Chris and I pride ourselves on finding the best of the best when it comes to destinations that support a wellness-focused lifestyle while also providing beautiful amenities and mind-blowing cuisine. With those things in mind, The Ranch in Malibu, California has been on my list for quite some time.
I'm just going to jump right in and say: While The Ranch Malibu is a transformative oasis set in the beautiful foothills of California, it is not for the faint of heart!
The Ranch isn't JUST a hotel with a beautiful spa and well-equipped gym built into it. The Ranch takes the health-inspired destination movement and multiplies it by 50, then adds a four-hour daily hike. Voted as a top resort for the last four years by Condé Nast Traveler's Readers Choice Awards, The Ranch meticulously guides each individual through their own personal journey, educating you on consciously-sourced ingredients, mindful meditation, restorative yoga, and thought-provoking conversation all while completely detaching from the technological world.
A month before my scheduled trip to The Ranch (Chris sat this one out), they sent me a detailed packet with instructions carefully laying out how to prepare my body week by week leading up to my trip. My advice: Don't disregard this prep! Even as someone who makes it a point to be physically active in some way every day, prepping for hours of hiking intense trails requires weeks of building up stamina (something I had to focus on, as I'm not a huge fan of cardio). The prep includes everything from eliminating caffeine, to going to bed by 8:00 pm, to omitting all sugar from your diet and hiking two miles a day, then four, then six, and so on.
Each day begins with a 5:30 am wake-up call followed by a morning stretch, which leads right into breakfast. Breakfast (along with lunch and dinner) is thoughtfully crafted from local ingredients grown right in The Ranch Garden, providing a strict plant based diet for the extent of your stay with no more than 1,500 calories consumed in a 24-hour period. Again, the goal of your stay at The Ranch is to "detoxify your body in a healthy, sustainable way, all while getting back to basics in nature."
Each day's agenda varies slightly, however, every morning promptly at 8:00 am is when you embark on your guided hike for that day. Understanding that not everyone attending has the same fitness aptitude, you can essentially go at your own pace and hike the distance you're comfortable hiking. Some individuals in our group hiked two miles, while others ran the entire trail--you set your own goals! To be completely transparent, the hikes were the most challenging part of the program. There were times when I wasn't sure if I could make it any further, but pushing myself through this challenge proved an endurance I didn't know I had, while providing a state of mental clarity that I hadn't ever reached before.
After each daily hike, lunch followed, which was an opportunity to not only refuel, but to connect with others in your group. An employee of The Ranch dines alongside you and directs stimulating conversation, speaking for about fifteen minutes before turning the conversation over to everyone else at the table, allowing each individual to weigh in on the topic at hand. This may not seem especially ground-breaking, but gathering around the table engaging in genuine conversation without the distraction of devices made me realize how much the digital world has taken away from valued conversation. In fact, I sat next to a gentlemen in the group who identified himself as "socially awkward," but said that he truly blossoms in this space.
Speaking of lunch, The Ranch wants you to take the knowledge of sustainable and healthy eating that they teach home with you, which is why they educate each guest on how they thoughtfully plan and prepare each meal, sending each guest home with their own cook book from every meal they enjoyed on the property. I was particularly excited about this as I loved the mushroom tacos with radicchio leaves and butternut squash soup! In fact, the food was so spectacular that I'm considering switching to a plant- based diet full-time.
The early afternoon varied from day to day, some days consisting of a garden tour followed by Bod Pod body fat analysis and cholesterol testing, while others offered chiropractic and acupuncture treatments, as well as cryotherapy and massages. Something to know about the massages: this is not your typical relaxation massage! After hours hiking rigorous trails, the massages at The Ranch are deep-tissue (and I don't say that lightly). Knowing that guests will lose anywhere between 3-6% of their body weight during their stay in addition to muscle gain, the massages are provided to break up the muscle tissue, decrease inflammation, and ensure your muscles are receiving just as much care and attention as your mind.
Every day includes downtime, which you can choose to enjoy by taking a class, getting a massage, or simply relaxing in your room. The rooms, in addition to the entire property, appear to have been plucked right out of a Restoration Hardware catalog. Each room is designed to place you into a state of serenity, with a calming color palette and relaxation music playing overhead in the living quarters. Yoga concludes each day prior to dinner, stewarding your mind into a state of relaxation in preparation for an early "bedtime," which I welcomed with open arms after a day of hiking and TRX training, among other classes offered. With the lack of technology and blue light screen-time disrupting my day, I experienced some of the best sleep I've ever had while staying at The Ranch!
A few takeaways from my experience at The Ranch and questions I anticipate receiving...
1. "Should I attend solo or with a friend?"
This is a great experience to do either solo or with a close friend or partner. I do not recommend this for a family trip, nor do I recommend bringing a younger child (The Ranch does have guests that come with their children 14 and older for one-on-one bonding on occasion). If attending solo, it is a great opportunity to truly center yourself while on the trails and unplug for a digital detox. If bonding over conversation with girlfriends is something you enjoy, then attending with a close friend(s) is also a great option!
2. "Am I in good enough shape to go?"
The Ranch is wonderful for anyone who enjoys a physically challenging workout, regardless of your own personal exercise routine preference. I will say that if you have any type of gait issues or knee problems, I would hold off on attending the program. If ever in doubt, Well Inspired Travels would be more than happy to talk you through the program and suggest whether or not we feel this would be a great fit for you!
3. "Do I really have to give up technology while I'm there?"
The Ranch takes a mindful approach to your detox during your stay, which includes a digital detox. You won't find a television in your room and you'll likely have limited cell service, if any. However, there is WiFi available in your room and they do have phone lines available in case of emergency. Honestly, I loved unplugging for the week (and also informed my family prior to going that I would be "off the grid") and enjoyed the uninterrupted and thoughtful conversation we had surrounding the dinner table each night.
After my week spent at The Ranch Malibu, I would describe it as a truly magical place. Expect to return as a new you from the inside out. I'm already looking forward to another trip as soon as I can make it back, and I’m taking Chris along with me!
Pack your digital bags and follow us on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook as we explore each destination! If you're looking to plan your next trip, Reach out to us here to start getting inspired together!