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Discovering why things are always better at Rancho La Puerta

Travel Editor Elizabeth Hansen explores Tecate's iconic wellness destination

Image Credits Photography courtesy of Rancho La Puerta & Adams / Hansen Stock Photos

My reasons for going to Rancho La Puerta were purely self-indulgent. I was ready for some quality alone time and was longing for great spa treatments. While other resorts offer these things, the ease of getting to this renowned destination added to its appeal. Located just across the border in Tecate, the Ranch is accessible by comfortable transportation from the San Diego airport. 

At Rancho La Puerta, four pools are available for fitness classes and relaxation

Making new friends wasn’t on my agenda, but my seatmate on the coach was really interesting and we chatted away for the entire 90-minute trip. Ranch guests come from far and wide, but the majority are from California. Most are females in their 50s and 60s and many are repeat guests. On my trip, some visitors were traveling solo, but the majority arrived with friends or family and everyone was remarkably friendly. 

At Rancho La Puerta, picturesque stone paths lead to heath and wellness opportunities

I’d packed a couple of books, but during the orientation at the Ranch I started to wonder when I’d find time to read them. The description of the fitness classes, hiking options, speakers, and cooking classes at La Cocina Que Canta was intriguing. I had intended to just do yoga and Pilates, but most nights I opted to set my alarm for an early hour so that I could hike and still have time to try some of the dozens of classes offered daily. These include Feldenkrais, Gyrokinesis, foam roller, guided stretch, and the blissful Sound Journey. Before the week was over, I’d fallen in love with Pilates on the Ball and had great fun in an intro pickleball class.  

Popular cooking classes take place at La Cocina Que Canta

I didn’t make time for the evening movies, but I did watch the documentary about Edmond Szekely who, with his wife Deborah, started Rancho La Puerta in 1940. He was a Hungarian philosopher, scholar, author, and advocate of natural living. Deborah was born in 1922 in Brooklyn, where her mother was the VP of the New York Vegetarian Society. Dubbed “the Godmother of Wellness,” Deborah is still very involved in the Ranch and lives in San Diego where she is a much-loved philanthropist. 

When Deborah spoke at the Ranch (as she does on most Wednesday nights), she reminded the audience that “The Professor’s favorite greeting was ‘Siempre Mejor!’ Always Better! And that continues to guide us at Rancho La Puerta.”

Spa services at the Ranch lived up to my expectations. The week started with a positively dreamy scalp treatment and mini-facial by Josefina at the Villas Health and Skin Care Center. Later, I enjoyed Nora’s neck and back massage and Lynn’s head-to-toe relaxation massage. Throughout the property, staff members go out of their way to be helpful and supportive. In the spa, this gentle humanity is the secret ingredient that makes the treatments memorable. 

Rancho La Puerta sprawls across 4,000 acres at the base of Mount Kuchumaa

As the week progressed, I found myself exploring new routes to get around the 4,000-acre property set at the base of Mount Kuchumaa. The meandering stone paths and foot bridges are shaded by magnificent old oaks and lined with wide swaths of rosemary and native plants. One morning I came upon two deer in a meadow; more than once I stopped to watch trees covered in yellow blossoms swaying in the breeze.  

The circular reflexology path brings the soles — and soul — into energetic focus

This scenic beauty provides a restful background for 86 spacious casitas, an attractive dining hall, a wine bar/boutique with a mountain view, three health centers, four pools, seven gyms, a library, tennis courts, pickleball courts, a basketball court, a beautiful labyrinth, 40 miles of hiking trails, and the Szekely family collection of outdoor sculpture. 

The dining hall is a place for enjoying good food and warm camaraderie

The longer I stayed at Rancho La Puerta, the more my focus shifted from the luxury of spa treatments to relishing the natural environment and the kindness of strangers. I felt safer here than I do in San Diego, and there’s something about the place that evokes self-reflection and personal growth.    

Before the end of the week, I understood why almost everyone I met was a serial Ranch guest. Some stay for seven days once or twice a year, and others even more. They come to unplug, connect with themselves, and give their goals a booster shot.   

They come because they want to be their best selves. To be better. Always better. Siempre mejor. rancholapuerta.com  

The library patio is just one of many cozy reading nooks for guests

Know Before You Go

  • Apply in advance for a visa to visit Mexico and carry you passport or passport card with you.
  • Ranch cuisine is low-fat, high fiber, lacto-ova pescatarian. The staff goes out of their way to accommodate allergies and personal preferences.
  • Cell phone use is restricted throughout the Ranch. Only some casitas have Wi-Fi and phones can only be used in designated shared spaces. 
  • To prevent being overwhelmed by the options, identify your interests and set your goals and priorities before leaving home. 
  • Pre-book spa treatments before arrival.
  • Wine isn’t served in the dining hall, but it’s available with a panoramic mountain view at Bazar Del Sol.
  • About 95% of Ranch guests have been vaccinated and COVID protocols are strictly observed.
  • It’s a good idea to bring a reusable water bottle.
Every casita comes with colorful hand-painted tiles, quality folk art, and a patio, and most have fireplaces


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