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Golden Door Luxury Resort and Spa

amy

amy

San Marcos, CA
www.goldendoor.com

Upon arrival, guests invariably pause before the iconic Golden Door, ever in awe of its stunning beauty. The golden branches and blooms represented in the Tree of Life relief welcome and embrace this moment of arrival, inspiring hope and anticipation, potential and possibility, whether this is a first visit or twentieth. The Golden Door Luxury Resort and Spa represents excellence in personalized service, excellence in pampering, a focus on personalized wellness and fitness, and excellence in healthy fine dining. Connections to people, to nature, to mind, body, and spirit, to self care, to sustainability, and healthy living are the essence of Golden Door. For all who choose Golden Door, stepping across this threshold is the beginning of a transformative journey, an experience uniquely prepared and provided for each of the 40 guests sharing this week.

Capturing a memory. The labyrinth just beyond the pristine Japanese gardens of Golden Door is where we begin today, and where we will end. As the rays of golden sun peek above the hills of San Marcos, we are a small group of women gathered in nature’s morning stillness, poised to hike in silent meditation along a well worn path, experiencing its twists and turns, sometimes steep and challenging, being present with each footfall, reflecting while rising to the summit. Awaiting us is a breathtaking panorama, a fluffed blanket of marine cloud cover extending from the nearby Pacific revealing only hilltops and concealing the valley below, hidden acres of farmland, orchards and fields, citrus groves and lush gardens, the beauty of the realm of Golden Door. Once we reach our goal, the rising sun is now a blazing golden ball in a bright blue sky, magically creating faintly fleeting hints of rainbows as the marine layer begins to dissipate. Here we pause on our silent trek in a reverent Tai Chi celebration of the morning. We each find our own pace as we descend the trail returning to the labyrinth, with shared gratitude for this amazing day at the Golden Door.

The life journey that leads each guest to Golden Door is very personal. The iconic Golden Door Resort is uniquely a portal to self discovery, wellness, potential, inspiration and restoration. Known to many worldwide as the #1 Destination Spa Luxury Resort, the premier exclusive spa retreat is secluded on 600 acres in a hidden valley outside San Diego. Golden Door famously offers each privileged guest extraordinary guest services with a weeklong personalized program of pampering, wellness, exercise, creative and insightful activities, and incredible garden to table healthy dining. The vision of founder, mother of wellness Deborah Szelky, Golden Door opened to accolades in 1958, enticing celebs, and a cadre of women – rich, many famous, who immediately discovered the pampered luxury and supportive ethos of this destination spa. Celebrating her 100th birthday recently, Deborah remains a legend in the world of spas, from her original no frills Rancho La Puerta in Baja California, to the well appointed luxury of Golden Door. Though Deborah no longer owns Golden Door, the current owner since 2012, shares her vision, passion, and dedication in providing a haven of serenity within a tastefully curated Japanese aesthetic. Beauty and harmony prevail, in the natural surrounds, the joyful patches of waving agapanthus, from the koi pond to immaculately placed water features and antique stone statues in tranquil Zen gardens, to the sophisticated design elements of elegant art, Japanese screens, artful floral arrangements, and bespoke furnishings found throughout the communal areas and accommodations. A convergence of life metaphors, energies, the spiritual and physical, reside in an authentic holistic health focused dynamic.

This boutique experience is uniquely designed to meet the needs and goals of each individual beginning with a welcoming phone interview. Each guest is matched with a personal trainer who will customize a program of private fitness sessions, meeting to assess the level of rigor and goals appropriate to enhance the guest experience. The daily in room massage invigorates and soothes muscles reawakened by your training session, activities, and choice of a daily early morning hike, with levels ranging from a challenging 5+ mile more vertical hike to a brisk meadow walk through a bamboo canopy forest, orchards of oranges and grapefruits. Your choices and suggested activities based on your interview are presented on your personalized spreadsheet, open to changes and modifications, with scheduled times for yoga, pampering beauty and body treatments, facials, scrubs, revitalizing aqua aerobics, spin classes, pilates, tennis or pickleball.

Seven fully equipped state of the art gyms, studios, and 2 pools provide over 80 possibilities throughout your week to challenge, explore, step out of your comfort zone. The serene Bathhouse offers a jacuzzi, sauna, steam room, and therapeutic body treatments. Beyond your fitness to fabulous plan, enjoy time to relax and reflect, create and discover your inner artist, fill your Golden Door journal, read, and discover new friends among the remarkable women sharing this experience.

Unplugged from work, family, all the labels and titles that define us, lost in the demands of everyday life, women share that the Golden Door retreat is their time to clear their pathway of encumbrances, focus, reassess and recalibrate with the time and space to pause and breathe, to discover wisdom through mindfulness, bloom in supportive camaraderie, realign body & soul’s journey. Respect for privacy and anonymity has drawn the elite and celebrities, from Elizabeth Taylor to Oprah, to consider this a safe haven. As we introduce ourselves at our first dinner, we share a common bond as women in our identical yukata Japanese robes, each on our own path. For some, this is a time to reconnect with scattered friends, bond mothers and daughters, a time to heal, or build confidence to forge new directions personally and professionally. Within our group, many guests are returnees, some annually, some numerous times across years. Guests are beckoned back by this openness and this unique feeling of belonging, assured of a safe haven to recharge and indulge with pampering and familiarity, without judgement, over time growing and changing with new challenges and renewed intentions.


The joys of Golden Door are numerous, but easily the talented and charismatic Chef Greg Frey Jr. is the perpetual star of each day, bringing his passion and dedication to his nutritious creations for each meal. From the bountiful organic bio intensive kitchen gardens and farms, the happy egg producing chickens, the groves and hives, and nearby ocean, Chef Greg creates a daily menu to satisfy every palate, portion size, and dietary need. Breakfasts of Golden Door Steel Cut Oatmeal, Greek Yogurt and Fruit, or typically an egg/protein dish, are served in-room or on your patio after your hike (or sleep-in). My ultimate favorite, the House Smoked Salmon on Wednesday. Mmmmm. Each morning you are presented with menu choices for lunch and dinner, and breakfast selections for the next day. Foodies will find nutritious lunches and dinners that are a visual and flavorful delight. Daily menus feature a colorful bounty of gifts from the garden that are so fresh that taste buds are reawakened and arugula and kale somehow have a surprising new sweetness in salads. Creative vegetarian entrees are generating an unlikely buzz, but, for me, the definite winner was the finale Rack of Lamb, truly divine.

The daily creative presentation of a tantalizing pre-dinner appetizer and ‘mocktail’ along with delightful small plate desserts, redefine expectations for satisfying portions. Each week, Chef Greg invites guests into his amazing kitchen for a most informative, delicious, and entertaining cooking class. And he even shares his recipes! Dining is festive and fun, filled with chatter punctuated with bursts of laughter. Changing table arrangements invite a variety of seating combinations that encourage opportunities to meet and make new connections. Lunch served poolside or beside the kitchen gardens creates ever new constellations, fun exchanges and meaningful conversations.

Evening programs bring participants together with insightful speakers or, unexpectedly, to create an inspired floral mandala together. Retiring to an early bedtime induced by a hike starting at 5:45 am, fresh air, sunshine, back to back activities, swimming, massage, facial, and healthy, satisfying meals, I find my room prepped for serenity and sleep. Each of Golden Door’s sophisticated accommodations manifest peace in feng shui design, the pleasing simplicity of Japanese art, cozy seating and writing area, modern spacious bath, patio or deck seating, yoga mat and meditation area. All the essentials including Golden Door Skin Care products, yukata, tote, water bottle, fanny pack, warmups, T shirts, jacket, sandals, sun hat, robe, and daily laundry are provided. At day’s end, the sumptuous bed is a welcoming embrace inviting sweet dreams and contentment.

Golden Door is not only an impressive Luxury Resort and Spa. Possibly even more impressive is its philanthropic mission, pledged through its Golden Door Foundation to donate 100% of net profits from Golden Door, including sales of Golden Door Skincare Products, Artisanal Foods, and purchases from their Country Store farmer’s market and their e-shop. The recipients are carefully vetted charities and organizations who focus on transforming young lives, through ending child abuse, assault, and neglect, and through promoting education in literacy, history, and STEM. The Golden Door Foundation is also committed to a scholarship program for DACA and undocumented students, furthering educational opportunities of African American students, building community and mentorship programs along with other partners. The common denominator, as shared by Golden Door General Manager Kathy Van Ness, is “to support those involved in making the world a more loving, more humane and more peaceful place.” We at Modeliste join in celebrating Golden Door and its generous commitment to its
philanthropic Foundation and partnerships. Modeliste Magazine and Mode for Meaning Director share this vision through our commitment to Mrembo Africa Initiative in Nairobi, Kenya and our support of Women’s Empowerment programs across the world.

FUN FACT:
In 1960, Golden Door opened the spa and fitness concept to men and now there are 6 weeks dedicated to men only, and 6 co-ed weeks. Surprisingly, there is only one woman and now over 60 men who have reached 100 weeks at the Golden Door.

 

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