Rancho La Puerta guests can pick ingredients from the property’s farm before joining a cooking class at the scenic structure known as La Cocina Que Canta, “the kitchen that sings.” // © 2014 Rancha La Puerta
Feature image (above): Yoga is one on many fitness options on “The Ranch.” // © 2014 Rancho La Puerta
Rancho La Puerta is located in Tecate, Mexico, about a 90-minute ride from San Diego Airport on the spa’s chartered bus. “The Ranch,” as repeat guests fondly refer it to, was voted The World’s Best Destination Spa by the readers of Travel & Leisure Magazine four out of the past five years.
When my sister and I arrived at the flower-filled courtyard entrance for our spring visit, a porter took our luggage to a luxurious villa that was set within 32 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens.
Our villa’s comfortable living room with fireplace, kitchenette, two bedrooms and baths were furnished with authentic native art and weavings. Windows opened all around to capture the Santa Ana breezes. A large veranda overlooked about 3,000 acres of rolling hills and Mount Kuchumaa beyond.
We eagerly began to plan our first day’s schedule, selecting from more than 50 co-ed classes and activities.
During my last visit, Jennifer Brandt, the resident artist who teaches landscape sketching, watercolor painting and jewelry classes, led our small group on an art walk.
“It will take about three hours to discover other sculptures as you walk all the Ranch’s paths,” she said. “Tucked away in the shrubbery, you’ll find world-class pieces of art.”
That afternoon, I enrolled in a sculpting class with resident sculptor, Jose Ignacio Castaneda, who patiently taught us to create our own unique works of art.
Guests can sign up for an easy two-mile hike to hands-on classes led by notable guest chefs. The kitchen is located in the Ranch’s six-acre organic farm, where it’s also possible to have breakfast following the hike.
Breakfast and lunch are served buffet-style with the nutritional information prominently posted. Vegetables and berries from the ranch’s organic farm are so good that second helpings are hard to resist.
For dinner, entrees are primarily vegetarian or fresh seafood, but it is always possible to request a baked potato or pasta alternative. Light desserts include carrot cake, cinnamon flan and a baked apple. Wine is served during two evening meals per week.
Forty on-site hiking trails for all fitness levels are home to coyotes, cottontail rabbits, and a great diversity of birds. My favorite fitness activities included various aerobic dance classes, tennis workouts, water aerobics, cardio and strength training with weights. In addition to the classes held in 11 co-ed gyms, the men — typically 15 to 20 percent of guests — have their own gymnasium.
Massages and Body Treatments
Opinions about the best time to schedule a massage, facial or body treatment vary greatly. My preference was a soothing “Happy Hands and Feet” massage just after the late afternoon Inner Journey meditation.
Two and three generations of Mexican families have been part of the dedicated staff since the spa began.
Mindful Practices and Holistic Healing
My longtime favorites include yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation with crystal bowl sound healing. Many guests also enjoy a slow peaceful walk in the shade of a circular labyrinth.
Workshops and Entertainment
In addition to nutrition and writing classes, there are highly acclaimed guest speakers. Movies, bingo and musical concerts are well attended, and guests can also dance in the dining room to music by the house band.
At the end of the week, it was hard to leave the ranch. But once again, I took home a special inner peace that would tide me over until a return visit.