Lost in the Rhythm

A week at Rancho La Puerta Wellness Resort and Spa refuels mind, body and spirit.

At 6 a.m. a dawn-tinted sky still clings to the last of its stars. We walk the brick pathways of Rancho La Puerta in the mountains of Baja California toward a central guest lounge. The morning’s first hikes will depart soon from this low, tile-roofed building crowned with a quiet red riot of bougainvillea. Avid hikers gather here around the coffee urns, fueling up before we hit the trails. — all laced into a vast botanical garden of native plants, boulders and hundreds of old oak trees. The trail climbs a lower slope of Mt. Kuchumaa. Somewhere a rooster crows, and birds stir in the chaparral.

“You can’t beat this,” a guest whispers to me, looking at the sunlight climbing the mountain’s higher slopes. We hike on, lost in the rhythm of our breathing, the crunch of granite scree beneath our soles, and thoughts of the day ahead.

Many guests are attracted first to the idea of a week’s vacation at Rancho La Puerta by the resort’s authenticity. A Hungarian professor and his wife founded it in 1940 in a then-remote valley of Baja California near the U.S. border and San Diego. It was the first wellness resort in all North America. Not only are the valley and its guardian mountain range beautiful, the climate boasts year-round sunshine.

Every hour you can choose from as many as five different classes or activities that range from AquaBoard and Pickleball to Yarn Paining and Crystal Bowls. No one harped at me to stick to a strict schedule, but I found myself more than willing to be advised. The instructors are great—very knowledgeable and full of positive energy. Everything is included in the per-person rate except for reasonably priced spa treatments (massage, wraps, facials, mani-pedi) and a few extras such as cranial-sacral therapy and private one-to-one instruction sessions.

Rooms are actually not “rooms” at all. Each accommodation is a very private casita (little house), over 85 in all, with its own garden patio, and most are tucked down a winding brick path. You walk a lot, but are always surrounded by garden beauty.

The guests are friendly and compose a supportive community. I soon discovered just how restful this is, and I put my phone to sleep. Each evening a special presenter/performer satisfied my faint thirst for news, knowledge, or entertainment: our week featured a mix of two novelists, a pickleball pro instructor, a bird-watching expert, a classical pianist, and a fellow who climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro.

I loved the food. No meat is ever served, but seafood (fish, shellfish) joins the menu almost daily. An abundance of fruits and vegetables comes from the resort’s own 4-acre farm. Don’t miss the Breakfast Hike to the farm: it’s a highlight of the week. The farm also houses La Cocina Que Canta (The Kitchen That Sings) cooking school, where we learned how to pat out tortillas and whir up a wicked red sauce made of dried chiles during a fun cooking class.

After a week, you re-enter society after being taken to the San Diego airport. You’re leaner and full of more energy than you’ve had in years. That big-city stone colossus might await you back at home and work, but you’ve never been more energetic and balanced. You feel better than ever.