What it's like to stay at Golden Door, a $10,000 exclusive spa retreat where celebrities, CEOs, and the elite go to detox and take lessons with Olympic champions
Courtesy of Golden Door
- Golden Door is an exclusive spa retreat in California unlike any other - it focuses on inner reflection and self-discovery through activities like predawn hikes and fencing lessons.
- Celebrities, Hollywood elite, CEOs, and the rich flock to Golden Door to re-evaluate their life and de-stress.
- A seven-night stay at Golden Door costs nearly $10,000.
If you want to be pampered like the rich, look no further than Golden Door.Tucked away in the hills of San Marcos, California, this luxury spa retreat is like no other of its kind: Not only did it help kick-start start the wellness industry, according to the Hollywood Reporter, it also offers much more than the momentary bliss guaranteed in most spa retreats.
Because of its exclusivity, Golden Door was named the number one destination spa in the world by Travel + Leisure in 2015 and has been listed as one of the top 1,000 places to see before you die by The New York Times, according to its website.It's no wonder Golden Door, which celebrated its 60th anniversary in 2018, has been a favorite among celebrities and other Hollywood elite, as well as CEOs and real estate agents.
With such accolades and clientele, Golden Door's steep cost shouldn't be shocking, but it's still enough to make your eyes pop. A seven-day stay will run you up nearly $10,000, according to Condé Nast Traveler.Here's what it's like to stay there, from its 1,200-calorie per day menus and Bollywood dancing classes to its predawn hikes and men's-only retreat.
Golden Door is located in San Marcos, California, between Los Angeles and San Diego. Travel + Leisure once named it the number one spa destination in the world.
Situated on 600 acres, the spa has been around for 60 years and helped spur today's $4.2 trillion wellness industry.Advertisement
Before it was the spa it is today, Golden Door began as a motel with themed suites and was later reopened as a Japanese Inn.
Joanne Conway, wife of billionaire financier Bill Conway, bought the spa in 2012 for $24.8 million.Advertisement
During a renovation, ecological designer Jeff Dawson, who created biodynamic gardens for Steve Jobs, transplanted an olive grove to Golden Door and built a 3,000-square-foot greenhouse for heirloom produce.
Hollywood has long flocked to Golden Door. Back in the day, the likes of Judy Garland, Natalie Wood, and Elizabeth Taylor were guests.Advertisement
More recent guests include Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts, and her niece, Emma Roberts.
And its recent ad campaign was shot by star photographer Annie Leibovitz.Advertisement
In fact, celebrities love Golden Door so much that a weeklong stay was part of the Oscars 2018 gift bag.
These days, millennials are also flocking to Golden Door for its "on-trend" offerings — think mindfulness training and farm-to-table food.Advertisement
"Golden Door is where the rich, famous, and celebrated decamp for a week of high-priced pampering, rigorous dieting, and privacy at a retreat so exclusive that guests are told not to pack a bag, because everything will be provided," wrote Megan O'Brien of Harper's Bazaar.
She added: "But more than simply being a respite from everyday life, those fortunate enough to spend the requisite four- to- seven days here leave armed with a wealth of knowledge about how to eat, exercise, and tread more lightly on the earth back in the real world."Advertisement
Daisy Finer of Condé Nast Traveler called "reconnection to the inner self" the "touchstone" of Golden Door. "This is a space where you can drop into anonymity, and forget your duties and dependents, and instead get physical and deal with mental wellness," she wrote.
Today, a weeklong stay costs nearly $10,000 — but 100% of net profits go to charity.Advertisement
And a four-day retreat costs nearly $7,000. That includes 1,200 calories a day (sans wine) and 20 hours of exercise in the form of yoga, dance, cardio, and the pool (that's five hours a day), according to O'Brien, who attended.
There's little to pack — everything, including sweat suits, is provided. Digital detoxing is encouraged.Advertisement
Before you arrive, Golden Door assesses your health goals. Upon arrival, it provides you with daily itineraries based on those goals.
O'Brien's itinerary began with a 5:45 a.m. hike and included four customized exercises. A bee tour, juice break, and self-hypnosis for sleep were also on the schedule.Advertisement
Also available are Pilates and spin classes, Bollywood dance lessons, archery lessons, and fencing sessions with Olympic champion Dmitri Guy. Overall, there are 80 mind and body classes available.
That's not to mention activities like blindfolded pottery, silent walks, and bio-feedback for stress.Advertisement
According to one attendee, Golden Door focuses on "healing and serenity" as opposed to superficial treatments.
But that's not to say they don't have spa treatments. "The spa treatments are overwhelming, and you can pretty much spend your days, wrapped, scrubbed, rubbed, and pampered as much as you want," wrote Forbes contributor Jim Dobson.Advertisement
These include a Citrus-Herb & Magnesium treatment, an herbal wrap, private acupuncture sessions, and daily tension-melting, in-room massages.
Meals focus on healthy nourishment. Despite the 1,200 calorie count, O'Brien felt sustained — and said she lost 8.5 pounds.Advertisement
Most of the food comes from kitchen gardens, orchards, and beehives. Dishes include miso cod and crème brûlée created by chef Greg Frey as well as broth snacks.
You can choose categories of calories and gourmet meal sizes to meet your needs.Advertisement
Golden Door also has a nutritionist on hand to help you learn how to duplicate meals at home — or you can just reference its cookbook.
The year is largely devoted to women, but six weeks of the year are co-ed. Five times a year, Golden Door hosts Men's Camp Week.Advertisement
Dobson was invited to one such week. Most of the men, he said, are worth millions and include everyone from CEOs and movie producers to real estate agents and celebrities.
The dining room has long communal tables, which encourage conversation and bonding. On the first night of the Men's Retreat, each guest stands and introduces himself.Advertisement
Another key Golden Door experience is the "labyrinth," where guests are instructed to use breath work and visualization to "let go of what's holding them back." With twists and turns, one is supposed to find the center — a metaphor for life.
The labyrinth is the site of the closing ceremony at the end of a seven-night stay — guests drop a piece of paper upon which they’ve written what they want to let go of and what they want to invite in into a cauldron of water.Advertisement
"Golden Door is as close to a soulful spa experience as I’ve ever had in this country — and one of the most aesthetically and spiritually uplifting retreats I’ve come across anywhere on the globe," Finer wrote.
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