I Could Live Here: Rancho Valencia

A sprawling estate in the upscale San Diego neighborhood of Rancho Santa Fe, Rancho Valencia recently resurfaced from a multi-million dollar property-wide renovation. With 45 acres of perfectly manicured gardens, winding networks of nature trails, and secluded olive groves, it's no surprise the resort tops Condé Nast Traveler's Gold List and Travel+Leisure's World's Best Resorts Top 500 (it's also the only Relais & Chateaux resort in SoCal). 

A room in the 5,000-square-foot private guesthouse.

Fire pits overlook the resort's croquet lawn.

Three saline pools are heated to perfection.

I had the great privilege of spending time here to check out the redesign of the resort's 49 hacienda-style guest casitas and 5,000-square-foot private guesthouse (where Tom Cruise vacationed with Suri). My stay was so luxurious that they almost had to drag me out of my room when it came time to check out. Fresh-squeezed orange juice delivered daily to your door, 18 tennis courts and the chance to take lessons with U.S. Open champion Robin White, Porsches for guests to drive around town, a new Bali-inspired yoga pavilion, and a gorgeous indoor-outdoor spa are among the many reasons to love this place.

The Adobe-style open-air courtyard.

The new 1,000-square-foot, Adobe-style suites take inspiration from Mexican haciendas with rich, detailed fabrics. Dark, Spanish-inspired furniture features carved detailing and pops against light-wood floors, high-beam ceilings, and neutral walls. Lamps made from hand-painted ceramic vases and handwoven rugs imported from Mexico lend a vibrant, authentic touch to the otherwise muted interiors. And Talavera tile in the bathrooms complete the look. Bonus: each casita opens onto a private veranda, some with their own outdoor fireplaces and Jacuzzis. 

Casita bedroom lamps are made from hand-painted ceramic vases.

Bathrooms feature Talavera tiles.

Casitas open onto private verandas, some with their own outdoor fireplaces and Jacuzzis.

Oversized wrought-iron chandeliers run the length of Veladora, one of the resort's two new onsite restaurants. But the focus is on the million-dollar Damien Hirst piece, a colorful masterwork made of hundreds of butterflies. Veladora's more casual sister is the adjacent Pony Room, which boasts an equestrian-themed bar with a textured mix of wood, leather, and iron. And a visit is not complete without a tour of the resort's wine cave and private dining room with a vaulted brick ceiling, massive 500-pound antique doors from a ranch in Jalisco, and a private patio overlooking a eucalyptus grove. 

A Damien Hirst artwork is the centerpiece at Veladora.

The equestrian-themed Pony Room.

The richly colored and textured wine cave and private dining room.

No doubt a splurge, but a stay at Rancho Valencia is worth every penny.  

Rancho Valencia, 5921 Valencia Circle, Rancho Santa Fe; rooms starting at $552; ranchovalencia.com.

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