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Rancho La Puerta Spa - Review

Good-for-You Value

by Sandy Samuels

The exterior of Rancho la Puerta's Cocina
The exterior of Rancho la Puerta's Cocina

Although we wouldn’t recommend cutting corners when it comes to your health and well-being, we certainly don’t mind a good bargain now and then, especially when that value locale is Rancho la Puerta in Mexico. An entire week of relaxation, adventure, great food, restful sleep and awe-inspiring surroundings can be yours starting at $2,790, an all-inclusive rate based on double occupancy.

We meet at the San Diego airport for the hour long transfer to Tecate, Mexico, just three miles south of the border. It was our second weeklong stay at Rancho la Puerta, so we were savvy enough to arrive on a Friday, overnight at an airport hotel and travel to the spa on its van’s first return trip. Taking advantage of that eighth full spa day (we also arranged to leave late the following Saturday afternoon) makes the rate even a better value.

The former wellness camp that Edmond and Deborah Szekely founded in 1940—when participants seeking a healthy lifestyle were considered eccentric—now boasts the finest facilities on 150 stunningly landscaped acres (an average of one acre per guest) that were designed by Sarah Livia Brightwood (the founders' daughter). Once settled in our spacious stucco, red tiled roof casita with wooden beams, arched windows, terra cotta tiles and authentic Mexican folk art, we head to the dining room to experience a buffet lunch featuring a variety of farm fresh specialties (fish and seafood supplement an abundance of vegetarian choices).

A room at Rancho la Puerta One of Rancho la Puerta's fitness classes

Even going to the dining room is an opportunity to walk along pathways scented by wild lilac, artemisia and sage and past fountains, cactus gardens and indigenous floral plantings. En route to activities, we find pathways that lead to unexpected finds that feed the spirit: a pond, an olive grove or a garden. The 3,000-acre chaparral covered campus—of which 2,000 acres are set aside as a nature reserve—offers 40 miles of hiking trails, where coyotes, cottontail rabbits and foxes roam among huge granite boulders, and where some of the greatest diversity of bird species can be found. The awe-inspiring backdrop—the sacred 3,885-ft. Mt. Kuchumaa, which was the first natural feature in the U.S. to be recognized as a National Historic Site—is also the destination for the most challenging hike.

We also choose the culinary alternative, a Breakfast Hike to the five-acre organic farm, Tres Estrellas, the home of the ranch’s new cooking school, La Cocina que Canta. Joyful days pass; sunny mornings begin with a stretch or a walk and our schedule alternates between movement and relaxation, and the biggest decision is chosing among 70 mind/body/spirit daily activities. At “The Ranch,” some seek an inner journey and practice meditation, Tai Chi, yoga, silent dinner and the solitude of walking the labyrinth; we relish in the camaraderie that group activities—including organic gardening, cooking and dancing—encourage. Modestly priced a la carte spa treatments, tennis lessons or cooking classes add to the experience.

Prices start at $2,790 per person, per week, double occupancy, plus tax. Massage prices start at $75.

Rancho la Puerta
P.O. Box 69
Tecate, CA 91980

(Updated: 08/18/09AER)

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