Usually, the phrase “taking the waters” is reserved for European spa-goers, but, if Californians have adopted the phrase, it’s thanks to Indian Springs and its founder, Samuel Brannan. Brannan opened the resort in 1862 as a relatively no-frills spot that took advantage of sleepy Calistoga’s natural geothermal hot springs, attracting vacationing Bay Area residents to mud baths, mineral pools, and wellness treatments. Bungalows were added in the glamorous 1940s—it’s not hard to imagine characters out of Hitchcock films spending time here—but the resort continued to attract devotees primarily for its natural treatments and renowned, Olympic-size mineral pool until 2014, when it transformed into a contemporary luxury resort. The additions have been carefully done to maintain the vintage glamour, Mission architecture, and laid-back artsy atmosphere of the original spa retreat, so that both longtime fans and luxury-loving newcomers will feel right at home. The new cocktail bar and restaurant—terrace dining is, naturally, de rigueur, complete with string lights and a fire pit—make it a full-service resort (where even the minibar is included), so you don’t have to leave the picturesque grounds after a day spent between treatments and the pool. Although, with the best of Napa’s food and wine all around you, the choice is a tough one.
Have you been here? Share a tip or a photo with fellow travelers.
Despite Indian Springs’ transformation, and the recent addition of a few other luxury spa resorts, Calistoga is a sleepy little spa town with a quiet main drag—a far cry from bustling St. Helena, down the highway. Indian Springs is just a couple blocks from the town center, and, although the whole town is walkable, the resort provides bicycles for guests to borrow for tooling around. Most guests come either for the spa facilities or to have a base for winetasting in the area (and there are plenty of wineries within a short drive), but a handful of cute spots exist in town, too. Sample sips at the Grade Cellars, a small winery in town whose tasting room is an Airstream trailer, and grab a bite at the Palisades Deli Cafe or the Calistoga Village Bakery. The surrounding countryside is as picturesque as advertised, and hiking trails abound. While winetasting is, of course, the most popular way to explore Napa Valley, try taking in the view from another perspective: a hot-air balloon.
Need to Know
Rooms: 116 rooms, 14 cottages, three bungalows, two houses. From $350. Check-in: 3 p.m.; check-out: 11 a.m. Dining options: Opened in early 2015, Sam’s Social Club is Indian Springs’ first full-service restaurant and bar, serving New American classics, made with local ingredients, on the breezy, scenic terrace or in the high-ceilinged dining room for three meals a day. The elegant bar serves light bites alongside craft cocktails and local wines and beers, and snacks are available at the pool snack bar throughout the day. Spa and gym details: Indian Springs began its life as a spa retreat, strategically built to take advantage of Calistoga’s natural geothermal hot springs, and so its reputation as a wellness destination persists. The spa offers a full range of natural beauty and wellness treatments, which include mud baths and mineral-water soaks, and the sprawling relaxation areas include a serene Buddha Pond, open only to spa guests. The resort has two pools—one Olympic-size mineral-water pool, the other a smaller adults-only pool, open for late-night swims. Both are heated to soothing, warm temperatures. There’s no fitness center, but yoga, Pilates, and water fitness classes are offered, and bicycles are available to borrow.
Who it’s best for: Vintage spa fans who appreciate a touch of Old Hollywood glamour. Our favorite rooms: With their shaded front porches and Mission-style architecture, the cottages are the original Indian Springs lodgings, their 1940s aesthetic just updated enough for both modern comfort and vintage elegance. The 2014 renovation, however, brought a host of new lodging options, including the spacious bungalows, whose fire pit, terrace, and fireplace contribute to the feeling of having one’s own Napa hideaway. The new Hill View Rooms have the same style at a more reasonable price, with picturesque views of the surrounding countryside. Stay and play: The grounds feel like summer camp for adults (and families, too), with bocce, shuffleboard, pétanque, and croquet courts, as well as loaner bicycles, a hammock garden, barbecue areas, a giant checkerboard, and so much more.