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Girl Getaway to Tecate, Mexico
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Girls Getaway to Tecate, Mexico
(By Amber Gibson)

Just south of the border is the best destination spa  and resort in the world, Rancho La Puerta. I'm not just saying that. They were rated the best destination spa by Travel + Leisure for 2013 and they've won in three of the last four years. More than half of the people here are returning guests (some have been coming here for more than 30 years!) and after a week in paradise, I can see why.

Rancho La Puerta is just an hour's drive from San Diego, and the resort provides a comfortable shuttle bus from the airport. Someone from the resort will even collect your passport at the Mexican border so you don't have to wait to go through customs. Who has time for that? Relaxation and beauty await!

The entire Rancho La Puerta experience is like summer camp for adults. Everyone eats in a common dining at set meal times to build camaraderie. The gorgeous dining hall is a great place to meet other guests, all of whom we found to be lovely people. Meals are vegetarian with a few pescatarian options at dinner and the food is incredibly fresh and flavorful. All of the produce is from the RLP garden located at the cooking school, La Cocina que Canta. we were so well-fed but everything was also so healthy that we never felt bad about indulging. From a plethora of milk alternatives (almond milk was my favorite) at breakfast to an entire gluten-free spread, RLP will happily accommodate any allergies or dietary restrictions. Dinners were four-course affairs, with soup, salad, an entree and dessert. Some of my favorite entrees included barley and wild rice risotto with sauteed vegetables and yellowfin tuna with blistered tomato vinaigrette. Desserts, like fig tart with berry compote, come in small portions with minimal sugar and fat, but were so tasty we never felt like I was eating diet food. Some may come to RLP to lose weight, but the focus is really on overall wellness and nourishing your body.

Each day there are a multitude of activities to choose from, including a variety of fitness classes (tennis to TRX to pilates), art classes (sketching or jewelry making) and classes focused on healing your body and soul (Feldenkrais, Watsu or meditation). Each morning you have the chance to join one of several hikes along and around Mount Kuchumaa, a sacred mountain of the Kumeyaay Indians. I took part in an organic breakfast hike that ended at La Cocina que Canta for a farm fresh meal of scrambled eggs, beans, granola, muffins and fresh fruit. The great food and watching the sunrise were definitely worth waking up at 5 am for!

At RLP, we could be as relaxed or busy as we wished. Lounging by the pool and getting spa treatments is a perfectly acceptable alternative to cardio workouts. Here, it's all about personal rejuvenation, health and happiness. I enjoyed both a custom facial and back facial scrub that were very calming and cleansing.

We visited during culinary week and took part in several cooking classes at the award-winning La Cocina que Canta. RLP always offers cooking classes but this week featured four guest chefs, an off-site wine tasting and dinner one evening at El Lugar de Nos in Tecate. We had the chance to cook with renowned cookbook authors Deborah Madison, John Ash and Marie Simmons. Madison taught us recipes from her Vegetable Literacy cookbook and encouraged us to play with her recipes, making substitutions inspired by our preferences and the season. We made Venetian cookies in her class, subbing blue cornmeal for yellow and replacing half the almonds with pine nuts for a little something out of the ordinary. Our lunch feast was like Thanksgiving for vegetarians, complete with the requisite food coma. There was no way I would make it to abs and cycle class that afternoon!

The next day, we fried avocado fritters to serve with paprika aioli with John Ash, James Beard award-winning cookbook author and the Father of Wine Country Cuisine. It was my first time deep-frying anything, but by how quickly the fritters were snapped up, I think they were a success. Marie Simmons has published many beautiful cookbooks, including several on specific ingredients, from figs and honey to eggs. As a fig-lover, I was pleased that several recipes we made with her, from fresh fig quesadillas to a fig and tomato salad, included my favorite fruit.

As part of culinary week at the ranch, we also had the chance to go off-site twice. We had a spectacular dinner at El Lugar de Nos, where the chef is a former chef at the ranch. Their tacos were some of the best I'd ever had...thin, crispy and more reminiscent of quesadillas than the messy overstuffed tacos I'm used to in the States. Two varieties were served: one filled with pork, beef and lamb shoulder that had been braised for 84 hours and a vegetarian option with hibiscus flowers, caramelized onions and goat cheese.

Thursday we learned about Baja's burgeoning wine scene at the Vine & Wine Museum and then toured two local wineries, Baron Balch'e and the picturesque vineyard and inn at Adobe Guadalupe.The climate in Baja is best suited for red wines and I tasted a couple Bordeaux blends and Merlots that were impressive.

La Cocina que Canta's Executive Chef Denise Roa did an incredible job planning the programming for culinary week. Every event was lively, fun and we also had  the chance to explore local wine and cuisine. It's been such a success that Rancho La Puerta already has plans to make this a semi-annual event. Start booking your tickets for spring and autumn 2014!


Author Amber Gibson is a Food/Travel Writer, Model & Actress from Chicago. To find out more about Amber, visit 

Thanks for reading, and we hope to see you soon.  Safe travels!      
Sincerely,    Casey Wohl, The Getaway Girl®
Author of the Girls Getaway Guide series
Travel Correspondent for the Daytime TV Show