Around this time last year, a friend (and fellow beauty writer) and I decided to take a road trip. Ostensibly, we were undertaking this journey with the reasoning that we needed some story inspiration. Though to be honest, we kind of just needed a vacation. So we headed to California, a state that—as you definitely know—houses an inordinate number of very cool beauty brands and wellness hotspots.
We decided to use Los Angeles as our home base and starting point, resolving to first journey east to Palm Springs before heading back to LA and continuing up the Pacific Coast to northern California—with just one rule: Every stop must have a beauty or wellness component. (Glass of wine at sunset in Big Sur? Allowed—shout out to resveratrol!)
So, for all you fellow wellness nuts, here’s your Golden State guide to taking a seriously healthy road trip. Pro tip: Do rent the convertible!
Day 1: Los Angeles
We started the day with a hike up Topanga Canyon because I had never done it and felt like it was a quintessential LA experience missing from my repertoire. (Full disclosure: I began the hike as a run, but quickly downgraded to a brisk walk. Too ambitious.) Then we headed to Moon Juice to stock up on tasty juices and healthy snacks—and I convinced my friend to take shots of turmeric and shilajit. Reaction: mixed.
We made a stop at Enamel Diction for manicures, because we’d heard that their resident astrologer would help you choose your ideal color based on your sign. She does in fact do that! And they give a great regular manicure, too. (Although you might want to try another spot if you’re serious about your super-clean manis.)
Then it was time to start driving west to Palm Springs. We got there in the afternoon, checked into our room at The Parker Palm Springs, and headed to the pool. Swimming is exercise, so that’s technically wellness. Then we ordered room service in bed because relaxation is wellness, too!
Moon Juice, 507 Rose Ave., Venice, CA 90291, (310) 399-2929 moonjuiceshop.com
Enamel Diction, 5405 West Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA (323) 900-0355, enameldiction.com
The Parker Palm Springs, 4200 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA, (760) 770-5000, theparkerpalmsprings.com
Day 2: Palm Springs
We woke up early and headed to King’s Highway, the diner-style restaurant at the Ace Hotel, for breakfast. We ate avocado toast and eggs and drank apple cider vinegar tonics, all in the name of health. Then we headed to our appointment at Two Bunch Palms, a resort famous for its mineral water pools (it’s not called Palm Springs for nothing).
First, we took a yoga class in the resort’s semi-open-air yoga dome. I got bit by a few fire ants mid-practice, but figured it was all part of the desert experience. Then, we went to soak in their pools, which are said to be filled with healing minerals. I’m not sure how much healing went on during our soak, but with one pool naturally heated to 104 degrees and another one at about 99 degrees, it was definitely relaxing to lounge around in the warm water. Later, we paid a visit to Moorten Botanical Garden to stock up on some little succulents for our desks.
King’s Highway at the Ace Hotel, 701 East Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264, (760) 969-5789, acehotel.com
Two Bunch Palms, 67425 Two Bunch Palms Trail, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240, (760) 329-8791, twobunchpalms.com
Moorten Botanical Garden, 1701 South Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA 92264, (760) 327-6555, moortenbotanicalgarden.com
Day 3: Back to LA
On the way back to LA, we had been hoping to indulge in a sound bath at the famed Integratron, an all-wood domed structure built on a reputed geomagnetic vortex in the Mojave Desert. Unfortunately, it was totally booked up for the week we were around. Plan ahead and book a few weeks before you want to go: It’s definitely worth a visit.
Instead, we headed back toward the coast and went on a hike at Malibu Canyon, then picked up ridiculously good smoothies and juices at SunLife Organics (get The Wolverine if you’re hungry or the Fast Eddy for something lighter) and walked over to the Malibu Farm Pier Café for an early dinner.
Integratron, 2477 Belfield Blvd., Landers, CA 92285, (760) 364-3126, integratron.com
SunLife Organics, Malibu West, 29169 Heathercliff Road, Suite 110, Malibu, CA 90265,
(310) 457-6161, sunlifeorganics.com
Malibu Farm Pier Café, 23000 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90265, (310) 456-1112, malibu-farm.com
Day 3: Big Sur
After some debate, we decided to make the long drive to Big Sur in one day. We opted to stop in Santa Barbara and happened across Kotuku Elixir Bar & Superfood Store. The place was wellness nerd heaven, and I stocked up on everything from fresh homemade nut milks to peppermint crystals (put one in a cup of hot water and inhale—your sinuses will thank you).
Along the drive, we stopped several times to spot sea lions sunning themselves and to buy fresh berries from local farm stands (which were also selling six avocados for a dollar—this was mind-blowing for us New Yorkers!), arriving in Big Sur just before sunset.
We then trekked up to the luxe Post Ranch Inn for the aforementioned glass of antioxidant-rich wine, as well as for the jaw-dropping views of the California coastline. After that, we made our way to the slightly quirky—but insanely charming—Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, where we checked in and headed to our room for a disco nap.
Just before midnight, we awoke to head over to the the famed “clothing-optional” baths at the Esalen Institute (AKA the granddaddy of all holistic retreats—where even Don Draper got his om on). Public visitors are allowed to visit between 1–3 a.m. (by appointment), and we were lucky enough to snag a coveted spot. These spring-fed baths are something of a California landmark, and rightly so—there is something absolutely magical about soaking under the moonlight with the sound of the ocean crashing below you. When we finally got back to the hotel, I slept like a baby.
Kotuku Elixir Bar & Superfood Store, 25 East De La Guerra Street, Santa Barbara, CA 93101, (805) 897-3382, kotukuelixirbar.com
Post Ranch Inn, 47900 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920, (831) 667-2200, postranchinn.com
Deetjen’s Big Sur Inn, 48865 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920, (831) 667-2377, deetjens.com
Esalen Institute, 55000 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA, 93920, 888-837-2536 esalen.org
Day 4: San Francisco
The next morning, we had an admittedly slow start to the day (blame the late-night bathing). When we finally did rouse ourselves, we grabbed breakfast at the delicious Big Sur Bakery and got in a hike at Andrew Molera State Park, followed by a photo op at the beautiful McWay Falls.
Then, it was on to San Francisco. At the time, natural beauty mecca Credo Beauty was still fairly new (now the brand just opened its first NYC location!), so we spent our afternoon perusing the shelves and playing with new products there. Then, we popped over to nearby International Orange to scope out their skin-care selection and indulge in a divine In Fiore facial, before popping by Ayla Beauty, another well-curated natural beauty spot. Needless to say, my bags were a lot heavier by the end of the day.
In the evening we took a yoga class at SF institution Laughing Lotus before checking in to our cute Airbnb.
Big Sur Bakery, 47540 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920, (831) 667-0520, bigsurbakery.com
Credo Beauty, 2136 Fillmore St., San Francisco, CA 94115, (415) 885-1800, credobeauty.com
International Orange, 2044 Fillmore St., 2nd Floor, San Francisco, CA 94115, (415) 563-5000, internationalorange.com
Ayla Beauty, 825 Bush St., San Francisco, CA 94109, (415) 520-7320, aylabeauty.com
Laughing Lotus, 271 16th St., San Francisco, CA 94103, (415) 355-1600, sf.laughinglotus.com
Day 5: Mill Valley and Napa
On the last day of our trip, we headed further north. Our first stop was a visit with my wonderful friend Hillary Peterson, the founder of True Nature Botanicals, in her lovely shop in Mill Valley. Then, on to Napa, where Vintner’s Daughter founder April Gargiulo had promised us a tour of her family winery, Gargiulo Vineyards. After showing us around the breathtaking property, Gargiulo offered us a tasting of her family’s wines. Because we are big fans of antioxidants (did I mention that?), we acquiesced.
Afterward, we made our way over to Sonoma and checked in to the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa for one last dose of beautifying. I opted to try watsu, an underwater massage and relaxation technique performed in the hotel’s private heated outdoor pool. And as the therapist gently floated me through the water I thought, “This would make for a really great story.” Mission accomplished.
True Nature Botanicals, 29 Miller Ave., Mill Valley, CA 94941, (415) 384-8492, truebotanicals.com
Gargiulo Vineyards, 575 Oakville Cross Road, Napa, CA 94558, (707) 944-2770, gargiulovineyards.com
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa, 100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma, CA 95476, (707) 938-9000, fairmont.com/sonoma