We stayed at San Francisco Zen Center! Buddhist temple guest rooms, garden, meditation classes.

san francisco zen center interior

Yukiro and I wanted our San Francisco journey to be rejuvenating. A time to regroup with friends and chill out. With these goals in mind, we did something I’ve dreamed about for a long time… and went on a mini-retreat at the San Francisco Zen Center.

Read on for the story of our Buddhist temple stay, and how these guest rooms are a hidden travel gem.

Shunryu Suzuki, soto zen buddhist priest

In 1959, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi arrived from Japan to be the head of the Soto Zen temple in San Francisco. He spoke English, and encouraged people from all walks of life to sit zazen with him. As a result, the Zen Center became a gathering spot for creatives in the Beat and hippie movements.

buddha statue, hand positions

Suzuki-san established the Beginner’s Mind Temple (Hosshin-ji) in 1969. We stayed at the current location of this “City Center” (308 Page St at Laguna). The SFZC also has locations in Tassajara and Green Gulch, for more isolated retreats and intensive practice.

buddhist colorful statue, rainbow buddha

The historic building carries a genuine, natural sense of calmness. The front hall is decorated with sparse but graceful elements, like this meditating Buddha.

sf zen center meditation room

A shadow of a monk on a scroll: so simple and beautiful. The door leads to the meditation hall, where all are welcome to take off their shoes and enter.

san francisco zen guest rooms, hotel

You can imagine what a joy it was, to make this our home! The Zen Center offers lovely guest rooms for $105-$162 a night, which includes a healthy breakfast with the residents, and lunch and dinner by donation. These accommodations aren’t listed in any hotel sites, and are an incredible value considering the location and experiences offered.

queer dharma, lgbt zen buddhism

As you can see from these posters, the SF Zen Center welcomes diversity. There is a regular “Queer Dharma” for LGBT practitioners, and their website states, “People of every race, nationality, class, gender, sexual orientation, age, and physical ability — all are welcome.”

We felt perfectly comfortable staying here: there are no curfews or restrictions. Our rooms had Wi-Fi Internet, along with Buddha statues, Yogi tea and lavender soap.

city center, zen meditation retreat

Plus, we felt great about supporting the Zen Center, and taking part in the Buddhist practice. All guests are welcome to attend classes, dharma talks, and ceremonies. You can see upcoming listings in their events calendar.

zen buddhist garden, fountain

Our favorite part of the San Francisco Zen Center was the courtyard garden.

I’m wearing a vintage Japanese robe (it’s been in my family for years), Liz Lisa dress, and white sandals c/o Y-R-U.

red kimono, buddhist gardening

Such relief to slow down, breathe and appreciate nature.

buddhist altar, flowers statue

The garden is filled with hidden Buddhas. Look closely, and altars will appear.

blue kimono girl, japanese buddhist

If you want to stay longer, SFZC offers a two-year Work Practice Apprenticeship program for Zen students, “to express, make accessible, and embody the wisdom and compassion of the Buddha.”

san francisco zen center garden trees

One of the foundations of Zen Buddhism is to live in the moment — something that people often forget, leading to stress and unhappiness. As Shunryu Suzuki Roshi wrote, “Treat every moment as your last. It is not preparation for something else.”

close up fountain, water motion

He taught, “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities. In the expert’s mind there are few.”

wood buddha altar, SFZC

“What we call “I” is just a swinging door which moves when we inhale and when we exhale.” Now that is food for thought…

praying buddha, zen bookstore

The City Center has a bookstore, where you find Buddhist works including Suzuki Roshi’s well-loved book, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.

san francisco zen city center building

The SFZC Zen Center is a very special place, and part of San Francisco history. I’m grateful we spent time here, as I’ve always wanted to do a temple stay. I hope you’ll also get the chance to visit, take a class, or rent a guestroom in this Buddhist monastery.

buddhist temple stay, retreat

Sending you loving-kindness. I’ll soon be exploring more Buddhist environments… stay tuned for the announcement of a major Asia trip.

japanese buddhist zen art

Are you familiar with Buddhist teachings? If you’re curious, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind is a wonderful book for getting acquainted. After all, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step…”

scottish fold cat x-ing sign

Or as my Scottish Fold Zen Master would say, “Mmm mmm mmm!” (I found him this cat crossing sign at a Pier 39 pet gifts store.)



  1. Lauren
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    Very cool, La Carmina. Now I’m curious to check this center out!

  2. Diamond
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    I love your hair color in this!

  3. Ela
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    and YOU fit right in there too! :)

  4. My JHouse
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:51 am | Permalink

    Take me with you! Need new staff?? I’m in!!

    Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:51 am | Permalink


  6. Richard
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    brilliant stuff

  7. Dan
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 2:00 am | Permalink


  8. Captain
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Beautiful isn’t it…

  9. Jason
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    love this!

  10. Veronica
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

    I read Beginner’s Mind.
    Food for thought as you said.

  11. benny
    Posted June 17, 2014 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

    i dig the hair and robe

  12. David
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:07 pm | Permalink


  13. Sher
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    What a dream!

  14. Tamashi N
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:07 pm | Permalink


  15. Dani
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:07 pm | Permalink


  16. shiny
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

    really sweet photos:)

  17. Samantha
    Posted June 18, 2014 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for staying with us!

  18. Claire
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    This is WONDERFUL!

  19. kera
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 12:58 am | Permalink

    buddha <3

  20. Kuro
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 3:36 am | Permalink


  21. Chad
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    Are you going to be in Seattle soon?

  22. Xi
    Posted June 19, 2014 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Basil the cute cat

  23. Alex
    Posted December 27, 2020 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

    Lovely! :)

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