Story and photography by Donna Mantone-Adinolfi
This Baja health spa proved to be the perfect place for the author to relax, recuperate, and reinvigorate her creativity.
When it was time for my annual destination spa adventure, I decided to return to Rancho la Puerta, in Tecate, Mexico, about an hour south-east of San Diego.
My overall fitness had recently lapsed due to a back injury and the spa, founded in1940 by Edward and Deborah Szekely, is known for being “the original destination fitness resort and spa” so it was my first choice.
Rancho la Puerta provides a spacious natural setting (more than 3,000 acres) for hiking, fitness classes, wellness lectures and vegetarian meals, all of which would give me the extra push I needed to get back on track and create the balance and inner-peace that I often advocate.
Although my injury would keep me from doing some of the more intense activities there was still plenty to do with more than 50 options to accommodate guests of varying physical levels. I knew once I stepped through the spa’s door—its puerta—there would still be plenty of viable options to keep me active. I was all set for my week to focus on physical activity, vegetarian meals, creativity, and an overall Zen experience.
Activities and Classes
As a writer who sits for long stretches, movement was required for this nearly 50-year-old body, and that was easy as I walked nearly two miles per day around the property getting to and from the dining room, which was always a welcome sight. The founders of “the Ranch,” as it’s called by fellow devotees, call this “incidental fitness” – activities that you don’t necessarily consider exercise.
In addition to my daily incidental fitness, I also enjoyed Rancho la Puerta’s abundance of scheduled activities, which are offered every hour, beginning with early-morning hikes (some of the best hikes anywhere) and ending with evening lectures on topics that range from sexuality to the arts. The Fitness Navigator Program includes a free 30-minute consultation with a fitness expert after arrival and helps guests select the classes that will best help them achieve their goals for the week.
As for some of my classes, Postural Therapy was helpful as it helped with balance and coordination, which was a challenge due to my muscle imbalance; Release and Mobilize helped with stiffness and range of motion. Aqua-based classes were plentiful and quite enjoyable. Yoga and Pilates are progressive and suited for the beginner or advanced student. Personally, Pilates is a must whenever I visit the Ranch.
Rancho la Puerta’s schedule also includes nutrition classes and spirituality classes focused on the inner self, such as the popular (and a personal favorite) Crystal Bowl Sound Healing. According to Rancho la Puerta, Crystal Bowls emit pure sound waves that resonate throughout our body’s tissues and organs. The vibrations affect brain-wave activity, which can cause the release of neurohormones that suppress pain and produce deep relaxation. This is a don’t miss!
The spa’s Writing Workshop was another reason that I chose Rancho la Puerta for this journey as it helped in re-engaging my creativity through the numerous sessions we experienced during the week. There were about 15 others in this workshop and we discussed everything from working with a literary agent to writing a book and getting published. All too often we get caught up in our day-to-day tasks and this creative time helped me to reconnect to my muse, get back on track with writing my book, and regain the confidence to move forward.
Another highlight of my week was the hands-on cooking class with Tanya Holland from Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, California. She was Rancho la Puerta’s visiting chef for their culinary school, La Cocina Que Canta.
Walking through the garden I couldn’t help but wonder how I would create the same dishes at home without the variety of fresh ingredients hand-picked from the garden. The tomatoes from the vine just burst with flavor.
Our feast of healthy and delicious creations included spicy popovers with goat cheese and fresh herbs, and a simple romaine salad with cucumbers, hand-picked tomatoes, and a chive and cayenne buttermilk dressing. Delightful!
There are several room options available at the Ranch including the Ranchera, the least expensive option, and at 470-square-feet can accommodate one or two guests. Several of these are set aside in a cluster for women traveling solo.
I was in a Hacienda during my week, which is the second-tier, and larger than the Ranchera. Comfortable and beautiful, it had a sizeable patio area, fireplace, and large sitting area.
The Junior Villas and Villa Studios are set further back on the property and measure about 900-square-feet while the Villa Suite is larger at 1,140-square-feet and offers two private bedrooms and two bathrooms.
Update: Since this original article was first published the Ranch added Villas Cielo – the most private and tranquil of all options with indoor and outdoor space for a total of 2200-square-feet. These spacious villas also have a fireplace, hammocks, and a salt-water pool and take privacy to a new level.
Each of these spaces are uniquely decorated with Mexican folk art and include all of the amenities you would expect from an upscale property. They also feature reverse-osmosis filtered drinking water.
Spa services at the Ranch are typically a la carte (except for special promos) and their pricing for treatments and services is much more affordable compared to other spas as most begin at $90 for a 50-minute massage and $150 for the 90-minute option.
I opted for their Classic Massage, which was just what I needed after a day filled with workouts and long walks around the property. This was a Swedish massage and deep enough to help relieve the soreness that I was feeling and it also helped me to relax – great just before bedtime! If you’re looking for something even more relaxing, the Four-Hand Massage, utilizing two therapists, of course, could be pure bliss and a good value at only $155 for 50-minutes.
The Ranch has stayed true to its core, drawing people for varying reasons, all of which have meaning. Some guests come for fitness, some for nutrition, and others for healing. And then there’s nearby Mount Kuchumaa, which Native Americans consider a sacred place. And it is a sacred place. I was inspired and transformed after my week at Rancho la Puerta.
Update: The Ranch will be celebrating 80-years in June 2020 and this is the place where wellness travel began. A place so rich in history and once you go you’ll know why.
Please note: This article (p. 62-65) was originally published in TravelWorld International Magazine.