The Golden Door, the stellar spa that set the stage for the others, has retained its crown by keeping pace with the times, from the personalized spa day to cuisine that thwarts pounds while satisfying even the fussiest guest. Awards are too numerous to list. The highest accolades range from its being rated the number one spa in the Robb Report’s 1998 “Best of the Best” to its coveted rating as the number one spa in America by Zagat’s U.S. Hotel, Resort and Spa Guide every year since that survey began in 1988.
The Golden Door opened in 1958 and from the beginning has added programs that reflect the changing needs of men and women: fitness classes, creative spa cuisine for specific dietary requirements, and perfectly maintained accommodations. The spa accepts only thirty-nine guests on a seven-day program that begins each Sunday. There are more than four staff members per guest, including twenty-two instructors in the fitness department, each with a university degree. You’ll get a perfect night’s rest after putting yourself through a plethora of classes, ranging from sunrise hiking to tap or jazz dancing, from weight training and water volleyball to strength and flexibility classes. The day is a harmonious schedule of upbeat fitness in the morning tempered by a generous array of passive activities later in the day.
In addition to a conventional daily massage, you can choose from aromatherapy, seaweed thalassotherapy, moortherapy, and deep-cleansing facials that combine mineral masques with chamomile. A personal exercise therapist is assigned to each guest for the entire week with the goal of overseeing the schedule and charting daily progress.
The weather is year-round perfect in this 377-acre rural corner of San Diego County, 30 miles north of San Diego and 8 miles north of Escondido. Sunny days here number 341, making it one of the most geographically desirable spots in the United States. In this Utopian setting, the Golden Door unfolds its serene Japanese theme, reflected in the bell courtyard, sand garden, and architecture. Each guest is given a Japanese yukata (cotton robe) along with warm-up clothing, T-shirts, and shorts. The “uniform” is a great equalizer and takes the competitive edge off dressing up (or down, as the case may be).
The spa’s inclusive gourmet menus, feature healthful, natural foods—many from on-site organic vegetable gardens and fruit orchards. The evenings are reserved for guest lecturers. The informative topics range from cooking demonstrations and lifestyle programs to stress management and dried flower arranging.
With dedication and ability to change with the times, the Golden Door legend continues to flourish and recharge the lives of those who participate in its time-tested program.
Accommodations: Thirty-nine private guest rooms, with shoji screens, black jalousie windows, CD players, outdoor decks, and private gardens.
Meals: All meals and snacks are included in the stay. Prehike, midmorning, and late afternoon snacks are provided. Hors d’oeuvres are served in the early evening; dinner is in the dining room.
Facilities: This is a self-contained destination spa whose 377 acres are filled with hiking trails, gardens, groves, a lake, and two swimming pools. The 45,000-square-foot facility contains a boutique, beauty court, three lounges, dining room, two gyms, and a bathhouse.
Services & Special Programs: Private lessons and consultations; archery and fencing; evening lectures and demonstrations; all clothing provided; special dietary needs; weekly cooking class; library; personal laundry service; safety deposit boxes. Men’s weeks are scheduled five times yearly in March, June, September, November, and December. Coed weeks are four times yearly in March, June, September, and December. Otherwise all women.
Getting There: Limousine pickup and return Sundays is complimentary from the San Diego International Airport (forty-five-minute drive). By car: from Orange County’s John Wayne Airport (ninety minutes) and from Los Angeles International Airport (three hours).
What’s Nearby: All San Diego area attractions: Old Globe Theatre, Old Town, Tijuana, SeaWorld, Wild Animal Park, La Jolla.