In need of a winter wellness retreat or rejuvenating spring break escape? Look no further than the divine Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, Southern California’s only Relais & Châteaux property. Nestled in the upscale enclave of Rancho Santa Fe in northern San Diego County, Rancho Valencia is a self-contained paradise that will put you in a vacation state of mind from the moment you enter the lush, gated grounds. With its terracotta-hued buildings, splashes of fuchsia bougainvillea, and bubbling fountains at every turn, you’ll feel transported to a Spanish village—without the jet lag.
Rancho Valencia sits on 45 acres of rolling hills planted with olive and orange groves. Deservedly one of the top-rated resorts in the United States, the service is impeccable, the spacious rooms feel like private residences, and the amenities cater to your every need. Each of the all-suite rooms are “casitas” complete with private patios and handsomely rustic furnishings. The bathrooms are a functional thing of beauty, between the vibrant Talavera tile work, inviting soaking tubs, and walk-in closets. The open bedrooms boast high ceilings and heavy wood beams. In the living rooms, a fireplace and plush sofa beckon you to sink into coziness.
Mornings at Rancho Valencia always start on a bright note. A delivery of freshly squeezed orange juice and the newspaper of your choice is left at the entrance to your casita daily. When it comes to what to do with your day, you can be as active or as chill as you desire. The Forbes’ 5-star spa offers an incredibly beautiful environment to while away the hours. The massages, facials, body and wellness therapies integrate revitalizing herbs and minerals. Treatment rooms feature private outdoor showers and the nurturing practitioners are highly skilled (as I experienced with the customized Valencia Signature Massage).
Whether or not you book a treatment, all guests have access to the spa’s facilities, where you can steam, sauna, soak, and swim to your heart’s content. Take a yoga class alfresco in the Serenity Yoga Pavilion that exudes Zen with its wooden deck surrounded by a reflective pool. Work out in the fitness center or Pilates studio. Join a spin class or book a session with a personal trainer. Specialized retreat-style programs are offered throughout the year, too. When you’re not working out or being pampered, lounge at the adult-only spa pool, where eats and drinks can be delivered right to your chaise lounge. If you’re traveling with kids, the main pool is just as attractive.
Rancho Valencia offers two signature dining experiences on property. Veladora serves breakfast and lunch with indoor and outdoor terrace seating options. During nightly dinner service, Veladora features refined Mediterranean dishes and romantic ambiance. The Pony Room, also beloved by locals, is a bit more boisterous and serves as the “casual” dining option for lunch and dinner. The elevated American cuisine runs the gamut from decadent lobster nachos and burgers to lighter fare like vegan bowls and robust salads—all pair well to the selection of local craft beers, premium California wines, and artisan tequilas.
Rancho Valencia is ranked the No. 1 tennis resort in the country by Tennis magazine. Surrounded by trees and flowers, the two European clay courts and 16 plexi-pave championship courts couldn’t be in a more idyllic setting. The tennis professionals on staff can help you perfect your game—experienced players and novices alike have a full menu of private lessons and clinics to choose from. All sorts of other games are on offer at the resort. Think croquet, bocce ball, badminton, basketball, volleyball, and ping-pong. Guests are also encouraged to use the complimentary beach cruiser bicycles to take a spin around the property.
If you’re tempted to leave the resort, there’s plenty of fun to get into nearby. Embrace the region’s equestrian roots by horseback riding at Rancho El Camino Equestrian. In season, catch the thoroughbred horse racing at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club and polo matches at the San Diego Polo Club. Golfers can book a tee time at the legendary Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla. Beaches are a short drive away, whether you head to posh Del Mar or the laid-back surf town of Encinitas. Solana Beach’s Cedros Avenue Design District is prime for retail therapy with its stylish home décor shops, fashion boutiques, Makers Market, and art galleries.