The entrance gates at Golden Door in San Marcos PHOTO BY RHIANNON TAYLOR
Can a week cocooned in self-care away from everyday distractions redefine what’s really important? At Golden Door, the answer is a resounding yes.
The resort’s Zen lobby. PHOTO BY RHIANNON TAYLOR
As I exit the Golden Door’s dramatic gold gates, preparing to return to Los Angeles after a week of self-care and reflection, the tears start to fall. My car arrives from valet and I slip on my sunglasses, trying my hardest to hide this embarrassing display of raw emotion.
Things only get worse as I cruise home—now I’m fully sobbing. This might be dangerous while driving, I think, as I quickly wipe my eyes. But stopping the deluge is futile and I decide to just let go. Thinking back to the profound week I had and the special connections I made, I feel an immense sense of gratitude. Even though I’m mourning the end of something truly incredible, I know that the tears are a final cleanse, something I need to do to start fresh in my real life.
But let’s back up, shall we?
A week before my cry fest, I arrived at Golden Door, the beloved destination resort and spa that draws in people from all over the world to recharge their bodies, From top: The entrance gates at Golden Door in San Marcos; the resort’s Zen lobby. minds and spirits during a fully inclusive weeklong stay. Located in San Marcos about 90 minutes from L.A., the resort has a Zen vibe, with Japanese-style architecture and gardens. Surrounding mountains and mature trees offer a sense of calm gravitas. The 40 spacious rooms—all singles—ensure a small, intimate group, with a 4-1 staff ratio. Guests are encouraged to pack light: Workout and leisure clothes are provided, as are skincare amenities and the traditional Japanese yukata robe that’s worn to dinner each night.
After a delicious light lunch upon arrival, there’s orientation, and I feel a bit nervous, kind of like arriving to college for the first time knowing no one. At orientation I learn about the daily structure. Each day begins early with an optional hike, followed by breakfast in your room. After that, you follow your schedule—more on that later—until lunch, continue to follow your schedule until dinner, and then it’s bedtime—and so on and so forth each day.
Fresh salmon salad with produce sourced from the on-property gardens PHOTO BY RHIANNON TAYLOR
Every guest has a pre-arrival call to determine their schedule. I expressed what activities appealed to me and which ones did not, and, like magic, a perfectly curated schedule was created. A typical day for me starts with a moderate 3-mile hike, and includes group classes like yoga, Aquafit and boxing. There’s also nonjudgmental personal training a few days per week. What may be one of the best things about Golden Door are in-room massages and body wraps that happen almost every day, along with facials, a mani-pedi and a blowout at the salon before heading home. There are also interesting classes in subjects like astrology, tarot, crystals and more. What’s great is that the schedule can be tweaked at any time. Did you really love that astrology class and want to dig deeper into your personal chart? You’re in luck; private appointments are available.
The pool area at Golden Door is the resort’s center of activity PHOTO BY RHIANNON TAYLOR
The farm-fresh food by executive chef Greg Frey is healthy and divine. The three meals per day—plus snacks—ensure that you never feel hungry. And if you do, no worries. You can always ask for what you need and it will be provided. Like the morning hikes, mealtime is an opportunity to connect with the other guests, who, for the most part, are extremely successful, interesting people looking to find balance and recharge. It was easy to open to these onetime strangers of all ages—I loved a mathematician from Palo Alto, a CEO from Del Mar, an interior designer from Texas and a professor from North Carolina, among many others. On the surface, we didn’t have much in common, yet being in this openhearted environment allowed us to let down walls and truly connect.
Guests visit the labyrinth for meditative walks and reflection. PHOTO BY RHIANNON TAYLOR
The Golden Door has drawn people in for its unique programming for decades—not much needs to be updated. Even so, like its guests (many who return year after year), the resort is evolving. It recently opened the Golden Door Country Store down the street. Filled with farm-fresh produce, pantry staples, cookbooks, gifts and more, the store wants to be a force for good and has pledged 100% of net profits go to organizations that transform children’s lives. As well, Golden Door has become the official wellness partner of Singapore Airlines and will serve recipes by chef Frey to first-class guests.
The Golden Door Country Store recently opened down the street from the resort COUNTRY STORE PHOTO BY KIMBERLY MOTOS
The last night at Golden Door, we have a farewell labyrinth ceremony following dinner. As my new friends and I slowly walk the path to and from the center of the labyrinth in our robes by candlelight, I can’t help but soak in the incredible energy of these new connections and appreciate the very special time that went by way too quickly. Golden Door, I hope to see you again soon. goldendoor.com