An Energizing Escape to Rancho Valencia


There was a great deal of consideration to my long-anticipated vacation with my wife. Based upon my workaholic personality, it was an unheard of two weeks out of the office. But it was necessary to combat the stress levels created by the demands of the job. Our prerequisites for this trip were: a destination that is within a short direct flight; has an inviting climate; a great hotel room with outdoor space; a nurturing wellness program that included tennis; and, most of all, served great food and had a fun bar (there was the added need to provide an environment for my wife’s vibrant personality). We considered many exceptional locations such as The Ranch at Malibu, The Golden Door, Ojai, Canyon Ranch, Miraval, along with many others. We ended up in heaven at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa in Rancho Santa Fe, CA.

Rancho Valencia’s Mark Phillips (left) is shown here with Jim and Nancy Strong.

From the moment of arrival after our flawless American Airlines flight from the oppressive heat of Dallas to our departure 14 days later, it was a trip of many firsts and rediscovered energy. The pre-arrival experience was pleasantly easy, which led to an amazing adventure procured by many team members at the resort. Mark Phillips, the director of sales, was the lead contact at the hotel, and he, along with Kristi Dickinson, the spa director, paved the way for our experience. We were given a Valencia Suite, Room No. 117, which has a tremendous level of privacy in its 1,300 square feet of living space and almost equal outdoor space. The two fireplaces (one inside and one outside), along with the hot tub, were put to very good use. The complimentary minibar was restocked everyday with delivery of fresh juices to our front door each morning. The bedroom and the lavish bathroom were so comfortable that it was difficult to leave the room.

Rancho Valencia is a Mediterranean-inspired, all-suite property with 49 luxurious guest casitas.

While the resort is tucked into a beautiful setting about three miles from the ocean, we never felt isolated as the house Porsche Spyder was always available (for complimentary use) to explore the area. And explore we did, from the seaside towns of Del Mar and La Jolla to the wonderful fireworks display on the 4th of July at Aviara. Most of all, we enjoyed staying within our Rancho Valencia home and viewing all the locals who came to enjoy the Veladora Restaurant or the always-happening Pony Room.

Our daily schedule started with yoga at 7:45 a.m., with either a private instructor or a group; all of which presented challenges for my inflexible limbs. After yoga, we strolled to our al fresco breakfast, where the Maître D’ Nicole Cuneo waited with a smile. With the help of our personal nutritionist, plus Executive Chef Jarrod Moiles and F&B Director Simon Harris, the resort created a wellness-focused menu for us to be applied to all meals. This enhanced our dining experience tenfold: we were satisfied and impressed with each meal. 

Rancho Valencia’s courtyard with a fountain and a fireplace

Tennis was next on the agenda with coaching provided by the resident pro, Robin White. Later, we were off to the gym for time with our personal trainer, Stacy. The mid-day sun then beckoned us to the spa pool to be looked after by the young team serving a select few guests in the tranquil setting. We ended our day on the massage tables before cleaning up and heading to the Pony Room for liquid refreshments and a light snack, always greeted by the bubbly personality of the Maître D’ Hailey Isaacs.

The Pony Room serves locally brewed craft tequilas and cocktails along with rustic American cuisine.

We repeated this with excitement each day for two weeks. The physical results of which are still noticeable, but the personal outcome has been the best part. I can say that Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa was the right choice for us thanks to its warm embrace and personalized attention in a casual, intimate setting. 

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