Life Extension Magazine®

Relax and Recharge at Rancho La Puerta

Rancho la Puerta is North America’s premiere spa and the place to learn new methods for achieving longevity. Learn how its founder, Deborah Szekely, maintains this longevity oasis.

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Gary Gonzalez, MD, in August 2023. Written by: Life Extension Editorial Staff.

North America’s premiere spa is just the place to learn new methods for achieving longevity.

Relax and Recharge at Rancho La Puerta
Deborah Szekely, co-founder of Rancho La Puerta

Achieving optimal health requires an integrative approach. Important factors such as diet, exercise, supplementation, and stress reduction need to be a comprehensive part of anyone’s program for a long and vital life. Given our busy lives, we all need a bit of motivation, guidance, and inspiration to stay on track.

One of the best places to reset our compass and find our path is the unique Rancho la Puerta, itself a testament of longevity. Started in 1940 as a European style health spa, by Dr. Edmond Szekely and his young wife Deborah, it brought to America the continental concept of organic food, exercise to stretch and tone muscles (and revitalize circulation), stress reduction, and all-around healthy living. The traditional approaches popular then have been updated to be the raison d’être of one of the most successful spas in the world. Year after year, “the Ranch” receives accolades not only from its loyal fans but from the press as well. Spa magazine recognized the Ranch as its readers’ favorite eco/green spa as well as favorite destination spa for 2008-9. SpaFinder (a magazine-type website guide to spas worldwide) cited Rancho as the best spa in North America. There are reasons for this unanimous praise—attention to detail, superb service, and one of the best health regimens found anywhere in the world.

Nestled against the foothills of mythic Mt. Kuchumaa, the Ranch is set on over 3,000 acres—about 32 of them a beautifully landscaped central campus. An air of tranquility permeates every inch of the property. Each guest receives a private hacienda, with living room, kitchenette, and extraordinary vistas. At the Ranch, it’s early to bed and early to rise so there are no televisions or internet connections in the room. Frankly, by the time you make it back to your room at the end of a long day experiencing optimal health, you are ready for a deep, healing sleep.

Days at the Ranch begin early with a scenic and invigorating hike, led by several trainers up along the ridgelines and swales of neighboring mountains, or on gentler trails through oak woodlands and grassy fields. Though not mandatory, these hikes are one of the best ways to start the day.

Impede Unwanted Hair Growth

Upon descent, you head off to the two-story vine-covered dining hall where organic hot cereals, a bounty of fresh fruit, rich grain breads, and organic teas and coffees await you. There, you begin to plan your day in concert with a specialized fitness concierge who will customize your schedule to fit your particular goals and needs. All the trainers eat in the dining room and you are welcome to chat with them about your fitness regimen. On any given day, at the start of every hour from just about dawn to dusk, you can challenge your body with circuit training, Pilates, trekking, Feldenkrais, water aerobics in a specially built exercise pool, yoga, and much more. Sports include tennis (clinics and private lessons available) and volleyball. There are also a range of creative workshops or seminars designed to educate guests on developing their own optimal diet and heart-healthy eating. On any given day there will be more than 50 classes and workshops offered. Also offered are a wide range of therapeutic and spa services in two “women’s health centers” and one exclusively for men.

All meals served in the dining room are based on the special Ranch diet. A large quantity of the food served is actually grown at the resort’s own six-acre organic farm. Special diets and allergies are all taken into consideration for each guest. It is not unusual to share a table with a guest who is returning for their twentieth or more visit. Once you experience the Ranch and its comprehensive benefits, you become a devoted guest for life.

For those who want to learn to cook the Rancho way, there is a special free-standing cooking school adjacent to the farm that teaches you the secrets of healthy gourmet organic food preparation in a professionally equipped kitchen. From the source that invented “spa cuisine,” you can change your life with a few cooking lessons.

After the evening meal, guests choose from a selection of cultural events that include jazz concerts, lectures from known authors such as Ken Dychtwald, Erica Jong, and Bill Moyers, and motivational lectures and movies. However, the best offering is an informal, fire-side chat and commentary by 87-year-old Deborah Szekely. Anything goes when Deborah decides to tackle a subject that involves her unique approach to obtaining health and longevity. Deborah may pull out a stack of clinical studies or news briefs to talk about everything from the latest scientific discovery to the influence of the pharmaceutical industry.

Chilled Cucumber Soup

Above all, Deborah is the original health activist. She is often involved in political and health causes all dedicated to making a difference in each of us and future generations. She’s served on Presidential fitness commissions and is a board member of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has unmasked many dietary health risks from salt to junk food in public schools. Decades ago in San Diego, she started a popular after-work, after-school family fitness program—a concept that pre-dated the modern proliferation of membership “gyms” and workout studios on every corner. And her tour de force was another spa, the Golden Door, founded in 1958, which truly popularized the Rancho la Puerta concept and led to the modern-day boom in luxury destination spas.

The week at the Ranch passes all too quickly and you will never want to leave. However, once you do, you will take with you the gift of the Ranch that will ensure you stay on the path to health and longevity.

Most Rancho la Puerta guests fly into San Diego Airport, where they are met by Ranch vans and drivers who shuttle about 125 guests each week to the resort (scheduled transportation is complimentary). The Ranch is located in a 1,700-foot elevation valley near Tecate, Baja California—barely over the border from the US in the Laguna/Sierra Juarez mountains about 45 miles east of San Diego. Most of the trip—except for the last five miles—from airport to resort is via a scenic US backcountry highway winding through boulder-studded peaks and ranchland valleys.

As an exclusive offer to Life Extension® members who book the one-week (seven nights) Saturday-to-Saturday packages, the Ranch will include five complimentary spa therapies, which are valued up to $425.

For further information, please call toll free US & Canada: 1-800-791-4457, Monday to Friday 8:30 am-6 pm EST.

Recipes from the Rancho Spa Kitchen

Orange Saffron Pine Nut Bread

  • 4 cups warm water
  • 1 cup syrup of agave* or maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons saffron, finely ground
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • ½ cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 4 cups whole wheat flour
  • 4-5 cups unbleached flour or more whole wheat flour

* Agave is a succulent plant native to Mexico and surrounding countries.
The syrup is low glycemic (around 11–20 on the glycemic index).

  1. Mix water, syrup, and yeast. Let stand until frothy. Add in the saffron, salt, and butter. Stir well. Add half of the flour with the pine nuts, mixing until smooth.
  2. Stir in the remaining flour. Turn out onto a floured board. Knead until smooth and elastic.
  3. Return dough to bowl and cover with a damp tea towel to prevent the dough from drying out. Let dough rise in a warm, draft-free place until double in bulk, about 2 hours.
  4. Punch dough down. Divide into 2 equal portions. Spread each into a rectangle. Roll up into loaves. Seal edges by pinching.
  5. Place loaves in oiled loaf pans. Cover and let rise in a warm draft-free place until nearly double, about 40 minutes. Bake loaves in preheated 375 degree oven for 1 hour or until tops are browned and the loaves sound somewhat hollow when tapped.

Chilled Cucumber Soup

  • 1 lb. cucumber, peeled, and coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium Haas avocadoes, about 14 ounces
  • cups vegetable broth
  • cup red onion, finely diced
  • cup carrot, finely diced
  • cup jicama, finely diced
  • 1½ tablespoons fresh dill weed, chopped
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  1. In a blender cup or processor bowl, combine the cucumber, avocado, and the broth. Puree until smooth.
  2. Pour puree into a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients. Mix well. Chill until ready to serve.