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Behind the Golden Door: Bonding Over Transition and Transformation

Imagine a place where you feel transported, transformed and terrific.Golden Door is one of the top wellness destinations in the world, situated on 300+ acres, 40 miles from San Diego. Built in 1958, “the Door” became the chosen place for the Hollywood elite to refresh, relax and take a respite from the prying eyes of…



Imagine a place where you feel transported, transformed and terrific.Golden Door is one of the top wellness destinations in the world, situated on 300+ acres, 40 miles from San Diego.

Built in 1958, “the Door” became the chosen place for the Hollywood elite to refresh, relax and take a respite from the prying eyes of the paparazzi. Stars came here to lose weight, dry out or escape scandal. Now a new generation of A-listers is discovering in their Oscar swag bags gift certificates for free stays in this revered place.

Before my visit, guest services scheduled an interview to identify my food preferences, activity interests and clothes size. Did I want the three or five-mile hike or would I prefer the meadow walk? Which meal plan? Did I want a male or female massage therapist? A mani or pedi? Would I like to have complimentary door-to-door service with a private driver (yes, please!)?

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Driving through the private gates, past fruit trees to the fabulous bejeweled, golden door entrance, a greeter escorted me across a long wooden bridge to the reception area. She paused to point out the angle to the bridge, signifying a turning point.

Intentionally designed in the Japanese Zen tradition, this signifies where a guest leaves their worries behind. As the shoji doors opened, a woman dressed in a traditional Japanese kimono and sandals offered another level of welcome. She invited me to have tea and cookies while presenting me with a personalized schedule outlining my activities for the remainder of the afternoon.

My suite featured a perfect view of a Zen rock garden on one side and Koi pond, waterfalls and Japanese garden on the other. All rooms are designed with a modern aesthetic, with one-of-a-kind silk screens and a meditation nook with a silk scroll and flower arrangement.

There are no TVs. Digital detox is encouraged; there’s even a bedside velvet pouch to serve as a gentle reminder to refrain from using technology.

Sunday starts the weeklong program with a new guest orientation but breaking bread over dinner is where the real magic happens. Blue & white yukatas (cotton kimonos) are worn during dinner as a unifying force that is both lovely to see and also very comfortable.

Guests are asked to stand and introduce themselves, instantly creating camaraderie, goodwill, and kinship. Many guests came solo like me, but there were also many longtime devotees including a group from Nebraska who visit twice annually and a guest from the Grand Caymans who’s been visiting for twenty years. There were also five sisters from Hawaii whose mother recently passed away, a bi-coastal niece and aunt, a first-timer from China and many other smart, kind, poised and inspiring women whom I was thrilled to meet.

The women during my stay mostly ranged from their 40-70s, were all body shapes and sizes, were well-to-do, well-traveled and openly spoke about their motivation for coming–to reboot. There was no snobbery or competition. Transformation is a unique equalizer at Golden Door, where guests bond around a common theme. It’s rare for 40 women to unite and learn about others as much as themselves.

READ MORE: Calamigos Ranch & Beach Club Excels at Wellness

Each day started with breakfast delivered to my room and a Wall Street Journal. Easing into my first full day with back-to-back water fitness classes, a pool-side lunch, one of the best deep tissue massages I’ve ever had, a private energy healing session and a facial class, I was ready for dinner.

There are more than 80 scheduled classes per week as well as private a la carte services. My second day I sampled several fitness classes, thoroughly enjoyed chatting with a guest over a pedicure (mine was gold, of course), worked with a private trainer, shared food stories at the mindful eating class (great fun), then it was off to a facial, dinner and the day ended with a restorative breath therapy class.

Food is a favorite topic of discussion and worth looking forward to. The farm-to-table menus feature produce grown on premise, Chef Frey masterfully creates delicious and satisfying meals that please both eye and palate. Being on 1,600 calories a day is easy here.

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My last day started with a sunrise hike (thanks to my new friend) and a group labyrinth walk focusing on gratitude. A private Haiku (Japanese poem) class followed breakfast and Tai Chi. The dashing, dramatic and very funny Dmitri Guy led a semi-private fencing lesson (he’s one of the best fencing coaches in the U.S. and a former champion.) Then it was off to lunch and good-byes.

My stay at Golden Door was brief as most guests stay seven days. The price for a four-day retreat is $6,000.

The Golden Door is a gem, helping guests to become better versions of themselves while giving all net profits to charities.

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Couples Resorts Implements Relief Plan for Employees



Couples Resorts has implemented its official employee relief plan during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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The company, which owns and operates a collection of four all-inclusive properties in Jamaica, has announced that each employee will be entitled to paid vacation, all of their benefits and a portion of their salary during the resorts’ closure due to the global impact of COVID-19.

“This brand recognizes the important roles each essential employee brings to the brand’s success and aims to help prioritize their health and safety during these challenging times,” the company said in a statement.

Couples Resorts also confirmed that its non-profit organization, The Issa Trust Foundation, has donated more than $238,000 of critical medical equipment and supplies such as ventilators, x-ray machines, hand sanitizer, beds and stretchers to assist Jamaica’s hospitals.

Couples Resorts is just one example of Caribbean resorts’ ongoing efforts to support the fight against COVID-19.

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