For three years, I promised myself that I would celebrate all of my hard work with a large investment in myself in the form of a holistic wellness retreat. Travel? Organized. Food? Included. Accommodations? Luxurious. Activities? Abundant. People? Likeminded. Self? Transformed.
Three years later, I finally actualized my plan, landing on Rancho La Puerta in Baja California, Mexico. This would become my final destination for true transcendence, wellbeing, and revelation. And my friend was coming with me.
All we knew of the ranch was that it was “that place my mom’s friend just came back from.” There was a slight risk that we were about to enter into a hippie retirement community, or maybe a cult commune. Thankfully, such was not the case….
What we discovered just three miles from the Tecate border within Rancho La Puerta’s gates was much more than we could have ever imagined.
Inside Rancho La Puerta in Baja California, Mexico
Some might say that Rancho La Puerta was ahead of the wellness spa trend, others would say that Rancho La Puerta started the trend itself.
Founded in 1940 by Edmond and Deborah Szekely (who also founded the highly coveted, celebrity-adored Golden Door in California), Rancho La Puerta started as a “health camp” that was meant to draw in health seekers from the U.S. and England. What started as a single adobe shed has now evolved into 4,000 acres (you heard me) of STUNNING land. The best part? The ranch is still completely family owned and operated, which has allowed them to continue to embrace their original motto of “Live simply, respect the body’s inherent wisdom, and embrace a life in nature.”
With over 50 workout classes and activities, hyper-local vegetarian and pescatarian meals, notable speakers from all over the world, and literally some of the best spa treatments I’ve had in recent years, I can confirm that their other motto of siempre mejor (“always better”) has given the ranch modern flare, capturing new ways to satisfy their ranch die-hards while also attracting newbies to the wellness scene.
Some things worth noting…
THE NATURE | Rancho La Puerta is not a “wellness farm,” but rather an actual (organic) farm of wellness. Diverse vegetation covers every single touch point of the grounds, making it feel like you’re walking through an ethereal wonderland at all times—none of which is accidental. Every path twists and turns, forcing you to take more steps to your final destination. Not out of a caloric deficit, but rather in the hopes of an appreciation of nature’s abundance.
Rancho La Puerta sits at the base of Mt. Kuchumaa, which is a protected indigenous land. Those who run the ranch regard the mountain as the ultimate protector, and we were advised to ask the mountain to send us vivid dreams and clarity during our stay. Whether you’re spiritual or not, experiencing one full moon above that mountain will change you for the better.
THE ACTIVITIES | Before we even arrived at the ranch, we received a menu-style pamphlet that had each day’s activities outlined by the hour. Sound baths, daily hikes, meditation, yoga, pilates, circuit training, saunas, steam rooms, massages, cooking classes, life coaching, dancing, singing (!), pickleball (people are obsessed), watsu, and documentary films were just some of the many options to fill the day.
I’ll admit, the Virgo planner in me immediately activated and therefore got slightly overwhelmed. But as soon as I started organizing my days, the anxiety left my body, and excitement took its place.
THE FOOD | The majority of their food is sourced directly from their farm (yes, that means a lot of beets). All of their meals are local, organic, seasonal, low-glycemic, and based on the slow-food movement, meaning everything on the menu has been thoughtfully curated to support your daily activity levels, optimal digestion, and desire for renewal.
I will say, as a Los Angeleno, I required some modification to get closer to my usual low-carb lifestyle. However, asking for gluten-free, dairy-free options was a no-brainer.
Hot tip: Always ask for avocado, and don’t be afraid to double up on their spa portions. If you’re not in the mood for a heavy breakfast or lunch, opt for a build-your-own-smoothie at their juice bar.
THE SPA | If you’ve ever been to a high-end spa, paid through the roof for a massage, but left feeling more uptight than the moment you walked in, this is not that.
The ranch’s spa and its exceptional treatments did not disappoint.
I received a Ranch Classic Massage, a Head-to-Toe Relaxing Massage, and a Biodynamic Craniosacral Massage during my stay, and oooohhhh boy did I leave my body, they were that good. After being worked every which way ‘til Sunday, you have the option to head upstairs to their beautiful relaxing area, accompanied by a dry sauna, steam, jacuzzi, and cold plunge. Take me to the high heavens!
Even though I felt like I had a good balance of treatments during my overall stay, I would 100% spend a bit more next time to try more options from their incredible treatment menu –their full body herbal wrap and core essential facial are at the top of my list.
THE STAFF | Every single staff member was a local, many of whom were “legacy.” And by legacy, I mean legacy. We met several staffers who, when we asked how they had discovered Rancho La Puerta, said “My [insert relative] has worked here for [insert multiple decades]. They started as [insert beginner job] and now run the [insert high-level job] at the ranch.”
The people who provide the resort with such outstanding (and honestly just super kind) service love working at Rancho La Puerta because they are treated like a true part of the experience. They speak about the ranch as if it is a part of them, and that contributes to a truly meaningful customer service experience.
My Perfect Day
What is so brilliant about the setup at the ranch is the rhythm in which they plan the activities. For the first four-ish days, you ramp up and dive right in. Given the selection, it’s definitely an “eyes are bigger than stomach” moment where you just want to try everything all at once. But just as you think you’re about to burn yourself out, the tempo of the program starts to change and slows down in an attempt to prepare you to re-enter your everyday life.
Here is the diary of my favorite day at the ranch…
6:05am | Organic Garden Breakfast Hike
Hiking in the dark up a mountain when it’s certainly cold outside is not ideal. But right as I thought I might regret the four-mile trek alongside Mt. Kuchumaa, we landed at La Cocina Que Canta, the ranch’s farm kitchen, which sits on the property’s actual farm. Imagine a Nancy Myers movie, but make it bienestar, which Google tells me is wellness in Spanish.
Don’t think this was just a hike. We landed upon a freshly cooked batch of gluten-free, vegan pancakes, chilaquiles, scrambled eggs, refried beans, and green juice shots. It was hands down one of the most memorable meals and mornings we had during our stay. And we were back before all the activities began again.
9:00am | Pilates Reformer Level 2
The ranch offered an array of pilates classes—cadillac, arc barrel, mat, tower, and reformer, and I found each one to be worthwhile. Having something that incorporated strength training, stretching, and stability was the perfect way to kick off my day—especially given my newfound activity level and exercise routine.
The level 2 reformer class, while practicing the fundamentals, still managed to kick my a** (while lifting it, of course), preparing me for the day ahead.
10:00am | Dance: Cardio Hip Hop: Flashback 90s
No, YOU stop. Connie, the dance teacher, was an icon, a legend, and a queen. My friend and I continued to return to her classes throughout our stay, but the 90s Hip Hop class was a MUST NOT MISS.
Once we started hearing Mariah Carey’s “Fantasy” remix, we knew we were in the right place. We were led through, what can only be described as, a Millennium dance studio routine that left me saying, “I’m like, an amazing dancer.” Thankfully, there are no judges to confirm or deny.
11:00am | Infrared Sauna
Almost every day, I booked an hour to “sweat it out.” Given that I was eating differently than normal and working out more than usual, it felt incredible to optimize my detoxing routine, and recover quicker. My sleep was deeper, and my body felt ready for the next day every day, which is all I ever ask for on a vacation.
Hot Tip: Although the infrared sauna is included in your stay, you should book it for the week so you can avoid any sweating-style Hunger Games.
12:30pm | Lunch Break
2:00pm | Ranch Classic Massage 60 minutes
Have you ever had a massage that unlocks all of your chakras, your Qi, and your truth?
This kind of classic is a mainstay at the ranch for a reason. The masseuse varied the massage based on my own needs throughout, leaving me limber, relaxed, and in a perpetual dreamstate.
4:00pm | Hands-on Cooking Class at La Cocina Que Canta with the Visiting Chef
The cooking class was not a class. It was a collaborative private dinner.
All eight of us were tasked with making parts of the meal, which was hysterical, at times clumsy, and endlessly delicious. Highly recommend.
8:00pm | Speaker Series | Visualizing Your Intentions
After a jam-packed day of movement, eating, and socializing, it was so relaxing to sit in a calm room, where we were engaged in mindfulness practices for intention-setting. We wrote down all of our challenges, wins, and hopes for the year ahead, and then got to burn the past in a literal fireplace, which I have to say was very satisfying.
Whether you’re looking for a four-day reboot, or an eight-day transformation, Rancho La Puerta offers just the right balance of wellness-meets-fitness-meets-mindfulness.