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Northern California vs Southern California: Where to Go for a Retreat?

by Alberto G. Güitrón

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The Golden Gate Bridge vs Disneyland; Yosemite vs Joshua Tree; Stanford vs USC. California is so big that its diversity has created somewhat of a mild debate about which end is cooler. But which one is better for a yoga retreat?

Let’s make this clear, NorCal and SoCal are both excellent for a yoga vacation. From the Bay Area to San Diego, there are hundreds of options for all tastes. However, there are slight differences between the two that could tilt the scale for what you want out of a yoga retreat in California


Want to know why the Golden State is so popular for yoga holidays even if just for a weekend? Check out this guide to yoga retreats in California.


Beach or Mountains

yoga retreat in california beach

When it comes to mountains, Northern California is by far the better option. There are several hills in Southern California which have nice trails, in Joshua Tree you can hike in San Bernardino, Cottonwood or Hexie.

However, NorCal has no rival thanks to Yosemite National Park, arguably the most beautiful national park in the USA. Its majestic sequoias, waterfalls and valleys make it an amazing place for a yoga retreat in the mountains. Siskyou Mountains, Mount Lassen, Mount Diablo and Sierra Nevada are all jaw-dropping options as well. 

On the other hand, the sun-kissed beaches in the south aren’t just the best in California, but they could also be in the discussion for top beaches in the world. Laguna Beach, Santa Monica, Catalina Island, Coronado, and, of course, Huntington, are just some examples. Therefore, if you prefer to do your asanas feeling the sand between your toes and hearing the sound of waves crashing on the shore, a yoga retreat in Southern California is what you need.

In addition, if you’d like to spice up your practice with a little bit of surf, Southern California is the epicenter of modern surfing. Rincon, Malibu, Huntington or the Wedge are all icons of the surfing scene.

Weather

yoga retreat on the beach

California is famous for its never-ending hot weather. But you should know that this fame is largely due to SoCal. Los Angeles, San Diego and all their surroundings are privileged with warm temperatures and very few days of rainfall.

Nonetheless, up north, it can get quite chilly, even during summer. San Francisco, for instance, tends to be cloudy and windy most of the time. Its average temperature oscillates around the mid-50s (13-14 °C) and there’s much more rain than in SoCal.

Of course, nowhere in California can be compared to the harsh winters of the northern states, but if you’re hoping to get lots of sun during your yoga vacation, make sure you go to the south or you might get disappointed.

Lifestyle & Culture

california yoga lifestyle

Photo by: Alex Beattie

It’s no secret that the hippie movement has influenced much of California’s lifestyle and culture. You can still feel those chilled vibes, especially in the Bay Area. Most people are eco-conscious and try to take care of our planet as much as possible. That’s why yoga and meditation are so enticing too; it’s all about the connection with nature and our neighbor.

In general, time feels slower in NorCal than in SoCal; schedules are not as busy and life is simpler. And it’s not as if SoCal has the bustle of New York, but it has it all at once. There’s lots of traffic everywhere, but plenty of cars are electric or hybrid; the transportation system isn’t good, but that doesn’t impede a day at the beach. Style, fashion and glamour are important, but so is the yoga session to finish the day.

Food

food yoga retreat california

When it comes to the gastronomic scene, both ends in California have tons to offer. NorCal is heaven for yogis though. Here is where the farm-to-table movement started, which has created tons of restaurants, cafes and other eateries with organic-healthy products. Plus, there are vegan dishes, detox juices, raw food, gluten-free or any demand that your diet

The cherry on top is the fabulous wine that the region produces. Indeed, there are dozens of wine and yoga retreats in California where you can practice with the scenic vineyards in the background.   

That said, if you’re a yogi who doesn’t mind a bit of grease in your meals, SoCal has the best Mexican food in the country and some even argue there are better options than in Mexico itself. And it doesn’t mean that SoCal food is all Mexican, there are options for everyone too. It’s just part of that all-at-once lifestyle. You can have tacos for lunch but kale salad for dinner.

Attractions and Places to Visit

NorCal

yosemite national park yoga retreat

I’ve already mentioned Yosemite, which is a big landmark in the north and worth a visit if your yoga retreat in Northern California isn’t held in the park. But the most famous of all attractions has to be the Golden Gate Bridge. This impressive construction is 1 mile (1.6 km) long and connects the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. It is said that it’s the most photographed bridge in the world and it’s definitely a must if you haven’t seen it yet.

The cable car in San Francisco is another charming attraction. Get a ride even if you don’t have to go to a determined place. You’ll live the experience first-hand and get a little grasp of the lifestyle in the Bay Area.

If you want to learn some history, you better find some time before or after your yoga retreat to visit Alcatraz Island. This National Historic Landmark has the oldest operating lighthouse on the West Coast, early military forts and the former federal prison.

Lastly, if you’re curious to see the place where most technology comes from, a visit to Silicon Valley could be a good treat to your inner geek. Take a look at the buildings where Apple, Facebook, Google and many more tech companies develop the devices and software that have changed the way we live. While you’re here, you could also go to the Computer History Museum or the Tech Museum of Innovation.

SoCal

santa monica yoga retreat

Photo by: Pacheco

If there’s one thing that the north will always envy is the fact that the happiest place on Earth is in Southern California. Disneyland might have several parks in the world, but this is the very first and original one. Maybe not quite yoga-related, but a visit to Disneyland will awaken all dreams from your childhood and remind you to live with the sense of wonder of a kid.

Santa Monica Pier is another place that your inner child might enjoy. With its Ferris wheel, roller coasters and colorful sunsets, it’s impossible not being in awe while walking this famous site. And talking about famous things, the Hollywood Walk of Fame, as well as the Hollywood sign could be two items to cross off your bucket list.

NorCal might have Alcatraz, but Santa Catalina Island is well worth a visit in the south. Whether you’re looking for some adventure or a relaxing time at the beach, Catalina could be a good idea for a day trip from LA.

Joshua Tree is a huge national park with desert landscapes that could make an exotic setting for a yoga session. There’s also an annual music festival that you could consider when planning your trip. And if you’re into these events, Coachella Music & Arts Festival, in April, is an absolute must.


Don’t have enough time for a long yoga vacation? Try a short yoga break in California!

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