I arrived at the Mexican border a little early, slipped a just-purchased parking pass into my car, and somewhat anxiously sipped my last Diet Coke for several days. It’s hot. I’m waiting for my Rancho La Puerta driver to escort me across the border and to the famous spa. Nerves are running high, because I just left my husband (who was supposed to accompany me—long story) behind with my daughter and Scooby, the dog. I see a few people milling about and a slow trickle of cars in to Mexico, a country I have been traveling to my entire life.
Entering Mexico via Tecate versus hectic Tijuana is like comparing a prop plane to the jumbo jet. They are similar in principle, but radically different. It took all of 10 minutes to cross, because I was the only person at immigration. Not for one second did I feel unsafe. We walked a quiet cobblestone Tecate street, hopped in the van, and set off for the 8 minute drive to Rancho La Puerta on widely-paved roads.
I’d seen photos, heard stories and even wrote about the upcoming Rancho La Puerta family weeks. I figured I’d spa, relax, and exercise a bunch. I thought the food would be good, but wondered if I’d be hungry (a concern of my husband’s) or if I’d miss a nightly glass of wine (the answer is yes and no) or in-room WiFi (also yes, but mostly no). It is shocking that given the easy 1.5 hour journey from La Jolla, that I hadn’t been there sooner.
Accommodations Feel Like Home
My casita (there are both larger and smaller), Villas Sol 13, is a perfect set up for family weeks. There is a kitchenette complete with coffee maker, electric kettle, sink, and mini refrigerator. A functional wood-burning fireplace, iPod dock stereo, spacious bathroom, living area, huge patio, and plenty of electrical outlets make Rancho La Puerta feel like home away from home, except it’s just so peaceful.
It took me two days to notice that there wasn’t a television. The pedometer available for use during your stay will no doubt clock the steps on windy brick trails that lead you from one building to the next. Maps are all over the place for good reason; it’s impossible not to lose your way on the first day, at least, because the grounds are massive.
Mature oak, palm, pine and other trees provide shade from the blazing July sun. Rabbits, squirrels and birds can be seen everywhere sometimes camouflaged by the stunning native landscaping. There are tons of seating areas, lounge chairs, and hammocks all over the property for guests to sit and reflect. It’s so quiet.
Gorgeous, Filling, Organic Food
Edible flowers and bell peppers top a perfectly cooked filet of fish placed on thinly diced beet relish next to a side of sautéed mushrooms. A full salad bar complete with low fat dressings that taste like they’re laden with oil and all things bad was on offer one lunch. I kept thinking about the time it would take me to just prepare each sliced or diced vegetable or roasted side dish.
Breakfast by the Villas Pool and lunch in the dining room were buffet-style so, in theory, you could eat as much as you like. No one seemed to. Dinners were 4 courses of portion-controlled soups, salads, entrees, and desserts. Ask for bread, if you need it, or a different-sized portion.
Wine is served only at the Friday evening party by the pool, which I happened to attend. Rosemary, cucumber, lime, and other flavored waters are available for you to constantly fill your reusable bottle with.
The guests were a mix of mother and daughters, husbands and wives, and single travelers with pretty much all ages represented. I never passed someone on a walkway without exchanging an overtly-friendly hello or smile.
Most seem to visit Rancho La Puerta on a regular basis—I understand why, now. Lots of people from California, but some from across the USA and as far as the UK were visiting during my stay. They’re seeking lifestyle changes ranging from a new exercise routine to kick-starting a healthy eating regime, or just a healthy week away.
Fitness, Art And Educational Classes
There aren’t just fitness classes on offer. There’s art, dance, hula hoop, and even an interesting Friday lecture about the state of Mexico. But, choose from Tai Chi, Watsu, hiking, pilates, TRX, yoga, stretch, tennis, and more, if you’re looking to burn calories. I am in decent shape and I was sore after day 2. I do know that a hot river stone massage melts away muscle tension and that I would highly recommend the spa!
Change For The Good
A class about how to take “The Ranch”, as Rancho La Puerta is fondly referred to, home with you helps attendees keep up the good habits after departure. The instructor suggested setting several goals, a 30-day timeline, and throwing out the bathroom scale. It was obvious that a week-long experience had changed the lives of so many people sitting in that class, and that they were eager, but nervous, to continue the new habits at home. I understand how they feel, now.
How to Book Rancho La Puerta
(UPDATE: As an independent affiliate of Worldview Travel, I can book you in to Rancho La Puerta with agent-exclusive amenities that can include a complimentary spa treatment and room upgrade based on availability. Contact me here for more information.)
Prices vary by number of people in your party and accommodation, but call it $3000 (a bit less, typically) for an all-inclusive 7 days ($500 per child during family weeks). That’s not a bad investment–it’s your health! The majority of guests check in on Saturday and leave the following Saturday. If there is availability, you may book a shorter stay. Call to find out.
I stayed Friday through Sunday and did notice that there aren’t as many activities on offer on Saturdays, probably due to the transition of guests. If you’re going to book just two nights might suggest a short stay of Thursday through Saturday because you’ll have more class choice on Thursday and Friday.
However, Saturday’s at The Ranch are available should you just want to spend a long day there. Check the schedule of celebrity chefs who will be teaching classes as a part of the program, including NINE-TEN’s own Jason Knibb. You’ll be able to book yourself a spa treatment and take advantage of all The Ranch has to offer and get picked up and dropped off in San Diego.
There are certain things I learned during my stay. Don’t walk barefoot on the reflexology path if it’s a July afternoon in Mexico, I have to get the Bircher Muesli recipe, I didn’t miss the internet that much, I need a foam roller, and we San Diegans are so lucky to have The Ranch in our backyard. I felt amazing when I left. Also, my car was totally safe parked in a lot at the border, with 24-hour surveillance, that Rancho La Puerta has been using for years. I look forward to the next time I leave it there.
*Thank you to Rancho La Puerta for providing my stay. I am totally confident (I already informed my husband) I’ll be back on my own dime.
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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