Just a 30-minute drive from San Diego, Rancho Valencia is tucked away in leafy Rancho Santa Fe – the third most expensive post code in the USA – surrounded by olive groves, gum trees and orchards.
Since its opening in 1989, the award-winning Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa – Southern California’s only Relais & Châteaux property – has become a much sought-after five star resorts. A sanctuary of good living tucked away amongst lush gardens and olive groves, this Mediterranean-inspired, all-suite property has gone from strength to strength since completing a $30 million renovation in 2014.
It was recently hand selected by Forbes Travel Guide as one of the finest Five-Star hotels in the world and was awarded the prestigious 2014 North America Grand Award by Andrew Harper’s Hideaway Report. No wonder Rancho Valencia attracts celebrities like Gene Wilder, Sugar Ray Leonard, Tiger Woods, Bill Gates, Michael Jordan and Bill Clinton on a regular basis. In fact, Bill Gates is a member of the tennis club here while Julio Iglesias is partial to the Spa.
Rooms and interiors
There are 49 suites (casitas) and villas on the property including a three-bedroom hacienda complete with private pool, all secreted on 45 acres of eucalypts, landscaped gardens, olive groves and citrus trees. We are in an Agave Suite, and like kids in a veritable candy store we ‘ooh’ and ‘aah’ at the sophisticated, elegant yet welcoming features. Practically everything at Rancho Valencia is custom made, with the quality of everything from the sheets to the glassware to the furniture unquestioned. Even the beds are custom made in Italy by Stearns and Foster and are ridiculously comfortable.
We adore the Toto toilet seat that lifts on approach, is heated and has all kinds of buttons for this and that, the opulent bathroom with palatial spa bath, the sunken living room with push-button fireplace and the impressive bedroom. Our favourite part is a private garden with outdoor fireplace and Jacuzzi. In the mornings we would wake to freshly squeezed orange juice and a newspaper outside our door – one of many thoughtful touches. In fact that is one of the highlights of a stay here – the staff are so friendly and thoughtful and nothing is too much trouble.
Rancho Valencia’s team of chefs dish up incredible food and you can take your pick of where to eat it. Veladora is the main dining area or you can sit outside in that magnificent courtyard. The Pony Room, complete with stools with delicate horses hooves at the bottom and the RV brand, is perfect for an afternoon cocktail merging into a delicious dinner and turning into a late night party. We even indulge in a tequila tasting … no worms in sight and definitely no scorpions. If we had so desired, we could have ordered absolutely anything off any of the menus and had it in our casita, with the thoughtful touch of delivering the dessert 20 minutes after the main, but the ambience of Veladora and the Pony Room makes that a difficult choice.
The Rancho Valencia Spa is absolutely out of this world. It is completely separate and is fitted out with ten treatment rooms with a private outdoor area and bathtub, a beautiful yoga pavilion with lily-clad reflection pool, hot and cold pools in private nooks and crannies, a pool, a hi- tech gym, Pilates studio and spin room. Everywhere, beautiful gardens and water features add to the experience. The spa menu has it all for pampering pleasure and the signature treatment I choose, the 90-minute Sixth Sense, is all kinds of heavenly. Afterwards we chill by the adults-only pool then wander back for more chilling in our private garden. We decide we could get used to this.
Rancho Valencia has was named as the Best Tennis Ranch in the USA by readers of Tennis Magazine and has a swag of other awards. And deservedly so. It has 18 courts, professional coaches and immaculate facilities. During my half-hour lesson I picked up some good tips on my backhand and serve which were rusty to say the least. If tennis isn’t your thing it’s a wonderful area to ride the Resort’s bikes around or you can play golf at the prestigious Farms Golf Course – using Calloway Clubs – or do some laps at the Spa’s pool.
What I loved
Just about everything. I loved waking up to fresh orange juice and the newspaper outside my door. I loved sitting out in my private courtyard, either by the fireplace or in my Jacuzzi, watching birds flit about my sun-dappled garden. I loved sitting in the Pony Room, on the gorgeous hoof-clad stools, and equally loved Veladora. The food really is something special – just like Rancho Valencia.
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