Where you have your off-sites can say as much about your company as what you do at them. That's why so many high-tech companies (such as AskJeeves.com, 3Com, and Yahoo!) are holding their off-sites at the Costanoa Coastal Lodge and Camp, on Highway 1 near Santa Cruz, California.
The resort and conference center's lamp-lit, deluxe tents come with down comforters, heated mattresses, and fluffy bathrobes. Less-rustic accommodations are available in the main lodge or in one of 12 cabins, while hardier campers can get economy-class tents. "I love oxymorons," says Costanoa founder Chip Conley, 38, who says that he modeled the resort after 1930s luxury safaris. "You commune with nature, but when you come home, there's someone taking care of you."
Worn out after a day of breakout sessions and adventure excursions, which include mountain biking, horseback riding, and sea kayaking, conferees can retire to the spa to partake of a varied menu of massage therapies. And even a night walk with flashlight to the outhouse — er, "comfort station" — is worth the trek: Fireplaces, heated floors, and saunas are sure to alleviate any outdoor angst.
"It's not just a facility," says Eric Malone, 33, Costanoa's adventure-experience director. "We facilitate an experience," one that allows coworkers the chance to "see sides of each other that they wouldn't normally see."
Ellen McCarty (email@example.com) is a writer based in the San Francisco Bay Area. Visit Costanoa Coastal Lodge and Camp on the Web (www.costanoa.com).
A version of this article appeared in the October 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.