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If you’ve been dabbling in meditation, you may be curious about attending a meditation retreat and wondering what’s it like, what’s expected, and what the benefits are.

It’s important to note that not all meditation is the same, and neither are the retreats available. That means it’s worth exploring the options and whether a particular retreat is the right fit for you.

We’ve researched some of the top retreats available in the United States so you can find the right option to deepen your practice.

A meditation retreat is an opportunity to go deeper with your meditation practice or learn the techniques to begin one.

For those new to meditation, a meditation retreat is an opportunity to spend time immersing yourself in practice, learn from others in the meditation community, and get the chance to discuss any concerns or questions you might have about meditation in general.

For those with a dedicated practice, a meditation retreat is a way of strengthening your practice, connecting with a community, and going deeper into making practice a part of your life.

Meditation retreats can last anywhere from 1 day to 2 weeks to a month or more. There are many options to choose from, and it all depends on you, your time, and what you’d like to get from attending.

We independently researched and selected the retreats mentioned below based on:

  • organization reputation
  • appropriateness for beginners to advanced meditators
  • retreat offerings
  • accommodation options
  • facility amenities
  • cost
  • reviews

Pricing guide

  • $ = under $200
  • $$ = $201–$500
  • $$$ = $501–$1,000
  • $$$$ = over $1,000

Most meditation retreats focus on exploring one type of meditation. Below are some of the most popular types of meditation retreats and the best retreats available in the United States.

Best for beginners

The Art of Living Retreat Center

  • Location: Boone, North Carolina
  • Best for: beginners who want to understand the basics of meditation and how to incorporate it into their daily lives
  • Length of retreat: Friday through Sunday, offered monthly
  • Price: $$$

The Art of Living Retreat Center offers several short-term retreats that are good for beginners and seasoned practitioners who are focusing more on self-care and relaxation than intense meditation.

The center’s signature Sahaj Samadhi Meditation Retreat is a great option to dive into meditation with expert guidance. This retreat is designed to induce calm, boost immunity, and decrease stress. Sahaj Samadhi means “effortless meditation,” and retreat attendees can expect to be fully proficient in just a few hours.

The retreat begins with in-depth training of Sahaj Samadhi and provides participants with the opportunity to receive individual guidance and ask questions.

Other retreat options include a custom-designed R&R retreat, a silent meditation retreat, and the popular Happiness Retreat to help support those with depression, anxiety, and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). The center also offers Ayurveda wellness retreats, culinary retreats, and Panchakarma, or a classical Ayurvedic cleanse.

Participants can choose between a private hotel room with a larger bed, refrigerator, and television, or a private retreat room without those extra amenities. All rooms offer free Wi-Fi, a private bath, and access to the center’s gym, steam room, and extensive grounds.

Vegetarian meals and complimentary tea, coffee, and fruit as well as daily yoga and meditation sessions are included in the price of the retreat.

Best for serious practitioners

Introduction to Vipassana Meditation

  • Location: throughout the United States and worldwide
  • Best for: serious, committed practitioners interested in going deep, stepping outside of their comfort zones, and seeing reality as it is
  • Length of retreat: 10 days, retreats usually book 2–3 months in advance
  • Price: free

Vipassana means “to see things as they really are.” It’s a traditional meditation technique that involves observing your thoughts and emotions as they arise without judging, dwelling on them, or pushing them away.

These meditation retreats offer total immersion into the practice of Vipassana meditation over 10 days at no cost to participants. Room, board, and instruction are included thanks to donations from former and current practitioners.

Participants learn the basics of the method and practice as laid out by SN Goenka, who is considered by some to be responsible for bringing mindfulness to the West.

This 10-day retreat is a somewhat rigorous introduction to meditation and is conducted entirely in silence. The day begins at 4 a.m. and ends at 9 p.m. Multiple practice sessions take place throughout the day, which amounts to about 10 hours of meditation per day.

Before signing up, read the frequently asked questions and Code of Discipline pages to be sure this fairly intense retreat is right for you.

Best eclectic option

Esalen Institute

  • Location: Big Sur, California
  • Best for: beginners and experienced meditators and yogis interested in a broad array of topics on personal growth, transformation, mindfulness, and psychology
  • Length of retreat: single-day workshops to weeklong retreats available
  • Price: $$–$$$$

The Esalen Institute is a beautiful 120-acre center overlooking the mountains and ocean on California’s coast. It offers vivid views and rejuvenating hot springs.

According to the center’s website, more than 750,000 visitors “have come from all over the world for the inspiration, intellectual freedom, and opportunity to explore the deepest self as part of a community of seekers.”

The Esalen Institute played a major role in the 1960s Human Potential and counterculture movements, attracting such prominent figures as Alan Watts, Abraham Maslow, Ansel Adams, Timothy Leary, and B.F. Skinner.

Esalen remains an educational center and intentional community, offering workshops and retreats on a variety of topics, including meditation, spirituality, psychology, permaculture, and ecological sustainability.

At the time of writing, Esalen’s retreat lineup includes workshops on grief, dance, music, tai chi, qigong, relationships, writing, and creativity.

Accommodation options range from sleeping bag space to suites. Even if you choose the sleeping bag option, a single retreat will likely cost a minimum of $400.

Best for loving-kindness meditation

Spirit Rock

  • Location: Woodacre, California
  • Best for: people interested in metta, or loving-kindness, meditation, as well as other offerings
  • Length of retreat: 1 day to 2 months
  • Price: $$–$$$

Spirit Rock Meditation Center offers a breadth of retreats grounded in the teachings of the Buddha, known as the dharma.

Many retreats focus on the core principle of metta, or loving-kindness, meditation. This practice encourages awareness of the present moment and compassion toward yourself and others, helping you infuse your life with wisdom, kindness, and connection.

The spacious grounds consist of 411 acres of oak woodlands in the hills of West Marin County, far away from the hustle and bustle of typical California life. Retreat offerings include workshops on loving-kindness, awareness, mindfulness, forgiveness, Vipassana, gratitude, and concentration.

Online retreats are led by a team of experienced teachers from the Spirit Rock teachers collective and include meditation instruction, Dharma talks, and regularly scheduled practice meetings.

Best for R&R

Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health

  • Location: Stockbridge, Massachusetts
  • Best for: beginners and experienced meditators and yogis alike, especially those who want to design their rest and relaxation excursion
  • Length of retreat: book by the day and decide how long you want to stay
  • Price: $–$$$

The Retreat and Renewal experience is a curated retreat consisting of yoga, meditation, and healing workshops to help you recenter yourself and dive deeper into self-care.

Led by a team of experienced practitioners and instructors, this is one of the most flexible retreats available. The center runs daily, and you can sign up for a day pass or book by the night.

The retreat includes workshops like yoga, dance, movement, cooking demonstrations, and guided hiking, as well as three vegetarian meals a day and access to a private lakefront and 100 acres of hiking trails and walking paths.

Onsite accommodation is available for a fee. Rooms are basic and minimalist and include a choice between shared and private bathrooms.

Best yoga and meditation combo

Mount Madonna Center

  • Location: Watsonville, California
  • Best for: practitioners interested in combining yoga and meditation, especially those interested in the Aṣhṭānga Yoga tradition
  • Length of retreat: 6 days
  • Price: $$

Mount Madonna Center is a 335-acre community and retreat center inspired by the teachings of Baba Hari Dass, a silent monk who came to the United States from India in 1971.

Surrounded by redwoods and grasslands, the retreat center offers programs focused on yoga posture, breath practice, yoga philosophy, and Ayurveda.

The center is home to a Hanuman Temple for devotional practices and contemplation and also hosts yoga teacher training and online classes. Offerings may be limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Best for social consciousness

Upaya Institute and Zen Center

  • Location: Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Best for: more experienced meditators looking to empower their practice
  • Length of retreat: 6 days
  • Price: $–$$$ (scholarships available)

The Upaya Institute and Zen Center is a practice, service, and training center that focuses on the intersection of integrated meditation practice and social action.

Their mission focuses on social service in the areas of death and dying, prison work, environmentalism, and women’s rights. The center offers a daily Zen meditation schedule and frequent dharma talks on topics related to Buddhist philosophy in action.

Their retreats include offerings like socially engaged Buddhism, social and environmental justice, cultivating compassion-based interactions, and being with suffering.

Many retreats and workshops are offered by donation. For those that aren’t, scholarships are available.

Best Mahayana retreat

Kadampa Meditation Center

  • Location: Glen Spey, New York
  • Best for: more experienced meditators looking to empower their practice
  • Length of retreat: 6 days
  • Price: $–$$

Ordained Buddhist monk Gen Samten Kelsang is the resident teacher of Kadampa Meditation Center in New York and has been practicing and teaching meditation for many decades.

The center offers a number of retreats based on the Mahāyāna, or “great vehicle,” tradition within Buddhism, which emphasizes the path to Buddhahood.

You’ll be guided through your practice and take it into the deeper realizations possible through meditation. This involves reflection and exploration of your mind focused on the discovery of your inner potential.

Teachings focus on the nature of the mind, impermanence, and the nature of emptiness.

The center itself is simple and doesn’t offer many amenities, and retreat costs are lower than most other options.

Best Zen retreat

Zen Mountain Monastery

  • Location: Mount Temper, New York
  • Best for: beginners interested in Zen Buddhism and associated meditation techniques
  • Length of retreat: Friday through Sunday
  • Price: $$ (financial assistance available)

Zen Mountain Monastery is a genuine monastic community of Zen Buddhist practitioners. The Introduction to Zen training weekend is a good option for those who are curious about the Zen Buddhist tradition and the meditation technique known as zazen, or seated meditation.

You’ll learn the zazen technique and how to establish a home practice to make zazen a part of your daily life. In addition, you’ll learn the basics of the Buddhist teachings of wisdom and compassion. Topics covered also include Buddhist art, movement practice, and incorporating the teachings into everyday life.

This is a unique opportunity to learn in the context of a dedicated Zen monastery, with the chance to ask questions and be immersed in the Zen way of life.

You’ll also have an opportunity to establish a teacher-student relationship through private interviews with teachers.

Best online retreat

Insight Meditation Society

  • Location: online or Barre, Massachusetts
  • Best for: a wide range of offerings means there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a complete newbie or an experienced practitioner
  • Length of retreat: various offerings available
  • Price: $

One of the most popular centers in the United States today, the Insight Meditation (IM) Society offers a comprehensive online program, including online retreats.

Their half-day, full-day, and mini-retreats are good for beginners and experienced meditators alike. IM offers in-depth talks and teachings to broaden your practice and understanding of meditation overall, and many can be conveniently completed at home.

Honorable mention

Shambhala Mountain Center

  • Location: Red Feather Lakes, Colorado
  • Best for: a wide range of offerings means there’s something for everyone, whether you’re a complete newbie or an experienced practitioner
  • Length of retreat: various offerings available
  • Price: $–$$$

A list of the best meditation retreats wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the Shambhala Mountain Center. In fact, it gets an honorable mention, in part, because it’s difficult to fit into a single category.

The center is located in a breathtaking 600-acre valley nestled among native forests, rolling meadows, and rocky mountain peaks. It was established by renowned Tibetan Buddhist teacher Chögyam Trüngpa Rinpoche in 1971 and houses a beautiful example of sacred architecture, the Great Stupa of Dharmakaya.

Retreats include a broad range of topics, including traditional meditation instruction, indigenous wisdom traditions, body awareness practices, contemplative arts, mindful living, and personal transformation.

Accommodations range from rustic cabins, shared quarters, and seasonal platform tents to boutique lodge rooms with modern conveniences.

How do you feel after a meditation retreat?

After attending a meditation retreat, you may feel a renewed sense of enthusiasm toward your practice, as well as an overall feeling of connectivity and presence. It can be a refreshing and even transformative experience to center yourself in a space with others who are there to do the same.

The opportunity to connect with the self and world without the distractions of day-to-day life can be profound.

Still, it’s important to remember that meditation is about getting intimate with life, not escaping it.

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What are the benefits of meditation retreats?

A meditation retreat can offer all the positive benefits that a daily meditation practice provides in a short amount of time. This can act as a springboard for encouraging consistency when you get back to your normal routine.

Many people report feeling more energized, getting better sleep, and having a more positive outlook in their daily lives in the days and weeks that follow a focused meditation retreat.

Alongside developing a community and connecting with like-minded people, a retreat gives you the chance to leave behind the distractions of daily life and dedicate time to being present and engaged in life itself.

How do you know which retreat is best for you?

It’s worth spending a little time exploring and testing different meditation methods to find one that works for you before diving deeper with a meditation retreat.

You don’t have to have been meditating for years to benefit from a retreat, but for most, it helps to have a foundation of knowledge about what the meditation will involve and demand from you.

Meditation retreats are an opportunity for practitioners at all stages of practice to learn, connect with a community, and become immersed in an atmosphere of mindfulness, presence, and calm.

If you want to explore meditation and mindfulness more deeply, take a brief hiatus from the demands of everyday life, or study the rich traditions that brought mindfulness to the world, a retreat may be just what you need.

Elaine Mead is an educator, writer, and psychologist-in-training, currently based in Hobart, Tasmania. She’s passionately curious about the ways we can use our experiences to become more authentic versions of ourselves, and she’s obsessed with showing you photos of her Dachshund puppy. You can find her on Twitter.