Rancho La PuertaPoll a group of worldly spa-goers and 99% them will recommend a visit to low-key Rancho La Puerta, a destination spa—one of North America’s first—founded in 1940. The Ranch, just an hour from San Diego, in Tecate, Mexico, created the mind-body principles and practices of immersion-style spa-going that have informed nearly every health spa in the country since.

It has 87 guest casitas, more fitness classes than your gym, a gorgeous 3,000-acre garden-meets-mountain setting, and a communal adult-summer-camp vibe (in the best possible way). Guests go for a week, arriving and departing on a Saturday, so you get to know other people and to de-stress, something the founder Deborah Szekely, now 85, says can’t happen in a weekend. Urban-living stress cases of all stripes check in to check out of life’s pressures, renew their depleted spirit and fitness vows, and wear Lululemon yoga apparel for seven days straight.


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Days kick off with guided mountain hikes of various distances and fitness levels—although a guest favorite is an easy couple miles’ walk to the spa’s organic farm for a tour and breakfast. (The farm grows a significant amount of dining-room produce.)


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About half the Ranch’s guests have visited before. I look a lead from them and tried not to over-schedule my day, which is easy to do given the massive roster of fitness classes—from workouts in the pool and spinning to a few levels of yoga and African dance (a must)—plus nutrition, meditation, and specialty classes. During my stay, a dance company, a hypnotist, and a jewelry maker were in residence, adding to the choices.

The price is almost as wholesome as the programming. Rates start at about $2,700 per person, including all the (mostly vegetarian) meals and snacks. The cuisine is low on salt, sugar, and other bad stuff, but portion control at the breakfast and lunch buffet is up to you, and the restaurant staff at dinner won’t deny you a second helping. You pay extra for Pilates privates, the cooking school ($75), and spa treatments. Massages start at $75 for 50 minutes (don’t bother with facials unless the Ranch has ramped up the training and skin-care lines offered), so guests book lots of them throughout the week, at first to soothe lactic acid from all the workouts, then, around day four, to simply chill out.

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