Insight Retreat Center


FAQ (Residential Retreats)

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The Insight Retreat Center is a residential retreat center near Santa Cruz, CA. We offer silent retreats focused on insight meditation (Vipassana) and the liberation teachings of the Buddha. All retreats are freely offered. Our center is supported by donations from those who practice here, and it is managed entirely by volunteers.

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For information on the IRC COVID Protocol for Residential Retreats, please CLICK HERE

How do I register for a retreat?

Register online on our Retreats page. If you are not able to register online, contact the registrar listed for the specific retreat.

Retreat costs – donation-based retreats

Our retreats are offered freely at no cost to anyone who participates. Most of the financial support for IRC comes from donations that participants offer at the end of retreats. Their generosity is what allows others to participate in future retreats.

Near the end of the retreat, participants have the opportunity to offer a donation to the teachers and for IRC Expenses.

  • Teachers serve without compensation from IRC.
  • IRC Expenses cover operating costs of running the center, including retreat food and supplies.
Refundable registration deposit

A refundable deposit via credit card is required to reserve a space in the retreat. (See Retreat Schedule for amount).

Your credit card will only be charged in two instances:

  1. You are accepted into the retreat and cancel after the cancellation deadline, which is three weeks before the start of the retreat. (see Retreat Schedule for date.)
  2. Or, you are accepted into the retreat and do not attend.
Retreat lottery

All applications that come in during the first 3 weeks of registration are entered into a lottery.  There is no advantage to applying immediately when registration opens.

  • Results of the lottery are communicated by email by the date listed on the registration page.
  • Those not selected in the lottery, or that register after the lottery, are placed on the waiting list.
  • If an applicant is not selected in the lottery after applying for a retreat, the probability of getting accepted increases with each subsequent retreat they apply for. Read more about the lottery system.
How do I know if I’m accepted into the retreat?

You will receive an email confirmation upon receipt of your registration form and deposit. We will inform you if you have been accepted to the retreat within two weeks after the lottery deadline. If the retreat is full and you registered after the lottery deadline, you will be placed on the waiting list. If you do not have email access, the Registrar will contact you by phone.

Can I re-register if I have already cancelled?

Yes, if there is room. But, if the retreat is full, you will be placed on the waiting list.

Can I attend a retreat as a commuter?

The teachers occasionally allow an experienced practitioner to commute. Please contact the Registrar if you are requesting this.

Can I register for a self-retreat?

IRC does not offer self-retreats.

How does the waiting list work?

When a retreat fills, a waiting list is started. If a cancellation occurs, the next applicant on the waiting list is notified. To be taken off the waiting list, please contact the Registrar — their contact information is listed in your in your IRC retreat emails or on the retreat schedule page.

What are my chances of getting into a retreat if I am on the waiting list?
  • It can vary with each retreat, but generally, the first 20 waitlist applicants have a good chance of getting into a retreat, especially if they can be flexible with time, and can accept a spot in the last 2 weeks before the retreat starts. You have nothing to lose by staying on the waitlist.
  • The longer retreats, (over a week), tend to have a very small attrition rate; so for those, the first 10-12 people have a decent chance.
How will I know if I’ve moved up on the waiting list?

You will receive a waiting list status update 4 weeks prior to the start of a retreat.

How do I get on a waiting list for a retreat that is full?

Register online and make a deposit. The Registrar will add you to the waiting list and give you notification of your status.  Your deposit is refundable.

Will I be charged the deposit while I am on the waiting list?

No, your credit card will not be charged at any time while you are on the waiting list.  

Your credit card will only be charged in two instances:

  1. You are accepted into the retreat and cancel after the cancellation deadline, which is three weeks before the start of the retreat. (see Retreat Schedule for date.)
  2. Or, you are accepted into the retreat and do not attend.
What if I need to cancel?

Notify the Registrar by email or phone as soon as you know that you are unable to attend.  The registrar’s info can be found on the Retreat Schedule page, in the announcement/flier for the retreat, or your confirmation email.

Do I lose my deposit if I have to cancel?

If you cancel before the refund date (stated in your registration materials) you will not be charged the deposit.  If you cancel after the stated date, you will be charged the deposit and it will be donated to the IRC Fund.

Can I transfer my deposit to another retreat?

No, deposits are not transferable to other retreats.

Can I transfer my deposit to my partner or another person?

No, deposits cannot be transferred to another participant.


All rooms are private rooms with either communal or shared bathrooms. Half the rooms are carpeted.

Can I camp?

There is no camping available at this time.

Is IRC wheelchair accessible?

IRC is wheelchair accessible and is equipped with an elevator. More information see our Accessibility Guide. There is also a copy of this document in the drawer next to the bed.

Sheets & towels

Bring your own clean twin sheets, pillowcase, and towels. Blankets and pillows are provided. We have some sheets & towels to lend out if travel logistics make it difficult to bring your own.

What are IRC’s vegetarian meals like?

IRC offers simple nutritious, balanced vegetarian meals primarily using organic ingredients. Since we cannot accommodate all food preferences, please plan to eat the meals that are offered.

  • When dairy, egg, nut, and wheat or gluten products are served, alternatives are provided.
  • Simple standard foods (salad bar, eggs, beans, cheese, peanut butter, fruit, etc.) are always available for those who cannot eat our standard meals.
  • If you need to supplement the food offered, you may bring a small amount of your own food. You will have use of a microwave and limited refrigerator & cupboard space.
  • No food permitted in bedrooms.
  • For more information, see our Dietary Restrictions Info Sheet or a typical 7-day meal plan.
Tea and coffee
  • Tea and hot water are available throughout the day.
  • Fresh coffee is available at breakfast. Single cup filters and ground coffee are available for other times. If you bring your own coffee, bring it pre-ground.
I must eat meat for my health. What should I do?

You can bring pre-cooked canned meat or fish or deli style meats. There are cupboards and a refrigerator in the dining room with limited storage.  Cooking of meat/fish is not permitted. If possible, please eat at the outdoor tables so the smell of the meat/fish doesn’t linger in the building.

What time do retreats begin and end?

Typically, check-in is from 2 to 4 pm followed by a welcome and orientation at 4:30 pm.  The retreat usually ends by 1 pm on the last day. Times for your specific retreat are listed in your registration materials and on the IRC website.

What is a typical retreat day like?

The daily schedule varies from retreat to retreat.  All retreats are in silence unless specified otherwise.  A typical day usually includes the following:  

  • The day is centered on 45 minute periods of sitting meditation alternating with walking meditation,  starting usually around 6:00 am and ending at 9:30 pm.  
  • A daily instruction period and a dharma talk. 
  • Breakfast, lunch and a light supper are provided as well as some food available at any time during the day.
  • A daily work meditation period, typically kitchen, housekeeping or grounds-keeping
  • Periodic individual or group practice discussion with the teacher(s)
What are the practice discussions with teachers?

These are an opportunity to discuss your meditation practice and retreat experience with a teacher. They may occur in small groups or one-on-one meeting with a teacher.

What is work meditation?

A daily 40 minute period of work as meditation practice. Jobs include helping with meal preparation, kitchen cleanup, housekeeping and grounds-keeping.  There is also a daily 15-20 minute simple work period that everyone does at the same time to help with taking care of the center, this is called “Sangha Service.” These are pre-assigned.

What is Noble Silence on Retreat?

Retreatants are asked to commit to being silent during most of their retreat, and only speaking if it’s necessary.  Keeping our attention internal and being silent, is an important support to the practice of mindfulness while on retreat. It means not communicating with others by speaking, using notes, phone, email, or internet. It includes quieting the mind by not reading, writing or listening to news and entertainment. Notes to the teachers and retreat managers are an exception. There are opportunities to talk with teachers during practice discussions and Q&A sessions, as well as chances to interact with other retreatants during the retreat Opening and Closing sessions.

Can I arrive early on the day my retreat begins?

Usually people arrive during the check-in period unless special arrangements have been made.  But if you’d like to come early to help set up for the retreat, please arrive around 11am, and mention at check-in that you’d like to help. Bring your own lunch.

Can I stay an extra night before or after a retreat?

On occasion this is possible.  Please check with the registrar.

Can I participate in less than the full retreat?

You are required to attend the full retreat. Requests for late arrivals or early departures must be approved by the teacher(s) before the retreat.

Is there a number I can be reached at during the retreat in case of emergency?

Though no one may pick up, the managers check for messages regularly: 831-430-9198.

Can I practice yoga during the retreat?

You can practice yoga but not in the meditation and walking meditation halls. There are a number of areas that can accommodate yoga, including many of the bedrooms. Keep mindful to avoid distracting fellow retreatants.

Can I have a package sent to me while I’m on retreat?

To receive a package while on retreat, please inform the Retreat Manager. Send to: Insight Retreat Center – 1906 Glen Canyon Rd., Santa Cruz, CA 95060

Is it okay to lie down during sittings in the hall?

Yes, if there is a medical or physical condition that necessitates it. Please discuss this with the retreat teacher.

Can I use my CPAP machine? Is there a place to plug it in?


What happens in case of medical emergency?

In the event of medical emergency, the retreatant will be taken to a LOCAL hospital or Urgent care facility as applicable.  We are not able to accommodate requests to other facilities.

Can I bring my service animal?

Though we wish we could support those who rely on Service Animals, we are not able to accommodate them.

What should I bring with me to the retreat?
  • No Scented Products:  We provide unscented Soap, Shampoo & Conditioner.
  • Being mindful of some people’s allergies or sensitivities, please do not bring or wear scented cosmetics, soaps, or other products, including “natural” scents.
    • Do not use fabric softeners or scented detergent in clothing worn on retreats.
  • Water bottle:  IRC is on a shared well system and needs to conserve water.  Bring your own water bottle to help reduce glass washing.
  • Clothing for all weather: There can be large temperature swings between day and night so bring appropriate layers.
  • Footwear: Bring shoes that are easy to slip on and off. Many areas are shoes off. Ideally closed-toe shoes in case your work meditation is in the kitchen. For some, it can be helpful to bring indoor shoes or slippers.
  • Poison Oak: We have some poison oak on the property, though it’s mostly contained.  Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and Technu Soap can help protect you if you are sensitive to it.
  • Ticks: There are ticks in the area.  Please see this page for information on prevention and what to do if you get one.
  • Self-reliance: Bring whatever you need.  We are not able to shop for items you may have forgotten. Please bring:
    • Unscented toiletries: toothbrush/paste, shaving items, sunscreen, etc. (Note: Shampoo, conditioner & soap are provided.)
    • Bedding: twin sheets and pillow case (Bringing your own helps us maintain our limited water resources by reducing onsite laundry.)
    • Towels: Bath and hand towels and washcloth (Bringing your own helps us maintain our limited water resources by reducing onsite laundry.)
    • Medical and personal supplies:  Tylenol/aspirin, cough drops, eye drops and lip balm…
    • Sunglasses and sunhat for walking outdoors
    • Shawl or wrap for the mediation hall
    • Indoor “slipper” shoes or extra warm socks (No shoes in meditation hall)
    • Flip flops for shower room
    • Flashlight or headlamp (and batteries)
    • Umbrella and rain gear in the fall and winter months
  • Meditation Cushions and Mats (Zafus & Zabutons):  Zabutons (mats) and round cushions are provided in the meditation hall, but feel free to bring your own.
    • Cushioned chairs are available.
    • The meditation hall floor is uncarpeted.
  • Hair Dryers: If you bring a hair dryer, please only use it at times it won’t disturb others, typically right after meals.
Will I be able to do laundry?

The center’s laundry facilities are not available to retreatants. To help conserve water, please bring enough clothes so you will not have to wash laundry by hand.


There is no smoking anywhere in the facility or grounds of IRC. This includes electronic cigarettes.

Phones and Internet

In registering for a retreat, retreatants agree that during the retreat they will not make phone calls, check email or go on the internet. In case of emergency the retreat manager may be contacted.  They pick up messages twice a day. If you’d like, your phone can be kept under lock and key for the duration of the retreat.


Address: 1906 Glen Canyon Rd., Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Phone: 831-430-9198   
Note: If you are not scheduled for a retreat, please do NOT drop by IRC without prior arrangements.

  • Entrance is on Sunny Acres
  • Carpooling is strongly encouraged to conserve both precious resources and limited parking space. About three weeks before your retreat, you will receive a reminder from the Registrar with instructions, or go to the Carpooling page on our website. Registration is required to use the carpool board.
Contact information

The IRC phone number is 831-430-9198.  In case of an emergency, you can leave a message for a retreatant at the phone number listed above.  Retreat managers check message twice per day when retreats are in progress.

Driving directions

From North Bay & Peninsula: Two options – MAP: from Insight Meditation Center in Redwood City

  1. 101: take 101 South to 85 South, go 13.3 mi. to 17 South for 18.7 mi. See From 17 South below.
  2. 280: take 280 South to 85 South, go 7.8 mi. to 17 South for 18.7 mi. See From 17 South below.

Note: Travel time from Redwood City is one hour, but cannot account for heavy commute periods.

From San Jose & East Bay:  Take 880 South which turns into 17 South. See the next section below,  from 17 South.

From 17 South

  • Exit on Mt. Hermon Rd in Scotts Valley. Turn RT onto Mt. Hermon Rd. .3 mi
  • Turn Right at stop light onto Glen Canyon Rd. .5 mile; turn RT to STAY on Glen Canyon Rd. 1.2 mi.
  • Turn Right onto SUNNY ACRES DR. and immediately turn into first driveway on Right.  Go through the black iron gate.

From Santa Cruz:  Two options –  Map: from Santa Cruz

  1. Highway:
  • Take 17 North, Exit on Mt. Hermon Rd.
  • Turn Rt at stop light onto Glen Canyon Rd. .5 mile; turn RT to STAY on Glen Canyon Rd. 1.2 mi.
  • Turn RT onto Sunny Acres Dr. and immediately turn into first driveway on Right.  Go through the black iron gate.
  1. Streets:
  • From Ocean St. in downtown Santa Cruz, head East on Water Street; turn left onto Market Street.
  • Drive 0.8 miles to the 4-way stop sign where Market Street turns into Branciforte Drive.
  • Continue on Branciforte for 0.6 miles
  • Turn left onto Glen Canyon Road.  1.8 miles
  • Turn left onto Sunny Acres Drive. Immediately turn into first driveway on the right.  Go through the black iron gate.
Airport information and shuttle options

Retreatants are encouraged to fly into San Jose International Airport (SJC).

San Jose Airport (SJC)

  • It may be possible to join a carpool for a ride from San Jose by making arrangements with fellow retreatants in advance, or by sharing an airport shuttle service. Try the Carpool Board.
  • Shuttles: Contact the individual shuttle service for current pricing and time schedules. Travel time from SJC is about 45 minutes. Quoted costs are for one-way travel fares. Reservations required.

San Francisco Airport (SFO)

Santa Cruz Airport Shuttles
Phone: 831-421-9883
Cost from San Jose Airport: from 7am-11pm: $50/passenger; $10 for additional passenger; From San Francisco: $80

Santa Cruz Airport Flyer
Phone: 831-423-5937
Cost: $40/passenger

Early Bird Airport Shuttle
Phone: 831-462-3933
Cost: $75/1-3 passengers