Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

  • The Golden Door Spa and Resort in California has hosted the world's elite at its 600 acres.
  • Guests pay $9,950 for a week-long stay that includes spa treatments, workouts, and other activities.
  • Executive Chef Greg Frey Jr. crafts the spa menu that's unlike traditional spas with satiating, nutritional, and delicious food.
Hidden in the hills of San Diego County in California is Golden Door, a top-rated spa and resort that’s welcomed the world’s wealthy and other privileged guests since 1958.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Sitting on 600 acres of land in between San Diego and Los Angeles, spa-goers visit for one week at a time to relax and indulge in a variety of activities and treatments aimed at achieving mindfulness and self-improvement.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

A week’s stay at Golden Door will set guests back $9,950 and high-profile visitors are common. It’s not uncommon to see celebrities like Oprah Winfrey and Julia Roberts, among countless other high-net-worth individuals.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Each week will have a maximum of 40 guests, each of whom is required to test negative for COVID-19 upon their arrival at the spa. All Golden Door staff are also required to wear face masks on the property.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

And like any high-end spa, coming to visit requires advance planning as some weeks at Golden Door are booked up for months, if not years, ahead of time.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Insider received a rare look inside Golden Door in September. Here’s what it was like.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

The Golden Door experience begins quite literally with a golden door, behind which awaits a Japanese-style oasis completely hidden from public view.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

At a bend in the footbridge leading to the resort, guests are instructed to take three deep breaths and leave the stresses of the outside world behind.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

“We say to people ‘please leave all of your troubles and your worries out here in this world because when you come into Golden Door …. you are in our care, we will take care of you,'” Kathy Van Ness, Golden Door’s general manager and chief operations officer, told Insider.

Inside the Golden Door spa - Singapore Airlines Golden Door Spa Partnership
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

The foyer is the main lobby of the spa and is where guests will get their first taste of the ornate Japanese design found in rooms throughout the property. Week stays begin on Sunday with Monday serving as the first full day of activities.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Guests will have undergone a personal interview before even arriving that’s designed to gain insight into each visitor’s goals and personalize the week’s programming to their needs.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

An abundance of staff makes sure that guests are always on the right track and want for nothing. The ratio of employee to staff at Golden Door is five to one.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Guests are also told to pack light as workout clothes, t-shirts, terry robes, a yukata, a kimono, and sandals are provided as well a yoga mat, journal, tote, reusable water bottle, and skincare products.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

A total of 40 guest rooms are available on the property and almost every one of them is identical. Two of the rooms are larger villas that are booked up first and they come with a premium of $600.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Couples visiting the resort can share a room but the experience, Van Ness said, can be better when having individual accommodations. That’s because some of the programming will take place in the rooms including personal massages.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Japanese gardens fill the property with one of the largest selections of traditional lanterns in the US.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Side rooms such as the bamboo court lounge are where some of the sessions and classes take place over the course of a week. And during men’s camp weeks, it’s not uncommon for sports to be playing on the television.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

The dining room is where guests will enjoy most of the meals over the course of the week designed to provide the energy to take on everything that Golden Door has to offer. Here, guests are encouraged to interact with one another, especially women traveling to the spa on their own and even high-profile guests.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

The celebrity visitors, Van Ness has found, are also just as engaged and interactive as their peers. And if guests are “mesmerized” by a celebrity presence, they often don’t let it show.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

“That’s why VIPs like to come here because nobody is being filmed on camera, nobody is worried about their privacy, and everybody is doing the same thing [other guests] are doing,” Van Ness.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Executive Chef Greg Frey Jr. is tasked with crafting meals at the spa and upends the traditional notion of “spa food” with his creations. Meals are nutritional yet incredibly filling so guests are encouraged to find unhealthy food elsewhere.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

“It’s all about the sizes and the portions that you eat,” Van Ness said of Golden Door’s nutritional philosophy. “Portion control is 99% of healthy weight control.”

Inside the Golden Door spa - Singapore Airlines Golden Door Spa Partnership
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Miso glazed black cod is served every Sunday because, on Monday morning, guests will need all of the energy it provides to take on the day ahead.

Inside the Golden Door spa - Singapore Airlines Golden Door Spa Partnership
Inside the Golden Door spa.

“On Monday, everyone wants to do everything,” Frey said. “They’re going to do a lot more activity than they normally would have done at home. This [meal] was really designed to give them, the night before, those energies that they’re going to need for the next day so they don’t crash.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Guests can plan to burn between 2,000 and 5,000 calories in a given morning, whether it be from an eight-mile hike or an intense workout session in the gym. The quality of the meal is important to keep guests going during their stay.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

And there’s no shortage of activities for guests to do to burn those calories. Golden Door has seven gyms, three pools, a tennis court, a fitness courtyard, and 30 miles of hiking trail across its 600 acres, just to name a few of its amenities.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Next to the dining room is also the tea room, where guests will “just refresh their day before heading to dinner,” Van Ness says.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

A warm cup of tomato broth, for example, will give guests a healthy serving of potassium.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

And freshly picked fruits and vegetables offer a small snack in between meals.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Right outside the tea room is another tranquil Japanese-style garden, as well as a koi pond that’s home to what seemed like hundreds of fish.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Protecting Golden Door’s pristine aesthetic is the fact that the resort is grandfathered into building restrictions that allow it to have a koi pond without a fence surrounding it, for example. “We’ll never touch the outside,” Van Ness said.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Walls surround Golden Door where it’s geographically feasible but they can’t stop the highway noise from nearby Interstate 15 in some areas on the edges of the resort. Rooms are soundproofed, however, to minimize such distractions.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Wander down a dirt road just a few hundred feet from the guest rooms and a sprawling garden awaits from where the kitchen gets its ingredients that feed the spa.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Golden Door utilizes bio-intensive farming in its garden, growing rows upon rows of fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices. “Soil is the key to good food,” Van Ness said.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

One of the goals of the garden is to expose the guests to different varieties of produce beyond what’s sold in grocery stores. There are 65 different types of tomatoes growing in the garden, for example.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

It’s here in the garden that Frey will find the inspiration for his meals.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

“I want to go out and see, what are the ingredients and then those formulate and percolate into an idea,” Frey said. “Until I have that plate in my hand and I’m actually putting these things together, I really have no idea what it’s going to look like.”

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Some rows had been recently cleared, indicating that the produce was used that same day by Golden Door chefs. And whatever Golden door doesn’t use goes to its newly-opened country store in the town of San Marcos.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

California droughts don’t greatly affect Golden Door. Wells on the property provide an ample water supply to keep the garden bountiful.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Guests will also have lunch in the garden once a week on a long wooden table crafted using the wood from old boat docks.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

A coop with around 70 chickens supplies the eggs for the spa.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

The eggs are also a best-seller in Golden Door Country Store, as well as items like pesto sausage.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Chickens are then moved to homes after they’ve begun laying eyes.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Rising high above the property is a mountain that’s home to one of eight trails at Golden Door. The nearby Pacific Ocean is clearly visible from the peak.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Hiking is a popular pastime for guests and is one of the first activities of the day.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

The Golden Door experience ends at the labyrinth, where guests spend around a half-hour walking the path while going through self-examination of what they’ve learned over the past week.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

“Are you taking something with you that we’ve given you that need or are you leaving something behind that you don’t need?” Van Ness said. “It’s a very slow walk to have your mind clear up and focus on yourself.”

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

And if the week was a success, guests should leave with a better understanding of “how to be a happier person, how to be satisfied, how to be kinder,” she said.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Women make up the majority of customers with 42 weeks of the year dedicated to women’s programming. But male guests are growing in number, with Golden Door increasing the number of men’s weeks to six per year from two as well as six coed weeks.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

There are activities geared toward male guests including archery and fencing but Van Ness has found that men enjoy the beauty aspect of the spa and participate there just as much as the women do. Van Ness attributes it to a sense of being freer in a group of their peers with no judgments.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Around 11% of Golden Door’s guests are international arrivals from Japan, Norway, England, Spain, and Canada, among other countries. The rest of the visitor list is comprised of a bi-coastal demographic split between East and West Coasts.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

The high price of a spa doesn’t deter repeat customers. In fact, around 60% of visitors will return in their lifetime.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

A loyalty program does exist where Golden Door will host a party at their expense for any guest that makes at least 100 visits to the spa. And so far, only six men have reached that milestone. No women have hit that threshold but one guest has made 98.5 visits.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

And while a week-long stay at Golden Door will run at least $9,950, travelers can experience a taste of the spa when booking a flight on some Singapore Airlines flights.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Singapore Airlines’ ultra-long-haul flights between Singapore and the US will feature a new in-flight offering starting in January 2022 that includes a Golden Door-inspired wellness and dining program.

Inside the Golden Door spa - Singapore Airlines Golden Door Spa Partnership
Inside the Golden Door spa.

Here’s how Singapore Airlines and Golden Door are redefining luxury on the world’s longest flight

Chef Greg is tasked with crafting the menu that’s very much in sync with what is served at the spa. Some dishes will be identical to what Golden Door serves its own guests while others will be specific to Singapore Airlines.

Inside the Golden Door spa - Singapore Airlines Golden Door Spa Partnership
Inside the Golden Door spa.

Guests that want to bring a piece of the spa home with them can also visit the boutique in the center of the resort, with items specifically curated by Van Ness.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

The Golden Door symbol on some of the store’s merchandise is likely one that few will recognize but will signify membership in an exclusive club of spa-goers. Other items, such as the Golden Door ginger snap cookies, aren’t likely to last very long after purchase before being eaten.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

The most expensive piece of jewelry on display costs as much as a week’s stay at the spa.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Though Golden Door is not a nonprofit, all of its net profits are donated to charitable organizations. Charities include Forensic Health Services, The New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, San Francisco Child Abuse Prevention Center, Whole Planet Foundation, I Have a Dream, Rady Children’s Hospital & Fantastic Fungi.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Guests finally leave Golden Door on the same path in which they entered, and have to once again cross the bend. “Now you’re leaving Golden Door but take us with you until we meet again,” Van Ness said.

Golden Door Spa and Resort
Inside the Golden Door Spa and Resort.

Read the original article on Business Insider

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