Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort
By Kathy Chin Leong

Several years ago when I heard about the Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort at the Bay Area Travel Show, I kept the brochures in my office file cabinet, hidden inside a manila folder titled "Want To Go Someday." Something about the tagline which read, "The Art of Relaxation," simply drew me in. I so wanted to be the model in the postcard photo of a steaming natural spring surrounded by a curvaceous array of boulders and tropical foliage.

This fall I had the opportunity to vacation overnight in this 127-acre Shangrila tucked amid creek side sycamores in San Luis Obispo. What sets this gem apart from the other resorts in this coastal region are hot springs founded in 1897. It was established as a vacation hideaway in the 1920s.


Over 20 private outdoor mineral springs hot tubs are terraced on the hillside property. Each tub is surrounded by a small fence. You get there by climbing a flight or two of steep stairs, and you can enjoy a special time under the sun or beneath the stars. The resort is open until midnight so you can indulge in a sulphur-scented soak before going to bed.

You can rent a tub by the hour with a per-person fee. According to the resort owners, the soothing mineral water helps sooth skin, detoxify the body and relieves soreness. When you go, you can bring a swimsuit and a hotel robe. Be sure to wear non-slip sandals, flip-flops or tennis shoes so you won’t trip on the steps. Beverages are okay to bring as long as you pour them in a paper or plastic cup. No glass whatsoever is allowed.


With a subtle Asian flair with , the spa features a spate of massage and facial services. Of note is the Sycamore Signature Integrative Massage, a 60 and 90-minute treatment ($95/$120) that involves Swedish massage with pressure point techniques to ease tension and relax sore muscles.

The Environmental Defense facial at 60 minutes ($120) incorporates green tea and raw Wasabi products in an effort to increase circulation. The treatment also includes a mask and deep cleanse to wake up tired skin, say spa experts. And when you book a service, you also get free time in one of the mineral tubs.


On the premises, you can participate in a variety of yoga, tai chi, and Pilates classes, free to hotel guests. Another way to de-stress is to swim in the natural mineral swimming pool open until dusk. A gift shop loaded with drinks and snacks, yoga clothing, wine chotckes, gift books, and decorative platters and wall hangings is a nicely-appointed shopping diversion.

For more exercise, the hotel offers complimentary guided morning hikes and creek walks, sunset hikes, and sunrise hikes to see view of Port San Luis and the Pacific Ocean. Free use of bicycles are also available when you book ahead of time.

No doubt you’ll come here for serious R&R, so be sure to visit the resort’s unusual labyrinth located across the street from the property. The hotel staff recommends slowly walking the labyrinth and using that time to medicate or release tension along the way. A small meditation garden is also nearby for reflection. If you get hungry, visit the Gardens of Avila Restaurant open daily at the hotel.


The expansive property continues to expand and improve A new bridge, built five years ago, extends over a heavily-trafficked road and leads guests to the newest set of rooms called the West Meadow Suites with calming names such as Joyfulness, Mythical and Noble. If you have a lot of luggage, the staff will take you and your stuff to your room via golf cart.

Each suite comes with a living room, flat screen TV in the bedroom, a game table in the living room, and the best part- a hot tub in the private veranda. What I liked about this suite was the fact it was set in the woods, and in my room, the Cozy, I had a view of the mountains and trees.

There was plenty of room in my bedroom, and the window seat offered that extra touch of homey-ness I always crave on the road. In my room was a four-poster bed covered with a rose print bedspread with matching curtains reminiscent of my mom’s bedroom in the 80s. A Victorian-styled wood armoire an matching end tables completed the ornate look.

The bathroom featured a two-headed tiled shower, luxurious lavender bath products and soft, plush white towels, and a makeup mirror. Other practical details include a useful refrigerator in the closet, an iron, waffle-weave robes, and a MP3 radio/CD player n the bedroom. Rates for rooms range in the $200-and-up category.


To truly take advantage of Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort, book a service or two, do the yoga and labyrinth thing, take a skyline hike, and bliss out in the hot tub in your room. You’ll come home refreshed and energized and you will have learned, as they write in their collateral, "the art of relaxation."

Hotel Info:
Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort
1215 Avila Beach Drive
San Luis Obispo

Rates start at: $200


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