Where is it?
Less than a 30 minute drive from downtown San Diego, hidden away in Rancho Sante Fe, one of the most expensive places to live in the USA. Full of gated communities and smart riding stables, high profile residents have included Bill Gates and Janet Jackson. Ubers are fairly cheap but it’s best to hire a car to make the most of the exceptional location.
Heading past the friendly gatekeeper and whizzing up the long, leafy driveway gives you a sense of the scale of the place. Spread over 45 acres, this is a big resort, though it’s never overwhelming. Palm trees, olive groves and manicured croquet lawns give it a country club feel.
The layout is hacienda-style with the reception, boutique and two restaurants all leading off from a pretty central courtyard complete with a Spanish-inspired fountain and roaring open fire. Brightly patterned pottery, colourful cushions and bougainvillea make it all terribly photogenic.
Rather than rooms, stand-alone one -and two- bedroom casitas, all with sheltered patios, are dotted around the property and gardens. The feeling is one of total privacy.
A highlight is the main pool. An immaculate spot with a bar, stylish wrought iron sun loungers, hot tub and a few slightly more exclusive cabanas.
The spa is a destination in itself and one of the best we’ve seen. With a buzzing pool area complete with music and bar, the rich and fabulous head here for their wellness fix. Lush and green with calming fountains throughout, the tranquillity starts as soon as you enter. The spa menu covers everything from bespoke facials, microdermabrasion and LED light therapy to manual lymph drainage and reflexology. There’s also a picturesque yoga pavilion, Pilates studio and a fitness centre which offers boxing, spin, TRX and Zumba. For the hardcore, there are health and wellness retreats on offer too.
The other jewel in Rancho Valencia’s crown is its tennis. The resort has 18 championship courts with a roster of certified professionals on hand for lessons. Tennis packages are available.
Keen golfers will be pleased to know there are four exceptional courses nearby, including the Torrey Pines Golf Course which hosted the 2008 US Open.
Food & drink
There are two restaurants at Rancho Valencia. For a formal dining experience book in at super-seasonal Veladora. Tuck into Napa Valley Lamb, lobster salad and Monterey abalone either inside by candlelight or on the heated patio with views of the verdant valley. For more relaxed nights, find a perch at the bar in The Pony Room. With sports screens and local Sante Fe residents, this feels more like an upmarket bar with classic American dishes and an excellent wine list.
Nearby Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is well worth a visit with miles of beaches and walking trails. Some of the most beautiful unspoiled beaches are just a 20-minute drive from Rancho Valencia. A little bit further towards San Diego is the pristine seaside town of La Jolla with surfing, restaurants, galleries and seal-watching.
The little casitas are, in actual fact, huge. The lounge area alone is bigger than most London flats. All come with private patios, hot tubs, sun loungers, and both outdoor and indoor fires. Bathrooms have spacious showers, bathtubs you could swim in, walk in wardrobes and state of the art toilets – lids that lift as you walk in the room and heated seats for an extra comfortable comfort break. Mini bars are stocked full of complimentary snacks and soft drinks like coconut water and iced tea. Each morning freshly squeezed orange juice from the on-site grove will be left outside your door with your chosen newspaper.
For a really special occasion, splash out on the three-bedroom hacienda. A 5,000 square-ft home with a private pool and a full working kitchen. It’s a VVIP experience.
Honeymooners, wannabe tennis pros and spa seekers.
Double rooms from £570. In addition, there is a $35 (£29) daily resort charge that includes fitness classes, tennis, parking and other services. Breakfast from $16 (£13). ranchovalencia.com/