Lucky families celebrating milestone birthdays and anniversaries together want to find accommodation venues worthy of the occasion … incredible dining, private spaces to easily gather as a group, things to do for a variety of ages and interests float to the top of the must-have list. In addition, desirable venues are located in areas that are easy to access from a decent-sized airport.
Add Rancho Valencia to your black book for a special celebration-worthy resort. We just spent a joy-filled weekend in Rancho Sante Fe, San Diego, toasting a grandparent who just turned 70. Here’s what makes this resort a very special place:
Rancho Valencia is a gated resort within a residential zone of the affluent San Diego community of Rancho Sante Fe. Free from any urban distractions of any kind, guests drive into the resort and are immersed in this serene resort oasis of hacienda-style public areas, suites, and villas. The property is vast with manicured pathways, an expansive grassy area with wonderful open views to the west towards the Pacific Ocean. A significant part of the property is dedicated to top notch tennis facilities.
Guests come to Rancho Valencia to escape. It feels like a true getaway despite the close proximity to San Diego, a big part of reason that Rancho Valencia so ideal as a celebratory venue; there’s no business travel vibe here at all — it’s 100% leisure, or at least feels that way.
Bougainvillea, palm and hibiscus trees provide the lush backdrop for the Spanish-inspired guest rooms and public areas. Colorful tiles, iron finishes, striking old-world furnishings, and fireplaces at every turn create an exotic, cozy ambiance. Relaxing outside or inside is equally idyllic.
Guest rooms — 49 hacienda-style suites (called casitas) — are magnificent. The smallest suite is 900 square feet and the largest is 1,300 square feet. Either way, guests feel like they have their own private hideaway with distinct, spacious living and sleeping areas. Living rooms have fireplaces and pull-out sleeper sofas that are perfect for kids. All suites have a private outdoor space, some have private whirlpools and an outdoor fireplace.
We stayed in the Valencia Suite, a 1,300 square foot luxury masterpiece with the biggest bathroom I’ve ever experienced in a hotel. A room highlight is most definitely the heated Toto toilet seat, as well as the Illy coffee maker complete with a milk frother! I wish more hotels would think through this level of detail.
All guest rooms include a fully stocked mini-bar where soft drinks, juices, and snacks are complimentary. The art and lovely decorative pieces in the room make them feel more like custom luxury homes than hotel rooms.
Three-bedroom 3,500 square foot villas are also available. I didn’t get a chance to tour a villa as they were booked over our dates. In addition to all the other goodies featured in the suites, they include a fully equipped gourmet kitchen and use of the private Owner’s Clubhouse.
The signature restaurant at Rancho Valencia is Veladora. Although the food is gourmet farm-to-table and the ambiance is soft-lit, it’s lively feeling so multigenerational groups can have a meal that is fit for a special occasion and still be at ease with children-in-tow.
Olive oil, herbs, and honey come from Rancho Valencia’s own resources and the rest of the fresh ingredients are sourced from premium suppliers. From Warm Crusted Sonoma County Goat Cheese Salad, to Cedar Plank Roasted Skuna Bay Salmon, to Roasted Shelton Farms ½ Chicken, dishes are sophisticated but not overly complicated.
Meanwhile, The Pony Room is the place to be on a lovely afternoon or evening with an extensive collection of craft beers, wines, and cocktails. They even have 100 variations of tequila on hand.
The Pony Room offers hearty but healthy snacks and meals from burgers to fish tacos, to a wide selection of salads. It’s perfect for an easy meal with kids and overlooks a large grassy area where they can run and play while adults savor libations. A kids’ menu is available at both outlets.
The spa at Rancho Valencia is a little slice of heaven. The reception area opens out to a sweet courtyard with a fountain and fireplace. There’s a picturesque yoga pavilion, as well as a spin/cardio class zone, in addition to a fully equipped open-air gym including TRX equipment. It’s the kind of place where working out is part of the pampered experience. There’s also an idyllic adult-only lap pool.
I had the good fortune to try a customized facial and found my therapist to be adept and knowledgeable. It’s a spa where locals come for treatments, not just tourists, and the treatments offered are for function with impact, not just developed for short-term relaxation.
Tennis is a highlight at Rancho Valencia. Their award-winning resort programming takes places on 18 plexi-pave courts. Our 11-year-old had the opportunity to join their Junior Tennis Camp for a morning and loved it. Kids have their own little clubhouse and tennis pros provide kid-focused instruction. Daily tennis clinics are available for all levels.
There’s a medium-sized swimming pool that was filled with families when we were there. It’s not an expansive area, but adults who want peace and quiet can always head to the spa pool.
Because we were there for our family celebration, our son didn’t spend time doing other kid-focused activities, but croquet, bocce ball, and complimentary bikes are also available on the property. The resort is developing a Junior Ranchers Kids’ Camp program. There were certainly enough families enjoying the property while we were there to warrant dedicated amenities like this.
That said, the tone of the resort is kid-friendly, not kid-focused. San Diego is a major family destination and there is a large array of resorts that are more family-oriented, but it’s hard to beat the upscale ambiance of Rancho Valencia.
The location is convenient for area activities including the beach at La Jolla, Torrey Pines for hiking and golf, and downtown San Diego. If you want a venue for an exceptional getaway with or without something to celebrate with year-round mild weather, look no further.
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Editor’s Note: Rancho Valencia offered us a media rate to review the property for families. As always, our opinions are our own on Ciao Bambino. Photos by Amie O’Shaughnessy except where noted.
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