It is one of the most anticipated events in Rancho Santa Fe. Next month, the acclaimed Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, with Spanish-style casitas set amid 45 acres of rolling hills and winding trails, reopens under new ownership after an eight-month, $30 million renovation. “I, along with my partners, really drove the design and the upgrades of the hotel with the whole goal of trying to keep the charm and soul and character of what makes Rancho Valencia so special,” says Jeff Jacobs, who owns the resort with brothers Gary, Hal, and Paul, sons of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and wife Joan. Hal and Jeff, along with Fiji Water’s Doug Carlson and developer Jeffrey Essakow, are the operating partners who manage the resort.
The Jacob brothers bought Rancho Valencia for $15 million in May 2010 from developer Harry Collins, a sale that that passed the baton from one well-known and respected San Diego family to another. In many ways, it seems, the sale was meant to be. “The Collins family was looking for a more local family to transition the property to, because it’s got a very family feel about it and very personalized service,” says Jeff Jacobs. “We were the logical family.” Not only does Jeff live down the street, but food, wine, tennis, and world travel, as well as marketing and finance, are all in the family’s “skill sets.” Many family members have been involved, in one way or another, in Rancho Valencia’s evolution, including matriarch Joan Jacobs, who often attends weekly meetings offering input on hotel services, design and food. As for the founding Collins family, says Jeff, “We still see them around the property quite a bit, and value their insight and opinion.”
The resort’s restaurant, now named Veladora (“candle” in Spanish), still has its wood beam ceilings and fireplace, but is being updated with chevron-patterned wood floors and a warm color palette. The Pony Room, a cantina overlooking the Croquet Lawn, will serve more than 100 kinds of Tequila, craft beers, specialty cocktails, and Prosecco on tap. The outside deck also has been expanded, with banquettes flanking fire pits. For large events, the Terrace Ballroom has an elegant new look, and a red brick wine room, with its own private terrace, is perfect for smaller dinner parties.
While the 49 guest villas won’t look much different from the outside, they’re getting complete makeovers inside, including rustic furnishings, wood floors, wrought iron accents, walk-in closets, oversized soaking tubs and steam showers. Many of the private patios have fireplaces and hot tubs. The resort’s 5,000-square foot Hacienda, a three-bedroom retreat with its own pool and entertainment area, is getting a $1 million redesign of its own.
Behind the spa, a Yoga Pavilion is taking shape, a peaceful, Zen-like space amid the trees, with an infinity edge water feature and a floating platform for instructors. Jacobs believes there’s a “huge market” for yoga, and hopes retreats at the resort will become world renowned. The fitness facility is doubling in size, with the addition of a second floor Pilates studio. Tennis, for which the resort has long been known, will continue to be world-class. But wellness programs will be added, and Jeff, an avid cyclist and former tri-athlete envisions “fantasy” camps, so guests can explore San Diego County with famous cyclists and trainers, and then enjoy fine dining and spa treatments.
Jeff, Qualcomm’s former chief marketing officer, says the goal is building on the past, the Collins’ family legacy, while looking to the future. It’s a challenge he clearly relishes. “I’m excited by all of it,” he says of the resort’s renovation. “I can’t wait for other people to experience it.” (858/756-1123, 866/233-6708, www.ranchovalencia.com) ANDREA NAVERSEN