Summary: A peek inside the exclusive Golden Door, one of America's top luxury spa retreats.
Location: The Golden Door is located at 777 Deer Springs Road, San Marcos, CA. Visit them
online or call (760) 744-5777.
Price Range: $$$$
ESCONDIDO — It's one of the world's most exclusive spa retreats — a sprawling 377-acre sanctuary filled with Japanese koi ponds, Zen sand gardens and shaded bamboo forests.
Cleverly tucked in the hills of San Diego's fabled Avocado Highway, the Golden Door Spa is world renowned for its 7-day health retreats that pamper the mind, body and spirit.
Since 1959, its intoxicating blend of Japanese hospitality and cutting-edge health programs have made it a favorite getaway for first ladies, royalty, and celebrities. Oprah Winfrey, Barbra Streisand and Martha Stewart are among its fans, and after stepping through the golden gates, it's easy to see why.
When you arrive in your room, you'll be welcomed with the tokonama shrine — a raised teak platform with a traditional ikebana flower arrangement. Each guest suite, clustered around a garden courtyard, is roughly 400 square feet. You'll enjoy maid service 5 times daily, plus your own sensei sandals, Japanese robe, sun hat and exercise attire. Daily laundry and shoe cleaning is also included!
Only 40 guests take part in the Golden Door's world-famous programs each week, allowing a personalized, one-of-a-kind experience. There are four staff members to each guest, and with that kind of service, you can rest assured that every need will be cared for.
"Our guests come for many reasons," says executive director Judy Bird. "Often times, many people think of weight loss, but that's not the primary reason. We see people in transition, athletes wanting to improve their game, people taking care of older parents, perhaps changing jobs. We provide a program that's here for anyone and everyone."
Every guest gets their own Fitness Guide and tailor-made workout regimen, which may include archery, hiking, weight lifting or pilates. The Golden Door yoga program is especially popular, and the spa offers more than 7 types of yoga in their Odori Gym.
While you're here, don't miss the resort's classical labyrinth — a 4,000-year-old practice of meditation and reflection. The Golden Door labyrinth is a replica of the one found in Chartres Cathedral in France.
"The labyrinth has been a very powerful source of inspiration for our guests, using that walking meditation as a metaphor for life," says Bird.
There are more than 20 miles of private trails to explore on the property — including a shady bamboo forest that leads to a hidden prayer rock and quiet meditation area.
One of the best parts of a vacation is the food, and the Golden Door Spa cuisine can't get any fresher — or delicious. Executive chef Curtis Cooke harvests most of his produce from the spa's 4-acre organic vegetable garden, which is blooming with fresh baby beets, carrots, lettuce and fava beans.
"Our cuisine is garden to table, so we take it from our garden and bring it in," says Cooke. "That dictates everything I'm going to put on the plate. You source the right ingredients and the right proteins, then take out fat and sugar, and you've got a healthy meal."
Cooke's mouth-watering meals are served in-room for breakfast, and poolside for lunch and afternoon snacks. At night, you can join other guests in the Dining Room for personalized gourmet meals like ahi tuna sushi in a Japanese Bento Box, Miso Soup and Greek Chicken Salad.
When night falls, you can soak away your cares with a dip in the spa, or relax on your own private moon viewing deck.
The Golden Door is a very special place, and it's easy to see why it's been a favored retreat for personal renewal for over 50 years. I thoroughly enjoyed my visit, and look forward to returning again soon.
The Golden Door is located at 777 Deer Springs Road, San Marcos, CA. Visit them online or call (760) 744-5777.
The Golden Door is home to several quiet places for reflection and meditation. Photos by Veronica Hill.