One of The World’s Top Destination Spas

Rancho La Puerta: An enchanting retreat where people rejuvenate, refresh and renew

FIRST PUBLISHED Spring 2019 North Carolina Living Magazine

Located across the U.S.-Mexico border in Tecate, Baja California, Mexico, Rancho La Puerta is a magical place where people escape from the mundane to revive their souls and gain a fresh outlook on life. Year after year, the Ranch is voted a top spa destination by both Condé Nast Traveler and Travel and Leisure magazines. As for what sets the Ranch apart from other spas and resorts, it’s difficult to narrow down just one thing … as it is, according to one guest, “something that must be experienced to be explained.” 

“We provide the true luxury of time and space,” says founder Deborah Szekely, “that which is most lacking in today’s life. Space to breathe freely, to relax and enjoy what will be ‘the longer-living, younger life.’” This unique element at the Ranch, along with its unparalleled staff, vast amenities and healing environment, is what keeps the Ranch’s guests coming back. 

Often touted as the original “fitness resort” and spa, the fitness program is truly unmatched. Presided over by a staff of more than 20 full-time instructors in-residence, the daily offerings include everything from pilates, cardio-cycling, volleyball, weight training and most of the expected fitness classes as well as guided hikes, Feldenkrais, Qi Gong, NIA (Neuromuscular Integrative Action), meditation, and many more. Additionally, the Ranch offers world-renown cuisine prepared from organic gardens, sublime spa treatments, and plenty of opportunities to recharge your mind and spirit.

The Philosophy

Family-owned and operated, the Ranch has provided guest with unparalleled luxury amidst a natural, environmentally-sound setting for nearly 80 years. Founders Edmond and Deborah Szekely started the ranch as a sort of “health camp” where people paid $17.50 to pitch a tent and bathe in the year-round near-perfect climate while learning to live a more holistic life—all without any electricity or running water. And nowadays, as it was from opening day in June, 1940, guest comfort is the staff’s first priority and they continue to strive to ensure that while taking care of individual needs, it’s done so in a safe, eco-friendly manner that reduces the spa’s environmental impact.

But the approach to sustainability at the Ranch goes further than the basics like simply using refillable water bottles or chemical-free cleaners as they’ve incorporated technology and installed composting toilets among other things.

The Ranch’s motto, siempre mejor means “always better,” and Deborah Szekely believes it also means “always changing;” a philosophy the Ranch reflects from the ground up. 

“Rancho La Puerta … seeks to guide those who are interested in a sane, well-balanced program of living. It emphasizes that health is the consequence of living in harmony with all the forces of nature, according to the laws of nature.” ~ From an early Rancho La Puerta brochure, c. 1945

The Program

Typically, guests come to the Ranch for a Saturday to Saturday stay, but shorter stays are available. Throughout the year, there are specialty-themed weeks like family week, chamber music week, detox and cleansing week, yoga week and more including educational workshops and executive wellness programs. During the week, there can be up to five different classes at one hour, so there’s truly something for everyone, all day long, and many are sequential in developing a student’s expertise, assuring guests become stronger and more skilled in several disciplines by the end of the week. A typical day, although to be completely honest, there is no such thing as a typical day as everyone’s experience is unique … but a few of the options are:

6 a.m. Meet in the main lounge for one of many hikes which can range from two to seven miles then head to the dining hall for breakfast. 

9 a.m. to noon, take a class or two or three: pilates, tennis, H2O, yarn painting, volleyball, sound healing, postural therapy, TRX, or something else before stopping for lunch. 

1 p.m. to 5 p.m. take a few more classes—perhaps one on cooking, meditation, drumming or join a scheduled discussion on mastering your metabolism, brush up on your Spanish skills, or maybe lay by the pool and nap.

5:30 p.m. Enjoy dinner and conversations with fellow Ranchers, then, if you’re not too tired, watch a movie, learn the art of self-hypnotic techniques or relax in one of the many lounges with a book. TIP: It’s OK to take a day off or a partial day off from activities to enjoy the comforts of your casita, the spa, or the beautiful scenery. And be flexible and open to new experiences, there’s so much to explore here that you’re sure to learn something new so long as you stay receptive.

In addition to the daily, optional hiking program, on average guests walk 3-5 miles a day

The Grounds

Nestled under the watchful eye of Mt. Kuchumma, Rancho La Puerta offers 4,000 acres of peaceful tranquility including hiking trails, an organic farm, 32 acres of gardens, several pools, an exquisite spa and state-of-the-art fitness facilities, a salon, dining hall, an intimate library and more. Throughout the Ranch you’ll find colorful Mexican folk art along with sculptures, paintings and outdoor areas designed for rest and personal reflection. NOT TO MISS: Take at least one of the morning hikes as the sunrise is unlike anything you have ever seen. Some are more advanced than others, but the Ranch has guides for those who want to fly up the mountainside as well as for those who want to take a more laid back, leisurely stroll. TIP: Be sure to pack some warmer clothes you can layer as mornings can prove chilly. 

The Food

Meal times at the ranch are community centered and designed to bring people together. Breakfast and lunch are buffet style and offered during a generous window of time so you can come and go as you please. A sit-down dinner is served at a set time each night and guests are encouraged to meet new people by joining different tables. The cuisine is semi-vegetarian, featuring an abundance of organic fruits and vegetables. Additionally, the freshest-of-the-fresh seafood from the port of Ensenada, Baja California, is brought in daily, allowing Ranch chefs to prepare spectacular seafood dishes five times week. Many recipe ingredients come fresh-picked, only-hours-old from Tres Estrellas organic garden, a six-acre working farm located north of the main Ranch area. NOT TO MISS: The lunchtime salsa bar and fresh tuna. Note, the Ranch is dedicated to making sure each guest’s dietary needs are met. If you have a request, just ask. They are more than happy to accomodate. TIP: Bring at least one nice outfit as the last night, many guests will dress for dinner.

The Casitas

Accommodations at the Ranch vary in size, style and price but no matter what you choose, you’ll find yourself immersed in pure luxury as each one of the 86 casitas are equally as gorgeous. Rancho solos and studios, designed for a single traveler, are set in clusters so although you may be traveling alone, you can be as close or as far away from others as you want to be. If you’re traveling with a close friend or relative, you’ll want to book either a Ranchera or Hacienda; both are roomy studios with two beds, the Haciendas being a bit larger with a sitting area and fireplace. The Ranch also offers spacious Junior Villas with separate bedrooms; and Villa Studios that can accommodate up to three guests. Prices run $3,800 to $6,800 USD per person and include food, use of facilities, and most all activities. There are additional prices for spa treatments and some special excursions/classes. Visit for more information.

Plan on a digital detox while staying at the Ranch as WiFi is only accessible in a few select areas

From Bean to Bar: A specialty class on one of Mexico’s famed ingredients

Though most classes and group activities are included in your stay, the Ranch does offer some specialty classes at an additional cost. New this year, the Ranch is debuting its chocolate class titled, “Bean to Bar.” Taking place across the street from the Ranch at Tecate’s very own chocolate factory, Kajkab—Mayan for ‘bitter juice’—the delicious experience teaches guests the process for turning a cacao bean into great chocolate. Learn about the health benefits of cacao, enjoy a handcrafted chocolate tasting and take home delicious cocoa tea from Kajkab’s “Maestro Chocolatero,” Diego Ceballos. Cost: $69 USD plus tax

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