Postcard from Bettina Zilkha, New York, NY
“I’ve just returned from a week at the Golden Door, which celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, and it’s better than ever. You don’t know the meaning of “pampering” until you’ve been there! There is a weekly program that is personalized for each guest, and return guests are re-evaluated for their needs at that specific time.
Many other factors make the Golden door far superior to other spas. There’s a maximum of just forty guests, so you get all the attention you need. The food is incredible! Executive chef Dean Rucker prepares exquisite three course meals, all within an 1100-, 1300-, or 1500-calorie count, depending on your individual needs. Much of the produce is organically grown in the garden on the property. I was never hungry, and I lost weight and inches. There are hikes of all levels offered every morning. The trails are beautifully groomed, and the views and vegetation are breathtaking. There are always leaders and shepherds to make sure no one gets lost, and to carry water and fresh, home grown orange slices.
Each guest has a personal trainer, four times during the week long stay. My trainer, Julie Selzer, found the weaknesses in my current workout routine, showed me some new exercises to take home, and planned my schedule for the next day to make sure I reached my goals. She was amazing. Also, facials and massages are scheduled once a day, and after so much hard work, on the mountain and in the gym, classes, and pool, they are the ultimate relaxing moment, handled by true experts. The classes are always up to date on the latest discoveries in fitness and health, and this runs the gamut from spinning, to body conditioning using the latest gadgets, to facial yoga and Bollywood Dance.
Best of all, every one of your needs is anticipated. You really don’t have to think: they take care of you, and best of all, there is a feeling that everyone cares about you. What is most remarkable is that the staff knows every guest by name within 24 hours. And they encourage you to stay in touch with questions long after you’re gone. The Golden Door was a magical experience. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for a destination spa.”
The original Golden Door spa opened in 1958, occupying a stretch of beautiful woodland in southern California. Today, there are also outposts in Puerto Rico, Colorado, Arizona and Florida, though some loyalists always return to the classic property, with its serene Japanese-inspired gardens and facilities. There are times where the setting can indeed make you feel like you’re visiting an ancient Honjin (founder Deborah Szekely created her spa based on these traditional inns), especially in the evening, when a Japanese temple bell signals dinnertime. Rooms at the Golden Door are tastefully furnished but don’t expect lavish or plush decor; like most everything at the spa, they are designed to be simple, serene and soothing, plus you probably won’t be spending much time in-suite anyhow.
Before guests arrive at the Golden Door—the seven-day retreats run from Sunday through Sunday—the staff puts together a preliminary schedule for them, based on a pre-arrival profile. Classes, treatments and goals are tweaked in an initial interview once guests are on-site, but unlike some boot camps, the Golden Door is all about personal preferences. There’s no pressure to be busy all the time (it’s perfectly acceptable to prefer reading a good book in the garden over an afternoon spinning class), though there are certainly enough activities offered throughout the day, from early-morning hikes and a myriad of fitness classes to cooking lessons and motivational speakers after dinner. Of course, nurturing spa treatments figure largely in the program as well. Staff outnumber guests four-to-one, so there is lots of supervision and gentle encouragement to help guests meet goals set at the beginning of the week.
Most weeks throughout the year at the Golden Door are for women-only, thought there are four weeks offered for men and five week are co-ed (check the spa website for details). Fees for the week include all classes, treatments, activities and meals, which are organic, nutritious and often prepared with ingredients from the on-property garden (there is no alcohol served). Weekly rates from $6,000.
Read tips on choosing the spa that’s right for you
For information on how to book a spa trip at the Golden Door, contact our bookings department by calling 212-988-2611 or by sending an inquiry