An air of zen tranquility and sumptuous seclusion greets visitors to the Golden Door, the 600-acre destination spa in San Marcos, California.
Which is probably how is should be at a world-renowned luxury resort, where a week’s stay costs between $9,000 and $9,600.
Birds chirp as if on cue as you pass through the famed gold entryway that ushers you over a wooden bridge and into a hushed expanse of meticulous Japanese gardens, koi ponds, citrus groves, organic vegetable farms and ancient oaks.
Guests — no more than 40 at a time — from the upper echelons of celebrity, industry and royalty come to be pampered with one-on-one training, daily in-room massages and customized cuisine.
There was a time when the Golden Door, along with the San Diego area’s two other exclusive destination spas — Cal-a-Vie and Rancho La Puerta — were just that, exclusive. Today, however, all three are peeling back the curtain and offering, to varying degrees, small but significant slices of this rarefied world.
Wine drinkers can buy sauvignon blanc, merlot or a Bordeaux-style blend made from grapes grown on Cal-a-Vie’s lush Vista property. And San Diego residents can go antique shopping there, perhaps decorating their homes with the same European pieces that adorn the resort’s swanky Provençal-style accommodations.
Members of the public can spend an entire day unwinding at Rancho La Puerta, the legendary 3,000-acre rustic wellness retreat in Tecate, or even just grab a bite to eat at a new Mexican cafe adjacent to its organic farm and cooking school.
And tucked away in a corner of the Golden Door property not seen by guests are two non-descript buildings being used as commercial distribution centers. Earlier this year, the resort launched a major retail operation and began selling its beauty and artisan food products to the mass market on a massive scale — on HSN, formerly the Home Shopping Network.
Thousands of orders a day — for products ranging from Bamboo Face Scrub to Irresistible Ginger Cookies and Organic Fig Preserves — get processed at the distribution centers and shipped across the country. Locally, residents can also find Golden Door products at Whole Foods and Jimbo’s.
“We have migrated to a lifestyle brand,” said Kathy Van Ness, the resort’s general manager and chief operating officer.