Review: What is behind The Golden Door?

We spent a week at the West Coast's exclusive luxury resort and spa
By Roz Nisim
Mon 26 Feb 2018 01:35 PM

If you have $9,000 to spare for a week’s stay at a resort in Southern California, head to The Golden Door Luxury Resort and Spa, where some of the world’s richest men and women to go relax.

As we entered the experiential spa health retreat that stretches over 200 acres of mountain area, the sun seemed brighter and the air cleaner. Even for an unplugged, workaholic city-girl, the energy shift was palpable.

The ‘real’ world began to fade as the new world of exclusivity and serenity seized our senses.

We walked over a pond with Yatsuhashi bridges towards the retreat’s golden doors, and were greeted by a host of ginger cookies, green tea and lots of welcoming smiles.

Unlike your typical resort, The Golden Doors requires each guest to be introduced to the other, as all visitors would take the same ‘life-changing’ journey for the duration of their stay.

Stepping into our room, we relished the Zen-like minimalist Japanese décor with dim, soothing lighting. The sliding doors opened to frame a floral landscape organically balanced with waterfalls and rock formations. Outside the door, a ‘prayer’ rock was speckled with folded paper messages from visitors who stayed here before.

Unpacking was a breeze, as we were only required to bring hiking shoes, sleepwear and a toothbrush. 

The retreat supplies daywear, sweats, a robe for treatments and a sublime Japanese Kimono with golden slippers to wear to dinner. A beauty ‘try me’ kit includes lush bamboo scrub, peel away mask and foaming cleanser.

Guests at the Golden Door get to select a number of goals they wish to accomplish during their stay. After an eye-opening session with a nutritionist, our goals included sustaining a healthier diet and body.

So, the next day’s schedule comprised meditation, a sunrise hike, exercise, Pilates, sculpting class and aqua circuit - all before lunch. Each class was engaging and challenging, clearly designed to produce results.

We felt fueled and sated, as the locally-sourced organic food, which is grown in the fields surrounding the resort, is distinctively nutritious.

While workouts are optional at the retreat, the daily massage is mandatory. But we did not mind, as it took us to a state of pure relaxation in the privacy of our own room.

Following the massage, we put on our kimonos and headed to meditation class, followed by dinner. At the heart of every dish were fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, with even the delicious chocolate ganache boasting avocado.

The highlight of our stay, however, was the final night’s fire ceremony, which started with a candlelit walk through the mountainside, after which we were given a paper and asked to list a negative aspect of our lives we wanted to remove.

From there on, we followed a labyrinth path at a slow pace, focused on why we wanted to leave the negative aspect behind. As we each arrived at the center, one by one, we lit the paper on fire and watch as it burned and disappeared.

Feeling much lighter, we followed the path back out of the labyrinth, some with tears and others with smiles, a feeling of solidarity and togetherness upon us as we shed another layer of the real world behind.

As many labels as you could put on The Golden Door Luxury Resort and Spa, the best way to describe it is, “a place where you find yourself.”

Be it by transforming your body, beliefs, habits or vision, you become the next, greater version of yourself, though it does not come cheap. An all-inclusive seven day stay costs $8,850. Women’s weeks, men’s weeks and co-ed weeks run throughout the year.

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Last Updated: Mon 26 Feb 2018 02:54 PM GST

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