I’ve known about Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa for a long time, but after more than six years as an L.A. resident, I’ve only recently had the pleasure of experiencing its charms. Located about 2 ½ hours south of Los Angeles in Rancho Santa Fe—a gorgeous equestrian community in North San Diego County—the resort is only slightly farther away than classic Angeleno getaways like Santa Barbara, Ojai or Laguna Beach, but it’s 100% worth going the distance.
The welcoming courtyard at the hotel’s main building
After stopping for lunch and a stroll in Corona del Mar, my husband and I continue our drive south, eventually passing through the resort gates. We’re immediately drawn into the serene landscape. Trees and flowers are everywhere, as are terra-cotta roofs and colorful tiles. The 45-acre resort is set on countless gardens and olive groves. Is there such a thing as a Mediterranean jungle? Because that’s what this lush paradise feels like.
Five of the spa rooms offer private outdoor soaking tubs
We check in and get the lay of the land: There are 49 casitas spread across the resort, with walking paths connecting them to the main building, spa and tennis area. Our enormous and incredibly comfortable casita is equipped with plush bedding and furnishings, a fireplace, a private patio and, to my husband’s amusement, a super high-tech Japanese toilet. After relaxing for a bit, we freshen up and head to dinner at Veladora, the resort’s more formal restaurant, led by executive chef Joshua Holt. The warm waitstaff is obviously knowledgable—but never snobby—and we try several courses. Standouts, including the lobster salad with spring peas and mint, and the Napa Valley lamb with chanterelles, crushed peas and licorice jus, are still on my mind several weeks later.
A private outdoor patio in one of the guest casitas
The next morning, we enjoy a tennis lesson—no easy feat for the instructor, as my husband is quite experienced and I’m a novice. Nevertheless, we both have a great time and feel like we accomplished something! Thirty years ago, the resort started as a tennis club, and with 16 Plexipave courts and two European red clay courts that were recently added, that legacy stands firm. Post-tennis, we head to the spa, an indoor-outdoor multilevel oasis filled with water features, Spanish tile and foliage. Besides a beautifully situated swimming pool, there are seven treatment rooms; an outdoor yoga pavilion; a well-equipped gym, complete with Peloton bikes; several hot tubs scattered about; plus a sauna and steam rooms. While my husband sweats it out in the steam room, I opt to try the 90-minute Wellbeing Ritual ($290), which includes a variety of steps: a soak in an outdoor bathtub, dry brushing, a body wrap, hydrotherapy, massage and more. I had to fill out a somewhat extensive form beforehand with questions on my mental and physical well-being, and the therapist made sure to address these things during the service.
The Serenity yoga pavilion promotes deep tranquility.
This all speaks to the spa’s commitment to health. Rancho Valencia has recently enhanced its wellness offerings with the launch of its Wellness Collective, a series of workshops, lectures and activities based on the cutting-edge science of epigenetics. As well, similar to resorts like Canyon Ranch, the spa is now offering customized, targeted wellness programs for guests at whatever length of time they choose.
Over the course of our stay, we relax at the spa, read a couple of books on our private patio, enjoy breakfast at Veladora (we don’t make it to the more casual Pony Room this time), explore the extensive property and take a drive along the coast, stopping at nearby Encinitas and Torrey Pines State Reserve. Although the trip is short, only two nights, we both feel transformed from our stay. The lush, peaceful setting combined with lots of down time, delicious food and quiet moments, is all we need to feel refreshed and renewed. Casitas from $568 per night, ranchovalencia.com
Photography by: photos Courtesy of Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa