It’s 5 am and my head is still on the pillow. My alarm has been silenced and I have a few seconds to decide whether to plant my feet on the floor or succumb to the warmth of my oh-so-comfortable bed. Counting 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … Okay, I’m up. I’m up. I stumble for a light, flick on the gas fireplace, and close the balcony door that has provided me with fresh air and a white noise soundtrack of croaking toads throughout the night. 

It’s been a few months since I visited Southern California’s iconic Golden Door, but it has stayed with me. It would be a disservice to give away too much about the Golden Door; it really has to be experienced. But I will share how greeting each morning at the Golden Door not only got me out of bed but awakening to the day.

Golden Door, Suite, Spas of America

Stay Gold
Created in 1958, Golden Door was the brainchild of Deborah Szekely, who went on to create Rancho La Puerta. Other owners came and went over the years, but in the last decade, new owners have improved on the original vision with luxury accommodations, a passionate team, and a thorough health, wellness and fitness program with a wide variety of fun and challenging classes. Today it stands as one of the most inviting wellness destinations anywhere.

My mother, who opened my world to design and art, would have loved to experience this. She would appreciate the understated beauty, Japanese-inspired aesthetics, thoughtful details, and warm, friendly staff.

Golden Door, Garden, Spas of America

Hello Sunshine!
When visiting a resort, I challenge myself to do the first early-morning activity. You get out of life what you put into it. Golden Door offers a five-mile hike. If I can do this in the comfort of a resort and in the company of new friends, perhaps there is hope for me to continue this habit when I return home. 

The time before dawn seems to move faster. With five minutes to go before the hike, I make my way to the guest lounge, where hot coffee (Golden Door is caffeine-friendly), fruit and freshly baked light snacks are available. And I’m not alone: half a dozen other brave souls greet each other with weary eyes, nods, and nervously excited smiles. Each of us wonders, “Should I hold back for a shorter hike? Five miles sounds far …” “Why am I wearing so many clothes?” and “Do I really need water?” 

Before any more self-doubt creeps in, our hiking guides appear and shepherd us away for some light stretching, instructions on why we won’t get lost (and we didn’t), and an inspiring quote:

“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” ~
Carl Jung

5 am Hike, Golden Door, Healthy Living + Travel

The weather in Southern California is about as perfect as you can get, and this morning didn’t disappoint. The pre-dawn temperature is cool, but not cold. We quickly warm up as we begin to ascend the moderate trails through citrus and avocado groves. The trails at Golden Door are well groomed and give evidence of the wildlife that you may or may not see – but who certainly see you.

When we crest the hill, the beauty of Golden Door literally comes to light. Vistas of the surrounding North San Diego County countryside and ocean views to the west unfold majestically before our eyes as the sunrise to the east lights the day. 

Shake Off the Dust
At the midpoint of the hike we rest, enjoy fresh orange slices, check in with how everyone is doing … and soon start moving again. 

The morning hike is a wonderful way to start each day. The conversation with newfound friends takes your mind off how much farther there is to go, makes the time pass quickly, and builds camaraderie.

“You sleep with your sliding glass door open? Aren’t you afraid of coyotes?” Uh, no. Maybe a croaking toad, but not a coyote.
“Have you walked the Labyrinth? It was amazing!”

Good Morning Golden Door, Healthy Living + Travel

Each guest has a story and you quickly learn how each person found their way here. Everyone has a different reason for being here, such as health, family, or happiness. (Insert your favorite verb here: reset, check-in, refocus, recharge, etc.) Many are taking time away from their busy lives to make an investment in themselves. Some have been here before, while others are new. As you move through life, you seem to have fewer chances to be “new” at something.

But don’t feel you have to talk. In fact, later in the week, a “Silent Hike” is offered. Taking time for yourself is essential to focus on the day’s activities ahead, and Golden Door does offer a packed itinerary of classes and activities. However, guests are encouraged to do only as much as they want. The refreshed Bathhouse and outdoor swimming pool, for example, offer a place to escape any time of day or evening. 

Golden Door, Bathhouse, Spas of America

A Complete Break-feast
All good things must pass, and we soon find ourselves returning to the resort with one thing on our minds: breakfast. Over wraps, eggs, oatmeal, toast, juice, and coffee, we talk about our morning and quietly commit to hiking again the following day.

All the meals at Golden Door are sustainable, healthy, and delicious. Meals are made with calories in mind, but flexibility reigns. I found the meal plan filling, but if you want more food or to try something else, you only have to ask. As someone whispered in my ear at breakfast, “They can’t say no! You can ask for anything.”

Similarly, Golden Door is alcohol-free, but should you wish for wine, you simply have to ask, and a glass or bottle will be delivered to the privacy of your room.

Golden Door, Good Morning, Healthy Living + Travel

Create your own Golden Door story: the resort offers a variety of women-only, men-only, couples, and co-ed weeks throughout the year.

Find more information and plan your visit at or call 1.866.420.6414.