Spa Development Feature: Rancho La Puerta

Spa Development Feature: Rancho La Puerta


Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Mexico

Founded in 1940, Rancho La Puerta originated as a camp that brought health education and physical activity to the people. Much smaller then, it has been said that guests pitched tents, swam in the river and listened to educational seminars. “The Ranch” as it has become referred to now is the first ever known destination spa.

Located approximately one hour Southeast of San Diego at the base of Mount Kuchumaa, the area is rich in Native American culture, history and healing traditions. Spanish colonial-style villas sprawl the 3000-acre resort that is known for its 360-degree wellness offerings.

“The Ranch” and its founder Deborah Szekely have been true pioneers in the industry. Despite 75-years in business, they have never lost sight of the true “essence” and “core” of their early beginnings.


About the founder, Deborah Szekely

Born in 1922, Deborah has been hailed by the Huffington Post as the “Godmother of Wellness” and by many other notables as the founder of the modern spa movement. Her upbringing in the 20’s certainly could have been nothing further than traditional. Her mother was vice-president of the New York Vegetarian Society and at home the family ate nothing but fruits, nuts and raw vegetables.

At the age of 18, Deborah and her husband Edmund Skzekely, a Hungarian-born philosopher and psychologist, established Rancho La Puerta. Edmund, mostly focused on his lecturing and education, Deborah became the powerhouse behind the excellence, growth and innovation at Rancho La Puerta. In 1958, Deborah went on to open the Golden Door in Escondido California, a more luxurious destination spa that became a favorite amongst the elite and celebrity crowd.

Throughout her life, Deborah has founded and contributed to various charitable and philanthropic organizations, raising hundreds of millions of dollars, including for her most recent non-profit organization that she founded in 2012 at the ripe age of 92 years young. “Wellness Warrior”, her philanthropic endeavor is designed to raise funds and to act as a Political Action Committee that lobbies members of congress to support various wellness initiatives.

As featured in Huffington Post in 2010, “Szekely, who turns 90 on May 3, practices what she preaches. At age 90, the only pills she takes are vitamins, a little something for her thyroid and a B12 shot every month. She is living evidence that 90 is the new 60, and energy-wise, she shows no sign of slowing down. In fact, those who know her well say that on the occasion of her 85th birthday, she announced that she intended to only age one year in the next five and, by all accounts, she aced it”.  "I can't be 90," she exclaimed, "My schedule is the same as it was when I was 60!" She eats no red meat or chicken and follows a diet "as close to nature as possible." Four times a week, she does pilates and her weight has stayed steady at 118 to122 for decades. While we're checking her vitals, her blood pressure is 104/62 and her cholesterol, 193 (not fasting).”

Now 94 years of age, Deborah will be 95 this May, she shows no signs of slowing down.


Wellness at “The Ranch”

Rancho La Puerta offers a true 360-degree immersion into wellness. Comprehensive offerings that span fitness, mindfulness, nutrition, and more allow guests to taste a truly holistic health experience.

Guests are encouraged to rise and set with the sun, recalibrating their physical and emotional rhythms with that of the environment. Clean, fresh food is served. Daily Exercise. Fresh Air. Time in Nature. Powerful spa rituals and healing modalities are offered amongst the 3 Spas on property. Time for Reflection. Time for Stillness. Time for Solitude. And time for connection – a real sense of community is felt at The Ranch. Return guests often visit the same week every year as have formed friendships with those they have met in the past. In such a unique environment, where many daily “responsibilities” and “patterns” are left behind, guests are often navigating through life transitions, setting new goals, dissolving past burdens. Deep, meaningful, lifelong friendships are often formed here.


Cuisine at “The Ranch”

Locally harvested cuisine takes precedent at The Ranch. There is a huge organic farm on property where ingredients are then used in both the kitchen and the Spa. There are a depth of both vegetarian and vegan options always available. An incredible culinary centre, “La Cocina Que Canta”, translating to “ The Singing Kitchen“ is located just two-miles from the ranch. A wide-array of cooking classes take place here daily and the centre has produced a collection of award-winning cookbooks.

A few highlights from the unique palette of offerings at “The Ranch”

  • Mountain Sage Hot Stone Massage – warmed, smoothed river stones and mountain sage oil ground and detoxify the body.
  • Energy Balance – chakra rebalancing using color, light, sound, aroma, energy work and sacred geometry is performed by renowned healers.
  • Rancho La Puerta Herbal Wrap – linens steeped in local Native American herbs warm, cleanse & detoxify the body.
  • Crystal Bowl Sound Healing – sound & vibration from crystal bowls support emotional cleansing and balancing.
  • Watsu – aquatic body work.

The “Core Essence” of Rancho La Puerta

“The Ranch philosophy of health and well-being supports our natural healing process, one that assists the body in healing itself–a process that is eminently built in and natural. All forms of holistic health care follow innate principles for self-healing and restoring balance to the whole being.  Much as the cycles of nature govern how the earth renews itself, the human body also needs to cleanse and relax before renewing and reactivating once again. We’ve designed our treatment programs to align with these natural cycles”.

“The goal of a spa stay, Szekely said, is nothing short of changing how the spa guest thinks. At the spa, visitors are taught to picture the food they are eating in its natural setting. If it's an apple, envision it on the tree where it grew. "You can't do that with fast food, now can you?" she asked. Spa guests come for a week and while weight loss may occur from the program of exercise and food preparation, the larger goal is teaching them how to repurpose or redirect their lives, Szekely said: "The idea is to silence the noise." “The emphasis is more on gaining health than losing weight”…doesn’t that say it all?!



Voted #1 in “The World’s Best Spas” category in 2013 and again in 2014 by industry bible Travel & Leisure Magazine.

Voted "#1 Best Destination Spa” by Conde Nast Traveler Reader’s Poll in 2014.

Spa Finder Awards – taking home the top prize in several categories for many years running, Rancho La Puerta has been awarded by Spa Finder as “Favourite Spa in North America”, “Best Eco-Spa”, “Best for Health Spa Cuisine”, “Best Fitness Program” and “Best Yoga Program” to name just a few.


  • Rancho La Puerta, Tecate, Baja California, Mexico.
  • The Ranch is located one hour Southeast of San Diego.
  • Rates start at $3250 (double occupancy) for a 7-day stay in low season. Includes all meals, classes, educational workshops and round-trip ground transfer to San Diego International Airport. Spa Services and Cooking Classes are a-la-carte and at an additional charge.
  • Wonderful specials and seasonal promotions are available. Special rates and promotions for Teachers.

***Blog Credits: The Huffington PostRancho La Puerta (imagery) and Spa Finder Wellness.