Did you know you can experience luxury and family friendly at one place? The ultra-luxe Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa has all the hallmarks of a five star, five diamond resort. Then it adds family-friendly touches. Oh, and it takes dogs. Vegetarian TravelingMom Judy Antell found the fitness classes challenging, the food healthy and delicious, and the rooms, with private outdoor hot tubs, over the top spectacular.
What is better than an ultra-luxurious resort? Staying at one for free. I was invited by Mazda to test drive the new Mazda Miata and CX-5, and had time over two and a half days to get the most out of Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa.
Well, not everything. I concentrated on the fitness and outdoor offerings, eschewing the spa for a trail run, a bike ride and excellent classes. Who can resist a yoga pavilion? Plus I had to get full enjoyment of my room, though it might be more fun with my husband. On the other hand, I had a king sized bed all to myself.
My king-sized room was utterly quiet, with a sunken living room with a couch and a couple of large comfy chairs, a walk-in closet accessed through the huge bathroom, a desk and two large flat screen TVs. Surprisingly, though the lines were luxuriously high count, the bed itself wasn’t very comfortable. But then, I was also trying to sleep on East Coast time.
Each room has an espresso machine -with biscotti – to go with your coffee. The minbar also provides free (nonalcoholic) drinks. Since it’s southern California, coconut water is one of the options. And there’s plenty of room if you want to refrigerate something.
There is a secluded patio where the Wi-Fi signal is strong enough to work. But if you position yourself so you can see your private outdoor hot tub, you may not be able to concentrate.
Thoughtfully, each room has a small high intensity flashlight. Take it to walk down one of the paths and then look at the stars.
Bathrooms get their own special shout out because they are so amazing. Steam shower? Check. Soaking tub? Check. Double sink? Check.
Soft fluffy towels, robes and slippers? Check, check, check.
The bath products, by Natura Bissé, are in full size tubes, TSA friendly, so you can continue the blissed out bathing experience at home.
And best of all, a $3,000 Toto toilet that plays a tune as you enter and OPENS BY ITSELF! The seat can be heated; you can clean yourself, front, back or everywhere, with jets of warm water. And if you stand up and walk away, the toilet flushes itself and closes the lid.
I seriously wanted to bring this toilet home. The only thing it doesn’t do is lift the seat for a guy (or clean the seat if he fails to lift) but this was one special toilet.
The spa has a full range of options. You can spend your day there; there’s an outdoor spa pool and hot tub, as well as a large fitness center. But the real standouts are Pilates classes and spin classes as good as those in high end studios. I took a spin class where an assistant came in with fresh towels and more water for those who needed it. He also readjusted the fans to keep everyone cool.
Then there’s the yoga pavilion. The glass doors fold back so you are practicing in the outdoors if the weather cooperates. It’s Southern California. The weather always cooperates.
There was a large stone shelf at the entrance to my room. I found out the first morning that this is where a pitcher of fresh OJ and a copy of the New York Times is left every morning. Classy.
Rooms have a small flashlight so you can walk around at night. Take it with you when you go outside to see the stars.
There is a bowl of fruit at reception, as well as one in the fitness center, and hugs of ice water flavored with fruit through the resort.
Veladora, the main restaurant, makes great fish tacos. You have to in San Diego. What sent me over the moon was the avocado toast. This version was made on squaw bread, a hearty multigrain. It had just the right amount of avocado, plus a couple of thinly sliced radishes, some sea salt and cilantro. I’m not a huge cilantro fan, but this was divine.
At breakfast, the buffet had tons of fresh fruit, and it was child, picky adult and allergy friendly; the cherries didn’t touch the raspberries, the pineapple had their own bowl (I’m allergic). There was also cheese, bread, cured meat (which, as a vegetarian, I ignored), yogurt and granola. There was also a pot of steel cut oats and a bowl of peanut butter to put in it. That is my go-to breakfast. There was also honey, cinnamon, raisins. And pastries. No need to order an entree.
The Pony Room specializes in craft tequilas, and we had a tasting of artisan tequila and mezcal. Both places have plenty of outdoor seating. And if June gloom hits, there are fire pits.
What Works for Families
- Huge rooms and connecting rooms for large families
- 2 and 3 bedroom villas for even larger families
- Kids’ bikes
- Family friendly fitness classes
What Doesn’t Work for Families
- If you have very small kids, the outdoor hot tub could be hazardous
- There is a step down from the bed area to the sitting area
- The kids’ bikes are in one size only
Note: I was Mazda’s guest at the Rancho Valencia. Opinions and zen realignment are my own.