Credit: Rhiannon Taylor
Credit: Rhiannon Taylor

I Spent 4 Days at One of America’s Most Exclusive Wellness Retreats—Here’s the Highlight Reel

Enter Into a World of Wonder and Serenity at Golden Door Spa in San Marcos

I have to admit, I was a little nervous about my week away at what my wife called “summer camp for grown men.” I would be away from home and my family for four days in the company of complete strangers. Golden Door, a ryokan-inspired wellness resort in San Marcos, sent a car for me to Newport Beach and drove me south for about 90 minutes through the inland San Diego hills. We arrived at what were literally two golden doors. I said goodbye to my driver, took a look around and opened the door to a whole new world.

Envision a place where stress recedes into the distance, making way for a profound sense of awe. This is the remarkable influence that awaits within the Golden Door(s) during this retreat. Join me as I share my extraordinary voyage of tranquility and exploration, venturing beyond those gilded thresholds, meandering beside a babbling creek beneath a lush tree canopy and emerging into an entirely new state of existence.


Serenity Meets Enchantment

Prepare to be captivated by a realm of awe-inspiring beauty and tranquility. Golden Door, nestled amidst the serene valleys of San Marcos, California, is a sanctuary that ignites a sense of wonder within. Picture vibrant meadows and rolling hills stretching as far as the eye can see–where each blade of grass whispers tales of resilience and growth. Citrus groves perfume the air, inviting you to embrace the sweetness of life. And the meticulously crafted, Japanese-inspired gardens transport you to a world of serene harmony. Golden Door is a treasure trove of rejuvenation and serenity, inviting you to explore your mind and soul.


Community and Connection at Men’s Week

Now, let me paint a picture of the vibrant connections that blossomed during Men’s Week at Golden Door. Laughter became the soundtrack of our days, and the bonds we forged became the threads that wove our stories together. We rose early for hikes, enjoyed classes together in small groups and wore matching kimonos to dinner each night. Diverse souls gather, each carrying their own burdens and aspirations. Yet, within this haven of wellness and growth, those burdens are lifted, judgements are non-existent and aspirations are nurtured. Golden Door becomes a sanctuary where the ordinary man becomes extraordinary–where shared experiences become the building blocks of lifelong friendships.


Unforgettable Experiences

As we embarked on this journey of self-discovery, a tapestry of unforgettable moments unraveled before our eyes. There were dozens of opportunities to fill each day. Picture yourself in a Pilates class, exploring new movements and tapping into hidden reserves of strength. The joy of trying something new fills your heart, and you become aware of the incredible capabilities of your body, leaving you in awe of its resilience and potential. You could spend an afternoon in a breathwork class, attempting archery or folding origami. I chose the latter one afternoon, and it was an hour well spent folding up a frog that could jump when done just right.

There are morning hikes that start as early as 5:30 a.m., where nature embraces you with open arms. As you traverse the mist-kissed trails, a symphony of birdsong fills the air. The colors of the world come alive, painting vivid images of serenity and beauty. With each step, you find yourself immersed in the natural world, connecting with a sense of appreciation that lingers long after the journey ends. There were options for three-, five- and seven-mile hikes, and I tried a different one each day. We stretched as a group and hiked at our own pace. ”Shepherds” guided the way by leading and following each group.

In the sanctuary of the sound bath class, we were transported to another realm. I chose this activity that was held in the treehouse yoga loft at 8 p.m. one evening. As I lay there, enveloped in mesmerizing tones and vibrations, my stress melted away, and a sense of tranquility washed over me, followed closely by sleep then snoring, embarrassingly enough. It was a moment of pure wonder as I surrendered to the power of sound, allowing it to guide me to a place of deep relaxation and introspection.


Finding Balance and Joy


I haven’t played volleyball in quite a few years and have never played an organized game of water volleyball. As I returned from my personal workout session, I could hear laughter echoing through the canyon. When I made my way up to the heather pool, I found 11 of my fellow campers splashing, jumping and keeping score. Here, friendly competition takes center stage as you engage in exhilarating water volleyball matches. The cares of the outside world fade away and are replaced by pure joy. Each splash and jump becomes a celebration of life and the joy of being present in the moment. It was great to feel like a kid again.


Replenish and Nourish

Best Wellness Retreats in San Diego
Credit: Taylor Odish

To replenish and nourish both body and soul, Golden Door invites you to indulge in revitalizing “broth” breaks. We savored each sip of the flavorful tomato-based elixir and felt the stresses of everyday life melt away. It was one of the most simple and rewarding parts of my stay—it was a moment of nourishment and rejuvenation, reminding me to embrace the simple pleasures.


Unveiling the Allure of the Remodeled Spa

Golden Door, recognized as one of the world’s best destination spas, recently underwent a multi-million dollar renovation that transformed its bathhouse and pools as well as updated all 40 guest rooms and gyms. The bathhouse, dating back to the spa’s opening in 1958, underwent a complete overhaul, featuring private dressing rooms, new tiles, flooring, a revitalized Jacuzzi, steam room ice bath, herbal wraps and sauna. The design is bright and nature-inspired, achieved through innovative lighting and a unique visual healing area showcasing nature time-lapse captures. Imagine an 80-inch screen showing slow motion nature channel videos. Additional amenities include a choice between a warm cherry blossom bath with antioxidant and skin-soothing benefits or a cold mood-boosting plunge soak with epsom salts for muscle recovery and better sleep. The new wet room offers a seven-hose Vichy shower and a LightStim LED experience room, promoting overall wellness and rejuvenation. The Golden Door spa remodel was designed to enhance guests’ experience and provide a haven for stress reduction and toxin elimination in today’s hectic world.



Wrapping Up a Transformative Stay

Best Wellness Retreats in San Diego
Credit: Rhiannon Taylor

As your journey at Golden Door Spa draws to a close, a serene transformation takes hold. The weight of stress is lifted, and in its place, a renewed sense of self emerges. You stand at the crossroads of discovery, armed with memories of laughter, deep connections and moments that touch your soul. Golden Door will not only transform your body but awaken a sense of wonder within, reminding you that life is a tapestry of extraordinary moments waiting to be experienced. And much like summer camp when I was younger, I had been hesitant to come and sad to leave.

So, my friend, if you’re ready to embark on a journey that awakens your soul and restores your spirit, Men’s Week at Golden Door beckons. Leave the burdens of everyday life behind, and immerse yourself in a sanctuary where serenity, camaraderie and self-discovery converge. Step through those doors and embrace the extraordinary every man within you. The wonders of Golden Door await!


Golden Door
777 Deer Springs Rd
San Marcos, CA 92069

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Erik Hale is the visionary and publisher behind LOCALE Magazine. He launched the magazine in 2010, wanting to give the community of OC a premiere lifestyle magazine that knew all the native knowledge behind OC. “Six years ago Ashley and I sat at a table scratching the name LOCALE (among some other names) onto a sheet of paper,” says Erik, “coming up with story ideas and basically dreaming. Everything we imagined has happened and we have been blessed with so much more. I am so grateful as we start another year for my family, my two wonderful children, my health, our amazing writers, designers and photographers, our advertising partners and you.”




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