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Kiva Retreat House, Santa Cruz, California.

January, 2000.

In January I made my first of what I hope will be many trips to the Kiva Retreat House in Santa Cruz, California. Luckily, I picked a beautiful weekend to visit the bay area. Instead of the normally cool (by California standards) and rainy winter days, when I stepped of the plane from Toronto I was greeted by sunshine and temps in the high 60's and low 70's. I made the short drive from San Jose to Santa Cruz then headed to Kiva. The $12 admission plus another 2 bucks for a towel and lock was a bargain for the experience that was to come. After shedding my clothes I had a quick shower then headed into the sauna.

Kiva has a private back yard with a very large sauna, a tsunami jet hot tub, a large wooden hot tub, a cold plunge tub, and lots of space on the lawn for reading, relaxing, yoga, meditation or other peaceful activities. At times there were 12 people in the sauna, a round structure with the heater in the center. Several people brought in eucalyptus oil which, when sprinkled on the hot rocks, made the sauna an invigorating experience. Others brought in natural sponges to scrub down. After leaving the sauna there is a cold shower to rinse the sweat off (which elicited a brief scream from most people that used it) and the cold plunge tub to cool you down if the shower didn't do the trick. I spent the afternoon alternating between the sauna, tubs, and relaxing on the lawn sipping tea and reading a book. As it was such a beautiful afternoon I didn't get a chance to relax indoors, where they have a nice fireplace.

When I arrived at Kiva I paid an extra $35 for a massage, scheduled for later in the afternoon. You can get a massage indoors or on one of the 4 tables at the end of the backyard. The staff found me when the time for my massage arrived and for the next 1/2 hour under the afternoon sun my muscles were treated to the gifted hands of one of the massage therapists. The 1/2 hour went by all too quickly; next time I will definitely schedule an hour massage.

Everybody I talked to at Kiva was extremely friendly. Also the crowd, which numbered close to 40 that afternoon, was younger and more gender-balanced than I've experienced at other resorts and beaches. I would guess that Kiva is popular with students from nearby UC Santa Cruz. Everybody was very laid back, which is not surprising if you've every spent any time in Santa Cruz.

When I arrived at Kiva I fully expected to be physically relaxed by the massage, the sauna and tubs. Kiva certainly delivered on that. What I didn't expect though was how mentally relaxing the environment at Kiva is. It certainly is the place to go if you want to clear away your troubles and get back in touch with your inner self.

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