Mexico’s Valle de Guadalupe is a wine region in Baja California’s Guadalupe Valley often compared to Napa due to the climate. “Valle” (pronounced Vi-Ay) is a buzzy word thrown about by Angelenos, as there are numerous hip and rustic hotels in this low-key area that draw wine lovers who seek a more authentic and less commercialized wine region. With more than 200 wineries, the area caters to adventuresome travelers looking for an exciting off-the-beaten path journey South of the Border. RELATED: 10 Things to Know About Sayulita, Mexico
I mentally prepared myself to make this US-Mexico crossing, as the last time was close to 20 years ago when a group of us flew into La Jolla, California for New Year’s and drove caravan-style straight through the border to party in Tijuana and spend a week in an oceanfront house in Los Gaviotos. The Tijuana border crossing has changed a lot since then, but in March, my friends and I passed through the border with no problems at all.
Believe me, I had doubts about the crossing. But my anxiety was quickly eased as a shuttle from the resort picked us up in San Diego and expertly drove us through the border, allowing us to bypass the long line of cars using the hotel’s Medical Pass and alleviating hours of idle time. Within two hours, we arrived just north of Ensenada at the brand new, 14-room Montevalle, a health and wellness resort surrounded by vineyards, olive trees and lavender.
I’m a pretty brave traveler so the last mile to get to the resort on a dirt road with some potholes did not phase me in the least, as I had a similar ride driving to a boutique property in Todo Santos. I just wouldn’t rent a car here or take my own on these unpaved roads. This trip is for the traveler ready for anything!
As we crossed through Tijuana, the drive down the major roadway alongside the border wall (with two walls in parallel – one in front of the other) almost reminded me of the Great Wall of China, as the iron slotted gate careened up and down the vertical hillsides and the landscape felt like typical coastal SoCal. It made sense as we were only about 80 miles south of San Diego with the ocean along one side and the picturesque green canyons covered with the same wild yellow mustard seed blooms along the other.
Mexican towns popped up here and there as we whizzed along and our van curved through the exhilarating canyons and ravines until we eventually turned down some wild muddy roads looking at boulder-strewn peaks, vineyards, and a mountainous backdrop. After entering through two locked gates, we reached Montevalle, our 25-acre retreat.
After check-in, a mini golf cart swept me up the dirt pathway to a private wooden villa complete with a terrace deck and a dreamy view of the mountains with ever-changing sky hues. Storms rolled in during my visit altering the sky each hour in dramatic ways with moody clouds, beaming sun rays, and shadows across the mountains.
In typical Baja style, my room was artfully decorated with Boho simplicity, reminding me of the many Tulum properties we have visited. Interior designer Mariana Postlethwaite of Casa Duhagon created peaceful spaces to encourage relaxation. Rustic Zen Modern is how I would describe the vibe with sexy wood details and local wood furniture, but the ultimate design feature was the sliding glass door wall so the outside became part of the room experience and you could admire the landscape from bed or the stars from the private terrace flanked by the aroma of lavender bushes. A pitcher of filtered water in the room was a nice welcome as I was thirsty after the long drive. But my favorite part of Montevalle was just sitting on my deck absorbing the quiet and observing and breathing in the land with a glass of the resort’s own ruby-colored Grenache Rose.
While six rooms are available with two double beds, there are also six rooms with California Kings and two with Kings. More villas are in development. All rooms feature panoramic views and private wooden terraces with swing chairs, and several of the rooms have interior mezzanines.
Each day, three healthy meals and snacks featuring local produce were concocted by the knowledgeable caring Chef Raul Nuñez, who fully understood the concept of clean eating as the food he prepared was unlike anything I have experienced in Los Angeles. It was devoid of rich sauces or butter. Each meal was explained even down to the oil he used and every ingredient was carefully curated for a healthy being, something I appreciate … but then also wondered when the tacos, cheeseburgers, or dessert was coming. I had to remind myself I was at a wellness resort.
The menu changes with the seasons but several meals included a Mexican spiced cheese tinged with a red chili pepper from the neighboring vendor who brought his expertise from Oaxaca. Meals consisted of multiple courses such as fresh salads or lentil bean soup, fish, or chicken with broccoli. Fruit, oatmeal, gluten-free waffles, and eggs were offered in the morning with a few healthy accoutrements, plus, of course, hibiscus tea or wine (red, white, or rose) from the land. This was probably the cleanest I’ve ever eaten in my life.
Even the chicken tasted better than the US as it is carefully selected to be free of additives and contaminants and raised free range. The highlight of meal times was climbing the 50 or so steps to dine atop the resort’s perch on the hillside as the restaurant overlooks the whole valley with 360-degree views – with both inside and outside seating.
As you walk around the restaurant terrace, it’s hard not to admire this raw silent landscape where you can hear birds flap their wings and the coyotes howl at night – something that seems impossible now in crowded California. Next door, an olive oil farm spreads out as far as the eye can see with miles of olive trees, which we learned is the largest olive oil producer in Mexico. From this bird’s eye view, a circular meditation labyrinth and heated pool and jacuzzi can be spotted down below off to the side of the property while petit white villas in a line dot the landscape in stark contrast to the green vineyard and surrounding verdant mountains, thanks to the area’s recent consistent rain. A reflexology pathway can also be seen with buffed stones purposefully designed and set to create pleasurable sensations that massage the soles of your feet.
While nature and wine tasting are definitely my jam, my friends and I also came to discover and test out new immune system boosting and wellness treatments created by Tijuana’s well-known oncologist Dr. Bautista (known for his work at the Immunity Center). He created this resort as a place for people to recover from an illness, rejuvenate and unwind, or experience custom-designed therapies. Dr. Bautista has been practicing alternative medicine and holistic treatments against cancer, autoimmune, degenerative, and infectious diseases for the last 20 years as the hospital he runs in Tijuana is a benchmark for those interested in different procedures.
“I wanted to create a place where people could escape the noise of the city for one day or several days, have contact with nature, and be able to stimulate their immune system and detoxify through a variety of treatments,” said Dr. Bautista.
Guests not only have access to yoga sessions, a tennis court, a gym, and spa services like massages and IV infusions with vitamins and minerals, but also holistic therapies like a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, Mag Ray, RIFE, pulsed electromagnetic field, laser, UVBI, and wine therapy. A bit apprehensive since I am claustrophobic, I laid down in the sealed and zipped oxygen chamber for about 15 minutes, believed to speed healing with more oxygen in the blood. I am not sure if I benefited as I read online you need several treatments weekly and I awoke that night with a raging headache and numb hands. I learned from one of the Montevalle doctors that the chamber is often used in Tijuana for people with chronic disease like diabetics for tissue regeneration and healing along with immune system stimulation.
Since I am not into IV drips, which seems like a common LA practice for hangovers and energy boosting, I watched my friends try out infusions for hydration while I was set up on the Rife machine, which delivers low electrical energy through your hands and feet (via metal plates placed on legs and handheld rods) to kill or disable diseased cells. My hands zinged as the electrical currents vibrated and I hoped this machine was actually beneficial. Then I tried pulsed electromagnetic therapy, which is similar to a heating pad but generates energy in your cells and is designed to relieve chronic pain and help cellular dysfunction. I have no idea if either of these treatments worked but I laid down and admired the views.
During these non-invasive procedures in the light-filled room at the resort’s spa with floor-to-ceiling glass windows, I was hypnotized by the alluring mountain views, which to me made for a sunny positive healing environment, rather than being stuck in a windowless room.
Although I tried several of the innovative therapies, to me the real therapy on this Zen-like compound was savoring a glass of wine while watching the sunset on my private terrace. Because isn’t getting away from it all its own therapy?
Several packages can be chosen from but guests go through an evaluation to create a personalized program. Rates begin at $250 for the One Day Plan, $495 for the Superior Plan, and $545 for the Optimal Plan – including health consultation, 2 daily IV infusions, full access to amenities and activities, three meals a day, accommodations, and treatments. Montevalle also has plans to bring yoga, Tai Chi, Reiki, and guided meditation to the program.
Who is this resort best for? An adventurous wellness traveler who appreciates a clean and comfortable room with pleasant hospitality at a near-luxury budget. It’s not trying to compete with the Four Seasons or other properties with uber-luxe amenities and ultra-high-end spa treatments, but it’s an enjoyable escape from SoCal and a world away from every day.
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