The Great Outdoors

Nestled in the rolling hills of the Rancho Santa Fe Valley in Southern California, the new Spa at Rancho Valencia celebrates the outdoors and creates an intimate getaway for spa-goers. Originally a tennis school, the site became the Rancho Valencia Resort 17 years ago. As spas cropped up in other properties around the area, the need to keep up with the competition and appeal to more guests became evident. Six years ago, the idea of building a spa was born, and this past July it came to life.

 Mediterranean influences blend with nature to create a peaceful environment.
Mediterranean influences blend with nature to create a peaceful environment.

The influence of its tennis heritage can still be felt at the resort and spa today. Because the resort boasts a world-renowned tennis program, the spa menu was created with the weary muscles of athletes in mind. It's no wonder then that massages are the most popular treatments, with the most sought after being The Essence ($130, 60 minutes; $190, 90 minutes), a classic massage with Valencia orange essence and a signature blend of oils.

The outdoors is brought inside with a decor that embodies Old California style.
The outdoors is brought inside with a decor that embodies Old California style.

But athletes and non-athletes alike will enjoy escaping from the stress of everyday life and relaxing at the spa, which embraces its location. Southern California charm permeates the menu, with a focus on local ingredients. Avocados, oranges, lemons, grapefruits, and tangerines are all grown on property and incorporated into treatments, such as the Tangerine Tango ($80, 30 minutes), an invigorating exfoliation add-on. The most interesting treatment offered at the spa is the Tip to Toe ($195, 90 minutes; $260, 120 minutes), according to spa director Mechelle Hill. This whole-body package includes the spa's signature oil-blend massage, complemented with a lavender and orange hair and scalp treatment, a citrus sea salt foot exfoliation, and hot-towel foot wrap, which leaves guests feeling in tip-top shape.

Fountains dot the landscape, creating serene havens for  guests to visit.
Fountains dot the landscape, creating serene havens for guests to visit.


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The surroundings also play a role in the destination's design, with the spa decorated to evoke Old California style with Mediterranean influences and detailed accents, such as handcrafted Italian tile. Decked out with lush landscaping and vibrant year-round flowers, the layout fuses nature with a sense of nurturing. Relaxation rooms feature sliding glass doors that blur the distinction between the inside and the outside, and every treatment room has a private patio with a shower. Some also include baths and fountains. "It's that indoor-outdoor feel, almost like you're getting a treatment outside," says Hill.

Guests can relax in the steam room before or after treatments.
Guests can relax in the steam room before or after treatments.

To enhance the natural element, the spa also offers an array of outdoor features. Guests can soak in the plunge pool, a Watsu therapy/massage pool, and a lap pool as well as enjoy the sauna and steam rooms and private sun gardens. With 2.5 acres of land to explore, there are plenty of secluded places where spa-goers can sneak off to read a book or take a nap. "It's a 16,000-square-foot ten-room spa, so there are a lot of places you can be and not run into other people," says Hill.

This setup creates a sense of intimacy at the spa. "What our guests say over and over is that even though we are really busy and there are a lot of people here, you still feel very isolated," says Hill. "You can find nooks and crannies everywhere." Couples can take advantage of the privacy to enjoy a romantic getaway, choosing one of the two couples' rooms, which boast a fireplace, private patio, outdoor shower, and tub for two. As Valentine's Day approaches, couples can celebrate with special treatments for two like the Bergamot Bliss ($600, 80 minutes), which includes a plunge in the secluded warm pool, playful body polish, a massage, and a linen wrap, or the Terra Cotta Couples Clay Bake-Soak ($550, 120 minutes), involving a soak, a clay bake, and a massage.

At capacity, the spa can accommodate 120 treatments per day, but on average, the staff performs closer to 60 or 70. The clientele is a mixed group, with ages ranging from 20 to 80 years old, and includes lodge guests, residents at the new Rancho Valencia Villas, locals, and spa members. Currently, there are about 25 spa members, and the goal is to reach 50. Spa-goers learn about the program largely through word-of-mouth and then meet with the resident manager to discuss whether membership is right for them and for the spa. The cost to join is a $10,000 initiation fee and monthly dues of $325 for a couple and $225 for an individual. "We consider it a lifestyle membership, meaning you are paying for the ambience and access to use the facility, which includes a state-of-the-art fitness center, a lovely pool, fitness classes in our movement studio at no extra charge, and a variety of plunge pools, saunas, Jacuzzis, and more," says Nancy Hunter, resident manager. Spa members also benefit from a 15 percent discount off all regularly priced retail items and spa treatments at certain hours.

To boost business during the week, the spa offers specials like "Mom's Day Off," a discount for mothers who book appointments before 11 A.M., but overall Hill has been pleased with attendance at the spa in the opening months. "We haven't had to do a lot of work to stay busy," she says. The location has also helped business, with the Del Mar Race Track nearby. Race season spans the summer months and coincided nicely with the spa's opening.

The biggest challenge for the spa so far has been preparing for the big opening. "It was just making sure that the timing of everything was perfect," Hill says. "We needed all the staff in place, all the training done, everything ordered and ready come July, and it was a huge success." With the stress of the opening behind her, Hill is not yet worrying about the future. "I think we're going to keep doing what we're doing and see how everything goes here for the first year, and if we need to make changes, we're open to that," she says. The gorgeous weather, natural beauty, and enticing treatments promise a steady flow of guests to this California haven.