“Forest Bathing” at the Zoo

Most people have a visceral need to spend time in nature. Whether it’s spreading out a blanket in a park for a picnic, gazing upward through the lace of leaves and trees, poking a toe in a stream chilly with snowmelt, pedaling along a scenic path, or panting up a mountain, there are countless reasons to go outside. The Japanese even have a term for getting back to nature: forest bathing. Called shinrinyoku, forest bathing is the practice of taking short, leisurely strolls through a forest setting to clear the mind and heal the body. In San Diego, we also have a term for it: visiting the San Diego Zoo!

Home to more than 3,500 rare, endangered, and fascinating animals along with a prominent botanical collection with over 700,000 exotic plants, there is ample opportunity to get your forest bathing in. Roaming the 100 acres of luxurious landscape with vistas, shade, water features, and wildlife you are bound to discover some inner peace. Here are a few places to do some serious forest bathing at the San Diego Zoo:

The new Africa Rocks experience, unlike any other place at the Zoo, should not be missed! The West African Forest habitat is now open, featuring the refreshing, 65-foot-high Rady Falls, which you can stroll behind for a cool mist and soothing “soundtrack.” Watching the African penguins and leopard sharks from the underwater viewing area has a calming rhythm all its own.

Rady Falls at Africa Rocks

When I was a bus tour guide, I spent my breaks in an immersive forest experience meandering down—and back up—Fern Canyon Trail (located behind the bus depot). I would a take moment on the cool, stone bench to reflect and count the orchids in bloom.

Pool time? Take the Skyfari across the Zoo to the west, and scamper down the hill to the Northern Frontier where you may come nose to nose with polar bears frolicking in their pool. While you’re here, chill out with Arctic foxes and reindeer.

Go nose-to-wet-nose with a polar bear.

Ready for some bamboo bathing? Take a hike through Panda Canyon to feast your eyes on red pandas and snow leopards…and those bamboo-munching giant pandas. They are always good for the soul!

Albert’s Restaurant, a sublime spot to dine.

Forest bathing can work up your appetite, so swoop by Albert’s Restaurant for a tasty meal on the patio in a jungle-like setting complete with roaring waterfall. And yes, they serve margaritas.

The beauty of being gorilla.

Want to learn from the master forest bathers? Visit our closest relatives, the great apes! Treetops Way will take you to the western lowland gorillas and the orangutans, among other primate pals. Hippo Trail is a woodsy route to the ever-enchanting bonobo habitat. Forest bathing at its finest.

Tigers: the stars of stripes.

If striped, sleek, apex predators are your thing, a forest-y walk down Tiger Trail is sure to satisfy your hunger for beauty and grace. Time to practice your happy tiger “chuffing” calls!

Tasmanian devils bask in the Zoo’s Australian Outback.

If you are over the moon for all things Down Under, meet our colony of eucalyptus forest bathers: the koalas of Australian Outback. They share space with wallabies, those other pouch-packing marsupials that hop from place to place. You might also get a heavenly glimpse of Tasmanian devils!

For an extra special celebration of nature and all the creatures we share the Earth with, treat yourself to an Inside Look Tour.

Special memories can be made on an Inside Look Tour.

You will be whisked around the Zoo in a shuttle cart to visit off-exhibit areas and meet extraordinary animals up close. Click here for more fun and fascinating ways to appreciate our big, beautiful world while visiting the world-famous San Diego Zoo. And you won’t even get your hair wet.

Karyl Carmignani is a staff writer for San Diego Zoo Global. Read her previous blog, Who ARE You?