by kyle roderick Reviews| Spas | Destination Spa | Other Cities
Aworld class resort spa, yoga paradise, healing and hiking haven, Rancho La Puerta in Tecate, Mexico, is set on 3,000 sun-drenched acres, 50 of which are landscaped in lush serenity. Although it’s 65 years old and the first resort spa in North America, the Ranch is 21st century when it comes to teaching guests how to embody the spiritual and physical aspects of inner peace, health, beauty and fitness.
While guests typically check in on Saturday afternoon and leave the following week, many returnees book two weeks here in order to enjoy the richly varied yoga, hiking, fitness, spa treatments and cultural programs on offer. All accommodations in the eighty-four Mexican colonial casitas with flower-decked patios are ground-floor, comfortable, beautifully decorated with Mexican textiles and art and are thankfully television-free. High season runs from March 11 through May 27.
The Ranch’s integrity as a regenerative center grows from the land it occupies with such grace. Arguably the world’s first “eco” resort, this spa practices sustainable organic gardening and resource conservation. Through its foundation, it also leads the way in environmental protection and education efforts in the Tecate area. A few miles from the main buildings, the Ranch’s own organic farm, Rancho Tres Estrellas, grows the delicious foods and herbs that guests enjoy every day.
The spa also owes much of its healing vibe to the beautiful mountain that rises next to it – 3,885 ft. Mount Kuchumaa, which straddles the U.S.-Mexico border. Sacred to the indigenous people of the area, the mountain is home to all levels of hikers every morning, including silent meditation hikes. While the Ranch’s Meditation Loft is open every day from 5:15am to 11pm, there is also a secluded Labyrinth in a shaded area of the property that is ideal for contemplation.
With a superb staff of yoga teachers including Phyllis Pilgrim and Stephen Brown, the ranch offers morning chanting, ‘Introduction to Yoga’ and ‘Yoga for Men’ in addition to yoga specialty weeks with such renowned teachers as Baron Baptiste, Sarah Bell and Ashtangis Tim Miller and Alison Lewis.
The fitness instruction here is highly professional, fun, smart, eclectic and irreverent – perfectly mirroring the personality of fitness director Barry Shingle. No other spa in the world offers such a diverse array of fitness choices. While Healthy Breathing, Tai Chi, Feldenkrais, Pilates, Nia and striptease dance are on the schedule, so is a complete aqua exercise program, along with boxing, cycling, body bar classes and bird walks.
One of the newest and best spa treatments worth having is the Healing Massage (90 min, $90). This treatment respectfully begins by asking the client about physical needs and physical history. A brief postural assessment helps the therapist begin the massage process to restore physical balance. Customized to address specific problem areas, the Healing Massage uses such techniques as trigger-point therapy, myofascial release, neuro-muscular release, and others to clear pain and release bodily tensions.
Hint: ask for Miguel, who is a master.
After your massage, try the Rancho La Puerta Herbal Wrap (30 min, $35). This cocoon-like experience takes fragrant steamed linens, boiled in traditional, organic Native American herbs, and wraps them around the body. A blanket with plastic overlay retains the healing heat. Cold compresses applied to the forehead complete this hedonistic treat.
While there are separate men’s and women’s health centers, Rancho La Puerta also features a beauty salon and two skin care centers. Saunas and hot tubs are also open daily in the health centers, so gourmet bathing (and nude sunbathing in discreetly protected areas) are always an option after an active day of hiking and yoga.
Because the Ranch’s owner Deborah Szekeley is an avid collector of Mexican art, the grounds are graced with many museum-quality, figurative sculptures. Spas with aesthetic integrity are regrettably rare; Rancho La Puerta’s is further enhanced by full-time art teacher, Jennifer Brandt, whose drawing, beadwork and wreath-making classes are invariably packed (be sure to arrive on time). She also leads Mexican folk art and sculpture walks around this unforgettably beautiful property.