Rancho La Puerta

Rancho La Puerta: That’s a Wrap

I set out to share immerse you in what is the Rancho La Puerta Experience…the History, the Setting, the Activities, the Spa, the Cuisine, the Local Wine. The six article series was also a great way to relive the week post-trip. In each article I share my favorites.

My goals and intentions for the week at the Ranch. While I didn’t hit them all, I left the Ranch truly feeling again. I opened myself up. I found inspiration. I lost weight. I tried new things. I met incredible people. I was healthy. I left feeling like I just spent a week at Nature Camp, my favorite two-week camp as a child.

To support your lifestyle changes post-Ranch, they have created the Ranch Circle to capture your goals and progress. As well as allow you to share with others and stay in touch with those you met.

Here’s the full gallery of photos from my trip.

I look forward to my next visit. I would recommend everyone put this on their bucket list…young or older, woman or man, fit or unhealthy. I promise you that in some way a week at the Ranch will change your life. It may not be what you had planned but you, your body and your mind will be all the better for the investment you make in YOU!

Rancho La Puerta: Local Wine

The Ranch believes “wine is an ancient, nutritious, and healthful (in moderation) food that has its place at the table and in life’s celebrations.” There are grape vines growing on the property that were here when the Ranch was founded, and in the early days, the grapes were used in treatments.

Wine is only served at the Ranch during Friday night’s celebration (you can bring alcohol to consume in your room), and it’s a great chance to try the local wine region, Baja California Wine Country.

In the northern part of Baja California, Mexico, where the Ranch is located, sits this wine region with 38 wineries and vineyards. The Mediterranean climate is ideal for grape growing combined with the soil and elevation. The valleys of Calafia, Guadalupe and San Antonio de las Minas make the heart of the wine route. White wines from the region are made with Chenin Blanc, Colombard, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grapes. Red wines are made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Grenache, Carignan, Barbera, Nebbiolo and Zinfandel.

The two wineries served at dinner are located about 43 miles south of the Ranch.

L.A. Cetto Blanc de Blancs

Cetto Wines dates back to grapes planted in the Valle de Guadalupe in 1928. The winery officially started in 1975.

  • Varietal: 50% Colombard, 50% Chenin Blanc
  • Aroma: Bright citrus and melon
  • Taste: Guava, papaya, melon with a hint of lime and slight sweetness
  • My thoughts: Nice! I was pleasantly surprised at the quality and the interesting flavors reminescent of the local fruits. Gabby, our fabulous La Cocina Que Qanta Cooking Class advisor, said the local wines have been developing and improving substantially over the last few years. This was a great example!

Barón Balché Mezcla de Tintos 2009

Barón Balché is also in the Valle de Guadalupe.

  • Varietal: Malbec, Carignan, Grenache, Cabernet Franc
  • Aroma: Red fruit, tobacco
  • Taste: Primarily leather taste
  • My thoughts: This one needs some work. I wasn’t a fan nor were those at my table. Had a tire aftertaste.

So I guess I did have one craving by the end of the week…wine. 😉 It was great to be able to try some from the local region.

Salud to Rancho La Puerta and Baja’s Wine Country!

Rancho La Puerta: The Cuisine

Healthy yum!! That’s the best way to sum up food at the Ranch. This is where ‘spa cuisine’ began.

In my first article on the Ranch, I talked about founder Edmond Szekely’s philosophies being based on the Essenes, the world’s first great agriculturalists and natural healers. Edmund said human health begins with healthy soil (no fertilizers or pesticides) and good food. The Ranch has served spa cuisine since it’s start in 1940.

The cuisine mantra is low-fat, high flavor with a Mexican-Mediterranean approach. A modified vegetarian menu with fish, dairy and eggs is served for the three-meals-a-day plus two snacks. Depending on your breakfast consumption you’re only eating 1,200 – 1,600 calories per day. Sounds low but I was full after every meal! The fabulous cooking team can support any dietary needs. Even with all the activity, I never felt hungry or had any cravings.

All meals are served in the Spanish-Colonial designed Dining Hall. Come any time during the 90-minute meal window. At breakfast and lunch, find your own seat. At dinner, you’re seated at group tables.

  • Breakfast: While I loved the fresh fruit and bircher muesli at breakfast each day with my hard boiled egg white and salsa, this was the least creative meal of the day. Each morning there was one varietal item. My favorite was the egg and tortilla combination. I really enjoyed the ‘stronger’ coffee.
  • Lunch: Lunches were perfect. Always a soup, salad and side, like frittata, veggie burger, stuffed pita, etc… The soups and salads were delicious! The very last lunch we even had dessert (the Ranch was abuzz ;)), their chocolate-chip cranberry cookie. Recipe is in their cookbook I bought.
  • Dinner: My favorite meal, each four courses of deliciousness… soup, salad, main (fish option and vegetarian option) and dessert. You can also ask for mixed entree so you get a side of the vegetarian option. Another tip the maitre’d gave our table the first night was ordering a big serving of stir-fried veggies for the table. One night I did the Silent Dinner. There were eight of us around the table basically eating in meditation. No talking. Just savoring each bite of food. It was really cool and makes you truly enjoy every morsel!

The Ranch has a fabulous cooking school and culinary center, La Cocina Que Canta, “The Kitchen that Sings,” that must be a part of your Ranch experience! It sits among their six-acre organic farm where most of the fruits and vegetables for your meals come from. They offer cooking classes AND a breakfast hike to the farm. Both are worth it.

  • Organic Breakfast Hike: You set off in the dark at 6:15am for the 45-minute hike (it’s an easy hike, mostly flat). Chef Denise and her team greeted us with what was my favorite breakfast of the trip…mouthwatering spread of fresh fruits, scrambled eggs with spinach, tortillas and salsa, crispy kale, muffins, oatmeal and their amazing granola with yogurt.
    After breakfast, Salvador, their gardener since opening the gardens in 1986, gave us a tour. His enthusiasm and love of his job is infectious! He even took us into the root cellar to see last year’s overflow of garlic crop…they got 17,000 from their nine varieties. We walked back to the Ranch in the sunshine with our 10,000 steps complete by 9am!
  • Cooking Class: Our week had a visiting chef, Christopher Prosperi, from Metro Bis in Hartford, Connecticut. He lead our nice intimate class of six to prepare Thursday evening’s seven item dinner. Salvador again walked us through the garden for a tour AND we pick stuff out of the ground for our dinner and to snack on as we walked!
    They have twenty different varieties of tomatoes. We picked Tender Green (better for you than spinach) and Savannah Green (tastes like mustard) for our salad. We enjoyed fresh fennel as we walked. Saw asparagus growing…literally grows standing up right out of the ground…and they’ll get 800 pounds of it per week from their beds April – June! Last stop was picking gorgeous mushrooms that sprouted and grew in the four days prior because of the few days of rain.
    Then we cooked a delicious meal…I was on point for dessert, a lovely mixed local fresh fruit salad marinated in agave and lemon juice topped with a poppy seed yogurt. New addition for that night as we were off the Ranch… a local wine. More on that in tomorrow’s post.

The great thing about the food here is it’s fresh and not too complicated…you CAN do this at home! I’m incorporating many of the principles…lots of vegetables, grains, beans, fish; Mexican spice and influence; small afternoon smoothie snack made with coconut milk and frozen bananas!

Next…a little on the local wine.

Rancho La Puerta: The Spa

With all the exercise and activity at the Ranch, you’ll definitely need to plan in relaxation! Plenty of perfect spots and treatments await.

I love destination spas for trying new and different treatments. While they have the usual offerings you find at home, it’s a great time to experiment. I mixed old and new during my week…

  • Therapeutic Deep Tissue Massage: My 50-minute with Luz Ester was the perfect start to my stay. She kicked my butt in a good way… her strong technique got into the tight spots working deep to release toxins and prep me for the week.
  • Energy Balance Therapy: “This massage crystalizes spiritual healing in your energy field, helping you break free of any negative energy that may be limiting your mind and spirit.” Sounded good to me. It was a fabulous 90-minute treatment! Ninety minutes is the way to go!! The massage techniques were different…working the energy channels of your body…clearing the feet, legs, sacrum, spine, skull, arms. After each side, a fragrant herbal bouquet was used to rub down that part of the body…scents of sage, rosemary, cilantro, lavender. Felt lighter and energized after.
  • WATSU: Something you must try!  “It’s a passive form of aquatic bodywork/therapy that supports and gently moves you through warm water promoting a deep state of relaxation and dramatic changes in the autonomic nervous system.” A simple way to describe it is massage & body work in the water…like you’re in the womb. One hour in the 90+ degree pool with Dave and I was jelly! This was my second time with WATSU…this one much more dramatic and effective…pool bigger, water warmer, practitioner highly skilled. Once you let yourself relax, you have floaters on your legs and Dave holding/guiding you, it’s truly a freeing treatment. Floating weightless on my back, sun on my face… it was divine! Dave said within the next 24-48 hours to expect epiphany and ah-ha moments. I was ready and had some!
  • Reflexology: Pressure point work on your feet is very nice. This is the second time I’ve done a full hour session. The sensors on your feet connect with different parts of the body and the pressure point work relieves, relaxes, cleanses. Mona said all my organs felt good…just sinus, neck and shoulder pain she worked on. And I’ll tell you, all of those were sore after!
  • Five Elements: Reading about this in the material, I had to try it! Described as “the ancient medical Chinese tradition of seeking equilibrium and interconnection between all living beings inspires our ‘Five Elements,’ and our goal is to balance and restore Qi (vital) energy of the body and mind.” You chose water, wood, fire, earth or metal based on your needs. I chose metal, said to restore the mind and body’s harmony. This was an AMAZING 90-minute treatment! I don’t know whether it was the culmination of the week, the treatment or the combination of both but it woke up all the energy in my body and mind. Incredible!

Before and after treatments or anytime throughout your stay, the Ranch’s spa facilities offer quiet and cozy places to relax. My treatments were split between the Women’s Health Center & Lounge, nice older Mexican Colonial style, and the Villas Health Center, newer facility with soft Mexican tile decor. I enjoyed a soothing hot tub and steam room with fresh herbs after each treatment.

You’ll also find lounges amongst the casita areas, hammocks in the trees and comfy lounge chairs by the pool. My two favorite spots were the Villas Health Center rooftop lounge, a quiet undiscovered spot with nice hot tub, and the Villas Pool, great spot for sitting in the sun, looking at the palm trees and Mount Kuchumaa.

Here’s their full treatment menu.

After all of this, you must be hungry…let’s eat!

Rancho La Puerta: The Activities

With the plethora of fitness classes and programming, you can be active in body and mind from sun-up to sun-down at the Ranch! Start your day with a 6am Mount Kuchumaa hike then end with a movie in the Library Lounge or one of the guest presenters/performers.

My perfect days consisted of two hours cardio, one hour yoga, one hour meditation, one to two hours classes, one to two hours spa/relaxation AND time for reading/writing. What a treat to do this for SIX straight days!

There are over 70 options per day to chose from…my goal was to try lots of new experiences!


Fitness is the focus of the Ranch. They initiated the “Fitness Week” concept…every hour each day offers three to five different classes and activities (for all different levels of experience) from 6am to 5pm, to help you achieve your 10,000 steps per day goal (about 4 miles for me).

Hikes are a big draw. I was up at 5:45am one morning for the Pilgrim Hike up the mountain. What an amazing experience! Starting off in the dark then watching the sunrise as we climbed. I met some wonderful ladies on the hike AND had my 10,000 steps in before 8am!

I started out the week with Fit Check to get a gauge of my fitness level (excellent thankfully!). Some of my other favorite fitness classes included…

  • NIA Dance: Taught by the cutest instructor Miya, this low impact dance inspired class is done without shoes, fun and a really good workout!
  • Foam Roller: Something I’ve wanted to try for a while, it focuses on balance, core AND releasing tension. Another favorite instructor, Manuel, taught this class. He’s a treat! Watch out for your ‘ouchie spots.’ 🙂
  • Cardio Muscle Blast: This will create ouchie spots. 😉 An incredible 45-minute workout of fast cardio and strength intervals. Coco, one of the awesome twin instructors, kicked our butt in this.
  • H2O Sports Conditioning: Many years ago I did physical therapy in the water and it was amazing training. Several other water workout classes are also offered.

Yoga & Inner Self

Yoga was my original draw to the Ranch so one of my goals was daily yoga and meditation. Success and felt so good! The yoga studios and Milagro Meditation Loft are perfect spots looking out to the mountain and surroundings.

  • Yoga Sculpt: Yoga with weights. Whoa!! Manuel taught one day and Connie another day, the other twin. Slightly different styles but great workouts and a fresh take on your regular yoga practice.
  • Labyrinth: This gorgeous spot in the trees at the base of the mountain is a perfect meditation spot. It was a perfect session on my last evening…a meditative walk as the sun set and chimes rang in the wind.
  • Inner Journey Through Sound: Led by Susana Moore, these were incredible chakra opening meditative sessions using Crystal Bowls.

Classes, Workshop & Entertainment

This was the main reason I chose the specific week. As I’m also writing a picture book series (KeeKee’s Big Adventures), I saw Leslie McGuirk, a picture book writer and illustrator, was leading workshops, Quest for Inspiration, the week of 17 March. Not only was it fabulous to meet her and she was a wealth of knowledge/support, her workshops were fun and interactive providing participants with methods for increasing their creativity.

Additional special workshops and presenters during my visit included Autobiography and Memoir with Lawrence Grobel, Dream On: Exploring Your Dream World with Veronica Tonay, Adventures on Wall Street with John Olson, Get Your Kicks on Route 66 with Patti Londre and 13 Ways of Goldberg by Lara Downes.

I really enjoyed Watercolor class with their artist Jennifer Brandt…painting with such great inspiration around you as we sat in the sun by her studio.

Don’t miss classes offered with the nutritionist, BINGO with Barry Thursday night and Friday night’s Fiesta!


As you can see the options are many! But you pick your own schedule and go at your own pace. Advice for getting started? Just pick your first day’s schedule and take it from there. Here is a full sample schedule from a typical week and the schedule of Guest Presenters.

If you want to make a change in your body and mind, this week is a great way to start your journey! Now on to the spa