Best Meditation Retreats

Esalen Institute is our top choice for best meditation retreats

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Meditation practitioners will tell you all about its benefits—how it can help reduce stress and improve overall mental and physical wellbeing. Researchers agree. Meditation triggers the body’s relaxation response. It can calm your mind and body by quieting the stress-induced thoughts that can cause a state of agitation.

For some, a quiet room in the house or a peaceful spot in the park can be enough to serve as a place to practice mindful meditation. But others may need more guidance with yoga classes or workshops, and a calm respite from their bustling cities and busy households with soothing, inspiring views and luxurious amenities. Meditation retreats offer these—and more. They can help you reenergize, connect with nature, and learn mindfulness techniques you can bring back home. Here, we’ve rounded up the best meditation retreats in the country.

The 7 Best Meditation Retreats of 2022

Best Overall : Esalen Institute


Esalen Institute

Esalen Institute

Why We Chose It

A beautiful retreat in California's Big Sur region, Esalen Institute offers mindfulness workshops, yoga instruction, forest bathing and other classes designed for self-exploration against a backdrop of lush ocean views.

Key Specs

  • Cost: $530-$8,000, based on accommodations
  • Location: Big Sur, California
  • Length: Most workshops are weekends, or 5 or 7 days long

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Variety of workshops

  • Natural hot springs

  • Meditation Hut and Art Barn

Cons
  • Rustic accommodations

  • Pricey

  • Dates fill up fast

The California coast is home to hundreds of weekend and week-long retreats inspired by the beauty of this cliffside wonder at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California.

Guests can choose from several three-day workshops, including mindfulness retreats for lawyers, meditation in nature, self-love, and kindness that benefits all, mindful self-compassion intensive training, and mindfulness meditation. Other options include modern life, music, mediation, and technology.

Longer retreats, lasting five to seven days, take on a more focused approach to helping participants integrate meditation into their daily lives. In addition to guided meditations and silent practices, you can spend hours of the day exploring the 27 acres surrounded by the Big Sur coastline. Esalen is also home to a community farm and garden, a cliffside bathhouse, and natural hot springs.

Best Budget : Kadampa Meditation Center


Kadampa Meditation Center

Kadampa Meditation Center

Why We Chose It

The Kadampa Meditation Center and Tibetan Buddhist temple is an affordable retreat that offers silent meditation, workshops, and hikes.

Key Specs

  • Cost: Workshops start at about $20; weekend retreats start at roughly $60
  • Location: Glen Spey, New York
  • Length: 1-day workshops, 3-5 day retreats available

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Budget-friendly

  • Offers silent retreats

  • Good for beginners

Cons
  • Limited onsite accommodations

  • Pricing doesn’t include lodging or meals

  • Onsite dining has limited hours

Located in the Catskill Mountains in New York, the Kadampa Meditation Center and Tibetan Buddhist temple offer both personal and group retreats. With budget-friendly options and various offerings, the Kadampa Meditation Center is a good choice for those interested in exploring meditation without the hefty price tag often attached to meditation retreats.

Individuals looking to gain a fresh perspective through quiet relaxation will find peace and calm with one of their personal Finding Peace retreats. And, if you're new to meditation or looking for a group experience, you might want to try one of the group retreats to help you find ways to integrate the practice into your daily life.

A quick weekend away includes guided activities and individual time, Friday through Sunday, with meditation workshops, hikes in the 82 acres of natural woodlands, delicious food, and more. The Kadampa Meditation Center also offers in-depth silent retreats that focus on the teachings of meditation and silent meditation. These guided experiences involve two days of teachings, followed by three days of a silent retreat.

The Kadampa Meditation Center is ideal if you're looking to stick within a budget because of the variety of Saturday meditation workshops that only cost around $20. Add on a vegetarian lunch for about $5, and you have a day away for approximately $25. Workshop topics include developing confidence, letting go of stress, a day of silence, the power to be happy, anger detox, and many more.

Can't travel for a retreat? Check out the best meditation apps around.

Most Flexible : Spirit Rock Meditation Center


Spirit Rock Meditation Center

Spirit Rock Meditation Center 

Why We Chose It

Spirit Rock Meditation Center holds a variety of one-day and multi-day retreats and offers scholarships, sliding scale payments, and volunteer opportunities for those with financial constraints.

Key Specs

  • Cost: Offers sliding scale for retreats, $200-$4,320
  • Location: West Marin County, California
  • Length: Day-long, week-long, and month-long retreats

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Sliding scale payments

  • Retreats for LGBTQ+ people available

  • Silent retreats available

Cons
  • In-person programs fill up fast

  • Some programs have prerequisites you must meet

  • Fragrance-free facility may not appeal to some

Buddhist teachings, extensive time for meditation, walks in nature, and a silent and mindful environment, are the key features that make the Spirit Rock Meditation Center in West Marin County, California, such a popular location for group meditation retreats.

The center offers day-long, week-long, and even month-long retreats suitable for both new and experienced meditation students. Fitting a retreat into your schedule is easy with the variety of stays they offer. Spirit Rock Meditation Center focuses on the teachings of Buddha and the practices of insight and loving-kindness meditation.

Spirit Rock also infuses meditation into every part of the day, including sitting, walking, and eating, which helps you better understand food and mindful eating. If you want to stay overnight, you can choose one of their residential retreats.

But, if you live close by or want to stay off-site, Spirit Rock offers multi-day non-residential retreats that allow participants to spend the day learning and practicing meditation, and your nights, away from the center. These non-residential retreats are ideal for newer practitioners just learning to deepen their practice.

Interested in the benefits of meditation? Here's our guide to its positive effects on mental health.

Best for Beginners : Drala Mountain Center


Shambhala Mountain Center

Shambhala Mountain Center

Why We Chose It

Drala Mountain Center provides a stunning retreat setting for studying yoga, meditation, and contemplative arts—including introductory courses for beginners looking to connect and grow in their practice.

Key Specs

  • Cost: Retreats start at about $150, with sliding scale available for some programs
  • Location: Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
  • Length: 2-day, 3-day, and week-long retreats

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Offers several programs for beginners

  • Offers leadership retreats

  • Outdoor activities such as hiking

Cons
  • No cell phone reception at the site

  • Lodging expenses added on during registration

  • 10:30 p.m. curfew each night of retreat

Nestled in the mountains of northern Colorado, the Drala Mountain Center offers a variety of retreats, activities, and programs for all levels, but more specifically, to people new to meditation.

Participants can choose from guided meditations, yoga, and creativity, among other indoor and outdoor activities. While the variety of activities is set up to accommodate all levels, what sets Drala apart from other retreats is its programs focused specifically on beginners. Their “Learn to Meditate” retreats are designed for people curious about the teachings and practice of meditation.

One popular option, Slowing Down: A Yoga, Self-Care, and Loving-Kindness Retreat, is a weekend retreat that combines yoga and meditation to help guests find a sense of relaxation, peace, and calm. Through this relaxed state, guests will find that meditation helps them reduce stress, increase body awareness, and increase mental clarity.

Best Intensive : Green Gulch Farm Zen Center


Green Gulch Farm Zen Center

Green Gulch Farm Zen Center

Why We Chose It

The Green Gulch Farm Center is a Buddhist practice center that focuses on the Japanese Soto Zen tradition in a year-round study format where participants commit to following an intensive daily schedule of zazen, work practice, and formal classes and ceremonies.

Key Specs

  • Cost: Online programs start at about $180
  • Location: Muir Beach, California
  • Length: 1-day to 7-day programs

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Year-round schedule of Zen meditation

  • Offers online programs

  • Organic farm and garden

Cons
  • Intensive schedule may not be as beginner-friendly

  • Some offerings currently unavailable due to the pandemic

If you’re looking to deepen your meditation practice, focus your energy, and commit to an in-depth program, consider booking a stay at the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center in Muir Beach, California.

Just north of San Francisco, this Buddhist practice center focuses on the Japanese Soto Zen tradition in a year-round study format. Guests can stay short-term or extend to a long-term meditation retreat that also involves working in the community for sometimes months.

The long-term option is geared towards individuals who want to dive deeply into an intensive meditation practice while being part of the greater community. This includes a seven-day Sesshin (which means to collect the heart and the mind) to meditate, eat, and work in silence. The goal is to devote all of your energy to a deeper understanding of the Buddha Way.

Shorter sessions include guided meditations with on-site resident teachers that focus on a particular aspect of the practice.

Best for Wilderness : Alaska Stillpoint Lodge


Alaska Stillpoint Lodge

Alaska Stillpoint Lodge

Why We Chose It

For a real escape, Alaska Stillpoint Lodge combines wellness retreats with wilderness hikes, kayaking, paddleboarding, silent meditation spaces, and yoga.

Key Specs

  • Cost: 3-night retreat starts at $7,260 per person
  • Location: Halibut Cove, Alaska
  • Length: 3-, 4-, and 5-day packages

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Guided local adventures and eco-tours

  • Group yoga, fitness and mindfulness classes

  • Zen garden and meditation cabin

Cons
  • Meditation retreats are only available from May through September

  • Must pay 150% of normal rate if traveling alone

  • Not ideal if you're looking for an intensive program or study format

With wildlife, mountains, lakes, and breathtaking views, Alaska is known for the great outdoors. So, it makes sense that there would be peace, reflection, and mindfulness meditation found there.

The Alaska Stillpoint Lodge, Halibut Cove, near Homer, offers wellness retreats that focus on guided reflection and rejuvenation to nurture your soul. Wellness retreats are available in three-, four-, and five-day packages that include wilderness hikes, feasting on local, organic cuisine, silent meditation spaces, and yoga. Plus, you can participate in guided kayak tours, boating, guided meditation, massage, mindfulness classes, and journaling.

You also have the option to ditch the technology and make this retreat a digital detox. Request limited or no access to phone, TV, and Wi-Fi in your meditation cabin, and you will really experience the true meaning of silent meditation.

Because of the harsh Alaska winters, meditation retreats are only available from May through September.

Best for Instructions : Insight Meditation Society


Insight Meditation Society

Insight Meditation Society

Why We Chose It

Insight Meditation Society offers instruction and guidance in insight and loving-kindness meditations—practices that aim to bring genuine happiness.

Key Specs

  • Cost: Sliding scale, starts around $225
  • Location: Barre, Massachusetts 
  • Length: 1- to 3-week retreats

Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Option for extended stays

  • Courses for both new and experienced meditators

  • Sliding scale payment

Cons
  • Simple accommodations compared to other retreat sites

  • Limited dietary options for those with food allergies or preferences

  • Bathrooms shared with other guests on your floor

The Insight Meditation Society (IMS), located in Barre, Massachusetts, offers everything from weekend retreats to extended stays lasting several months. With several retreat options tailored to both new and experienced meditators, IMS provides detailed instruction and ongoing guidance to encourage personal growth based on Buddha’s Four Foundations of Mindfulness.

Guests are taught by residential instructors that deliver teachings through Vipassana and loving-kindness meditations. The facility is divided into two campuses: one for short-term meditation retreats lasting seven to nine days, and another designed to attract students wanting to stay for longer retreats.

While there, guests will spend time immersed in sitting and walking meditation, completely done in silence. Advanced levels can benefit from the high level of instruction provided at IMS’s Forest Refuge retreat. The longer retreats can last up to one year, with participants immersing themselves in one or more early Buddhist practices.

One thing that sets IMS apart from most other meditation retreats is a policy offering a sliding fee scale. Participants are charged based on a sliding fee scale that allows them to pay in accordance with their individual means.

Final Verdict

Esalen Institute tops our list as the best overall meditation retreat center, offering a serene environment with a wide variety of courses to choose from. Located in Big Sur, California, the beautiful center has been hosting guests since 1962. With hundreds of retreat options, there’s something for everyone at Esalen.

If you’re looking for a breathtaking setting to jumpstart your journey of self-discovery, the Alaska Stillpoint Lodge provides an adventurous twist to the typical meditation retreat. For more structure and guidance, Insight Meditation Society might be your ideal. With several different types of retreats available, IMS provides in-depth instruction for both new and experienced meditators.

Compare the Best Meditation Retreats 

Company Pricing Location Length Experience Level (beginner, intermediate, advanced, any)
Esalen Institute Best Overall  1-day workshops, 3-5 day retreats available Big Sur, California Weekend, 5, and 7 days long Beginner to advanced
Kadampa Meditation Center Best Budget Workshops start at $20; weekend retreats start at $60 Glen Spey, New York 1-day workshops, 3-5 day retreats available Beginner to advanced
Spirit Rock Meditation Center Most Flexible  Offers sliding scale for retreats, $200-$4,320 West Marin County, California Day-long, week-long, and month-long retreats  Beginner to advanced
Drala Mountain Center Best for Beginners  Retreats start at about $150, sliding scale available for some programs Red Feather Lakes, Colorado 2-day, 3-day, and week-long retreats  Beginner to advanced
Green Gulch Farm Zen Center Best Intensive  Online workshops start at about $40 Muir Beach, California 1- to 7-day programs Beginner to advanced
Alaska Stillpoint Lodge Best Overall  3-night retreat starts at $7,260 per person Halibut Cove, Alaska 3, 4, and 5-day packages All levels
Insight Meditation Society Best for Instructions  Sliding scale starts around $225 for 2-night retreat Barre, Massachusetts  1- to 3-week long retreats Beginner to advanced

Guide to Choosing the Best Meditation Retreats

Are Meditation Retreats Worth It?

The benefits of practicing mindful meditation are numerous. According to research, it can help reduce cortisol (the stress hormone) levels, lower heart rate, and decrease blood pressure—all of which are physiological signs of stress. Whether you’re looking to get started with the practice of meditation or want more in-depth instruction, meditation retreats can be a great way to de-stress and recharge while learning techniques you can use in your daily life.

Meditation retreats are not necessary. Some may find that visiting a local meditation center or following a meditation video at home may be sufficient ways to practice meditation. But if you’re looking to disconnect from a busy household, take a break from your job, or reenergize in a beautifully inspiring location, you might find a meditation retreat a unique and memorable experience.

Some meditation retreats offer luxurious amenities—hot spring baths, vegan or vegetarian cuisine, guided hikes or eco-tours, yoga classes, spas, and massages—in a gorgeous setting. Others offer more spartan accommodations but provide opportunities to connect with nature or a community of practitioners. Some also offer workshops led by experienced instructors and teachers that can offer you the guidance you need. 

Comparing Meditation Retreats

Booking a meditation retreat can be as complicated as booking your next vacation. Here are a few things to consider before deciding on a meditation retreat.

  • Location: Many retreat sites are located in more remote areas (the better to provide the peace and quiet you need), so you may need to travel by plane. Think about whether you’re willing to travel far for a meditation retreat or would rather stay closer to home.
  • Cost: Rates for meditation retreats can vary depending on the type of accommodations or length of stay. Consider how much you’re willing to spend, especially if you’ll mostly be spending time in workshops or sessions.
  • Type of classes, instructors: Research the site’s programs and see if they suit your needs and experience level.
  • Activities and scenery: Some meditation retreats offer activities outside of meditation workshops or instruction, such as massages, hikes, or other outdoor activities. If you want to combine recreation with meditation, consider places that offer these extras. And if you’re looking to be inspired by your scenery, consider coastal locations or mountain destinations.

Embarking on Your Meditation Journey

Once you’ve decided on a meditation retreat, check out the location’s website to book early. Most programs fill quickly and may require early registration. Keep this in mind, especially if you’re looking to work with a specific instructor or teacher. Once you’ve booked, confirm what you need to bring, and keep in mind that some retreats have spotty cell reception. But most of all, relax and enjoy your stay and try to eliminate distractions so you can truly practice mindful meditation.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Much Do Meditation Retreats Cost?

Depending on type of accommodations or length of the retreats, programs can cost anywhere from about $100 to $8,000.

What Are Meditation Retreats?

Retreats are designed to be a place to learn, deepen, and absorb a meditation practice. They are typically led by instructors who give you tools and practices to move into deep reflection. They’re usually multi-day programs or workshops, although many sites offer one-day retreats that allow you to immerse yourself in practice for a day without needing an overnight stay.

What Happens During Meditation Retreats?

Most meditation retreats combine workshops and classes led by the retreat leader, meditation sessions (some offer walking meditations), and of course, breaks and meals. Some retreats offer extracurricular activities such as yoga classes, hikes, or tai chi, and treatments such as massages.

Who Should Go on Meditation Retreats?

Meditation retreats are available for beginner or advanced practitioners. Some may have combined sessions, and others might offer specialized classes. If you find that you truly need to disconnect from your daily routine to regain a sense of calm and perspective, a meditation retreat may be for you.

Methodology

There are several meditation retreats across the country that offer a variety of programs. To narrow our search, we gathered information about cost, location, duration of the retreats, and the type of workshops and programs offered. Based on what we wound, we selected the seven retreats on this list. These meditation retreats have garnered good reviews from previous participants and repeat visitors. They are known for their diverse programs, well-regarded and experienced instructors and teachers, and great locations.

Article Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. American Psychological Association. The power of the relaxation response.

  2. National Library of Medicine. The immediate and sustained positive effects of meditation on resilience are mediated by changes in the resting brain.

  3. National Library of Medicine. Mindfulness mediates the physiological markers of stress: Systematic review and meta-analysis.

By Sara Lindberg, M.Ed
Sara Lindberg, M.Ed., is a freelance writer focusing on mental health, fitness, nutrition, and parenting.

Updated by
Lindsay Modglin
Lindsay Modglin

Lindsay is a nurse-turned professional mental health and wellness writer. She uses her 9+ years of clinical healthcare and diverse medical background to write about mental health, chronic conditions, and medicine.

Learn about our editorial process
Edited by
Ally Hirschlag
Allison "Ally" Hirschlag

Ally is a senior editor for Verywell, who covers topics in the health, wellness, and lifestyle spaces. She has written for The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC Future, and more.

Learn about our editorial process