted Ladies – a string of pastel-painted Victorian and Edwardian houses – or visit the hippy ‘hood of Haight-Ashbury to browse vintage boutiques and bookshops.

2. Cavallo Point

Hotel

Exterior of Cavallo Point Lodge, with a lawn, patio with firepit and seating, old tree and steps leading to an outdoor pool
Courtesy of Cavallo Point Lodge / Expedia

There are almost too many ways to practice self-care at this ecofriendly hotel in Sausalito. If you can drag yourself away from your room (most have outstanding views of the Golden Gate Bridge), you can try reiki, herbal healing or acupuncture, as well as the more typical massages and yoga classes. Join a guided hike along the coastal trail, or paint the beautiful bay view at a mindful watercolor class.

3. Baker Beach

Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge at sunset seen from the Beach
© lucky-photographer / Alamy Stock Photo
The wild Pacific waves may be too rough for swimming, but this mile-long stretch of sand on the city’s northwest coast, near Presidio Park, is a fine place for a picnic in the sunshine – and also looks beautifully eerie in San Fran’s hallmark mist. Come for the outstanding views of Golden Gate Bridge, stay to meditate to the sound of crashing surf, or shed your inhibitions (and clothing) at the nudist section at the northern end of the beach.

4. Reboot Float and Cryo Spa

Spa, Health Spa

Cryotherapy redefines what it means to chill out. The Reboot treatment at this health spa in the Mission District entails spending three minutes in a cryochamber, where you’ll experience temperatures from -165F down to -220F (-74C to -104C). The cold shock is said to boost your metabolism, lower inflammation and stimulate anti-aging properties. Once you’ve warmed up in the infrared sauna and spent a meditative hour in a floatation pod, you’ll feel like a whole new human.

5. Hotel Vitale

Boutique Hotel

Rattan furniture with green and white striped cushions on the rooftop lounge area overlooking the city at Hotel Vitale
Courtesy of Hotel Vitale / Expedia.com

Fancy a foot rub after pounding San Francisco’s oh-so-steep pavements? This hotel is right on the waterfront, meaning you can go from souvenir shopping to a sensual massage in five minutes flat. The petite penthouse spa includes a rooftop bamboo forest, where you can bathe with a glass of prosecco under the open sky. Rooms with excellent bay views include ergonomic chairs – handy if you have to work – but it’s best to heed the embroidered slippers and slow down.

6. Wildseed

Restaurant, Vegan

If the mantra “eat good, feel good, do good” resonates with you, save time for a meal at Wildseed on Union Street. Everything on the menu is strictly seasonal, sourced locally and plant-based – with an emphasis on maximizing nutrition in the tastiest way possible. Try the harvest bowl with a turmeric-and-ginger dressing and chia seeds alongside a glass of the best organic wine from the Golden State – $0.10 from every check goes towards planting trees across San Francisco.

7. Golden Gate Park

Botanical Garden, Museum, Park

The Victorian Conservatory of Flowers botanical garden in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, California.
© Della Huff / Alamy Stock Photo
Get back to nature in the biggest park in San Francisco, which is a whopping 3mi (5km) long and sprawls from Haight-Ashbury to the sandy west coast. Hug a 100ft (30m) giant sequoia if you’re inclined, marvel at the cherry blossoms and bonsai trees in the Japanese Tea Garden, or take a pedal boat around Stow Lake to see a waterfall, Chinese pavilion and plethora of birdlife. It’s a literal breath of fresh air.

8. Nob Hill Spa at Huntington Hotel

Hotel

Offering time-reversing facials, traditional Thai massage, zesty body scrubs and deep-sleep rituals, the glorious spa at the Huntington Hotel is one of the best in the city. Book a 50-minute treatment and you’ll get all-day access to the eucalyptus steam room, sauna and gym, plus the heated indoor pool and hot tub, which come with panoramic views. Stay for sparkling wine and a light snack – granola or egg-white frittata, perhaps? – served by white-jacketed waiters on the balcony.

Looking for more hotel options in California? Check out our guide to the best hotels in Sausalito, California, bookable on Culture Trip.

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