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Somewhere between the salted brioche loaf — accompanied by a cloud of whipped butter — and the intermezzo opal-basil sorbet, I found myself slipping into “Rancho Relaxo.”
Rancho Relaxo is a term our server, Chip, coined at some point during his 25-year stint at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, a Relais & Chateaux property in Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County, Calif.
Chip, who currently works at Veladora, the property’s standout fine dining restaurant, describes Rancho Relaxo as the blissed-out state that resort guests ultimately achieve.
If I was a betting woman, I’d say my transformation from stressed-out city slicker to lady of leisure began while sampling the resort’s outstanding cocktails — particularly its spin on the spirit-forward Negroni. Called “Message in a Barrel,” it features the same three ingredients as a typical Negroni but is barrel-aged for two months, resulting in a silky smooth and balanced drink, made even better with the addition of an uplifting quote fastened to the rim of the glass with a clothespin. (The tequila drinks in the more casual The Pony Room are nothing to sneeze at either.)
But Rancho Relaxo is not just about cocktails. Achieving the state of mind also involves wellness-enhancing efforts spanning the 30-year-old property — from the generous size of its 49 casita-style suites to the lush landscaping, dotted with calming water fountains, ponds and pools.
And when it comes to well-being, The Spa at Rancho Valencia deserves particular attention. Rated Five-Stars by Forbes Travel Guide, the spa is located in its own breezy Spanish bungalow complex and features an indoor-outdoor setting that is a welcome departure from the all-too prevalent indoor hotel spa. Sunshine and a light breeze streams through the reception area — which doubles as a well-curated gift shop — and follows guests to their next destination. And there are several from which to choose: the open-air all-gender relaxation room, the pool area, one of four fitness studios or one of 10 spa suites, each equipped with private patios and rain showers.
Spanish and Moroccan influences are visible in the abundant foliage, earthen colors and patterned tiles that tie the spa with the rest of the property. The timeless aesthetic certainly makes guests feel like they’re away from home no matter what they’re doing.
Nonetheless, perhaps guests should opt for a soak in a hot tub — set with flowers and scented bath salts — in the outdoor terrace of a spa suite. That’s the appetizer of the 120-minute Sixth Sense treatment, which follows up the meditative soak with a massage of choice, a scalp therapy and a hand-and-foot shea butter treatment.
It’s easy to just lounge, eat, lie by the pool and then eat some more, but guests would be remiss to skip perks such as checking out a complimentary Porsche or a Pinarello bike, playing at one of 18 on-property tennis courts (including two new red clay courts) or trying out one of the spa’s complimentary fitness classes. Because these classes are offered to locals who can opt into a membership, they are not your typical sparsely attended hotel yoga, Pilates or spin sessions.
Indeed, during the yoga class I attended, the teacher weaved through the mat-to-mat floor, addressing many of her loyal students by name. The yoga flow was well-taught and invigorating, but the setting — fronted by foliage and a reflective pond reminiscent of a jungle studio in Bali — made the experience feel transportive. I was also happily surprised when a staff member greeted us after the conclusion of the class with complimentary green juices and protein smoothies, best paired with the banana bread, crackers, tea and fruit offered in the spa’s relaxation room.
Indeed, delightful treats are characteristic of Relais & Chateaux properties, and I was pleased by how Rancho Valencia chooses to weave this brand standard into many touchpoints, starting from check-in with a choice of homemade iced tea or champagne and ending at check-out with takeaway homemade macaroons, made with produce from the on-site garden. The hotel’s restaurants do a great job of catering to multiple culinary preferences, including those of wellness travelers with The Pony Bar’s new line of vegan breakfast and lunch bowls. (Veladora balances offerings such as Brandt Beef filet mignon with whipped duck-fat potato, hay-roasted carrots, caper jam and bordelaise, with a gorgeous Farmer’s Market Vegetable Salad that features raw and cooked vegetables, herb pesto and verbena dressing arranged in a Jenga-like sculpture.)
Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa offers 49 Spanish-style casitas featuring dark and light wood, a vaulted ceiling, warm colors and vibrant textiles.Credit: 2019 Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa
The 1,000-square-foot guestrooms include a living room, complete with a fireplace and ample seating.Credit: 2019 Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa
No detail was overlooked in the casitas’ oversize bathrooms.Credit: 2019 Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa
The property is known for its 18 tennis courts, including two red clay courts.Credit: 2019 Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa
After an active morning or afternoon, unwind with one of The Spa at Rancho Valencia’s massage treatments.Credit: 2019 Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa
The pool at the spa offers a menu of light bites.Credit: 2019 Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa
End the day at Veladora, which serves Mediterranean-inspired fine dining in a beautiful setting.Credit: 2019 Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa
Fresh-squeezed orange juice — served with guests’ newspaper of choice — is delivered to casitas each morning, and rooms also include a complimentary minibar filled with snacks such as Perfect Bars and coconut water.
Of course, there’s plenty more to write home about in the 1,000-square-foot rooms, which truly feel residential due to their inclusions: a large living room; an outdoor patio complete with a personal hot tub; a comfortable bedroom; and a master bathroom featuring a bath, a shower, a walk-in closet, an automized toilet and a counter that stretches from one wall to the other. A modern casita interior full of all sorts of details — including textiles, tile, limewashed brick, leather, cast iron, wood and warm colors — differentiates the property from so many other luxury hotels these days, adding to the overwhelming and unique wave of relaxation (aka Rancho Relaxo) one takes back after a stay here.
The DetailsRancho Valencia Resort & Spawww.ranchovalencia.com