A Tale of Two Spas

Bookending the San Diego area, Rancho La Puerta and Rancho Valencia provide healthy respite in their own unique styles.

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    Preston Ames

Whether the escape you crave includes a weeklong inner journey or just some pampering and time away, make your New Year’s resolution to take care of yourself and escape to one of these incredible destinations just a couple hours south of the South Bay.


If you trace the history of the modern fitness retreat, all paths lead to Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico. Just a short drive across the border near San Diego, Rancho La Puerta opened 70 years ago as the brainchild of owners Edmond and Deborah Szekely. 

Still family-owned and operated today, the once quaint campsite has grown into 3,000 acres of breathtaking natural beauty catering to guests’ physical, mental and spiritual health. Most guests check in Saturdays and stay until the following Saturday, creating optimal rejuvenation at what you might imagine as your fantasy adult camp experience. 

Nestled in the lush foothills of Mount Kuchumaa, the ranch grounds are sprawling yet feel familiar. After just a few hours, you know every path. 

Large casitas greet you with beautiful sitting areas both inside and on your patio to allow for times of reflection and peace. Situated in this lush natural setting, you’ll rarely see a neighbor besides the occasional hummingbird or fox roaming past your door.

One of the most impressive aspects of the ranch is the incredible array of classes they offer each day. An average of five different classes are held each hour, and planning your agenda each day to partake in all that’s offered is perhaps the only stressful part of your week. 

A variety of sunrise hikes cater to beginners and experts alike and take you up the mountains to view the incredible valley below as sunlight spills over the horizon. Yoga, spinning, meditation, TRX, tennis, aqua-aerobics, Pilates … these are only a few of the activities available to guests. No matter your fitness or experience level, you are sure to enjoy and challenge yourself in any class you find. 

In addition to scheduled classes, the ranch also provides several pools, gyms, running trails and leisurely walks to round out your days. To reward and restore yourself, be sure to enjoy one of the several customizable spa treatments, which follow the ranch philosophy of cleanse, relax, restore and energize. 

To complement a challenging week of renewal, the culinary team at Rancho La Puerta is second to none. Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner each day—plus assorted snacks in between—the chefs keep guests fueled and fit throughout the week. The semi-vegetarian fare focuses largely on fresh produce, most of which is grown at the ranch’s farm just a few miles away. 

One of the highlights of the week is the Organic Garden Breakfast Hike (more like a long walk, perfect for all levels), which takes you to the farm at sunrise to enjoy an incredible hot breakfast before touring the farm with one of its caretakers. Not-to-miss experiences include the two weekly cooking classes at the farm, featuring different celebrity chefs each week teaching you how to cook delicious fare in an astounding demonstration kitchen before sitting down to dine on your hard work. rancholapuerta.com


If you’re seeking another spa getaway, perhaps something a little more cushy and traditional yet still just a short drive southward, Rancho Valencia is not to be missed. Situated on 45 acres of layered hillside just north of San Diego in Del Mar, Rancho Valencia’s all-suite resort and spa offers an incredible getaway for couples, families or those escaping solo. 

The award-winning property recently was treated to a $30 million renovation, investing in the many details that make this resort so special. Each of the beautifully appointed guest casitas resembles a Mediterranean paradise, complete with private patio. 

And don’t forget your four-legged friends. The resort is pet-friendly and offers several of the same luxurious amenities as human guests enjoy, including custom-made beds and a special in-room dining menu just for doggies. 

Awaken each morning to freshly squeezed orange juice thoughtfully left outside your door, before heading to one of several impressive fitness classes. Rancho Valencia offers an incredible menu of activities. Beyond the magnificent gym, they offer spin classes with professional cyclers, a large Pilates studio, TRX classes, tennis, golf and a serene yoga pavilion where classes are taught both indoors and outside (check out the sunrise class) amongst lush gardens. 

All classes are complimentary for resort guests, so you can discover new challenges or recommit to activities you love. After your workout, relax by one of the two pools—one catering exclusively to adults and one for families to enjoy together.

If a deeper relaxation is what you’re after, Rancho Valencia’s spa is a blissful retreat not to be missed—offering a variety of pampering services sure to restore relaxation and balance to your body and mind. Located in a picture-perfect setting, the Rancho Valencia Spa satisfies even the most discerning spa guest. From massages to diamond facials and the increasingly popular Watsu—an aquatic therapy of stretching and relaxation while a therapist supports you in a pool of warm water—there’s no remnant of stress that can remain. ranchovalencia.com