The Inn at Moonlight Beach: A Wellness Oasis in San Diego That Improves Health Simply By Staying Here

The gardens of the Inn’s meditation deck // Credit: Emily Hochberg

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Few properties truly make it a part of their ethos in a way that is tangible to all guests.

The Inn at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas, California very much does. The five-room hotel doesn’t just promote eco-friendly living as a boutique marketing ploy, it lives and literally breathes it through the highly-filtered air circulating the hotel.

This unique property is the world’s first WELL-certified hotel. That means it adheres to seven strict building standards that impact human health and wellbeing: air, water, light, nourishment, comfort, mind, and fitness.

The result is a stay that, according to the hotel, will passively improve health simply by being there.  

Intrigued, I packed up with my husband and children and set off for a one-night stay at the Inn, located north of San Diego, just a few short blocks from Moonlight Beach in Encinitas.

The entrance to the hotel // Credit: Emily Hochberg

Entering a conscious destination

Tucked up a steep drive and hidden behind lush landscaping, two subtle signs shared the prestigious WELL designation, and that I was entering a ‘conscious destination.’ If I wasn’t looking for it, it would be easy to miss the hotel completely.

The small lobby was more like a tiny storefront with a deck and farmstand on one side selling fresh greens and succulents. 

I stepped inside and felt as if I had been transported back to my favorite yoga studio in New York City as earthy scents filled the room. 

The hotel lobby and store // Credit: Emily Hochberg

Shelves were lined with candles, essential oils, handmade soaps, and the hotel’s homemade honey for purchase. An assortment of orchid arrangements waited to be delivered to rooms, alongside a small kitchen where staff prepared food.

At the check-in desk, I was handed a cup of piping hot wellness tea, a blend of licorice root and mint that was meant to detoxify and aid with inflammation, as I went over the details of my stay.

A peaceful garden area // Credit: Emily Hochberg

The first WELL-certified hotel

Before heading to my room, I met Shangwen Chiu Kennedy, the managing director of the Inn. 

Before becoming a hotelier, the Harvard graduate was an urban designer who worked on the design of major international cities for over 20 years before hand picking the building in Encinitas with the goal of making it a WELL-certified hotel. It has now been open since 2017.

Kennedy told me more about the hotel’s WELL certification and how it was able to improve my health by checking in. 

Air filters are rated MERV 13 (or higher) to filter and purify the air, and each suite has its own HVAC system to ensure there is no cross ventilation with other rooms.

Additionally, all water is purified through a whole-house filtration system, and nourishment is provided through a healthy breakfast and snacks that are delivered to rooms daily, which are included with any stay. 

The hotel also uses circadian lighting systems to promote alertness during the day and restorative sleep each evening. Meanwhile, spaces are meant to maximize comfort, and the mind is prioritized through spa treatments and meditation.

While there’s no fitness center, yoga materials are provided, and Kennedy and her staff consider exploring the surrounding beach and town of Encinitas as the best option for exercise with nearby hiking and walking trails.

A look into the Full Moon One-Bedroom Suite // Credit: Emily Hochberg

A wellness-centered stay

I was booked in the Full Moon One-Bedroom Suite. It has a separate bedroom, a kitchenette, balcony, and two seating areas with couches, one being a pull-out. It felt like a nicely-appointed apartment, and as I explored, I discovered elements aimed to improve my wellbeing. 

A plaque on the shiplap-style wood walls informed me the room was constructed from reclaimed wood dating back to when the inn originally opened in the 1970s. Each piece was hand selected to recycle materials, another core component of WELL.

The author’s flower and tea bath // Credit: Emily Hochberg

In the bathroom, a tray over the tub contained everything I’d need to take a biodynamically-grown flower and tea bath. It was beautifully arranged, like an artful charcuterie board, with dehydrated oranges, herb pouches, epsom salts, and fresh herbs and flowers. A homemade heart-shaped soap was included as well with an eco-friendly bag so I could take it home and reduce waste.

Kennedy told me that guests often remark that the Inn’s filtered water is so clean, it appears to have a blue tint in the bathtub, as opposed to the more yellow hue you’ve perhaps seen in other hotels. 

I don’t normally take baths, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Once full, I saw she was right. The filtered water was clean, and as I learned from a sign on the wall, free of contaminants or additives. I drank it later from the glassware provided in the kitchen and it was great tasting, too.

The Selenite Sphere // Credit: Emily Hochberg

Next, I spotted a gleaming white orb on a shelf in the living room. It was a Selenite Sphere, and included instructions on how to cleanse my aura, clear space and blockages in the body, shift energy, and clean jewelry. I followed the directions and even if it was just in my mind, I felt a bit lighter afterwards. 

There was also an air purifier and a spa aromatherapy diffuser and sound therapy machine. I took a deep breath feeling grateful for clean air, which felt extra fresh when the windows were open and the salty scent of the ocean wafted in.

Snacks in the room // Credit: Emily Hochberg

Feeling peckish, I decided to try the board of exquisitely presented snacks left by the hotel, along with another hot pot of tea. I sampled dehydrated citrus covered in chocolate, dried fruit, fresh berries, and edible flowers and patted myself on the back for skipping the chips in my tote bag.

The bedroom was simple, with a King eco memory foam bed, a desk, and a closet with yoga blocks tucked away. On the nightstand was another treat, a heart-shaped lotion truffle instead of the typical single-use moisturizer in a bottle.

The bedroom // Credit: Emily Hochberg

The sheets were so buttery soft that the next morning, I asked the front desk who made them. The clerk pointed to a shelf where they were available for sale. 

The Comphy SoftSpa sheet set is used in 97% of Forbes five-star spas and resorts, according to the brand. It’s made from a SoftPhiber fabric that gets softer with each wash and ranges from the very reasonable $149 to $199 (depending on bed size) for a set that includes a flat sheet, fitted sheet, and two pillowcases (except for Twin, which has one pillowcase).

In fact, most things in the room were available to purchase, from the orb to the sheets, and the lotion truffles. 

The breakfast basket // Credit: Emily Hochberg

But the best surprise came in the morning when a picnic box was delivered with muffins and fruit, jars of overnight oats and yogurt parfait, fresh green and fruit juices, and hard-boiled eggs for a nourishing start to the day. It was a one-of-a-kind approach to a bed and breakfast concept.

With only five rooms at the hotel, all are a bit different. Some are smaller with a studio-style layout, while one has a kitchen, and some face the ocean. Rates start around $300.

The author enjoying her foot soak on the meditation deck // Credit: Emily Hochberg

Around the hotel

With such a small property, the amenities are not as expansive as in a big resort but they’re robust.

The hotel has its own biodynamic garden where they harvest herbs, vegetables, and fruits. A farmstand is open to the public, which was an addition during the pandemic to connect with the community, Kennedy told me. It’s remained open due to its popularity.

In my room, I was given a basket and scissors should I wish to pick any herbs or veggies myself. I later brought my daughter, and we plucked delicate lettuce and bright red strawberries.

The Inn offers a variety of experiential and educational workshops from harvesting herbs and vegetables to candle and soap-making classes. Yoga mats are provided and private sessions are available to book, and a meditation deck invites quiet mindfulness. There’s also a library where guests can borrow books.

For an additional fee, guests can select and pot their own succulents, or make their own herb pouches. Other activities are free, like the aforementioned in-room basket for garden foraging, as well as rock painting at a maker’s station. My daughter loved painting rocks, which we took home to place in our own garden. 

The beautifully-presented foot soak // Credit: Emily Hochberg

There’s also a small spa with massage treatments, from custom or Ayurvedic to Chakra balancing, plus Reiki readings. I tried an herbal tea foot soak and spent a serene half hour on the meditation deck with my feet immersed in hot water infused with essential oils, mineral salts, and medicinal herbs and flowers picked from the hotel’s garden. 

After a relaxing bath the night before and a peaceful foot soak the next morning, it was nearly impossible to leave feeling anything other than at ease.

Moonlight Beach // Credit: Emily Hochberg

Exploring Encinitas

The hotel’s location in Encinitas was another major motivating factor for me to visit. I’ve been before, and love the atmosphere. It’s a sleepy beach town that’s less crowded than other areas near San Diego, and filled with surf shops and cafes that exude an exceedingly relaxed vibe. I’ve watched locals stroll onto coffee shop patios sans shoes, straight off the beach.

While the Inn offers guests breakfast and snacks, you’ll need to leave for other meals (or order in).

The fish at Valentina // Credit: Emily Hochberg

I had an incredible dinner at Valentina, a neighborhood bistro serving Spanish-inspired food that’s both upscale and elevated yet laid back and approachable. Can't-miss plates include seared local squid, Iberian ham on tomato toast, smashed artichoke, and seabass in a lick-your-plate lemon butter sauce. If you somehow still have room, end with the fantastic Basque cake.

The Killer Bee at Corner Pizza // Credit: Emily Hochberg

Another great pick is Corner Pizza. This former New Yorker loved their pies, especially when paired with fresh shucked oysters. The Killer Bee was a standout with tomato sauce, mozzarella, pepperoni, soppressata, gorgonzola, rosemary, and house-made chili honey. My kids loved the cheese pizza, and I appreciated that they had mini picnic tables where they could sit and play.

This area is also full of fantastic coffee shops. Coffee Coffee, Fourtillfour Cafe, and Lofty Coffee Encinitas Roasting Works are all favorites of mine for great cold brew, toasts, and pastries.

Of course, you can’t visit without a stop at Moonlight Beach. It’s under a 10-minute walk from the hotel, and unlike other San Diego beaches, doesn’t require climbing up or down steep stairs. My kids loved the playground near the snack bar, making it an especially good stop for families, and the wide open sand was lovely for sandcastles and watching surfers.

It’s also worth a stop at the San Diego Botanic Garden, which is just a five minute drive from the hotel. The 37-acre urban oasis houses four miles of landscaped trails with over 5,000 plant species and varieties, and 29 themed gardens that represent 15 different regions of the world. My kids loved the playground and mini play house, while my husband and I appreciated spotting all kinds of gorgeous trees and flowers while taking a delightful walk through the park.

The hotel’s farmstand // Credit: Emily Hochberg

The bottom line

I didn’t measure my health in any formal way before or after staying here, so I can’t say with certainty that one night within its walls permanently changed my wellbeing.

But I did leave feeling calmer and more relaxed, which is saying something since I have a baby and a toddler. 

And as a lover of all things wellness, I appreciated the feeling of simply being here, from cleansing my aura to soaking my feet and breathing highly filtered air. 

It was also one of the most thoughtful places I’ve stayed, where every detail and choice, from the construction of the building to the snacks and toiletries, felt authentic, responsible, and nurturing.

It is wholly different from any big-brand resort where wellness is an upcharge, and I can’t wait to go back.

Health and wellness have become big buzzwords in high-end hotels. Resorts place Peloton bikes in guest rooms alongside natural pillow menus and then charge a premium for what are really minor upgrades.

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