Paso Robles and its surrounding area is certainly best known for its myriad of wineries. The region also offers hidden charms that delight and cajole the senses and are well worth exploring. In the 1880’s Paso Robles was a sought-out health resort destination known for its bath houses and mineral hot springs along the legendary Camino Real trail and later became a railroad stop. This rich tradition of health, bodily delights and the spa life is still very much alive and vibrant here even in the 21century.

Today, the Serenity Retreat Center and Wellness Inn is a true hidden jewel designed to offer an experience to entice all the senses. Tucked away along a winding country road above the peaceful hills of Paso Robles the retreat opens to a spectacular visual feast.

Arrive early and enjoy the expansive gardens, brooks, hidden benches to read and relax, a huge swimming pool nestled into the hills surrounded by replicas of antique statues invite visitors to experience a rejuvenation of body and mind. An airy porch with splendid hillside views is curtained off affording private spa and massage treatments.

Try the retreat’s Tranquility Spa treatment package. The two hour journey to tranquility begins with a 30-minute Far Infrared Sauna and a cup of meditation tea. Afterwards, an herbal blend is brushed onto your body and massaged into the skin. You are then wrapped in a warm blanket while you relax for 30 minutes and absorb the herbs’ rich properties to detoxify and nourish the skin.

Next, an experienced and radiantly healthy looking masseuse mists the entire body with a Chi Herbal Infusion Muscle and Joint spray to relieve soreness of muscles and joints followed by an exquisitely relaxing full body massage. A Chi Herbal Infusion Skin Rejuvenation formula concludes the holistic experience to further rid out toxins. After the two hours, you emerge radiant, relaxed and refreshed.

Other packages include the traditional acupressure massage, hydrotherapy, and specialist Ayurveda treatments. Stay for one of their yoga classes to round out the experience.
Head back to town and indulge in one of the culinary delights of the area. Olive oil is produced in the region and ‘We Olive’ devotes its store solely to a range of extraordinary olive oil products. Visitors are invited to taste the wide variety of local and imported olive oils, tapendades, and try out the olive-based skincare.

For lunch head to Panolivo French Bistro. This quaint spot offers outdoor tables and a delicious lobster purse; a flaky filo purse filled with lobster meat, julienne vegetables in a sun-dried tomato sauce with crème fraiche. For a more hearty appetite the traditional cassoulet Toulousain is just the thing; pork, sausage, beans and duck confit cooked slowly in tomato.

Afterwards, head to the Central Coast’s premier cheese tasting room. Vivant Fine Cheese Store features premium local and imported handcrafted artisan cheeses paired with local wine and beer. A must-try cheese is the Banon, an aged goat cheese wrapped in chestnut leaf paired with a rustic young red of Provence.

When you head out of town stop by Templeton. Seemingly suspended in time, the town transports visitors back into early California life-style. Perfect scenery for an old Western movie set.

Finally, on the way back to Los Angeles the Green Acres Lavender Farm outside Atascadero entices with its sweet smells. The owners, Janice Silva and Bob Bostwick grow more than 12,000 plants of different lavender varieties. There they create lavender oils, lavender facial sprays, culinary rubs, lavender lemonades, home décor and lavender pillows. You can also stay the weekend in one of their rooms and participate in the daily pilates classes or enroll in a variety of cooking classes offered here. During summer, the couple organizes grass roots weekend music events. It’s best to call ahead to find out their schedule.

Enjoy the scenic ride as the fragrant hills of the Paso Robles and Atascadero region slowly recede from view as you head home.

What & Where:
Serenity Spa and Wellness Center
(740 Park St, Paso Robles; 805-239-9591)
We Olive (1131 Park St, Paso Robles; 805-239-7667)
Panolivo (1344 Park St, Paso Robles; 805-239-3366)
Special brunch menu on Sundays
Vivant Fine Cheese (840 11th St, Paso Robles; 805-226-5530)
Green Acres Lavender Farm (8865 San Gabriel Rd, Atascadero; 805-466-0837)