Just 75 miles north of bustling San Francisco, and surrounded by Napa Valley and Sonoma County’s world-class vineyards, Calistoga is home to geothermal hot springs, wellness resorts, and mud baths featuring volcanic ash and natural peat. There’s hiking that ends at a mineral pool at Bothe-Napa Valley State Park, and, of course, incredible dining and drinking experiences with a local focus. An escape for a weekend getaway or longer to one of the many wellness resorts here is the perfect way to return home completely refreshed. It’s no wonder Calistoga is Matador’s Wellness Award winner.

Healing and wellness have defined Calistoga for centuries. More than 500 years ago, members of the Wappo tribe gathered at hot springs that are warmed by the volcanic mountain they named Kanamota, or “human mountain,” which is today known as Mount St. Helena. In the 1840s, American settlers came for the healing powers of the springs. The first hot springs resort in the area, the Hot Springs Hotel, was opened in 1862 by Samuel Brannan, who wanted to create a resort area comparable to New York’s Saratoga Springs. Thus, Calistoga, “Hot Springs of the West,” was born, and a train line from upper Napa Valley to Calistoga was built — a line you can still take in restored 1915-1917 Pullman train cars on the Napa Valley Wine Train. At California’s second-oldest train depot, two newly remodeled 19th century parlor cars are venues for dining and wine tasting.

A wealth of modern wellness-focused accommodations

Photo: Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort and Mineral Springs/Mark Compton
Photo: Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort and Mineral Springs/Mark Compton
Photo: Dr. Wilkinson's Backyard Resort and Mineral Springs/Mark Compton

The Hot Springs Hotel inspired a boom of wellness resorts focused on Calistoga’s natural mineral springs. Today, there are more than two dozen spas and hot-springs-centered resorts in the area spanning a range of accommodation styles and activities. There’s dog-friendly luxury resort Solage or mud baths made from mineral water mixed with volcanic ash at resorts such as Calistoga Spa Hot Springs, Golden Haven Hot Springs Resort, Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs, and the Roman Spa Hot Springs Resort. Travelers can go more casual at the Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa or skew historic at Indian Springs Resort — a renovated refresh of Brannan’s original 1861 resort with an olympic-sized mineral pool.

Wining and dining in Calistoga

Photo: Lovina
Photo: Lovina
Photo: Calistoga Roastery

As a bonus of its location, Calistoga is firmly planted in California’s most famous wine region and tasting rooms line downtown Calistoga’s walkable Lincoln Avenue. Nearby is Chateau Montelena, which famously won the Judgment of Paris in 1976 with its chardonnay and helped introduce Napa Valley wines to the world. Davis Estates offers a modern update on a century-old estate winery, while tastings at Castello di Amorosa and Jericho Canyon Vineyard come with incredible views.

For an early morning start, Calistoga Roastery has served the area for more than 30 years. Lovina is renowned for its vegan and vegetarian options, and has a porch and heated patio to embrace Northern California’s climate. Sam’s Social Club, located on the grounds of the Indian Springs Resort, highlights the state’s famous farm-to-table dining. There’s Michelin-starred dining overlooking the mountains at Auro at the Four Seasons Napa Valley, and sophisticated poolside dining for sustainably farmed elements at Solbar at Solage, an Auberge Resort.

How we made our pick

Sustainable destinations were nominated by the well-traveled Matador Network team, from video producers and social media editors to writers and managers. Those nominations were then awarded points on a 10-point scale on 10 equally weighted categories:

  • Access
  • Range of experiences
  • Sustainability
  • Number of wellness accommodations
  • Affordability
  • Adherence to local traditions and practices
  • Community enrichment
  • History
  • Dining options
  • Expert-led classes and experiences