Health and Wellness Travel at Rancho la Puerta in Baja California

Hacienda bedroom at Rancho La Puerta



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Repeat guests of Rancho La Puerta define a week of fitness for the mind and body at this Tecate, Baja California, destination spa as truly spiritual. They say that this feeling begins when they pass through the gates of the 3,000-acre private property and see and smell the gardens, meadows and mountains just beyond, and reaches a climax when getting to the top of their climb during one of the early morning hikes. After our week there, we knew exactly what they were talking about. At the juncture of the Laguna and Sierra Juarez mountain ranges, just three miles from the U.S. border and 90 minutes from San Diego International Airport, the sprawling “ranch” is its own private world where healthy living being delivered in an upscale way is the primary focus during an all-inclusive week’s stay. (All-inclusive packages are also available for three or four nights, but the majority of guests stay for the full Saturday-to-Saturday week.) The 84 “rooms” are actually separate villas and have been designed for singles, doubles, triples and quads to cater to guests on their own or traveling with friends. A $10 million-plus resort-wide renovation is almost 75 percent complete.

Each villa is unique in decor and style, set within individually landscaped gardens throughout the property. Our villa, in the Villas Sol cluster, was large, with an open-beam cathedral ceiling and a king bed in an alcove area, plus a queen bed and couch in the sitting area facing a fireplace. All units include air conditioning, sitting areas with desks, CD players, refrigerators, robes, safes, Mexican artwork, hand-painted tiles and relaxing patios. Like ours, many have wood-burning fireplaces, double-sinks and scenic mountain views depending on their location within the resort. Refrigerators are initially stocked with fresh fruit and sparkling water. A filtered water faucet in the room provides drinking water.

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The villas on the outskirts of the Sol and Luna sections offer the best views. Designed to be true retreats, no TVs or Internet capabilities are available within the guest rooms. (Internet access is available at the Main Lounge, and there is an Internet Lounge with numerous computers and a printer.) Due to the expansiveness of the property, many villas are at a distance from the main fitness areas, but are also the ones with the best views. Two-bedroom, two-bathroom villas have the largest accommodations, and are ideal for those who seek the most room and privacy during their stay.

Daily hikes vary in level and in length between two to seven miles and start at dawn as guests explore the Ranch’s more than 25 miles of hiking trails. A buffet breakfast of eggs, fruit, granola and such, either poolside or at the main dining room, is sandwiched between the next set of activities beginning at 9 a.m. Each morning, Head Concierge Manuelita Ching, who has worked at the Ranch for 50 years, makes her way to each table during breakfast to offer her help for the new day. Contact Ching via e-mail at [email protected]; or call 011-52-665-654-9155 or 800-443-7565 and ask for the concierge. Two concierges are also available from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily at the Main Lounge.

Guests can choose from over 50 daily indoor and outdoor fitness classes and activities that incorporate challenging exercise, stretching and relaxation. Many offer opportunities to try the latest trends, and there is enough choice for every level of fitness. Two of our favorite new classes included African Dance and Cardio Drum Dance. A tennis program is also offered. The staff of more than 20 full-time instructors is incredibly knowledgeable and helpful, offering tips and alternatives for any special needs.

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Fitness classes are drop-in, and after busy mornings we spent many afternoons opting out to just lounge at one of the three pools or on a hammock or tree swing. Beyond the physical activities, guests can also enjoy afternoon and evening programs that feature what we termed “positive thinking” lectures, games, workshops, entertainment, and art classes. Certified Life Coach Emily Boorstein, who lectures one week out of every month at the Ranch, provides inspiring talks each day under the large gazebo, complete with scenic view. Guest lecturers vary by week, and have also included actress Jane Fonda, author Erica Jong and former U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright.

Special weeks offered throughout the year include an annual “Family Week,” in which the age-14-and-up rule is abandoned and children 7 to 17 are invited to join their parents with special programming set up just for them. It’s a good way to introduce the next generation to the destination spa concept. There are also three Couples Weeks in the year, and a Culinary Week. Every week has a fitness theme, which means extra classes for that specialty, such as Pilates, meditation or water week.

Pampering is not forgotten among the fitness, with three health centers—two for women and one for men, with a total of 47 treatment rooms, plus steam, sauna and hot tubs. Treatment choices for an additional fee include massages, body wraps, facials and a full salon for hair and nails. Reach out to Barbara Caro at the spa appointment desk ([email protected], 011-52-665-654-9190). The spa director is Tere Ochoa ([email protected], 011-52-665-654-9100, ext. 632) and she can take care of any special requests.

The all-inclusive cuisine is vege-tarian, with organic fruits and vege-tables—most from the resort’s own six-acre organic garden—the mainstay of each meal. Lacto-ovo dishes, such as breakfast eggs and cheese, are part of some dishes and seafood is served five times a week. Gluten-free options are also available. Lunch is buffet style, with dinner a sit-down event. Guests can eat at their own tables or ask to join a larger table to make new friends. Even for dinner, casual dress is the norm, in keeping with the laid-back atmosphere of the property.

Cooking classes are offered weekly (for an extra fee) for those who wish to take the healthy cuisine home with them. A must for all guests is the morning four-mile roundtrip Organic Garden Breakfast Hike to dine at La Cocina Que Canta culinary center, and then get a tour of the resort’s gardens. Head gardener Salvador Tinajero enthusiastically discusses his beloved fruits and vegetables. (Guests can also be taken there and back by car if they prefer not to hike.)

Rates include roundtrip Saturday transportation from San Diego International Airport. Guests can add on a night pre- or post-stay at a special rate at the Sheraton San Diego Hotel and Marina, five minutes from the airport, making it all seamless and yes, most certainly, stress-free.


In addition to organized group fitness classes, guests at Rancho La Puerta can find many scenic and serene places on the expansive 3,000 acres to practice yoga and other regimens.

In addition to organized group fitness classes, guests at Rancho La Puerta can find many scenic and serene places on the expansive 3,000 acres to practice yoga and other regimens.


Going to the Spa

Langham Place, Fifth Avenue Introduces Thalgo LineThe Twelve Apostles Hotel’s Dual Treatment Room

The Spa at New York’s new Langham Place, Fifth Avenue will be offering an exclusive menu of face and body treatments by the luxury skin care line Thalgo, the French experts in marine-based beauty products for over 40 years. In addition to offering treatments such as the Polynesian Ritual and the Marine Algae Body Wrap, The Spa at Langham Place will offer a 360° Anti-Aging program. Guests can choose from a menu of customized facials, including the Collagen Smooth and Fill, the Hyaluronic Filler Facial, the Silicium Super Lift Facial, and the Eye Expert Treatment.


The Twelve Apostles Hotel’s Dual Treatment Room


‘SPA’rty Time in Cape Town At Twelve Apostles Hotel

The Spa at The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa in Cape Town, South Africa, has introduced the ‘SPA’rty package, designed for groups of between four and eight guests. Priced at $75 per person, it includes a Rasul steam session, as well as a choice of two 30-minute treatments each, such as a mini manicure, mini pedicure, hot stone back massage, hydrating facial, hydrating body wrap, and herbal salt or sugar body exfoliation. Also included is a healthy spa lunch in The Café Grill. Guests can also take advantage of The Spa Plunge Pools, Salt Water Floatation Pool, Tranquility Lounge Health Bar, with complimentary homemade snacks and fresh fruit juice.

Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona Offers Anti-Aging Program

The Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona has launched its new 360° Anti-aging package, valid now through December 31, 2014. It combines a three-hour rejuvenation program at the spa in the Mandarin Oriental with five-star accommodations and healthy dining at the hotel’s Michelin two-star Moments restaurant. Rates start at about $995 (735 euros) per person double.

Wild Dunes’ ‘Rehab Retreat’ Set for Mid-January

From January 17-20, Wild Dunes Resort in Charleston, SC, will host the “Perfectly Imperfect Resolution Rehab Retreat.” Created in partnership with founders of Agents of Change, yoga and life coach instructors Elli Boland and Ashley Cebulka, the program focuses on setting attainable goals that are rooted in living a healthy lifestyle—mentally, emotionally and physically. Retreat rates start at $597 per person double when booked by November 1, 2013. It includes room plus three “Resolution Coaching” sessions, meditations, daily yoga, daily breakfast and two dinners.

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