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A Northern Baja Spa Sanctuary

One of Mexico's best-known spas is in Northern Baja, just 58km (36 miles) south of San Diego. The Rancho La Puerta ★★, opened in 1940 as a "health camp," was among the pioneers of the modern spa and fitness movement. The location was chosen for its perfect climate. The rates at the time were $18 a week -- but you had to bring your own tent.

Much has changed. Today, the ranch occupies 1,200 hectares (2,964 acres) of lush oasis surrounded by pristine countryside, which includes a 2.5-hectare (6-acre) organic garden and La Cocina Que Canta, a spa-cuisine cooking school. Cottages can accommodate up to 150 guests per week, and the ranch has a staff of almost 400. Each cottage has its own patio garden and is decorated with Mexican folk art. Inside the rooms are spacious living-room-size seating areas, desks, CD players, hair dryers, robes, and safes, and most rooms have fireplaces.

Three swimming pools, 4 tennis courts, 5 hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms, and 11 gyms for aerobic and restorative classes are only a part of the facilities. Separate men's and women's health centers offer the full range of spa services. Hiking trails surround the resort, and there's even a labyrinth that is a full-size replica of the ancient labyrinth found in Chartres Cathedral, for moving meditation.

Lounges and shared spaces include the library, with thousands of books to browse and read, an evening movie lounge, recreation room, and for those who can't conceive of totally disconnecting, the E-center, with 24-hour Internet access.

Weeklong programs -- Saturday to Saturday -- emphasize a mind/body/spirit philosophy, and certain weeks throughout the year are geared specifically to one topic; Specialty Week themes range from couples to Pilates and dance to meditation. Weekly prices begin at $2,835 for most of the year and $3,115 from February through June. Included in the rates are all classes, meals, evening programs, and use of facilities. Personal spa services cost extra. You may be able to book shorter stays (3 nights or more); and rates may be prorated on a nightly basis.

For reservations or to request a brochure, visit www.rancholapuerta.com; call tel. 800/443-7565 in the U.S., or fax 858/764-5500. American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are accepted.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.