Cal-a-Vie: Oasis of Sevenity and Service

Leave the city stress behind once you arrive at Cal-a-Vie, a destination spa in a garden setting 40 miles north of San Diego. Opened in 1986, this oasis of serenity has attracted considerable media attention thanks to dozens of celebrities who have “spaed” here. No more than twenty-four guests at a time attend this posh hideaway sequestered on 150 acres. Cal-a-Vie demands that you invest 100 percent of yourself; chores are left to an attentive staff of seventy. During the year, there are coed weeks as well as exclusive women’s weeks. The standard program runs Sunday to Sunday.

Guests stay in European-inspired cottages furnished with a country French decor. The huge armoire could go empty because fitness attire is provided—right down to jacket and sweatpants—fresh daily. The ambience is egalitarian; you can even wear your sweats to dinner and feel comfortable. The king-size bed is turned down each evening, but don’t expect a chocolate truffle on your pillow! The calorie count, presided over by Chef Steven Pernetti, is 1,200, but it can be adjusted to fit individual requirements.

The day begins at 6:15 a.m. with a before-breakfast hike that revs up the system for what is ahead. To soften the “boot camp” agenda, there is a break at 10:50 a.m. when a tray with beautifully arranged fruit and glass mugs filled with vegetable broth is delivered to the lounge. By 1:00 p.m. guests have challenged their heart rate with aerobic circuit training, sports training, and a killer abdominals class, as well as water volleyball when the sun is shining (about 320 days a year!). And before you can say “aromatherapy,” the day has slipped away and it is time for dinner at 7:00 p.m.

Everyone starts their spa journey with a fitness assessment, so this is the time to set your goal, whether the focus is weight loss, inch loss, or—the best goal of all—to attain a healthier lifestyle. Cal-a-Vie offers a concentrated spa program designed to produce results. Fitness is enhanced by daily spa treatments ranging from two-hour European hydrotherapy treatments and body scrubs to daily massages and a series of three facials. The beauty salon offers the finishing touches, from hand and foot treatments to scalp treatments. Special women’s weeks (approximately sixteen per year) have a sorority-house feel, but without the agonizing over finals!

Three evenings a week feature lectures on nutrition, stress, and current health topics. On Friday nights Chef Pernetti shares spa secrets on how to prepare the recipes used throughout the week. A typical menu might include vine-ripened tomato salad with fresh mozzarella and basil, asparagus-stuffed chicken breast,
“roasted red peppers, grilled zucchini, and potatoes with roasted garlic sauce. Desserts are consistently beguiling—the chocolate mousse made with tofu and maple syrup is a perfect example.

If you can splurge on one spa experience this year, Cal-a-Vie would be the place to consider for a concen-trated one-week program.