My travel-savvy friends had never even heard of Rancho Valencia when I suggested it for our recent trip to San Diego. Now they can’t wait to go back! Although I selfishly want to keep this hidden gem all to myself, I can’t resist sharing with you some of the ways Rancho Valencia is changing the face of luxury travel, one mini bar at a time . . .
1. The Suite Life
All the rooms at Rancho Valencia are actually suites ranging in size from 900-1,300 square feet. Our family of four (our daughter was on a school trip and couldn’t join us) stayed in the gorgeous Valencia Suite which had a large living room area with kitchenette (really a sink, microwave and refrigerator), sofa bed and fireplace; a gorgeous bedroom with very comfortable bed; and large updated bath with jacuzzi tub. Bathroom highlight: the heated Toto toilet. Bathroom negative: I couldn’t seem to get the shower hot or powerful enough for my taste (easily solved with daily trips to the incredible spa). Love that all the suites have some outdoor space – ours was a large deck with comfy chaise lounges, tables and chairs, hot tub and outdoor fireplace. Another great, although less glamorous, family perk are the free laundry facilities located throughout the property. Besides, isn’t it a luxury to be able to pack less and dry your kids’ wet bathing suits?
2. Go Ahead Kids – Raid The Mini Bar!
I know – it probably seems odd that I care so much about the stupid mini bar. But seriously doesn’t it bother you to spend so much money for your room only to have to nag your kids to keep their hands off the snacks? Lately I have noticed a trend of more and more resorts (the good ones, anyway) removing those little refreshment prisons and replacing them with a mini fridge filled with some “free” water, a soda or two and maybe even some fresh fruit and snacks. Kudos to Rancho Valencia for going all out with their complimentary selections – our refrigerator was well stocked with water (sparkling and still), juice, traditional and Izze sodas, coconut water, and candy, chips, nuts and bars (love the gluten free caramel corn!) Yes I know resorts are potentially missing out on business travelers who get the munchies and charge all those little mini cocktails and candy bars to their expense accounts, but trust me, in turn they will gain the love and gratitude of their happy guests (and especially their kids). Another great (and unique) perk: daily morning delivery of delicious freshly squeezed orange juice with your morning paper.
Lately I have noticed a trend of more and more resorts (the good ones, anyway) removing those little refreshment prisons and replacing them with a mini fridge filled with some “free” water, a soda or two and maybe even some fresh fruit and snacks.
3. I’ll Take The 911 Convertible
Another spot-on trend at Rancho Valencia is the Porsche lending program. During our stay, we were able take out both the Cayenne and 911 convertible for long drives up and down the coast (we skipped the Panamera). After giving them a copy of our drivers’ license and insurance information, we were are on our way (shocked they didn’t take the keys away from me when I so obviously didn’t even know how to start the car!) Yet another relatively inexpensive way for Rancho Valencia to show its guests that it respects and appreciates them – isn’t that what luxury travel should be all about?
4. Spa Daze
Although newly renovated, I was happy to see the same warmth and charm I remembered from my last visit to the Rancho Valencia spa. My husband and I enjoyed a 60 minute couples massage in a large, well appointed room with a cozy fireplace. For me, a good massage is all in the details – I loved the heated massage beds, hot towels on my back, mask placed over my eyes, not to mention the excellent technique of my therapist, Nicole. How’s this for a great touch? When we went to the quiet room after our treatment (a large co-ed living room with comfy couches and chairs and another roaring fire), we found a platter of fresh fruit, green juice and two glasses of champagne waiting for us. We loved the spa so much we made it our favorite part of our daily routine – we would relax in the rarely used hot tub (sometimes with cocktail), followed by a visit to the co-ed steam and sauna rooms. Next up was a hot, high pressure shower in the ladies’ locker room and then out to dinner – if it sounds perfect, it was! Also don’t miss the health club’s numerous classes. There is a stunning yoga studio, large spin bike facility and a wide variety of classes (TRX, pilates, and more). According to my friend Shawn who lives nearby, the health club is a hot place for locals to join so plan on signing up in advance for some of the more popular spin and pilates classes.
5. Tennis, Golf, Hike. Repeat.
I admit I am biased in this area – my favorite hike on earth is 15 minutes from the resort; I’ve been playing tennis most of my life; and my oldest son and husband are obsessed with golf. Rancho Valencia: Check. Check. and Check. As my kids will tell you, I believe in the power of imagining your “happy place” as a way to decompress. Luckily for me this trip, my happy place hike, Torrey Pines State Reserve, is a short coastal drive from Rancho Valencia. With or without kids, this hike is just enough exercise, offers incredible ocean views and plops you directly on a gorgeous sandy beach. Rancho Valencia is truly a world-class tennis resort. With 18 beautiful courts and a wide variety of classes, juniors and adults alike will have a topnotch tennis experience here. I highly recommend booking a lesson with Eduardo Sanchez, the resort’s head pro. He helped tune up my 12 year old’s game in just a few lessons while always keeping it interesting and fun. Due to its location in the town of Rancho Santa Fe (a charming enclave in northern San Diego county), there are numerous golf options near the resort. My husband and son were thrilled to get to play at the world famous Torrey Pines South golf course, host of the 2008 US Open and the Farmers Insurance Open. Although Torrey Pines is a public course, San Diego residents get first dibs on its hard to get rounds. Best advice? Get up early on a weekday and keep your fingers crossed – it worked for my husband’s foursome, but even the starter was shocked at their good luck! Rancho Valencia’s golf concierge can book rounds on three very nice private courses: The Farms (allows you to charge your round to your room); Del Mar Country Club; and The Crosby Club. In case relaxation is more your style, the property features both a beautiful full service family pool as well as the adult-only spa pool.